It must be tempting for bands who have been around for years to re-record some of their earlier songs. After all, the members of a band that has been in existence for two decades have 20 years more experience as musicians, not to mention the fact that studio technology in 2004 is a teensy bit more sophisticated than it was in 1984, when Pro Tools probably meant the latest chainsaw rather than the computerised industry standard for audio recording.
Of course, it just isn’t the done thing and the chances of The Rolling Stones releasing a 2004 version of Exile On Main Street, for instance, are about as high as Keith Richards stopping smoking.
However, in the case of Noo York thrash metal legends Anthrax, things are a little different. Current frontman John Bush may have been with the band for 11 years now and sung on stonking albums like The Sound Of White Noise and last year’s We’ve Come For You All, but there are still some fans who hark back to the Joey Belladonna-led days when the band was releasing such groundbreaking metal albums as Spreading The Disease, Among The Living, State Of Euphoria and Persistence Of Time.
So, the band decided to ask online fans what songs they wanted re-recording, then headed into the studio for a quickfire session or two banging out the tunes almost live. The results? As powerful and contagious as the disease whence they get their name…
Fourteen Anthrax classics are on offer here and any doubts that this is a pointless retreading of pastures old are quickly dispelled by the time Deathrider and Metal Thrashing Mad – both taken from the 1984 debut A Fistful Of Metal when Neil Turbin was vocalist – have swept past in a maelstrom of 21st Century riffage, glorious guitar solos (courtesy of relative new boy Rob Caggiano), strident vocals and quite mindblowing drumming. Slayer‘s Dave Lombardo may have the reputation as the metal drummer with the fastest bass pedalling feet, and Metallica‘s Lars Ulrich as the one with the biggest mouth, but over the years, Anthrax’s Charlie Benante has quietly gone about his business and is now simply the best. Period.
The remaining tracks continue the theme of heavying up, speeding up and angry-ing up the choons of old. The intense Belly Of The Beast, the supercharged N.F.L., the almost catchy Be All End All and the aptly-titled Gung Ho all sound chunkier, and perversely more dangerous in the hands of musicians who now really know what they’re doing.
Of course, John Bush being a stronger singer than Turbin and Belladonna helps too, although I have to admit that there are times when the lack of Belladonna’s super-melodic qualities mean that the reworked Caught In A Mosh, Indians and I Am The Law (a Judge Dredd theme tune years before the Stallone film was ever made) lose some of the subtlety that made the originals so appealing.
Still, such complaints are small in the overall scheme of things. Any modern metalhead who thinks that Shadows Fall, Chimaira and their ilk are doing something new should snap The Greater Of Two Evils up faster than you can say “rehash”, while existing Anthrax fans can rest assured that while some of the world are questioning the re-election of George Dubya, there is one Bush who is definitely a better leader than those who came before him.