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Chet Atkins/Les Paul – Chester and Lester

(Warning: another phoned in post that shouldn’t reflect on the amazingness of the record being discussed.)

So, I’m not sure where this is going to go today. I’ve drunk half of my coffee, and yet the caffeine hasn’t kicked in yet. So I’m just sort of sitting here staring at the screen wondering what I’m going to say about this record. That record being Chet Atkins and Les Paul’s 1976 collaboration ‘Chester and Lester’. I fantastic record featuring two world class guitarists. You don’t get much better than these two guys.

As I mentioned yesterday, I wasn’t much of a Chet Atkins fan most of my life. I was aware that he was an amazing guitarist in his field. But as you know, I’ve identified as a metal head and classic rock fan most my life. I recognize great players when I heard them, but I just didn’t spend much time with bluegrass and country most my life. Therefore, Chet Atkins has remained in my periphery most my life. Les Paul has a similar story for me. I first heard of him in 1988 or 1989 when HBO did a special on him. It showcased Paul jamming with many contemporary guitarists and was mind blowing to a 14 year Dave. But aside from that I never pursued his music. But I alway held both guitarists in high regard, even if I didn’t listen to their music.

I first became aware of this record existence in 2010 or 2011 when I first started subscribing to Netflix. There was this excellent documentary on Les Paul and they mentioned this record. If you have not seen it, I highly recommend it.

According to Chet Atkins, he had convinced Les Paul to come out of retirement to do this one record with him. So Les traveled to wherever the studio was and the two of them with the band set up and did a full day of rehearsals, which were recorded. At the end of the day, Les announced he was going home and whatever they had recorded that day was the record.

The result being a loose laid back record with a bit of banter between Atkins and Paul. It sounds more like a jam session than a recording session, what it essentially is. You can tell the two of them were having fun playing together. Throughout the songs the two guitarist are cracking jokes, teasing each other while trading guitar licks. In between songs you can hear the musicians laughing. I imagine this was a fun day in the studio for everyone one involved.

So that is it for this record. As I’ve said, I’m not feeling this whole writing thing this morning. I’m test driving Google docs this month to see whether I want to renew my subscription to Microsoft Office or not. If I can get everything I need out of Google docs, I might just stick with that. Anyway, I mention it because there is a plugin in Docs that analyzes your document and helps you fix your grammar and sentence structures. It also rates how readable and at what grade level your writing is. According to GradeProofs metrics, this document is at a 64% readability percentage and is written at 8th grade level. So it’s not my best effort.

I’ll leave you with that.

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Chet Atkins – Pick on Jerry Reed

That moment when you realize that the last record you played was at 45 RPM and the one you just threw on is 33 RPM, Oops! That happens to me quite a bit, there is one artist who I listen to fairly often, whose record bounces between 33 and 45 and I always forget to switch it back after changing records. So, when I threw on today’s record, ‘Chet Atkins Pick on Jerry Reed’ it sounded all crazy, but still kind of cool.

 

You know what it sounded like? Have you ever listened to early Les Paul records when he first developed his sound on sound technology? If you haven’t you should check it out (I’ll try and see if I can some videos to link to). Anyway, Les Paul was possibly the first musician to develop sound on sound recording, and the first to really experiment with it, layering tons and tons of guitars on top of each other.  Some of the early experiments he’d toy with a pitch, recording parts at different speeds, faster and slower, and when he played back at normal speed, some of the guitar parts sounded really fast and hi pitched. Anyway, that is what today’s record sounded like when I first started playing it before I figured out I was playing at the wrong speed.

 

So, as you may have guessed, I’m sort of just bullshitting my way throw today’s review because I really don’t have much to say about this record. That’s not to say I don’t like it, barely know it, or that it’s not any good. I really like, listen to somewhat frequently, and I think it’s really good. I just don’t have a big discovery story with it, and it wasn’t a major soundtrack of my life. It’s just a record I own and throw on time to time when I’m looking for something different to listen to.

