"some music was meant to stay underground..."

OpEd

Returning To Form with Anthrax, Megadeth, and Motorhead

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Band Photo: Megadeth (?)

We metal fans are a devoted lot. Once we find a favorite band, we tend to stick around through thick and thin. A favorite band tends to stay a favorite band, even when our tastes move on. And, yes, even when that band's sound changes or, even worse, when that band becomes "popular" based on a lighter sound, we often hang around.

Sure, we bitch about it, but I guarantee that more than half of the people who boldly claimed online that they were through with, say, Metallica, had purchased copies of "Load" and "Reload" (you know, just to complete the collection). It couldn't have just been the new fans turned on by the Black Album that did it. And yet, those of us who'd been there in the "Puppets" and "Justice" years held out hope that, just maybe, the band would come back to that style and aggression. We can all argue about whether "Death Magnetic" was the return to form we'd been looking for, but recently, I had the pleasure of listening to an album by another thrash mainstay that definitely is.

I've been asked to hold off on a full review of Anthrax's "Worship Music" until closer to the release date, but suffice it to say that this is the album that fans have been waiting for for a very long time. Tracks like "Fight 'Em Til You Can't" recapture the comic book and horror-film fun of the "Among The Living" era, while the appropriately dirge-like "In The End" recalls the slow stomp of "Keep It In The Family" from "Persistence Of Time." But rather than simply reconstitute the successful formula of their early work — a la "Death Magnetic" — the band has also kept around the best of what worked during the John Bush era, namely an increased push toward melody and groove. I could (and will) go on at length later, but suffice it to say that I think a lot of fans will be pleasantly shocked by just how far this album exceeds expectations.

I've had this experience before. A dyed-in-the-wool Megadeth fan, I thrilled to the early years of "Killing Is My Business ... And Business Is Good!" and "Peace Sells ... But Who's Buying?" Things reached fever pitch with "Rust In Peace" — and then the band entered what I tend to think of as its "pop phase." Dave Mustaine has said that he was in the hunt for a No. 1 album, and the choices that were made on many of the albums that followed in the 1990s ("Countdown To Extinction," "Youthanasia," "Cryptic Writings" and "Risk") bore that out. Gone were the multilayered songs that crammed three time changes and four solos into three minutes. Now, comparative (some would argue radio-ready) simplicity was the order of the day, with Mustaine himself contributing less in the way of guitar solos. Worse yet, with "Risk," Mustaine seemed to be trend-chasing, adding bursts of electronica to the mix to poor effect.

Granted, the comeback for Megadeth started with "The World Needs A Hero," in which the thrash started gaining a bit more prevalence. It continued with "The System Has Failed," which featured Mustaine trading solos with original Megadeth ax-man Chris Poland.

Then came "United Abominations," which absolutely blew the doors off. The fact that the band was arguably the most talented iteration of Megadeth (with ex-Eidolon players Shawn and Glen Drover on drums and guitar and James LoMenzo on bass) didn't hurt. From the opening machine-gun guitar of "Sleepwalker," it was obvious that the fiery aggression of the early years was back, tempered ever-so-slightly with the more melodic sounds of the 1990s.

Of course, when a band has had an even longer career, there are multiple opportunities to fly off the rails and come back again. Take Motorhead, for example. Starting in the mid-'70s, the band built things to fever pitch with 1980's "Ace Of Spades" and the following year's live "No Sleep 'Til Hammersmith" before releasing the lackluster "Iron Fist" and "Another Perfect Day." Lineup changes (out go Fast Eddie and Philthy Animal, in-and-out go Brian Robertson and Pete Gill, in come Wurzel and Phil Campbell and back comes Philthy for another go) sure didn't help and later '80s efforts like "Orgasmatron" and "Rock 'N Roll" offered up a handful of great tracks — and (especially in the case of "Rock 'N Roll") a whole lotta filler.

