Reviews for March 19th, 2013

Anthrax – Anthems

In 2011 Anthrax released “Worship Music” which heralded the return of singer Joey Belladonna after a 20 year absence. I only ever really liked the Belladonna years, so that was great news for this metal fan. “Worship Music” was an incredible return to form updated with a contemporary feel. The album was amazing as were the live shows which followed.

Now here we are in 2013, and while I haven’t heard anything about a new album yet, I’m still hoping maybe we could see something by end of the year. To hold us over the Anthrax crew put together “Anthems”, which was just released today. “Anthems” is an 8-track EP that contains six cover songs, “Crawl” (a track from “Worship Music”) and a remix of “Crawl.” The cover songs are all from monster rock bands from the 70s and 80s: Rush, AC/DC, Boston, Journey, Cheap Trick and Thin Lizzy.

Being that these are cover songs and the band tries to do right by them, the EP doesn’t sound all that much like Anthrax normally sounds. I read a snippet of an interview with drummer Charlie Benante yesterday where he said they decided to include “Crawl” on the EP so people unfamiliar with the band could get a taste of what they really sound like as a band.

You know what this EP really shows? How incredibly versatile Joey Belladonna’s voice can sound. This comes as no real surprise; I’ve always thought Joey had one of the best voices in metal. On “Anthem” he does more than sing a Rush song, he picks up all the nuances of Geddy Lee’s vocals and totally nails the song. On AC/DC’s “T.N.T.” Joey practically channels the late Bon Scott. Bon’s voice isn’t exactly a difficult one to ape, many people have copied his style over the years, but Joey does it better than anyone I’ve ever heard. “Smokin’” has never been one of my favorite songs from Boston (I prefer some “Peace of Mind” or “More Than A Feeling”) but damn if Joey doesn’t do a hell of a job as Brad Delp. My favorite track on the EP is the hard-driving cover of Thin Lizzy’s “Jailbreak.” Once again Joey easily slips from one persona to another, and this time I think he does Phil Lynott proud.

The final two cover tracks on the EP are “Keep on Runnin’” from Journey and “Big Eyes” by Cheap Trick. While I’m well familiar with both these bands, I really only know their biggest hits, and didn’t know these tracks before hearing them covered. That said, with Joey singing it was easy to know which one was the Journey track; he does a great Steve Perry. The Cheap Trick track is ok, but I probably would have liked it more had I known the original.

“Crawl” was one of the tracks on “Worship Music” that I generally glossed over to listen to my favorites, but it’s a good track. The opening really reminded me of Chris Cornell. Score another win for Joey. I’ve never been crazy about remixes, and honestly didn’t notice that much of a difference between the two versions. Maybe the remix is a bit more symphonic I guess?

Anyway, this will hold me over for a little while longer, but I am more than ready for a new full-on Anthrax album.

Call of the Void – Dragged Down a Dead End Path

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Today also marks the release of “Dragged Down a Dead End Path” the debut album from Boulder, Colorado sludge/hardcore/grind band Call of the Void. I like how Relapse describes the band: “…the aural equivalent of getting kicked in the teeth by a two-ton, iron forged beast.” Yeah, that sounds rather appropriate.

These guys had me during the first track, “Failure.” The thick and sludgy low-end rumble combined with biting guitars, barked vocals and high-strung intensity left me with little choice but to climb on board or get the fuck out of the way. I was going that way anyway so I hitched a ride.

I often get hung up on an album’s production (and come on, as many albums as I listen to, it’s nice to not have them sound like shit) but lately I’ve been finding a happy medium, particularly where sludge bands are concerned. I’ve been noticing (and such is the case with Call of the Void) that bands are managing to get that thick and fuzzy sound that usually muddies up the mix, while maintaining a tight and crisp core sound. The result is a production which is both clean and dirty and sounds great to my ears.

The problem with the hardcore barked vocal in general is that there is very little dynamic range and after a few songs my attention starts to drift. I think “Dragged Down a Dead End Path” is a great debut, but I do have to sort of take it in chunks in order to maintain solid attention.

Check out the track “Endless Ritual Abuse.”

Jungle Rot – Terror Regime

Jungle Rot is a death metal band from Wisconsin, and “Terror Regime” appears to be their eighth album. I say appears because looking back at the review I did two years ago of the band’s last album, I called that one their eighth. Looking on Wikipedia, I see the list of albums and count them up and this one is number eight. When I click on the link for the previous album, “Kill on Command”, it calls the album the band’s sixth. Sooooo, this is either the band’s seventh or eighth album depending on who you listen to (I’m going with eights since there are that many listed.) Either way, I fucked up my count last time, so sorry about that.

In the past my impression of Jungle Rot was one of a much more brutal style of death metal, but “Terror Regime”, while having harsh vocals, is full of technical playing that is really quite accessible…you know, for death metal. The production sounds really good too. The music is very clear and punchy and the vocals stand out quite nicely above it all.

I liked “Kill on Command”, but recall thinking it felt kind of stock. I don’t know if their style has changed since then, or if my tastes are just evolving, but “Terror Regime” sounds like it has more of a distinct personality and I like it a LOT. Whatever you are doing guys, keep it up!

Check out the track “Blind Devotion” to hear what I am talking about.

Nero di Marte – Nero di Marte

Nero di Marte is an experimental death metal band from Italy and this is their second album. Sort of. Technically this is their second album, but their first album was released under the name Murder Therapy, so this is the first album under the new name.

I’m not known for being a big fan of music labeled as experimental; things get weird and I get lost and I just don’t end up having any fun. So it was with mild apprehension that I began listening to this album. I needn’t have worried though; these guys aren’t that kind of wacky experimental. It’s certainly experimental in the context of taking the death metal song foundation and introducing more progressive elements. Fans of traditional old-school death metal might scratch their heads and scoff, but I’m kind of digging where this is headed. This is less Cannibal Corpse and more Cynic.

I like the songwriting and the musicianship, and the vocals (both clean and harsh) are quite good. All those pieces are in place. The production is the one thing that kind of hampers this album. When you have all this cool stuff going on, you want to be able to hear it clearly, and what I am hearing is just kind of foggy like I’ve got cotton in my ears. I can hear what is going on, but I want to reach out and tweak a knob that brings it all into perfect clarity.

Production aside I think this is a very solid album. I like what Nero di Marte are doing and am curious as to where they will go next. As such I am certainly open to hearing more from this band.

Check out the track “Convergence.”