Album review: ANTHRAX – Anthems E.P.

Nuclear Blast – Out Now.

Experiencing a line-up change now and again is inevitable for most long-serving bands, but the way the members of the legendary Thrash Metal combo Anthrax have come and gone over the years has always caused much controversy amongst their fans. The latest person to ‘abandon ship’ is lead guitarist Rob Caggiano, now a member of the Danish groove Metallers Volbeat.

It is during such turbulent times that the band decided to release an eight track E.P entitled “Anthems”, the purpose of which could range from keeping people interested in the name until the next Anthrax album comes out (rumours have it that we are looking at early 2014 for release), to giving the band’s fans a last taste of Caggiano’s guitar skills. Motivations aside, this release is now upon us so let’s see what it has to offer.

“Anthems” consists of six covers of some of the best known 70s songs ever recorded and two different versions of the song “Crawl” – the one that was originally featured in 2011’s “Worship Music” and a very interesting remix version of which will undoubtedly raise a few eyebrows amongst the fans.

The opening track “Anthem” not only stays quite loyal to the original version first presented by the mighty Rush on their second studio album “Fly By Night”, but it also finds the band’s guitarists in devilish form – perhaps the last time we hear Caggiano performing a flamboyant solo for this band. The band’s version of “T.N.T” sounds exactly like the original with Belladonna managing to recreate the style and attitude first employed by the mighty Bon Scott (R.I.P) all those years ago.

Both “Smokin’” (Boston) and “Keep On Runnin’” (Journey) are impressive in the sense that they ‘force’ Anthrax to operate in Hard Rock forms, but if there was to be a competition between them, the former would win hands down. “Big Eyes” worked miracles for Cheap Trick back in 1977 and, though an interesting proposition when covered by Anthrax, it cannot compete with the rest of the material, while the cover of “Jailbreak” (Thin Lizzy) is another example of Anthrax covering a song whose attitude is similar to their own and thus finds the members of the band playing to their strengths.

Those of you who own a copy of “Worship Music” will remember “Crawl” as a very impressive Alice In Chains influenced piece, with Belladonna on top form, and its five minute remix offered in this release is equally inspiring, with keys and light orchestrations used for maximum emotional impact.

E.Ps are releases which, by definition, target people who are already acquainted with a band, so I would not be surprised if I were to find out that only the most loyal Anthrax fans are opting for this. Having said that, the material on offer is of very high quality and can provide any willing listener with a rare insight into the sounds and themes that formed the musical character of one of the biggest bands in the history of Metal.

The choice as to whether you will be parting with your hard-earned cash on this occasion is, as always, yours to make. In case you are wondering, though, a new copy is already winging its way to me!

John Stefanis

Rating: ***1/2 (3.5/5.0)       

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