But, if the 1980s were unkind to Motorhead, the '90s would start out with a return to brilliance with "1916," an album that not only reinvigorated the band in terms of recognition, but also featured some great experimentation (the cello-based title track, the near-ballad "Love Me Forever" and the creepy "Nightmare/The Dreamtime"). The band would then rise and fall, with the lackluster "March Or Die" followed by the superb "Bastards," followed by the so-so "Sacrifice," followed by the much better "Overnight Sensation" ... Still, at least since "Inferno" in the middle of this decade, the band has seemingly plateaued at a high point.

Still, once a band has successfully completed the return to form, the question of whether they can — or will — maintain that quality can linger. Reports from inside the band that Megadeth's "Th1rt3en" will incorporate more of the band's 1990s sounds have me a bit worried.

Then again, as I bow and bang my head in praise to "Worship Music" and let its joyful noise rattle the windows, maybe I'll just be content in the knowledge that it's possible to so thoroughly recapture that early magic.

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Todd Wels is a professional journalist living in Grants Pass, OR.

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28 Comments on "Returning To Form"

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Anonymous Reader
1. DreamHeater writes:

From what I've heard of the new Anthrax album, I have to agree with you 100%.
Although, I think it'd be really hard for Megadeth to release a crappy album after Endgame - that was a great record.

# Aug 17, 2011 @ 4:40 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Blindgreed1's avatar

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2. Blindgreed1 writes:

^^^I am so fvcking sick of hearing people say that about Endgame. It was okay. Mediocre at best. It was not great in any way IMO.

# Aug 17, 2011 @ 4:44 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Cynic's avatar

Senior Reviewer

3. Cynic writes:

Every Megadeth album since TWNAH seems has been marketed as a comeback album, it's getting ridiculous so I just ignore it now. I specifically remember being suckered into buying "The System Has Failed" because of an ad claiming it would be "The most brutal since blah blah blah".

I liked "Countdown" so if "Th1rt3en" is along those lines I'll be ok with it, as long as the songs are good.

Never been an Anthrax fan so nothing to say there, but overall I'm on the fence about 'return to forms'. We want good songs not self plagiarism, but you know we could all do with a decent Metallica album... anyway look at Celtic Frost, Tom G. cranked out Monotheist after all those years so there's no reason other bands can't do something new if they have brains about it.

# Aug 17, 2011 @ 5:15 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
ZMA's avatar

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4. ZMA writes:

I've always been more into the new Megadeth stuff so I like everything since The System Has Failed (which has my favorite deth song on it) and on. Endgame was a good record but not their best new album or not. Still got a lot of enjoyment out of it though.

# Aug 17, 2011 @ 6:13 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
hellrat's avatar

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5. hellrat writes:

Brother Cyn...Tom G Warrior is not your average washed up thrasher

Let's be fair now ;)

# Aug 17, 2011 @ 6:23 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Blindgreed1's avatar

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6. Blindgreed1 writes:

LMFAO! @ HR. True dat brothah, true dat! \m/\m/

# Aug 17, 2011 @ 6:25 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Fuck_A_Name's avatar

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7. Fuck_A_Name writes:

I liked Endgame, but i deleted it off my ipod out of boredom after a while. "Headcrusher" is really the only song on it that really stuck with me the way their early stuff did. When my brother first got into metal a few months ago though, he was obsessed with their "United Abominations" album, and it forced me to go back and listen to it a bit more, and I realized it's really a great album, if you let it grow on you. Not immediately mind-blowing, but there is honestly some great stuff on there, if you give it a couple casual listens.

Metallica though...they can never return to form. Not even Trujillo could overturn the decadence and self-parody that Metallica's guitar playing has become. AND THE LYRICS...DONT GET ME STARTED ON THE LYRICS. Lars is still the same "sometimes brilliant/sometimes garbage" drummer he's always been though imo.

# Aug 17, 2011 @ 6:40 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
ZMA's avatar

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8. ZMA writes:

I just don't get how a band (Metallica) can come out with these thrash masterpieces and then just destroy themselves. If I was them my music would be heavier and faster then it ever was. But meanwhile you've got Megadeth which for me you can listen to most any album they've got a be satisfied with the results. Daves always kept the band in the perfect spot as fvcked up as he ever got.

