It’s been quite a busy few years for ANTHRAX. Between the killer Worship Music album and non-stop touring the world; the band has maintained a hectic pace. Originally conceived as a second disc for a deluxe edition of Worship Music, Anthems is mostly made up of inspired 1970s classic rock covers and a couple of remixes. It’s actually the band’s first EP in almost 23 years, since Penikufesin in 1989. For an EP that was recorded all over the world in hotel rooms, backstage green rooms and tour buses; it sure sounds good. ANTHRAX has always done covers almost every album cycle, going back to the Fistful of Metal days. Even “Bring The Noise” was conceived of as a cover before featuring PUBLIC ENEMY on the ground breaking corroborative track and video. The reason the band has done well in past with covers, is their eclectic taste in bands. Anthems continues the trend.
Kicking things off with RUSH‘s “Anthem”, the entire band is heard sounding really inspired. It is no small feat to cover RUSH, let a lone do them justice, but they pull it off. CHARLIE BENANTE and FRANK BELLO in particular play with a lot of passion and respect for the original parts. Benante even slips in a few clever drum fills from “A Passage to Bangkok” a few times and I can’t help but smile every time I hear them. JOEY BELLADONNA, following up his Worship Music performance, sounds phenomenal. His range in line with GEDDY LEE‘s own unwieldy voice at times, but a lot smoother. “Anthem” is easily the best track on the EP.
I am a huge THIN LIZZY fan and I’m always bummed when I meet people who only know the band from their considerable hits, and not the rest of their catalog. Having already covered the TL minor hit “Cowboy Song” in the 1990′s, I guess I can’t complain about a fairly standard cover of “Jailbreak”. More great vocals from Joey and strong solos from the now departed from the band ROB CAGGIANO (VOLBEAT). Lots of groups have covered AC/DC too, and done so badly I must say. If you are gonna cover a song by a hugely popular band you should a) recreate the song in your special way or b) do a version faithful to the original. ANTHRAX does a pretty standard version of “T.N.T”, but it is still a lot of fun. Belladonna will shock you at how much he sounds like BON SCOTT on the track. Caggiano kills it on the classic guitar solo. I also like Bello’s finger-style bass playing and tone here too. Then the band goes back to the more adventurous territory. BOSTON is always a fun band that you don’t hear covered a lot, because they were insanely accomplished players. “Smokin’” sounds great and the band brought in legendary keyboard player FRED MANDEL (ALICE COOPER/QUEEN/PINK FLOYD/ ELTON JOHN/SUPERTRAMP) who did a terrific job. CHEAP TRICK is another underrated band historically, who balanced pop music with great chops. “Big Eyes” is another atypical choice of song to cover. It is more gritty and less polished than a lot of that bands’ better known material and sounds really fresh here. Then there is the JOURNEY cover. Sigh. I know I am in the vast minority, but I hate JOURNEY and I always will. That being said, the cover of “Keep On Running” is another clever choice, instead of choosing a huge hit, which might have grated on my nerves. The EP closes with two remixes of the album track “Crawl”, the second one being really interesting for its re-casting of of the motifs and pastoral sounding backing vocals. The artwork sounds cool too, conceived by Benante and artist Steven Thomson which promises an ANTHRAX “take” on the artwork of the original bands that were covered. This will be worth buying for Joey’s performance alone, fans of the band, complete-ists, and collectors too.
by Keith (Keefy) Chachkes