Essential Albums #4: Anthrax, “We’ve Come For You All”

"WCFYA" era Anthrax: Benante, Caggiano, Ian, Bello and Bush

"WCFYA" era Anthrax: Charlie Benante, Rob Caggiano, Scott Ian, Frank Bello and John Bush

As any Blabbermouth.net reader knows by now, Anthrax has parted ways with vocalist Dan Nelson and the band is in search of a new singer.

Nelson either quit or was fired, depending on who you believe (Nelson and guitarist Scott Ian, not surprisingly, give differing accounts of the breakup). Maybe that’s too bad – unless “Worship Music” leaks, we’ll never know if Nelson could really hold is own with the band …

But what we do know is Anthrax will do a one-off show in Europe with John Bush, who left the band after Ian and the boys decided to do a “reunion” tour with former vocalist Joey Belladonna. Ian has said having Bush back in the band would be his first choice.

Well, that would be my first choice, too – although I do hope Bush continues making music with his old friends in Armored Saint. With all this talk of a Bushthrax reunion, I can’t think of a better time to roll out my next essential album, 2003’s “We’ve Come For You All.”

By the time the band parted ways with Belladonna and enlisted Bush, Anthrax was in need of a transfusion of new energy. While the Belladonna years had produced one near-perfect album – 1987’s “Among The Living” – the band’s other output had been decidedly mixed. “State of Euphoria” included exactly one memorable song (“Antisocial”) , “Persistence of Time” was better but also loaded with filler and the band was best known for its entertaining but jokey rap parody “I’m The Man.”

Bush was already respected for his work with Armored Saint – and in “Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal,” author Ian Christe wrote Bush was once considered as a possible vocal replacement for James Hetfield in Metallica. Bush brought a darker vocal dimension to Anthrax – Bush’s voice was harsher, grittier and more aggressive than Belladonna’s, which gave the band the gravitas it lacked.

By the time the band recorded “We’ve Come For You All,” Bush had been with Anthrax for 10 years and had long been out of Belladonna’s shadow. While other bands had turned away from their metal roots during the 1990s (I am talking to you, “Load/Reload” era Metallica), Anthrax had become, if anything, heavier over the course of the decade. While “We’ve Come …” is not the heaviest album of the Bush years, it’s blistering when it needs to be, while indulging in a surprising amount to melody.

The brief intro, “Contact,” starts with an acoustic strum, before Benante launches into a march and the melody is overrun by electronic noise, distortion and fuzzbox vocals like messages broadcast from outer space. The intro lasts barely a minute before the band explodes into “What Doesn’t Die” with a precision wall of guitar and drums. Ian, Caggiano, Bello and Benante are, incredibly, perfectly in sync on the bursts of riffing for the opening minute and a half … before the band slows into a grinding time change before Caggiano’s solo. Bush goes from a whisper to a yell and finally to a full-throated scream, and he spits out the lyrics with a venom that practically spews from the speakers.

“Superhero” is equally as violent, with Bush growling through the first verse before launching to a ceiling-cracking chorus. While it’s true Belladonna had a broader vocal range, what Bush brought to Anthrax was an intensity Belladonna couldn’t match. On “Superhero,” Bush sounds like a man on fire with desperation: It’s all the rest of the band can do just to keep up.

“Refuse To Be Denied” opens with an acoustic melody again, before being overwhelmed by the distorted main riff and a vocal roar. There aren’t many guitar theatrics: The melody is pummeling and relentless, allowing for only the briefest of bridges before launching back into overdrive.

“Safe Home” is a major departure from all that came before. Instead of a rolling assault, “Safe Home” is almost a ballad. The song is slower, with the band mixing acoustic and electric guitars before the tempo steps up slightly and Caggiano’s launches into his solo.

 

“Anyplace But Here” goes back to the acoustic opening … and while that should seem redundant, the acoustic intro actually builds suspense until the distortion catharsis. Bush barks out the chorus while the band lays down a solid rhythm. “Nobody Knows Anything” is a vicious kick to the head – with a sputtering riff, spat vocals and some of Benante’s most frenetic drumming of the album. Caggiano lashes out with another blazing solo before the whole thing screeches to a sudden, satisfying halt.