# Aug 17, 2011 @ 7:13 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
hellrat's avatar

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9. hellrat writes:

Z man, I ain't tryin to cut ya down by sayin this, but you are just much too young to understand the way all this sh** went down, my brother...

its a long and fvcked up story, plenty to read about I'm sure...but for those of us that lived through it, well, I don't know if the likes of which can be properly conveyed to those that didn't...I know that sound super d!cklike, but man, that's just the way it is

I first saw metallica open for ozzy in 86..and megadeth open for Dio in '87...didn't see slayer until 90, with megadeth (clash of the titans)...skipped anthrax, cuz we've always hated em...alice in chains opened

The point is: at that point in time, them bands fvcking OWNED...there is no 'getting back to' or replacing that...that was then, this is now

But I'll tell ya, how I long for the musical quality and integrity of them days...fvcking era defining, bad a$$ sh!t ya know

the state of the art is in dire disarray anymore...

NP---I Won't Dance---Into the Pandemonium

# Aug 17, 2011 @ 7:42 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
brandedcfh420's avatar

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10. brandedcfh420 writes:

""I just don't get how a band (Metallica) can come out with these thrash masterpieces and then just destroy themselves.""

thats what happens when musicians put money greed ahead of the music!!

# Aug 17, 2011 @ 8:39 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
psythe's avatar

Writer, Reviewer

11. psythe writes:

The times have changed, thrash is no longer the ultimate metal 'go to' genre anymore, and our idols got old, man.

Can't say I agree with you about Megadeth tho, I've never been a big fan, but I think they went the same way as Metallica, few great albums and then SHlT for ages, then an apparent return to form tho personally I'm not convinced.

# Aug 17, 2011 @ 9:06 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
12. Arnian writes:

Never been much of a Megadeth fan, but I reckon Endgame feels like such a good record because the vocals are better than they've been for a good while.

I really think Metallica stepped it up a notch though, Death Magnetic was their best since the 80's (yes, better than the black album). The article actually confused me there, as that album has done exactly what Anthrax is doing, kept the best parts of the black album/Load eras and combined with some newfound interest in returning a bit to their roots. Which, of course, is why so many people can't get convinced it's the return to form they're waiting for, but it works for me.

Really looking forward to Worship Music now, I only heard one song so far and it didn't make me any less enthustiastic about this album!

# Aug 18, 2011 @ 1:40 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
R10's avatar

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13. R10 writes:

Im in the Hellrat camp on this one. Saw pretty much the same shows,fvckin christ did Metallica blow Ozzy off the stage in 86. It was definately a changing of the gaurd so to speak. Dove head first into all those thrash bands. Metal was still a fairly new unexplored genre also. Everything seemed new and fresh. I love alot of newer bands today,there just seems to be alot more copycat rubbish to wade through. The Metallicas,Megadeths,Anthrax,etc aint gonna capture the spirit of thier mid 80s classics,and i dont really expect them to. Btw: Metallica didnt have to work day jobs after releasing Master of Puppets. They were well off prior to recording AJFA. Obviously after the Rock produced Black album sold all those millions we were never getting the Kill em All Metallica back. Np: Metallica ...Whiplash

# Aug 18, 2011 @ 2:14 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
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14. Blindgreed1 writes:

With all due respect Arnian, NOBODY listens to MegaDave for the vocal, and to say something like "the vocals are better than they've been for a good while" when "The Hardest Part" is on the album you're commenting on just leads one to believe you haven't a clue as to what you're commenting on. Daves vocal on that song is utterly LAUGHABLE. With that said, it seems useless to even comment on what you said about Metallica.

# Aug 18, 2011 @ 10:34 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
hellrat's avatar

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15. hellrat writes:

But Blind, aren't the MAJORITY of Sh!tstaine's vox utterly laughable? hell, some are just downright hilariously dumpy, no?

Or has my better judgement and reasoning ability been entirely consumed by jaded snark?

