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Anthrax - "Anthems" (CD/EP)

Anthrax - "Anthems" CD/EP cover image

"Anthems" track listing:

1. Anthem
2. T.N.T.
3. Smokin'
4. Keep On Runnin'
5. Big Eyes
6. Jailbreak
7. Crawl
8. Crawl (Remix)

Reviewed by on March 28, 2013

"It's obvious that Anthrax had plenty of fun in recording these 'Anthems.' You'll have even more listening to them."

The guys in Anthrax have never taken themselves too seriously — especially when it comes to the EPs they're often dropping between albums. After all, wasn't the space between the furious thrashing on "Among The Living" and "State Of Euphoria" broken up by the enjoyably goofy "I'm The Man?" Ditto for the years between "Persistence Of Time" and "Sound Of White Noise" that gave us the odds n' sods of "Attack of the Killer B's."

"Anthems" follows in that glorious tradition. It's obvious that the band was looking to have some fun with this collection of covers that ranges from the expected (given Scott Ian's affinity for AC/DC, "T.N.T." feels like its almost overdue) to the wildly unexpected (the Hammond B3 organ-laced Boston cover "Smokin'"). That sense of fun definitely carries over into the listening experience.

As was the case on the band's last "serious" album, "Worship Music," the MVP is definitely Joey Belladonna, with a vocal performance that wildly exceeds expectations. Sure, he's always had the Steve Perry thing going, which makes the Journey cover "Keep On Runnin'" feel like a natural. Less expected is the way he hits the helium heights of Geddy Lee's vocal part on the Rush cover "Anthem," or the way he channels Bon Scott on "T.N.T." His swagger on "Jailbreak" is pure Phil Lynott.

That's not to say that the other musicians don't put in some great performances. Charlie Benante's drumming on "Anthem" does his hero Neil Peart proud. Rob Caggiano, in what seems to be his final studio performance with the band, does quite well on lead guitar, particularly in the solo section of "Smokin'." If Scott Ian's rhythm playing doesn't stand out (save for the two versions of "Crawl"), that's probably not a bad thing, given the source material and the almost reverential treatment it gets (save for a little extra crunch at the end, "T.N.T.," in particular, is virtually a note-for-note remake).

On the downside, the cover of Cheap Trick's "Big Eyes" isn't all that impressive, and the two versions of "Crawl" from "Worship Music" feel like they're there to pad the runtime more than anything else. That said, the remix is quite interesting, with less of a grunge rock feel than the original had.

It's obvious that Anthrax had plenty of fun in recording these "Anthems." You'll have even more listening to them. Sure, most of them lack the thrash propulsion the band's known for, but if history's any guide, Anthrax will be back to full-speed on the band's next full-length.

Highs: Joey Belladonna's superb performance, with "Anthem" and "Smokin'" especially potent.

Lows: "Big Eyes" is a little weak and two versions of "Crawl" feels like one version too many.

Bottom line: A superb covers EP that cranks the fun factor to 11.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)