Righty ho then, As Anthrax’s Worship Music was released first; they are first cab off the rank. This is their 10th studio album and their first since 2003’s We’ve Come For You All, and the first with Joey Belladonna on Vocals since 1990’s Persistence of Time.
It begins with Worship (Intro) a slowly building atmospheric piece that perfectly warns us of the mayhem to come. It bursts into Earth on Hell which is a great, punch in the face of a track, featuring frantic, pummeling drums and super tight rhythm guitar with a great sing along chorus reminiscent of their post 1990 offerings.
Next is The Devil You Know, a mid paced riff-fest with Joey demonstrating he has lost none of his vocal prowess despite his age, performing some nice multi-tracked harmonies. Scott Ian’s rhythm playing is clearly as good as ever and new lead guitarist Rob Caggiano makes his presence felt on this track with a great solo. (He has replaced Danny Spitz who is now a very successful Swiss watch maker!). The lyrics on these first two tracks are ostensibly about the occupy wall street movement, confirming that this band has never been afraid of tackling political themes.
Fight ‘em ‘Till You Can’t is next, the zombie lyrical theme possibly inspired by Scott Ian’s cameo as a zombie in The Walking dead series. The pounding thrash rythms really sound like Anthrax in their Among the Living / State of Euphoria heyday, but again they are offset by a melodic chorus. By this stage it is becoming clear that they have lost none of their musical ability, in fact, drummer Charlie Benante has become even better, if that’s possible. Even in the glory days of thrash, his only equals in terms of power and precision were Dave Lombardo of Slayer and Pete Sandoval of Morbid Angel.
These native New Yorkers seem to have found a perfect combination of their early pounding thrash and later melodic, mid-paced sound.
I’m Alive is next and is a slower number utilizing a swinging beat with the now ubiquitous tight riffing. Again the chorus is melodic and stick-in-your-head catchy. It’s actually a touching tribute to the late Ronnie James Dio and Dimebag Darrel
A string section offers us Hymn 1 as an intro to In The End.
In The End is the longest track on the album at 6:48. Another slower track but, again, great, epic chorus with Joey once again belting out great vocals.
Rob Caggiano has proved to be a great addition, adding the virtuoso soloing that Danny Spitz never quite mastered.
The Giant is next, probably the closest thing to a filler track on the album. However Frank Bello’s bass makes its first notable appearance. His contribution to this band is perhaps underrated, playing fingerstyle bass to fast paced thrash is absolutely commendable, as a lot of bassists just shrug and grab a plectrum, effectively becoming just a third rhythm guitarist.
Hymn 2 follows, and is a military style drum rudiment, providing an intro to Judas Priest (the song not the band).
Frank’s bass makes another impressive appearance on this track and there is some impossibly fast hi-hat work by Charlie that has this sometimes-drummer shaking his head in disbelief.
Crawl is next and starts with some clean electric guitar chording and morphs into another superbly melodic (there’s even some piano), yet intense track with Joey displaying his Journey vocal influences unashamedly. This track could easily have been a single, and with the right promotion, garnered mainstream radio airplay as it is essentially melodic hard rock.
Next is The Constant, beginning with a great stomp-along riff that Scott is famous for. It then, shifts gear into a Persistence-ish, dark thrash in the verses and back to the stomp along for the choruses. Some more great soloing from Rob concludes the song.
The penultimate song is Revolution Screams and is the heaviest song on the album along with Earth On Hell. But yet again featuring a great harmonious chorus we can all sing along to with our devil horn fingers raised! There is then an amazing breakdown in 6/8 time with Scott playing palm muted triplets and Charlie playing some frankly mind-blowing double time triplet figures on his kicks and toms. The song then concludes with the great chorus. Possibly the best song on the album although it’s extremely hard to choose!
The album ends with a cover of Swedish hardcore band Refused’s New Noise. The original track is great song and while this is a good cover, it doesn’t really add anything and I could have done without it.
The production on Worship Music is very good, with all instruments occupying their own space. The bass and guitars are heavy enough without being overly so, and becoming like white noise, like some more extreme exponents of metal tend to suffer from. There is also the presence of rumbling bottom end which provides an indispensable foundation for the rest of the music.
Musically this album is a fantastic combination of thrash and melodic mid-paced, sing-alongs, usually in the same song (!) combined with great songwriting techniques. The playing is flawless and it has a real drive and energy which I haven’t heard from this band since 1990’s Persistence of Time and it’s easily their best release since then (22 years, wow!). No wonder it won so many plaudits from critics and punters alike.
Megadeth…you’ve got some work to do to top this. Simply awesome.
I have to admit I hadn’t really liked any of Megadeth’s albums since 1990’s Rust in Peace and was really hoping for a great album that the reviews I’d read had hinted at.
From the thrashing first track Sudden Death, it’s clear that the playing is going to be hard to fault with some brilliant soloing that the band has become famous for. I’m not sure if it’s Dave Mustaine or Chris Broderick playing the solos, probably they share the duties. In any case they will impress even the most discerning shredder. This first track is mighty impressive with excellent drumming from Shawn Drover rounding out the structure.