NP---Megadump---Into the Lungs of Hell (no crappy vocal! :)

# Aug 18, 2011 @ 11:07 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Diamond Oz's avatar

Senior News Correspondent

16. Diamond Oz writes:

I liked the last three Megadeth albums and while I enjoyed Endgame, I only listened to it once, on Megadeth's Myspace just before it came out, never actually bought the record. I'm actually selling all my Megadeth stuff now so I couldn't give a tupenny fart about "Th1rt3en," though I will take the time to say that the title sucks.... the title sucks.

# Aug 18, 2011 @ 11:20 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
ZMA's avatar

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17. ZMA writes:

HR, Yea I was just growing up during those times so I didn't witness it. Bet your a$$ I read up on it though, so I'd like to think I know a fair amount of how the "Big Four" history went down. It was probably amazing to go through it rather then just read about it on paper. Because I didn't get to see all the lineup changes, and the fights and drugs and drinks and deaths and all that sh!t. Must of been an experience heh heh.
My point is I was just saying that Megadeth has definitely come out on top after all these years. Mustaine has always kept the band true to form, with good players and awesome songs. Yea not the best vocalist in the bunch and not the nicest guy lol. But a good guitarist who knows how to write good music.

psythe, if that's true at least Megadeth didn't fvck up when he came back. Metallica has been trying to recapture that gold and been failing with every release. Didn't care for Death Magnetic. Probably not gonna be impressed with their next few albums either. But I know that when this new Megadeth album comes out I'll be able to listen to it and be fairly confident that it'll sound good. Could just be talkin' out my a$$ though.

# Aug 18, 2011 @ 2:10 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Fuck_A_Name's avatar

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18. Fuck_A_Name writes:

^there have honestly been some sh**ty Megadave albums, but other than that I agree with you ZMA.

Megadave is just going to consistently put out "decent", and "pretty good" from this point on. Besides maybe the occasional great song, I dont see him completely recapturing the magic his older stuff had.

Metallica is just going to keep putting out "crap" or "pretty terrible" from this point on. Cliff Died, and Bob Rock stepped in, and everything since has gone to sh**. I dont expect anything great after that lame bullsh** hype train called Death Magnetic.

# Aug 19, 2011 @ 4:58 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Fuck_A_Name's avatar

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19. Fuck_A_Name writes:

I would like to point out though, that Anthrax never really had a "Return to Form" persay. They had bad albums, they had great albums. hell I can honestly say, as a recently converted Anthrax fan, that as far as Belladona-era Anthrax is concerned, you only need Among The Living, like half of "Spreading the Disease"(I say that while wearing a spreading the disease t-shirt) maybe their first album, and a handful of tracks here and there.

Bush era was imo mostly sloppy and mismatched, as they tried to redifine their style to fit his vocals, but "We've come for You All" was awesome. "What Doesnt Die" is BY FAR my favorite Anthrax song, being heavy as hell, catchy, fast, multi-dimensional, and downright badass overall. The rest of the album is nowhere near as heavy as that one song, but is still made up of good tunes.

So this new album holds my curiosity, but I'm prepared to be dissapointed.

# Aug 19, 2011 @ 5:04 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
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20. Blindgreed1 writes:

HR: No, I agree to some degree, but I just can't see anyone else belting out "Paint The Devil On The Wall" and have the same affect on me or anyone else for that matter. Of course you'll never hear Dave say it again either. That also sucks christian donkey balls.

FAN: Indeed Spreading and Among are my bestest favorites from them too. Among being their only album that I feel is good front to back.