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“Strap It On” is a homage to metal of the late mid to late 1970s – and mid to late ’80s. Bush sells the song, but the treat comes from late guitarist “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott, who adds his trademark guitar sound to the solo. Dimebag also provided a couple solos on Anthrax’s “Vol. 8: The Threat Is Real,” but he outdoes himself on “Strap It On.” Listen closely: As the song fades, the band pays musical homage to Judas Priest, Metallica and AC/DC.

“Black Dahlia” feels like a beatdown. The fret work is insanely fast and precise, Benante beats the hell out of his drums and Bush screams like bloody murder. It’s brutal, painful and freakin’ perfect.

“Cadillac Rock Box” is an abrupt mood shift – a good time, mid-tempo rock song about the joys of metal and wheels. It’s unpretentious and surprisingly upbeat, compared to most of the other material. It’s also great fun … and is a ideal companion to “Taking The Music Back” where Roger Daltrey (the vocalist from The Who, not that wanker from “American Idol”) adds backing vocals and joins Bush for the big chorus.

“Crash” is a tiny, odd intro to “Think About An End,” the album’s masterpiece. Benante is the star in the opening minutes and the band sails through the first two verses and the chorus. The song seems straight-forward … until Ian and Caggiano throw in the unexpected Sabbathesque riff during the time change. Bush recalls Ozzy during the time change, and Ian and Caggiano are impressive with their dual guitar work. It’s the most surprising song on what has already been an extremely varied album.

“W.C.F.Y.A.” is the closer and the band throws out all nuance and goes for the throat. Bush sounds enraged, Benante hits his snares like he’s trying to smash them and melody burns like a fuse on dynamite.

Bush decided he’d had enough after the rest of the band enlisted Belladonna for a reunion tour. Personally, I’d like to see Bush return on a permanent basis: If “We’ve Come For You All” is any indication, the band is still capable of greatness.

Interview: Edguy guitarist Dirk Sauer talks about “Tinnitus Sanctus” and the band’s evolving brand of power metal

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Edguy guitarist Dirk Sauer says the band’s new album, “Tinnitus Sanctus,” combines some of the “epic” power metal trademarks with a more straight-ahead rock approach.

The change is for the better, Sauer said, because the individual band members have grown as musicians.

When Edguy was formed in 1992, most of the band members were in their early teens. For a time, the “power metal” double-bass-drum approach was used to hide a lot of musical sins, Sauer said.

“In the early years, we played a lot of double-bass stuff. Epic is a trademark. But as you get older, you want to invent something new,” Sauer said.

“A lot of people complain that we don’t use the double-bass element (anymore). In the past, it was a good (device) to hide things we couldn’t really play.”

The band plays slower now, with an emphasis on musicianship rather than speed, Sauer said.

“With the new record, we tried to keep it to less tracks, but better played,” Sauer said.

Edguy have been extremely busy lately. In addition to releasing “Tinnitus Sanctus,” the band is preparing for its first U.S. tour in several years. In between touring, the band is preparing songs for a new album – and frontman Tobias Sammet is working on a new Avantasia album, which will be released later this year.

The band also has a new greatest hits album on the market, and their first live DVD, “F**cking With Fire,” will be released days before the U.S. tour begins in September.

“We started working on the DVD years ago” during the “Rocket Ride” tour, Sauer said. “Originally, it was the (record label) plan to put the DVD out before the new record … We said, ‘no, it’s much more important to have a new album out than a DVD.'”

“Tinnitus Sanctus” ranges from the epic (“Speedhoven,” “The Pride of Creation”) to hard rock (“Ministry of Saints,” “Sex Fire Religion” and “Dragonfly”), with even a skewed bit of country and western thrown in (“Aren’t You A Little Pervert, Too?”).

The band is satisfied with “Tinnitus Sanctus” and with evolving at least partially away from the traditional power metal sound, Sauer said.

