Review by Ellen Eldridge
I’ll be the first to admit that my love of Anthrax and Scott Ian stem from Ian’s appearance on The Simpsons more than does it for my indulging in the band’s discography. Not that I ever had anything against Anthrax; I just didn’t get too into any of the albums minus The Sound of White Noise, and most hardcore fans will tell me that album doesn’t count.
So, with Anthrax’s Anthems EP, I sat back and allowed Anthrax to remind me what the 1970s brought to music.
Lynch me if you must, but I always loved the recent Hall of Fame inductees Rush until Geddy Lee started singing. Something about the upper notes in his range always grated against my sense of style. Anthrax starts out with a Rush tribute to the song “Anthem,” which really speaks to both the band’s sensibilities for creating this EP as well as their respect for Rush. Without tracking back to hear Rush’s original, I love the music and Anthrax tempers what I otherwise wouldn’t have cared for in the song. Honestly, the vocals hold much of Lee’s patent still, but the tribute adds Anthrax’s twist.
Truly, the choices Anthrax made are what make Anthem. The cover of AC/DC’s “TNT” kicks the EP into high gear, maintaining much of what the original calls its own. Singer Joey Belladonna seems to keep Bon Scott’s gruff much the way he maintained Lee’s range and spirit.
The classic songs chosen include the two openers as well as Boston’s “Smokin,’” Cheap Trick’s “Big Eyes,” Journey’s “Keep on Runnin” and Thin Lizzy’s “Jailbreak.” Belladonna said these bands are the ones he grew up listening to and has listened to forever.
“It’s just great music, Belladonna said. “I had fun singing these songs and I was happy recording together with Anthrax, doing classic rock songs. Fun stuff!”
On Boston’s “Smokin’,” Anthrax brought in special guest keyboardist Fred Mandel, who has played with Alice Cooper, Queen, Elton John, Cheap Trick, Supertramp and on Pink Floyd’s The Wall.
“If ever there were a perfect first album, it’s Boston’s first album,” drummer Charlie Benante said. “The harmony leads they did would later be heard by Iron Maiden, which of course would lead to thrash metal.”
In addition to Anthems‘ cover art, Benante and artist Stephen Thompson subtly redesigned each track’s original album cover art to “Anthrax” it. The Anthems EP will first be housed in one of the “re-imagined” digipak covers, and then inserted inside the main CD cover sleeve. The main cover sleeve has been designed in such a way so fans will be able to see which one of the six “re-imagined” covers is inside.
The EP is rounded off with two versions of “Crawl” from Anthrax’s 2011 Worship Music that received a Grammy nomination for the song “I’m Alive.”
The Grammy-nominated Anthrax – Belladonna, Benate/drums, Scott Ian/guitar and Frank Bello/bass – will hit the road in support Anthems on February 16 with dates in India and Australia, and then return to North America to headline the Metal Alliance Tour that kicks off March 22. For all of these dates, Anthrax will be joined by Shadows Fall guitarist Jon Donais.