Anthrax’s recent Big Four tour with Metallica, Slayer, and Megadeth was a great idea for everyone but Anthrax. The veteran New York metal band has long been forced to shred in the shadow of its three harder, more innovative, and more popular cousins, and the tour only reinforced that fact. Still, being the small fish in a big pond has given Anthrax some latitude over the years. In its prime, the band flaunted a playful, even goofy side—collaborating with Public Enemy, covering Joe Jackson, exalting Judge Dredd—that the remaining Big Four Of Thrash wouldn’t be caught dead acknowledging. And on Worship Music, its first album in eight years and 10th overall, Anthrax has tapped back into that youthful dynamic.
But Worship Music is more than an Anthrax comeback. It also marks the recorded return of Joey Belladonna, the agile, tuneful frontman who sang for the group during its classic, mid-’80s-to-early-’90s period. Accordingly, Worship Music falls halfway between Anthrax’s masterpiece, 1987’s Among The Living, and Belladonna’s last album with the band, 1990’s brooding Persistence Of Time. Gone is the nü-metal stench of 2003’s We’ve Come For You All and the all-around patchiness of most of the band’s ’90s output. Tracks like “Earth On Hell” and “Revolution Screams” snap into sludge-lubed grooves as easily as they do nimble blastbeats, even while soaring with a bleak, epic storminess.
Guitarist Scott Ian, the band’s sole remaining original member and its true anchor, pours on meaty riffs that taste like the can they came in, but they’re nourishing nonetheless. And the meat even gets gleefully gamey on the zombie-rific “Fight ’Em Til You Can’t.” Three decades after getting dealt to the bottom of a formidable pack, Anthrax doesn’t draw the crowds or move the units of Metallica, Megadeth, or Slayer. But circa 2011, Anthrax is making albums at least as good—if not better—than all of them.