After five years away--entangled in record label chicanery and legal wrangling, not to mention some unwelcome publicity the likes of which Scott Ian could not have foreseen decades prior when "anthrax" was just a cool word from high school biology class--quietly slipping back into the room is not an option. Well, no, it is an option. Just a pussy one.
So what's up now? Pantera's last album was three years ago, dudes. Well, for starters Anthrax are finally a band again, having recruited Rob Caggiano for lead guitar duties as well as assisting with writing and producing material. Kick in the ass or light push to the shoulder?
"Contact"--What is wiser--wasting space or killing time? 3…2…1…pffft. Fuzzfuzz-bapbap is all I hear until the switch to buzzbuzz-fapfap.
"What Doesn't Die"--Reminiscent of Sound of White Noise in its discontent with maneuvering in a single predetermined lane of travel. The discordant chorus gives some gravitas to the proceedings, and even if his songwriting chops have been undercooked as of late, Charlie Benante is always hyper-competent behind the drums.
"Superhero"--Smells like a Godsmack shirt. The hook swirls when the motorboat gets the water rippling, but LOOK OUT IT'S CRUSHIN' TIME YET AGAIN GET UP MUTHAFUCKAS will you fucking stop with this already.
Yeah! Yell! Each! Word! In! The! Chorus!
"Refuse To Be Denied"--An anti-jingoism call-to-fists that James Hetfield will never refer to as a "perfect song." The groove sounds more in Anthrax's actual wheelhouse that they built themselves out of graciously-acquired materials, rather than retrieved from a shared storage space over 1500 miles away.
"Safe Home"--Just off the title, I knew this would be an unadorned love song with a searing chorus. The bouncy riffs engendered some momentary doubt, although I was bobbing my head so thoroughly it didn't at all matter. (Nagging thought, Is that a Chariots of Fire sample?, notwithstanding.)
A radio-friendly bowels-shifter you need hear only once.
"Any Place But Here"--So I was like, "Aha! System of a Down!" but then I was like, "Aha! Slightly-above average metal vocalist fronting an average metal band!"
"Nobody Knows Anything"--Including how to give a song a memorable title, apparently.
A wall of corrugated metal held up by Benante's occupied-not-busy beats. This is what I want to hear when I sit down to write.
"Strap It On"--You mean a guitar, right? Sigh. Dimebag Darrell's solo starts at 1:55. (You're welcome.)
The extended equivalent of Homer Simpson explaining how rock music attained scientifically-verifiable perfection in 1974.
"Black Dahlia"--The verses are old-school Anthrax--I'm happy! The bridge is black metal--I'm confused and aroused, simultaneously! Anthrax with blast beats? This type of song is perfect for John Bush's voice, so I can see why they shy away from this overall sound. Why would you want your vocalist to mesh with the music?
"Cadillac Rock Box"--Dumb as a box of rocks, for sure. Someone spiked the Jim Beam with Italian Coke (if you've never partaken of the cola from that country, let me assure you--fuck that) so this ends up sounding as crazed as a party hosted by Ken Griffin.
"Taking the Music Back"--Filthy as a Ken Griffey Jr. drug test.
A valiant cadaver graft, but I don't hand out pretty certificates for effort. Inevitably Anthrax would address the various colored tapes that kept them from doing what they once upon a time used to do quite well. That they would enlist Roger Daltrey on backing vocals, not so predictable. Yes, Roger Daltrey from the Who. Scott's girlfriend's mother knew the Daltreys quite well and set up a dinner date and Rog is all, "I'd love to lend a hand on your band's next record, Scotty!" and that's that. It's all about who you know.
"Crash"--The anger is legitimate. My anger.
"Think About An End"--Don't tempt me, fuckers!
Anthrax take a turn for the deliriously sordid with a tune concerning the havoc a venereal disease wreaks upon the personal plumbing of a careless man. Scott Ian almost named this "Give Me Syphilis Or Give Me Death" but a make-up artist for VH-1 told him that wasn't a very likable title. He thanked her for the input, and then proceeded to talk about Metallica, Madonna and Mr. Potato Head for an hour straight.
"W.C.F.Y.A."--What a long-ass four minutes.
"The mind can atrophy/Such mediocrity." Self-awareness is a terrible thing to waste.
John Bush's less-be-more approach puts me in mind of that creepy scruff who used to hang out at the library and offer me bubblegum despite the fact I was in high school and would've much rather had pizza. Beanpole-skinny, sunken cheeks, trucker cap decorated with stains from many sources, mustache that looked like it was composed of both natural and synthetic hairs--man I do not miss my teenage years at all.
Five years. Five years Anthrax made their fans wait and all they come back with is some nice Alex Ross cover art and like two good songs. Their first album of the new century and they're still fellating younger bands at the expense of their musical identity. Don't cry for Danny Spitz, he's off fixing timepieces for Jesus. Joey Belladonna, he's keeping busy with solo stuff. Meanwhile their old band is stumbling and bumbling their way, gutlessly and guilelessly, into uselessness.