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Album Review: Anthrax's "Worship Music"

September 13, 2011 | 12:00 pm

  Anthrax111

Wednesday evening in New York City, Anthrax is scheduled to play Yankee Stadium alongside Metallica, Slayer and Megadeth, the other members of the so-called Big Four of thrash metal. (The show made its American premiere last April, at Indio’s Empire Polo Club.) But though these bands may still share an audience, they’ve diverged in fundamental ways.

Compare, for example, the latest projects from Anthrax and Metallica: On “Worship Music” Anthrax reunites with singer Joey Belladonna for the first time since 1990’s “Persistence of Time,” while Metallica’s forthcoming “Lulu” captures a far more unlikely collaboration, with Lou Reed of the Velvet Underground. “Worship Music” reveals Anthrax’s desire to reclaim ground ceded over the decades to younger metal acts; “Lulu” reflects Metallica’s commitment to tilling fresh soil. When Belladonna sings, “You’ve gotta go with the devil you know,” he’s describing a conservative impulse that pervades the tellingly titled “Worship Music,” both for better and for worse.

On the (relatively) bright side, there’s the root-level pleasure of hearing hard-boiled riffs performed with a minimum of fuss. To behold a song like “The Giant” — in which Belladonna assures us, “I’ll never change, I’ll stay the same” — is to reaffirm your faith in heavy building materials. But if “Worship Music” showcases a band newly energized by Belladonna’s return, it also feels less rigorously considered than you’d hope. “Fight ’Em Til You Can’t” is preceded by a mock radio announcer warning listeners that “city authorities in your area have reported that the bodies of the dead are rising from their graves.” “City authorities in your area”? Who’s that meant to convince?

Anthrax

"Worship Music"

(Megaforce/MRI)

Two and a half stars (out of four)

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 --Mikael Wood

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