“I think the main thing as a band and as musicians is we have to be proud and happy about what we do,” Sauer said. “First of all, we have to be happy with it and satisfy ourselves as musicians … but you have to keep the trademarks of the band.”

For “Tinnitus Sanctus,” the goal was to create songs that have a “live” sound, even on disc.

“The song has to (work) in the rehearsal room, with just two guitars, bass, drums and vocals,” Sauer said.

The “F**cking With Fire” concert was shot in San Paolo, Brazil. While metal fans are enthusiastic everywhere, the crowds in Brazil are awe-inspiring, Sauer said.

“There audience there is overwhelming,” he said. “It’s amazing to be there. It’s hard to describe in words … people just go crazy.”

The DVD “turned out quite well to my taste,” Sauer said. “That was our aim – to make it as close as possible to how you would feel (at the show) in South America.”

The plan said the plan is to begin recording the as-yet untitled new Edguy album next summer, Sauer said.

“We’re always collecting ideas,” he said. ” … Tobi is the main songwriter in the band, so he has the key ideas (but) we build the songs as band members. The arrangements are made by everybody.

“I’m looking forward to the U.S tour,” Sauer said. “We’re getting bigger and bigger every time we come over.”

Edguy’s U.S. and Canadian tour dates are:

Sep. 05 – The Opera House – Toronto, ON
Sep. 06 – Club Soda – Montreal, QC
Sep. 09 – The Blender Theater (at Gramercy) – New York, NY
Sep. 11 – Jaxx – West Springfield, VA
Sep. 12 – Peabody’s – Cleveland, OH
Sep. 13 – The Pearl Room – Mokena, IL
Sep. 15 – Station 4 – St. Paul, MN
Sep. 16 – Royal Albert Arms – Winnipeg, MB
Sep. 17 – The Riddell Center (at Univ. of Regina) – Regina, SK
Sep. 19 – Starlite Room – Edmonton, AB
Sep. 20 – Warehouse – Calgary, AB
Sep. 21 – Plaza Club – Vancouver, BC
Sep. 23 – Sugar Nightclub – Victoria, BC
Sep. 24 – El Corazon – Seattle, WA
Sep. 25 – Hawthorne Theater – Portland, OR
Sep. 27 – Slims – San Francisco, CA
Sep. 28 – Jumping Turtle – San Marcos, CA
Sep. 29 – The Key Club – Hollywood, CA

To hear full songs, visit Edguy’s MySpacepage. You can also read the Noise Pollution review of “Tinnitus Sanctus” here.

Metal Mood Stabilizer Song of the Day: Candlemass “The Well of Souls”

I first heard this song in 1987 or 1988 on a local college radio station’s late-night metal show. Although that was over 20 years ago (I’m dating myself, aren’t I?), the song hasn’t lost its evil impact.

Enjoy.

Far From Fallen to release new album this weekend

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Owensboro original metal band Far From Fallen will perform a free concert at FYE in Towne Square Mall Saturday, July 18. The concert will be followed by a CD release party at the mall’s Hot Topic store.
The events are coordinated with the release of “Arise From The Ashes,” the band’s second album.

The event will also introduce fans to the band’s new bassist Drew Hallden, who joined the band after bassist Blake Littleton left to go to college in Florida.

Drummer Matt Simmons said the hope is the release of “Arise From The Ashes” will lead to bigger things.

“We’re trying to do everything we can to be seen, heard and noticed,” Simmons said.

The performance at FYE will begin at 6 p.m. The band will sell copies of the new album at Hot Topic beginning at 7:30 p.m. The CD will also be available online, at iTunes, Rhapsody, DigStation, CDBaby and bigcartel.com.

The album has been recorded for some time, but the release was held back while the band put together the money for pressing and packaging the discs.

“I’m ready to press on to the next album,” guitarist Brian Fulkerson said. “ … The earliest we would do that would be next winter, early January.”

“We have already started playing new songs,” Simmons said.
The band already has a number of shows planned for next few weeks. Tonight, the band is heading to Memphis to play with Inner 61, and they’ll be in Nashville July 27 with Zero System. They’ll perform with up and coming metal band In Fear And Faith on Aug. 2 at The Brothers in Owensboro.