 

In fact, I’m not sure when or where I bought this copy I’m listening to right now. Well I can ballpark when, somewhere in early 2013, but I have no idea where I picked it up. If memory serves me correctly I bought this record early in my vinyl collecting days, which started around spring of 2013 (I think). But I can’t nail it down beyond that. I’m not sure if I bought from this guy Phil’s who ran a store in his garage, off of my friend Rick, or at one of the shops in Antique World, which is usually where most of those early purchases were made. All I can tell you is I have it now.

 

In fact, I’m not even sure why I decided to buy it. Though I like finger picking guitar style, it’s never been very high on my list of favorite genres. Same with Chet Atkins, I have always been aware that he was a guitar god from the 70’s in the country/bluegrass world. But I never went out of my way to really dig into his music. In fact, this is the first of two records I own by him, and the only two I have ever listened to.  So, I’m not sure what prompted me to buy it.

 

If I were to guess on why I bought this record, I would base in this weird desire I had for a long time where I thought I wanted to own as much music in as many different genres’s as possible, so as to have the perfect music on hand for whatever situation I ever happen to be in. Though I have always been a fan of many different types of music, and feel I’m open minded about music in general, I believe this desire to have a wide variety of music stems from my days of being a sound guy at the Z Lounge back in the mid 2000’s. I sort of prided myself on being able to pull up any record on my iPod that would fit what style music was playing that night.

 

After I left that job I still wanted to have a wide variety of music on my iPod, one to make shuffles interesting, and two, to be able to play something for every situation. I had it in my head that somehow, I was going to be hosting parties or get together, and I would want to be able to provide fitting music that would please as wide of range of people’s tastes as possible. And when I started collecting records, I carried on that practice.

 

But here’s the thing, I never host any parties what’s so ever. Out of the small group of friends I was hanging out and collecting records with in New York, I was the only one that didn’t have nights where we gathered at my place and played my records. I was living with my parents at the time, I lived about 30 miles away from everyone, and it just never was a convenient place to gather. So, it never happened.

 

And as far as shuffling playlist goes, I never do that anymore. For the most part when I’m walking or driving around with my iPod, I’m listening to podcasts most the time. The only time I play music on my iPod is when I’m reading or when I’m writing a review and I’m not playing the vinyl. So, the idea that I want a wide range of music on my iPod for interesting shuffles and entertaining others doesn’t apply to me anymore.

 

All that said though, even though I’m not sure why I bought this record, I’m glad I did, because I do really like it. I may not play it all the time, but occasionally I get in a mood and throw it on. And I’m always glad when I do. Take that for whatever it is.

Arch Enemy – Doomsday Machine

(Warning: this post goes nowhere if you wanna learn anything about this CD, just go to YouTube and check out a song or two, because you’re not going to learn anything here.)

Today we are carrying on with Arch Enemy’s 6th studio record ‘Doomsday Machine’. I’m just going to say up front here, I really have no clue as what I’m going to write about this CD. I don’t have a story of discovery, a time I saw or worked with the band, nor any song that blew my mind when I first heard this record. I bought the CD a couple years after its release, around the same time I was buying up a number of other albums by the band, so it sort of blends with their next record ‘Rise of the Tyrant’. I already mentioned how I lost interest in the band around 2010 or so and haven’t listened to them too much since then, until this week when I started playing the CD’s in preparation for the write up’s I planned on writing. So, I’m just going to be winging it here, and hopefully, I’ll come up with something.

 

As I mentioned yesterday I first heard of Arch Enemy back in 2002, but really didn’t start collecting their albums until around 2008. At the time, I was working at Dish Network and one of the guys that worked in the warehouse, Justin, was a fellow long haired metal head, and the two of us had a bit of a competition going of who could find quality metal CD’s cheap. Each week we would hit up the various CD’s stores across the city, and then talk about what we found come Monday. It was Justin who got me into Amon Amarth, Nevermore, and to a certain extent Opeth. Between Justin and my roommate at the time Ken, I built up a pretty good metal collection at the time. I believe it was these conversations with Justin that lead to me to explore Arch Enemy some more.

