Anthrax – Volume 8: The Threat is Real
Well…I’m sitting here playing the song ‘Crush’ the first song from Anthrax’s 8th and possibly most obscure record ‘Volume 8: The Threat is Real’. It’s been years since I’ve listened to this CD, and I kind of forgot how it sounds all the way through. So, I’m having a tough time coming up with a good intro for this review.
Another thing that is distracting me is the fact that the track sequence is completely fucked up on my iPod. I have no idea how that happened but songs are coming at me in the wrong order and I find it distracting. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, I would just go ahead and play the record on Spotify and call it a day. But this record is not available on Spotify. I’m not sure why, but I guessing it’s because of the effed-up history of record labels the band had at the time and whoever owns the rights is in question. But what about playing the CD Dave? Well I don’t have a convenient way to do that in this room either.
Ok, I found the full album on YouTube, so I’m going with that. Even though the audio isn’t of the best quality on YouTube, at the songs will be in the proper order so I can listen to the CD without being distracted.
Now you might wonder why the sequence of the songs is so distracting to me if I claim not to know this record that well. Unlike many people today, I grew up listening to entire records piece of art. So, when I discover a new record I try to listen to the entire album in one sitting as many times as possible. I occasionally will create a playlist of various records and shuffle them, but I rarely do that anymore. So even though I haven’t listened to this record in about 7 or 8 years, when I did listen to it, I listened to it front to back and I expect the songs to have that flow that I’m used. I may not remember what half the song sound like on this album, but I know when they not coming in the right order. Plus, this album has a specific flow to it. It starts with its straighter forward songs then at about the halfway point they start throwing in odd goofy songs here and there. So, when one of those goofy songs come up as the second song, I’m thrown off. Fuck just look at this review so far, that one minor thing dictated nearly half of what this review is about.
But I suppose I should try to talk about the CD, saying this is supposedly a record review series. Anyway, ‘Volume 8: The Threat is Real’ was released in 1998 on Ignition Records. The label soon went bankrupt thus interfering with the distribution and promotion of the record. Which is probably why I had no idea it existed until a good 7 years after it came out, and was one of the hardest records of theirs for me to find. It carries on with the straighter forward rock sound the two previous records explored, but also ventures in unfamiliar territories for the band. With mixed results.
It starts off solid with some good songs that any metal or rock fan could get behind. But as the record progresses it starts to get weird. At song six you get ‘604’ a song that sounds like it should have been an S.O.D. song. Then that tune is followed by ‘Toast to the Extras’ which is something of a country song. Or at least as about as close as a country band Anthrax is capable of writing. From there they seem to try throw as many ideas and experiments at you as possible. The overall result being an unfocused record that sort of leaves you wanting.
I think if they would have trimmed this record a bit and stuck with the more straightforward songs it would be an easier listen. But I suspect that this was a tough era for the band. Metal was irrelevant during this time, they were no longer on a major record label, and probably didn’t have the financial backing the had in the past. So here they are in 1998 trying to stay afloat, and relevant, but with no real direction. That is what this record sounds like, a band that is trying to stay true to their roots, but at the same time trying to explore new sounds and styles, and in many cases, those new sounds just don’t quite work in the context of this band.
And there’s the rub. If in 1998 you played me this record without telling me it was Anthrax, there is a good chance I would have enjoyed it for what it is. All the songs are good tunes, some are even great songs. But as soon as you tell me this is an Anthrax record I’m going to start comparing it to their 1980’s stuff, and I’m going to get all judgy about it. For whatever reason, it’s nearly impossible for me to not to make that comparison. I know I’m not alone on that.
So, to sum it all up, ‘Volume 8: The Threat is Real’ by itself is decent if inconsistent record. There are several good songs on here that deserve your attention. But there are several odd tunes that just don’t work as Anthrax songs. The production quality isn’t as good and most of their previous records. Plus, there are a number of mix and production gimmicks that date the record to the late 90’s. As one review put it at the time it’s a “transitional” record indicating where the band was heading with their next record but hadn’t quite found what they were looking for just yet. The next record ‘We’ve Come for You All’ would be a much stronger record, and record which we’ll cover tomorrow.