ANTHRAX – Anthems (2013 Megaforce Records)
Anthrax have recorded some of the most entertaining covers of the last 30 years. Many of them have appeared as hard to find B-sides or bonus tracks. Anthems is Anthrax’s new covers EP, readily available, and a welcome addition to a metal lover’s collection.
As if they needed to show off how well they could play, the EP kicks off with “Anthem” itself, a Rush cover, and a stunning one at that. Joey Belladonna’s voice strains to reach the highest of notes, but he hits ’em. This is one dead-on accurate Rush cover, not an easy thing to execute. And it’s heavy as balls.
“T.N.T.” is a blast. Again, this is not an easy song to cover, because it is so indelibly linked to AC/DC and Bon Scott. Incredibly, Anthrax do so with as much accuracy as they did Rush. Joey sounds perfectly in his element paying tribute to Bon. Up next is “Smokin'” as performed by Boston. Like a chameleon, suddenly Joey is in Brad Delp’s shoes. As great as the entire band is on Anthems, at this point, it is Joey that is blowing me away the most! What’s also cool about “Smokin'” is that the lengthy organ solo is intact, performed by Canadian Fred Mandel (ex-Alice Cooper). An extended keyboard solo with Anthrax? Smokin’! (No kidding though, it’s great. Like it or lump it!)
We all know Joey Belladonna is a huge Steve Perry fan. It is a joy to hear him having a chance to pay tribute to his hero on “Keep On Runnin'”. Scott Ian proclaims in the liner notes that “On paper, Anthrax covering Journey may seem weird,” but he reminds us that “the song just fucking rocks”. Charlie Benate ensures this with surgically inserted blasts of drum fury.
“Big Eyes” is a Cheap Trick song I had somewhat forgotten about. It has a monster groove and yet another fantastic lead vocal. Anthrax bring the song to its knees.
“Thin Lizzy is arguably the most underrated and under appreciated band of our time,” says Scott in the liner notes. Amen brother! But he also points out their paradoxical great importance and influence. Scott reveals he’d like to do an entire record of Lizzy covers. Phil Campbell of Motorhead plays the solo, as per the Live and Dangerous version. I love hearing Joey do the “Hey you, good lookin’ female! Com’ere!” line. So much more menacing than Phil Lynott!
From Anthrax’s most recent record, Worship Music, comes “Crawl”. I am on the fence with this song, as all I can think of is Soundgarden. “Fell On Black Days”. Can you hear it, there in the first minute of the song? (Maybe it’s their Soundgarden cover, eh?) Also on the EP is the remix of “Crawl”, which was previously only available on the Japanese version of Worship Music. So this purchase worked out well for me. I had been putting off buying Worship Music until I could find a reasonably priced Japanese import. I prefer to get all the bonus tracks, so with Anthems now in hand, I can just pick up the domestic Worship Music and be done with it!
As a nice touch to collectors, Anthrax released this EP with six different covers. I pre-ordered this thing from Amazon, so I didn’t get the luxury of picking my cover art. If I did, I might have chosen the Rush or Journey versions. What I got was the Cheap Trick cover, but I think I like it best anyway.