 

As I was exploring Arch Enemy’s and other various bands we discussed discography’s, I would spend some time on their Wikipedia page trying to learn as much as I could about each band. What I learn about Arch Enemy during this time was that they were considered the leaders of the melodic death metal scene. Now I had never heard of melodic death metal, and kind of thought the term was stupid. It’s not that Arch Enemy didn’t exhibit either of those elements, they have tons of both, it just seemed contradictory to me. Aside from Angela’s growls vocals, I really didn’t hear too much death metal in them, at least the not the death metal I grew up on. I sort of thought of them more as a thrash metal band than death metal band. Though I admit I have no idea what makes something death metal or thrash metal anymore. But it all seem arbitrary to me.

 

So, what does make Arch Enemy death metal as opposed to thrash metal? The best I can tell its guitarist, songwriter, and founder Mike Amott’s connection to the 1990’s death metal scene with his former two bands Carnage and Carcass. Though some people may split hairs on whether Carcass was grindcore or death metal when they first started, by the time they disbanded in the mid 90’s they were considered leaders of the death metal movement. In fact, he formed Arch Enemy shortly after leaving Carcass, and in many ways carried where he left off with them. But is what he’s doing with Arch Enemy death metal? I really don’t know. As I said, I honestly think the label is there because of Mike Amott and nothing else. Yeah, Angela does growl, but so does Corey Taylor Slipknot, and no one who knows anything about death metal is going to say Slipknot is death metal.

 

So, what does any of this babbling mean? Well if I’m going to be perfectly honest with myself, it means I really don’t know that much about extreme metal and probably shouldn’t be trying to discuss it on a public forum. One thing doing these reviews series have taught me is that I’m just a music dork as opposed to a metal head. Yes, I have long hair, wear black t-shirts and jeans, and loved metal. But I also love classic rock, progressive rock, and industrial. I also like a little bit of jazz, the blues, folk, and old country. So, I think it’s a bit misleading to claim to be a metalhead. All it takes is me hanging out with a few true metal heads and listen to them talk about various black and death metals bands I never heard of and it becomes obvious, to me at least, I probably shouldn’t call myself a true metal head.

 

Well, I’ve reached my word count so I’m just gonna punch out and call it a day. Sorry that this review didn’t go anywhere. But as this series progresses, you’ll find that will happen more and more.

Arch Enemy – Wages of Sin

After taking a slight detour from our normal format, we’re picking up where we left off today with Arch Enemy’s 2002 record ‘Wages of Sin’. ‘Wages of Sin’ was Arch Enemy’s 4th record, but was the first one to feature the vocal talents of German female vocalist Angela Gassow, my celebrity crush for most of the early 2000’s.

 

I first discovered Arch Enemy back in the summer of 2002 when I was up visiting my family in Western New York for my cousin Jennifer’s wedding. As memory serves me, it was late at night and I had MTV 2 on the TV. The network had just tried to relaunch their classic Head Bangers Ball show, and though I never watched the original show, I was willing to give this reboot a shot. At that time, I was trying to embrace a lot of the newer metal I had been ignoring for years. Throughout most of the 90’s I lost interest in most metal. It just did nothing for me. But in late 1998 my love for metal began to rekindle, I was always on the lookout for newer extreme metal, or at least new to me. But the problem was I was still an old-school thrash metal head, and very little of the current metal did much for me. So, when the video for Arch Enemy’s ‘Ravenous’ came on the TV, they got my attention. The opening guitar riff was right up my alley and I was hooked immediately. But then Angela Gassow came on the screen and I was sold no questions asked. Here was a female vocal delivering the most brutal death metal vocals that I’d heard in years. And the fact that she was hot didn’t hurt matters any.

 

Hot female singer aside, the music for ‘Ravenous’ was literally everything I wanted in extreme metal at the time. The song was very riff orientated, tight bass lines, and crushing drums. But when the songs broke down for the guitar solos, I found myself falling in love with the song even more. Being an 80’s child that grew up on Ozzy, Black Sabbath, WASP, and Iron Maiden, one thing I loved about metal was that the guitar solos had melody and went somewhere. They weren’t just a blast of technical acrobatics (though they weren’t afraid to go there from time to time). But in a lot of those metal record I grew up with, the guitars solos were just as memorable as the vocal melodies. That was something I missed with a lot of the late 90’s and early 2000’s metal I was hearing. But that seemed to be exactly what Arch Enemy was about, brutal rhythms, strong vocals, and melodic guitar solos and harmonies. I loved it!

