Anthrax makes heavy metal proud with ‘Worship Music’

By Pat Prince

Heavy Metal scribes and music critics are already calling Anthrax’s new album “Worship Music” the metal album of the year. But it’s more than that. This may be the best metal album since Metallica’s “Death Magnetic in 2008. And with the return of vocalist Joey Belladonna, this is may be the best Anthrax album since 1987’s “Among the Living.” From the grinder (pun intended) called “Judas Priest” to the balls-out thrash phenom of “Revolution Screams,” there is simply no filler on “Worship Music.”

LEFT TO RIGHT, back row: Frank Bello, Scott Ian, Joey Belladonna front row: Rob Caggiano, Charlie Benante PHOTO CREDIT: Matthew Rodgers

And, sure, the John Bush era (1992–2004) had its great moments. Even the singing of Neil Turbin (1982–1984) has its sentimental charm. But Joey Belladonna always seemed like the perfect fit for Anthrax’s sound — a melodic voice balancing out such heavy music. Drummer Charlie Benante agrees: “To be quite honest, when I first heard Joey singing — the first song that he did — it was just so apparent to me that there it is, right there. Don’t change it. It sounded like Anthrax again. And you almost feel like kicking yourself, keeping this from you for so long.”

“I mean, who knew, all these years later?” says guitarist Scott Ian. “I didn’t. You couldn’t have asked me in 1990 or 1995 or 2000 … there are so many of those situations where it’s like “Do you think you’d still be doing this?’ No. Absolutely not. ‘Do you think Joey would be back in your band after all these years?’ No. I never thought that. I know it’s kind of cliché but it really is a crazy road sometimes, being in a band. All signs, at some point in late 2009 — going into early 2010 — were pointing Joey. They really were. It’s not that we were ignoring them. It’s just that we didn’t really know that it was happening until it was right in our faces. ‘Ah, D’uh. Why don’t we just ask Joey to be in the band and see if it’s something he’s into doing?’”

“It sounds so simple,” Ian continues, “but sometimes things like that in the context of a band can be really difficult. It’s almost the same as family. You get in a really bad argument with someone in your family and then not speak to them for month or years where all you really got to do is pick up a phone and make that phone call. It seems so simple yet at the same time it’s really difficult. And that’s kind of how I can compare it. But when we made the call and all got together in New York and we sat down and fifteen minutes later we were back on the right path and everything seems to be going the right way since.”

The title of the new album, “Worship Music,” explains the path the band members have been on since the very beginning. Besides being die-hard fans of heavy metal, their life is nothing but music. “A few years ago I woke up at like 5 in the morning with the t.v. blasting as usual,” says Benante, “and it was on this channel called Worship Music. And the title just stayed with me. It turned out to be some Sunday morning sermon show but it meant something totally different to me. Whoever loves heavy metal or hard rock music, you are one of the faithful. Usually, fans will have a handful of bands that they love. They will buy everything that that band puts out. It’s a form of worship. And I’m the same way. So that’s how the Worship Music thing came about. I can’t begin to tell you how many times someone has said to me, thank you for helping me through a bad time or thank you for getting me through high school, and all because of music. Music speaks to people in so many different ways. It’s such a universal language. It’s a form of worship, but in a good way. Most people who listen to music get the good out of it. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t listen to some sort of music, whether it be something I worshipped since I was a little kid like The Beatles or Zeppelin, that will til this day still inspire me. It’s timeless. And if you are a music lover, you totally get what I’m saying.”

Speaking of a band that the members of Anthrax have worshipped to a certain degree over the years, Judas Priest were the inspiration for the song of the same name on “Worship Music.”

“Scott and I were working on material” explains Benante, “and the day we were working on that song, Judas Priest announced that they were going to disband. We were really bummed out about that. And the working title of the song became Judas Priest. And then it just stuck. But the only real Judas Priest reference in the song is the middle section where we took different Judas Priest song titles and made something of it. There’s a verse that has ‘Rapid Fire, Genocide, Screaming …’, like that. It’s just a little bit of a nod to Judas Priest.”

The outcome works but it will make some wonder whether covering a Judas Priest song would have been more of a direct tribute. After all, Anthrax has always mastered covering songs, from the likes of Joe Jackson to the Alice Cooper Band. Benante explains that the band did play covers of other bands during the recording sessions of “Worship Music.” “Some of the cover songs that we did for this record were so abstract. We did a Tom Petty cover. We did a Scorpions cover. I don’t when or if they will ever see the light of day. We recorded all these crazy b-sides. Some of the b-sides aren’t even finished yet. They are 75 percent finished, and I am hoping that while we are on the road we’ll take our rig out again and maybe finish them.”

And this leads us to an important Goldmine question: Will the album “Worship Music” be coming out on vinyl, too? “So funny you mention it,” says Benante, “because I just got the test of them today. Two different versions of vinyl, different colors. For me, it is so important the people get the full experience of a record that I used to have when I was younger, like sitting there with my Kiss “Destroyer” record, just staring at the cover while listening to it.”

“I was just talking to someone about this the other day,” continues Benante, who is a vinyl record collector himself. “I am praying that Queen do a limited run of vinyl because I really want “News of the World” on vinyl again. That’s one of my favorite album covers. Think about when you were younger, how much went into an album cover. I always go back to Zeppelin III, that had a spinning wheel. How much fun was that? Even “In Through the Out Door” with the paper bag. All that stuff was fun.”

And where many musicians frown upon live bootlegs, Anthrax’s Benante loves it. It’s all part of the worship. “For me,” explains Benante, “they were just as important as the actual records themselves. I’ve had the biggest collection of Zeppelin bootlegs since I was young. Especially a band like Led Zeppelin. There’s no version of “Dazed and Confused” that’s the same. So I had to have every single f**king version. Because I’m such a worshipper.”

You can worship Anthrax on their Fall tour, with classic metal bands Testament and Death Angel.

OCTOBER
14 Orbit Room, Grand Rapids, MI
15 Congress Theatre, Chicago, IL
16 First Avenue, Minneapolis, MN
18 The Cotillion, Wichita, KS
19 Summit Music Hall, Denver, CO
22 Nokia LA Live, Los Angeles, CA
23 Warfield Theatre, San Francisco, CA
24 House of Blues, San Diego, CA
26 Sunshine Theatre, Albuquerque, NM
28 South Side Music Hall, Dallas, TX
29 Emo’s East, Austin, TX
30 Warehouse Live, Houston, TX

NOVEMBER
1 House of Blues, Orlando, FL
2 Revolution, Ft. Lauderdale, FL
4 House of Blues, Myrtle Beach, SC
5 Fillmore Charlotte, Charlotte, NC
6 The Fillmore, Silver Spring, MD
8 Northern Lights, Clifton Park, NY
10 Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA
11 Palladium, Worcester, MA
15 Town Ballroom, Buffalo, NY
17 Stage AE, Pittsburgh, PA
19 Rave, Milwaukee, WI

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