Public Enemy Number One follows, beginning with a guitar solo (really? Never!). Mustaine’s vocals are quite high in the mix and his singing style has remained largely unchanged since the bands inception. He has never been a fantastic singer but took on the duties due to no-one else in the band being able to perform them. Despite his vocal shortcomings, his voice has become part of the signature Megadeth sound and they are certainly not annoying or unpleasant.
Whose Life is it Anyway is track 3 and with riffs that resemble solos mixed with So-Far-So-Good-So-What-like power riffing, it is quite an effective track. Then the actual solos kick in with brilliant intensity. Anyone who doesn’t like flashy solos will NOT appreciate the bulk of this album!
We the People follows and again is a tight, riff based affair that features some dark and slightly atmospherically spooky guitar work. The track concludes with some clean guitar work which has featured heavily on earlier albums but not so much on Th1rt3en.
A slightly different approach is evident on Guns, Drugs and Money, which possesses riffs I would expect from Deep Purple or Led Zeppelin albeit much heavier. Unfortunately, by this stage, it is becoming evident that the songwriting is lacking in direction and structure slightly and the tracks meander from theme to theme without much buildup or any sense of foreboding or energy. This is just my opinion, I’m sure, to someone else’s ears it may be a different case.
Just to prove my previous point wrong, Never Dead builds from a slow moody start and increases in intensity (that’s better Dave!) into a phase effected thrash riff, very similar to Set The World Afire from the So Far…album and thrashes away really well with some complex rhythmic work thrown in for good measure. Mustaine appears to be attempting to create they type of melodic sing-along chorus so prevalent on Worship Music. I don’t know if it’s his slightly atonal voice or just the chorus arrangements that prevent him from being entirely successful, but…oh hang on here’s a brilliant solo! All is forgiven!
New World Order (not to be confused with the Ministry track of the same name) is next and is a mid-paced affair but shows some flair with a complex 7/8 time signature in the verses. Mid-paced is a word that is, to me, becoming quite synonymous with this album, apart from the odd quicker phrase which seems to be thrown in as an afterthought just to show that “Hey we can still do it”.
Fast Lane is track 8 and begins with a siren like guitar figure over some great riffing, but again, belying the tracks title, it’s a mid-paced track. Tight playing and some nice riffs bring some sort of vindication, but the chorus is uninspiring featuring the clichéd lyric “Fast lane, like a jet plane, like a freight train, I’m driving insane.” As if embarrassed by this, Dave Plays an immediate solo, taking our attention away from the awful lyrics.
Black Swan starts with a solo (yeah ok we get it), and then another one. However this song has a chorus that actually made me want to sing along to it, but without trying to make myself sound repetitive, the pace is tepid and…ahem “mid paced”. Oh yes another solo concludes the track.
Track 10, Wrecker is in much the same vein as most of the tracks. Tight riffing, virtuosic solos and totally uninspiring.
Millennium of the Blind starts with clean guitars and vocals and broods and builds slowly to a heavy-ish slower song with some great slow, heavy riffs and Mustaine’s vocals actually sound inspired, as if this is the only track on the album that has any emotional meaning to him. Possibly the best track on the album along with Sudden Death. It’s a slow track, so put away any misconceptions that I only like the fast stuff, which I may have inadvertently impressed upon you.
Deadly Nightshade plods along and along without any noteworthy musical highlights and some shaky lyrical territory yet again.
The final track “13” is another track that begins with clean guitars and Mustaine’s overly prevalent vocals, showing he is desperately trying to become a “real” singer. It’s not a bad track, however, and some classic riffs and solos bring the album to a close.
The performances on this album are first rate (with the exception of the vocals), riffs are super tight, solos are very, very good (although there are too many of them) and the drumming is exceptional. I can’t comment on the bass as it’s mixed quite low and it seems Dave Ellefson is simply following the guitar riffs. I doubt that it’s his fault, as Mustaine is an infamous perfectionist and runs the band like a dictatorship, hence the many lineup changes.
The production is clear and bright but lacks any real bottom end which is so important in metal, particularly these days.
While I prefer this album to most since Rust…it failed to impress me from a songwriting standpoint, and, if not for the brilliant playing by the guitarists and drummer, would have left me with a distinctly sour taste in my mouth. There are standout tracks. Sudden Death and Millennium of the Blind are both great, but one is the first track and the other the second last. There’s just not enough consistency or continuity on this album and the structures are uninspired and sometimes, seemingly random with no dynamic consideration. Energy is what is missing here. So, so important on a metal album. I expected better from a band of Megadeth’s considerable experience.
It’s probably not hard to tell which of these albums I prefer. Worship Music is a brilliant return to form from a band which resembles it’s original lineup. Th1rt3en is a lukewarm effort by a band who have undergone countless lineup changes and are run by a maniacal (less so these days) dictator.
Megadeth pip Anthrax in the playing department but only just, and only in the guitar solos. Charlie Benante’s drumming on Worship music is truly brilliant and it’s clear that all the musicians have input into their own parts. It’s clear on Th1rt3en that the musicians don’t and it’s all up to “Uncle Dave”.
The production on Worship Music is also the better of the two, with a foundation of thundering bottom end, which Th1rt3en is totally devoid of.
Some people may disagree with this review; however, it’s only my opinion, not a divine proclamation. But….Anthrax; you win by a considerable margin. Megadeth; you lose.