 

But my dumb ass never wrote down the name of the band, thinking I would just be able to remember them and be able to buy the CD when I got the chance. Well, I didn’t remember the name of the band right away. I remember searching Eide’s metal section trying to find them, hoping that I’d see something that would spark my memory. The best I can remember that didn’t happen until I by chance ended up with a Century Media sampler CD that had ‘Ravenous’ and ‘Heart of Darkness’ on it. I used to play the CD regularly while I cleaned this after-hours club I worked at. I found that I really didn’t like most the bands on the disc, except Arch Enemy and Lacuna Coil. I also noticed I didn’t care for the second Arch Enemy song ‘Heart Of Darkness’. Because of that, I was reluctant to pay the $15 for ‘Wages of Sin’ whenever I saw at the music store.

 

In fact, it would be years before I really began to dig into the band some more. Around 2004 I found their second record with Angela ‘Anthems of Rebellion’ and that really didn’t do much for me. I thought the musicianship was good. But it didn’t move me that much. It wasn’t until around 2008 or so when I began to find their later CD’s dirt cheap that I really got into them. I’m can’t remember if I bought 2005’s ‘Doomsday Machine’ on blind faith, or if I heard it some of it before buying it. But once I got that CD, I really started to get into the band and tried to buy up every CD and DVD I came across. I think it was during this time when I bought ‘Wages of Sin’, 7 years after initially falling in love with the song ‘Ravenous’ and forming my celebrity crush on Angela Gassow.

 

But my enthusiasm for Arch Enemy only seemed to last a couple of years. In late 2009, my situation changed and I ended up moving back to the WNY area. With that move, my musical interests shifted a bit. I started to dig into classic rock and progressive rock more than I had since high school. With that shift, I started to lose interest in a lot of the metals bands that was I obsessed with just a couple years before. It seemed all those bands were putting out the same CD every two years. Arch Enemy’s 2011 ‘Khaos Legions’ sounded exactly like 2007’s ‘Rise of the Tyrant’ to me and I never bothered to buy it. Eventually, Angela would step down as the band’s vocalist to focus on managing the band. Though her replacement Alissa White-Gluz was just as talented (and hot) I just couldn’t get into it. Not that the music is bad, it’s great. But I’m just not interested in putting the time into exploring those records. The handful of Arch Enemy CD’s I own is enough to satisfy my taste for them.

 

That said, it has been fun revisiting this record this afternoon. Though some of its charms have worn off for me. I found ‘Ravenous’ isn’t as mind blowing as I thought it was 15 years ago. In fact, it’s sort of average sounding. But as I type out these last few sentences ‘Wages of Sin’ have wrapped up and the opening tune for ‘Doomsday Machine’ has started playing and I can already tell I miss that record more. Had I bought ‘Wages of Sin’ when I first discovered the band, perhaps that record would hold more nostalgia for me, but saying I got it after I discovered the later albums, I find it doesn’t measure up and stand the test of time that well for me.

Anal Trump – That Makes Me Smart

So, I’m breaking from the normal format to cover a recent purchase that would have fallen a little earlier in this series, and that is the digital release ‘That Makes Me Smart’ by Anal Trump. A 30 track, three minute, grindcore extravaganza.

 

I first became aware of this “bands” existence yesterday when my cousin’s son posted the Bandcamp link on FB. I loved the name of the project, and after listening to about 10 songs (which took less than a minute) and saw some of the song titles, I was sold. I immediately went to the Bandcamp page and gave them two dollars for the digital download. If they hadn’t sold out of all their titles on vinyl I would have bought one of those too.

 

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the sub-genre grindcore, it essentially a tiny burst of chaotic noise, in many cases programmed drums at insane BPM’s, fast simple riffs, and a little bit of growling or screaming that may or may not contain actual words. Usually, these songs are no more than a few seconds, minute tops. A lot of grindcore albums I’ve heard, usually there are goofy movie samples in between songs. It’s not a genre for everyone, and I’m not sure if I know a single person that takes the form seriously. It’s usually intended as a joke, that’s fun to make and fun to listen to for a minute or two. At least that’s my take on the genre.