# Aug 19, 2011 @ 5:37 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
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21. Fuck_A_Name writes:

^i didnt even realize it until I actually looked at a list of all their songs and what albums they were on, and me and my friend pointed out all their best work and what albums they fell on. It was like finding out Santa claus was actually a homeless man and elves are actually called midgets. Heartbreaking, but I can still have fun with this revalation. Good albums, good tunes, just not as consistent as I had assumed, basically sums it up. :P

Now Playing: Justin Timberlake- Sexy Ladies(Let me Talk to You)

# Aug 19, 2011 @ 6:23 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
22. modern rock wankery writes:

i think all these bands are just being nostalgic to the glory days now that they are all in the twilight of their careers. having said that, i don't really care anymore what all these old cats release as long as there's some level of quality to it. these guys are all 50 now...of course the energy and creativity will never be the same. it's a waste of time to think it ever will be that again. as long as there's at least a cool vibe to it, i'm down to give it a listen.
yes, i thought endgame was good record...because it had a good old school thrash vibe to it. no reason to split hairs about arrangements, vocals and such. not so much with death magnetic because the vibe got lost in them trying too hard. just one dudes opinion

# Aug 19, 2011 @ 8:02 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
psythe's avatar

Writer, Reviewer

23. psythe writes:

^I agree that the likelihood of them releasing anything properly comparable to their early magnum opus' is relatively miniscule, largely due to their increasing ages. I also agree that with regards to that faculty, it's respectable that they continue to produce music of even decent quality.

# Aug 19, 2011 @ 9:55 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
ZMA's avatar

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24. ZMA writes:

FAN, dude "What Doesn't Die" is my favorite Anthrax song. It's horrible too because I didn't listen to them for years and on the iTunes edition of the "Alone In The Dark" soundtrack there's a track by a band called Lovebearing Storm. Horrible movie, awesome soundtrack go figure. Anyway, I couldn't find anything on this band but I loved the f***in' song..............5 YEARS LATER! Where do I get the answer from? Fvckin' /b/. Turned out it was What Doesn't Die by Anthrax under a different name. The weirdest sh!t ever. But anyway. I'm not a huge Anthrax fan anyway so I can't say much on that.
I haven't listened to all of Megedeths stuff, but I'm sure a band that's been playing for that long is bound to have a few not so good albums out. But those not so good albums are ten times better then the stuff Metallica tried to put out after the Black album.

# Aug 20, 2011 @ 12:12 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
25. Greyback writes:

I still sort of agree with ZMA at the beginning of the thread, I'd write the most angry heavy fast and brutal music I could, there's so much crap going on today, where's the hate and urgency of early Metallica albums? In the bank....
I agree the new Megadave album title sucks. I could come up with better titles than that in my sleep. Then again, so could my cat.

# Aug 20, 2011 @ 1:41 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
ZMA's avatar

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26. ZMA writes:

^ Lol at you Greyback. That's really where the urgency is now haha. They had reasons to be mad and awesome back in the day. Now it's just all crap and money.

But I don't really care about the title. Thirteen has meaning to him so it's whatever. If I ever get the chance to name my 13th!!!! album I'm gonna name it whatever the fvck I want. I'll name it sh!t pancake tacos for all I care heh heh.

# Aug 20, 2011 @ 1:48 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Netromancer's avatar

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27. Netromancer writes:

I will never use a band's past as an excuse for present sh**. Sorry. Suck is suck. Master of Puppets is not an excuse to spend money on whatever crap Metallica shovels out. End of story. I won't buy the new Ozzy 'cause I liked Diary of a Madman. Bands change. Musical tastes change. This is the way of things. Music evolves, old bands lose what they had and give way to new bands. I will always love the first four Megadeth albums, but I doubt I will ever see that from them again. Those who doubt, I suggest you google the term "Magnum Opus". Some can find what it was that they had in the first place. Unfortunately, most bands do not age like wine, they turn to vinegar. And music moves on.

# Aug 20, 2011 @ 5:14 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
ZMA's avatar

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28. ZMA writes:

Juda Priest aged like wine. They got better and better (to me) with each release. Bringing the heavy. But someone switched bottles and that's when the 2 Ripper Owens albums came up. I liked those too though can't lie. But when they came back with Angel Of Retribution it was amazing. I don't know what happened with Nostradamus. If they had shortened it and not had so much filler it would've been good.
But anyway. I'll never spend money on new Metallica. Will for Megadeth cause I know at least I'll get something decent for my money.

# Aug 21, 2011 @ 1:56 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address

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