Monday, February 17, 2014
Refuse To Lose
Completion of Anthrax's fifth album was delayed in late January 1990 when a structure fire destroyed their studio and over $100,000 worth of equipment. They were able to resume work the next month.
You know what helps a band make their money back? Concerts. Spring 1991 Anthrax secured a slot on the North American leg of the so-called "Clash of the Titans" tour. Alongside their Big Buddies Megadeth and Slayer (and Alice In Chains fulfilling the role of "band that plays while audience yells 'SLAYYYYYEEEERRR!'"), Anthrax played fifty shows in just under two months, keeping their profile high and even garnering extensive coverage in publications that traditionally ignored heavy music. (I used to own the print copy of that issue, by the by.)
All in support of their most mature work to date. Sometimes things just come together, yes?
"Time"--What a title. No pretension, no flourish, no ill-advised attempts at cleverness. Time stands alone. Friend, foe, acquaintance, occasional co-conspirator, but never a well-wisher.
The ticking is a cliche, sure; good artists get the cliches to work for them, even if it costs a few pints of blood. Anthrax are clearly past the puerility of their previous long player, and this shift in mood is so welcome I want to greet it at the door with a hot peach pie.
Where's Not Man? Not here.
"Blood"--Best thing 'bout "Blood," it compelled me to look up the word "circumscribe."
Scott Ian's co-vocals are not jibing for me. Furthermore the lyrics are lazy. But wouldn't you know--both of these beefs are rectified on the very next track.
"Keep It In the Family"--Ingrained prejudices get the full-time business--a firm, dry palm to a drooling motormouth. Technically a song, actually an earnest message chalked out on a brick wall.
Among los cuatro grandes del thrash metal, Anthrax have always been the most socially-aware, the most solicitous towards their fellow man. Given their roots in NYC, and love for that city's legendary hardcore scene, what with its emphasis on strength in numbers, that's no surprise. But while the intensity of their feelings hasn't abated, their songs are now less concerned with keeping spirits up among the troops, and more about informing the enemy how much they suck. Impatience and recalcitrance ooze out from between the cracks in the sidewalk. Watch yer step.
(Credit also for not censoring "kikes" and "niggers" from the lyrics. Don't just say that certain words are ugly. Say the words. Let everyone see and hear for themselves how revolting these epithets are.)
"In My World"--Best-known as the song Anthrax "played" during their cameo on Married…With Children, but to thousands of high school kids, this was the poetry of anomie. Just put it on, turn it up, scowl and sing.
I'm not afraid
I am not afraid
Nothing touches me
I'm a walking razor blade
"Gridlock"--Sci-fi metal. The planet glows more pink than red, but in terms of overall health, that is a positive thing. So is righteous vengeance. Heads up, Neptune, 'cause Pluto has a lot of fans that possess long memories.
"Intro To Reality"--One of the most chilling episodes of The Twilight Zone did not have to invent or imagine a unique world of terror. "Death's Head Revisited" gave the viewer a look at a former SS captain brought to justice for his unrepentant contributions to one of the most loathsome blights to afflict humanity. Instead of imprisonment, or death, he is ordered to a never-ending mental torment which puts him right there in the Dachau concentration camp, in the minds of his victims as they suffer unspeakable pain. No aliens, no talking dolls…just history, refusing to be forgotten, refusing to be repeated.
"Intro To Reality" begins with a sample of dialogue from the episode, and as the peals of the captain's laughter fade into the ether, we're treated to a wordless meditation that is stirring, gleaming, and fully aware. The message is implicit: It's one thing to wake up, and quite another to open your eyes.
"Belly of the Beast"--The anti-"Angel of Death," in that it is an unflinching indictment of the SS and the madness it indulged with a wicked glee. (The chorus is deceptively catchy, which is kinda the point.) I'm not a fan of the echo vox effect, but I am a mega fan of the harmonizing in the chorus, which sounds more than a little like justice.
"Got the Time"--There's that word again.
I'm very impressed by Frank Bello's bass-playing throughout the whole album. Great bubbly tone, proficiency sans pretentiousness, he's really showing up without showing off. "Got the Time" is the best showcase for his nimble fingers, but the whole band takes Joe Jackson's punkish Mad Hatter, feed him some amphetamines and make the track wholly theirs while he's off snorting diced carrots off the face of his pocket watch.
"H8red"--Take "Keep It In the Family." Smear some resin on that foul fella. Hand it some books to read, and don't just pull from one or two sections, huh? Let's get some variety up in this bitch.
Let that animosity build steadily--we want it to stick around, after all, stick a flag in the ground and claim fertile land. Confrontation is the key to success. Allow no grievance to stay silenced. Work the angles. Turn the corners. Hit the targets.
Time is not your friend.
Life and death as words they don't mean shit.
"One Man Stands"--And must remain standing.
1989's Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing, China inspired this song, but the themes of historical perspective and moral strength manifest into physical activism make "One Man Stands" a snug fit alongside "Belly of the Beast." Both tracks are virtual stone monuments to man at his best and worst. Whether our intentions are to do ill or to do good, the compulsory factor is the same: time.
"Discharge"--A poorly-aged bickerspit, "Discharge" is basically the homeless dude's "Gung Ho." It's a relentless end-piece, I'll give it that with no hesitation. (Pretty sure the alleged drum fills are taken from a recording of a plumber and his tools falling down a metal staircase.) Sometimes I listen the whole way through; other times I don't make it past verse one. Depends on how angry I'm feeling.
Despite the underwhelming ending, Persistence of Time remains my favorite Anthrax album. The highs are slapping cheeks with Powdered Toast Man, while the lows just don't matter. The loyals snatched it up as expected, garnering the boys another gold plaque, and even those tight-asses on the Grammy committee nodded in their general direction.
No book reports. No shorts that could be more accurately described as "jams." No creepy uncle of the Natty Boh logo as their mascot. No mascots, period. Just…
Time and life
Life and time
One day I'll get what's mine
Through the persistence of time