 

For ‘That Makes Me Smart’ I have no idea if there are actual words being screamed during these songs. Most songs are a few seconds long and I can’t tell if they’re just saying the song titles or not. In some cases, it doesn’t sound like they’re saying anything. For this release, there are no samples in between songs. The song titles are simply quotes from Donald Trump or something he or his basket of deplorable’s might be known to say. I think they’re hilarious. Just look at the song titles and songs lengths:

 

  1. You Gotta Treat Em Like Shit 00:03
  2. PTSD Is Gay 00:03
  3. Some Mexicans Aren’t Rapists 00:06
  4. I Like The Soldiers Who DON’T Get Captured 00:05
  5. My Daughter Is A Piece Of Ass 00:05
  6. Poor People Are Too Stupid To Get A Loan From Their Parents 00:09
  7. There’s My African American! 00:13
  8. Blood Coming Out Of Her Wherever 00:03
  9. Mexican Judges Don’t Count 00:01
  10. Journalism Is Gay 00:06
  11. I’d Date My Daughter 00:05
  12. Grab Em By The Pussy 00:08
  13. Take His Coat 00:07
  14. Breast Feeding Is Gay 00:05
  15. Ted Nugent Is Cool 00:02
  16. Dave Mustaine Is Cool 00:03
  17. Trump Tower Has The Best Taco Bowls 00:07
  18. Poll Watcher 00:10
  19. Some Things Saddam Hussein Did Well 00:18
  20. Changing Diapers Is Gay 00:03
  21. Build That Wall 00:08
  22. Alex Jones Is Smart 00:05
  23. I’m In Astonishingly Excellent Health 00:09
  24. Stay In Your Pens 00:04
  25. 911 Was Inconvenient For Me, Personally 00:04
  26. Make America Great Again 00:03
  27. Nobody Respects Women More Than Me 00:01
  28. Harriet Tubman Is, Like, A 3 00:07
  29. I Demand An Apology! 00:03
  30. That Makes Me Smart! 00:06

 

In the time, it took me to copy and paste those songs titles, and clean up the spacing I have listened to the band’s entire catalog on Bandcamp, twice!

 

Judging by information provided on Bandcamp, I’m thinking ‘That Makes Me Smart’ was this band’s first release. They have since put out two more ‘To All the Broads I’ve Nailed Before’ and ‘If You Thought Six Million Jews Was A Lot Of People, You Should’ve Seen My Inauguration’. The latter two titles do use some of our tiny handed Cheeto in Chiefs quotes in between songs. Plus, there seems to be a somewhat of an evolution in the band’s sound, with each new release. I’m curious to see if they continue to progress and release new music throughout the year. As someone who has toyed with the grindcore genre, it doesn’t take a lot of work to produce one song. I’ve written, recorded and released entire EPs with videos in an afternoon. So, I’m curious to see how long they keep this up. If they will put new material every couple of months or not. I hope they do.

 

Now, who is Anal Trump? I did a little bit of digging and I found that it’s a side project of Joe Crow Ryan and Cattle Decapitations Travis Ryan. The project seems to be of satirical nature. But they are making a political statement and putting their dark humor to good causes. For the second release ‘To All The Broads I’ve Nailed Before’, all the proceeds go toward Planned Parenthood, and their most recent release ‘If You Thought Six Million Jews Was A Lot Of People, You Should’ve Seen My Inauguration’ proceeds going toward the ACLU. Now that I know that, I may have to go ahead and buy the digital copies of both those records, sadly the physical presses have already sold out.

 

So, if you’re interested in some silly short bursts of noise, think our president in an asswipe, and want to help support two organizations that help millions of people that are under attack, head over to Anal Trumps Bandcamp page and throw em’ a few bucks. Totally worth it in my opinion.

