Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Reviews: Anthrax/ Worship Music; Alice Cooper/ Welcome 2 My Nightmare

Anthrax/ Worship Music (2011/ Megaforce)
The new Anthrax rules! I haven't made that statement since Persistence of Time came out in 1990. I have been an Anthrax fan for 25 years and have followed their entire discography. I haven't caught them live in probably a decade, though, so I am a semi-lapsed fan I suppose. As much as I enjoyed the John Bush fronted albums Sound of White Noise and We've Come For You All, Anthrax in my heart of hearts has always been best when Joey Belladonna was the lead vocalist. That's the Anthrax that I used to jam to as a teenager delivering newspapers. I wore out Spreading the Disease and Among the Living on cassette during those years ('86-89), playing them constantly on my Sony Walkman.
It warms my heart to hear Joey singing over those old school, razor sharp buzzsaw Scott Ian rhythm guitars. Anthrax has made more mistakes and missteps musically than their peers in the “Big 4”, trying their damnedest to distance themselves from Metal, trying to win over Rap fans, etc., rather than just being what they are: a Thrash Metal band. Worship Music washes every sin and transgression away, revealing a rock solid...nay, solid Metal body of work. Joey's melodic vocals over the grinding guitars and double-kick bass drums sounds just as good in 2011 as it did back then...possibly better. The truth of the matter is that Anthrax are technically better songwriters now than they were back in the day. Songs have discernible, memorable choruses, the arrangements are tight...all of the pieces are in place. This hits the sweet spot between crushing power and melody in my opinion. I am in love with this album, and if you ever were a fan of the band then you will be too.
The cover, by famed comic book artist Alex Ross, is easily the best album cover of the last 20 years. Album jacket art went down the toilet with the advent of CDs, and it's great to see them put some effort into the sleeve design. It's the icing on an incredibly sweet cake. Go out and buy this album now...THE POWER OF ANTHRAX COMPELS YOU!


P.S. If you are offended by the tongue in cheek title and artwork, you are a moron.


Alice Cooper/ Welcome 2 My Nightmare (Universal, 2011)
Ummm...did Alice start drinking again? I ask this because what we have here is an album that reflects and redirects his scatterbrained, eclectic 1977-1983 output with 21st Century sensibilities. I sat there scratching my head so much during my initial spin of the album that my head started to bleed. Okay, I added that last part for comedic purposes, but you catch my drift. This album is all over the place. Alice Cooper is a rocker first and foremost, and while he does deliver some of his signature sound, the more intriguing and interesting moments come from his departures. Pick your favorite “offbeat” Cooper album, and the wilder cuts on here can beat it.
Bob Ezrin produces this album, and he has the distinction of producing the best, and arguably worst, Cooper albums. The production is slick but not as wet sounding as his '70s heyday. The worst tracks on this album are the ones that regurgitate melodies from 1975's Welcome To My Nightmare: I Am Made of You and The Underture, the latter being the worst offender. The former at least tries to employ Years Ago as a springboard, whereas The Underture simply recycles melodies. Disco Bloodbath Boogie Fever also deserves to be mentioned, as it is an abomination to the ears.
The Congregation is my favorite off the album, with it's mid-'70s sound. The Best Buy bonus track Under the Bed is genuinely creepy, and I cannot figure out why they'd leave that one off instead of DBBF. I think that it is lame as Hell that Alice or Universal are doing the exclusive bonus track bit. The vinyl version has several, and the iTunes version has one, and the UK version has one. That is insulting to the diehard fan who wants to own Alice's complete discography. Talk about fleecing the faithful! Stunts like this make torrent diving almost seem honorable.
So I guess the question that you're asking is, do I like it? Sure. It's not as good as The Eyes of Alice Cooper (2003) or Dirty Diamonds (2005). It's musically more interesting than 2008's Along Came A Spider, but that album had a superior set of lyrics that tied that concept together completely. The lyrics this time don't seem to spell out as complete a story, and I assume that was the intent since they announced that it was a sequel to one of the greatest concept albums of all time. And it's still better than the abysmal Hey Stoopid.

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