Anthrax, ‘Anthems’ – Album Review
Thrash metal icons Anthrax ushered in 2013 with the typical blend of accomplishments (a well-deserved Grammy nomination) and setbacks (yet another departing band member) that, of late, have defined their career; but they’ve also gone about the business of surviving, performing and recording, as indicated by the release of an eight-song EP named 'Anthem' on March 19.
Furthermore, as was pointed out in UCR's review of the EP's namesake Rush tune, 'Anthem,' several weeks back, Anthrax's strategy for tackling this collection of covers is to perform them so precisely as to virtually negate the exercise.
Who, for example, would have ever expected Joey Belladonna to so easily forgo his traditionally clean-as-a-whistle delivery in exchange for Bon Scott's throat-scratching howl (complete with "Oi! Oi! Oi!" shouts) on this cover of AC/DC's 'T.N.T.'?
Or how about the band's concerted effort to sculpt dense vocal harmonies – not to mention recruiting Fred Mandel (collaborator of Alice Cooper, Elton John, Supertramp and countless others) – to jam out a bona fide Hammond organ solo for the benefit of faithfully covering Boston's 'Smokin''?
Heck, by the time Anthrax launch into Journey's 'Keep on Runnin',' you'd expect them to enlist a Philippines-born tribute band singer in order to more accurately emulate Steve Perry's histrionic vibrato; but no, Joey once again handily carbon-copies that too, and his band mates likewise don't miss a single pomp rock trick, from start to finish.
And so it goes, with the band -- guitarists Scott Ian and Rob Caggiano (who has since exited the group), bassist Frank Bello and drummer Charlie Benante -- largely observing every last detail and nuance of the original recordings, and Joey showing off his remarkable versatility for vocal impressions of Robin Zander (on Cheap Trick's 'Big Eyes') and, to a somewhat lesser degree, Philip Lynott (for Thin Lizzy's 'Jailbreak'), since no one could possibly be as charmingly lascivious as the original rock legend.
Needless to say, by the time Anthrax wraps it all up with the album version and then a special remix of 'Crawl,' from their most recent studio outing, 'Worship Music,' they astonishingly sound just like the real article: Anthrax itself. Wow!
In sum, don't bother picking up 'Anthems' if you seek radical reinventions of the classic songs covered within -- but by all means do so if you'd like to hear Anthrax displaying their formidable tribute talents.