Anthrax – Anthems

Ok folks, this is it, the final Anthrax CD in my collection. I’m not sure when the next review will be, but it will for a different band. For our final Anthrax title, we’re revisiting 2013 Extended play ‘Anthems’ a short EP featuring several 1970’s classic rock songs. This would be the last Anthrax release to feature the production and lead guitar talents of Rob Caggiano, who would leave the band shortly after the CD’s release to resume his production career (though weeks later would he would join Volbeat, a position he maintains to this day). It would also be the last Anthrax new release I would purchase on CD.

 

Initially, I bought the CD because I read they were covering a Rush song, ‘Anthems’ that alone was enough for me to preorder it online. When I first got it, I loved it, for about a week, and haven’t listened to it since. Even though their performances of these songs are spot on, it’s novelty wore off quickly.

 

Since I’ve already reviewed CD, I’m just going to barrow from that the rest of this post.

 

“Upon first listen, I was really into it, the opening track being Rush’s ‘Anthem’ is simply awesome, almost perfect I would say. But the following song AC/DC’s ‘T.N.T.’ sort of turned me off. Not that their version isn’t good, it’s great, but out of all the classic Bon Scott era AC/DC songs they could have covered, they chose the most over played and radio killed song out there. From what I understand, I guess vocalist Joey Belladonna really wanted to do that song, and he does a great job, which is not something I can say for every song on here. But right after ‘TNT’, they redeem themselves with Boston’s ‘Smokin” which is well, smokin’. Seriously it’s awesome, check it out some time.

 

For the next two songs, we get a Journey and Cheap Trick song, which are kind of iffy to me. I like their version of the Journey song ‘Keep on Runnin’ though it doesn’t really fit their sound. Musically it’s good, but vocally it’s a little bit out of Joey’s current range, which ain’t what it used to be. The Cheap Trick song ‘Big Eye’s’ I really have nothing nice to say about. I don’t care for the original version, and Anthrax doesn’t do much to improve it for me.

 

The final cover of this short EP is Thin Lizzy’s ‘Jail Break’, which is good at times, and not so great at others. Again, this song has been totally killed by classic rock radio for me, so I don’t think I would have chosen this song to record and release. Thin Lizzy has so many other great songs, I think they could have picked something a bit more rockin’ and obscure to do instead. But they by no means kill it in the negative sense; their version is quite good, I’m just sick of the song itself.”

 

There are also a couple versions of the song ‘Crawling’ from the ‘Worship Music’ record. That song is what it is. It’s not the best song from that album, and I’m not sure why they would choose to include it with a remix version on this disc. But they did. I guess because it’s probably the most radio friendly song from that album cycle. In a way that makes sense, but not really.

 

And that’s it for this CD. I thought about perhaps maybe doing an Anthrax overview as part of this review. But someone I haven’t seen in 6 months just walked in the door, so I’m just going wrap this up and hang out with my friend. I might do that overview later.

 

(Random fact, ‘Anthems’ was released 4 years ago today.)

Anthrax – Worship Music

I promise you, we’re almost done with Anthrax. Just a couple more titles to go before we wrap them up. Which is good, even though I’ve enjoyed revisiting these records, I’m kind of running out of things to say about the band. But then again at the same time, there are things I haven’t mentioned about them yet because they just didn’t fit with the format or where the review was heading at the time I was writing it. Perhaps I’ll do a separate wrap up post about them after finishing their catalog.

 

Anyway, today we’re checking out Anthrax’s 2011 record ‘Worship Music’ their first studio record since 2003 ‘We’ve Come for You All’ and the first studio album with Joey Belladonna back on vocals.

 

‘Worship Music’ was nearly 4 years in the making with many twist and turns, mainly due to vocalist issues. Though they started writing for the record in 2008, I would say the story goes back a few years before that, to 2005 when Anthrax did their first reunion tour with Joey Belladonna and Dan Spitz. It’s a rather meandering story and I’ll do my best to try and assemble it for you, relying mainly on Wikipedia and my memory of various interviews I read and saw between 2005 and 2011.

 

Anyway according to many interviews I’ve seen with Scott Ian around 2006 and 2007, the idea to reunited with the classic line (Scott Ian, Frank Bello, Charlie Benante, Dan Spitz, Joey Belladonna) started when Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell was murdered on stage in December of 2004, (though Wikipedia states the idea was considered a few years before that) Upon losing his close friend, Ian began to think about bridging the gap with Joey Belladonna and Dan Spitz, not wanting to lose a chance to bury the hatchet and make amends with his former bandmates. So, the idea of a tour featuring both vocalists was floated. Understandably Jon Bush was not into that idea at all. Who could blame him, he stuck with the band during their darkest years and did a great job. But if you were to split the set up between the two vocalists, who would care about his portion of the set. So, Bush ended up leaving the band at this point, and Joey Belladonna stepped in and did the ‘Among the Living’ 20th Anniversary tour, along with former guitarist Dan Spitz.

 

But once that tour was over Belladonna and Spitz weren’t willing to fully rejoin the band. The problem was Jon Bush didn’t really want to come back either. So, it would seem as if the band shot themselves in the foot, and were without a vocalist. Eventually ‘We’ve Come for You All’ guitarist and producer Rob Caggiano stepped back in, bringing along his friend Dan Nelson to take over the vocals. At this point, the band started writing for ‘Worship Music’ with Nelson contributing vocals and lyrics. But then it was announced that Nelson was let go due to health issues, though he claims he was fired. So, in comes back Jon Bush to fill in for a handful of shows. So now the band started to rework some of the ‘Worship Music’ material with Jon Bush in mind. But then Bush decided he didn’t want to recommit to Anthrax and permanently left the band. At this point, Belladonna was asked to rejoin, which he agreed. So once again, the already written material for the record needed to be tweaked with Belladonna in mind. Eventually, the band would rewrite some songs, write new songs, or just used the already completed material with Joey singing and ‘Worship Music’ finally completed in April of 2011. It only took four years and three singers to get there!

 

Now before I get to the record itself I want to spend a minute or two with Joey Belladonna. In the years, in between 2003 and 2011 Anthrax would release several live albums and greatest hits type compilations, all featuring Belladonna. The first one I heard was ‘Alive 2: The Music’ DVD which featured the classic line up, including Dan Spitz, and it was the first time I heard Belladonna’s voice in over ten years, and I thought it was awful. For those of you who know and love the 80’s records, you know Joey had a pretty good vocal range and hit some high notes here and there. But his ten-year absence was not kind to his voice. One he needed to sing the in a much lower register, which is common with a vocalist as they get older, but he also sang with a completely different tone and style. I have no idea how to describe it exactly, but his new singing style was annoying as hell, and just didn’t sound right. Ultimately, I criticized the band for choosing to go with him over Jon Bush, whose voice still sounded great.

 

But since I still loved the band I tried to be as generous as possible with Belladonna. Perhaps it was simply because he hadn’t been singing full time in years and as he performed with the band more, he’d sound better and get back his range to some extent. But as live record after live record came out I didn’t hear any improvement in his voice. So, when it was announced ‘Worship Music’ was finally coming out, I was a little luke warm about it.

 

But I did buy it the day it came out, actually the day before, and I have to say I was rather impressed with the entire record, and found Joey’s voice, though not what it used to be, wasn’t that bad. His performance was much better these new songs. I still thought it would have been better with Jon Bush and thought the album felt like it was written with him in mind. But Belladonna held his own on this record and did a great job.

 

Musically, ‘Worship Music’ feels like it the band had finally come full circle and learned from all their past musical mistakes and put out their first true Anthrax record in 21 years. Not that it sounds anything like ‘Among the Living’, but it does sound a lot more like a proper Anthrax record than any of the Jon Bush records, and it’s not just because of the vocals, (remember most the music was written before Belladonna rejoined the band). Though all the Jon Bush records maintained an element of the bands thrash roots, it was their forays into other genres that defined those records. With ‘Worship Music’ the band seemed to strip away all those rock and nu metal ideas and went back to writing thrash metal again. It sounds as if they finally found a way to strike a balance between their classic sound that made them famous and some of the ideas they explored during the 90’s. The result a solid record by a veteran thrash metal band. Not a mind blowing record, not an innovating record, not ground breaking record, but a solid record nonetheless, that sounds like what you would expect Anthrax to sound like 30 years into their career.