Hallden has a short period of time to learn the band’s songs before playing with Far From Fallen for the first time.

“I’m probably the least experienced person with the band and sometimes it shows,” Hallden said. “But every time we play together it gets a little more solid.”

Live performances have been infrequent, as the band focused on pressing “Arise From The Ashes,” Fulkerson said. The band is hoping to find a reputable booking agent to help them land more shows outside the region.

“I want to look on our Web site and see 10 dates” scheduled, Fulkerson said. “… We’re trying to book as much as we can.”
With so many bands competing for attention — and with scam artists posing as managers or promoters always looking to rip off hungry musicians — finding trustworthy representation is difficult.

“You’re always going to want to get testimony from someone who is working with them,” Fulkerson said. “If they are good managers, they’ll call you. The problem is: How do you get them to notice you?”

Simmons said: “It’s frustrating. Everybody who sees us says, ‘why aren’t you signed?’ … It’s basically about getting heard or knowing somebody.”

With the album finally ready for release, the plan is to aggressively market the band to promoters and labels.
“You just have to be persistent,” guitarist Greg Cecil said. “That’s all we can do.”

“The sound is broad enough,” Hallden said. “It reaches a lot of demographics.”

Review: Mastodon “Crack The Skye”

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It would be easy to over-analyze Mastodon’s new album, “Crack The Skye,” but I have a tendency to do too much analysis and wankering in my reviews. Instead, I’ll cut directly to the chase: “Crack The Skye” is the most satisfying Mastodon album since “Leviathan.” It combines the aggression of “Remission” with the progression of “Leviathan” while avoiding the pit of self-obsession that dragged down “Blood Mountain.”

The performances are top notch, the music is heavy yet intricate and esoteric and the whole thing smacks of perfection. This album elevates Mastodon into the top ranks of progressive metal.

When Mastodon released the “Workhorse Chronicles” DVD, another, better metal publication (Decibel, perhaps?) wrote that – love them or not – Mastodon was a band the metal community couldn’t ignore, because their every move was significant. Frankly, I thought the band had forfeited that status in 2006 with “Blood Mountain,” an album which was good in places but forgettable overall (I’m looking at the song titles on my “Blood Mountain” disc right now, and I can recall the melody of only five of the 12 songs). At the risk of uttering some form of metal blasphemy, my opinion at the time was Mastodon had peaked with “Leviathan.”

I had concerns that “Crack The Skye” was going to be less metallic, unnecessarily complicated and full of pointless guitar noodling. But I needn’t have worried: “Crack The Skye” is amazingly compact. The self-indulgence that vexed much of “Blood Mountain” is gone – there’s no “Bladecatcher” or “Pendulous Skin” here to make me reach for the skip button.

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My biggest complaint with “Blood Mountain” was that it sounded like complexity for complexity’s sake. That’s not to suggest the songs on “Crack The Skye” are simple – Brann Dailor’s drumming is as intricate and fascinating as anything he did for “Leviathan” or “Remission.” The guitar riffs intertwine, building on one another or providing musical undercurrents for the main melody. Guitarist Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher and bassist Troy Sanders are masters of their instruments … but they don’t allow the guitar/bass parts to overwhelm the songs as a whole. Not a single note feels superfluous or goes to waste.

Vocally, Mastodon are arguably limited, even with Hinds, Sanders and Dailor sharing vocal duties. But metal has (almost) never been about beautiful vocals: What’s important is that vocals work with the songs, as opposed to being a distraction.

While I only found two songs on “Blood Mountain” that compelled repeat listens, it’s difficult to point to standout tracks on “Crack The Skye.”

“Oblivion” is fantastic stoner rock, “Divinations” and “Quintessence” are powerful tracks – particularly the colorful latter song – and the four-part “The Czar” is equal with “Hearts Alive” or any of the band’s best work. “Ghost of Karelia” pulls its weight and “Crack The Skye” and “The Last Baron” (which are really one long song) achieve a status that is both epic and psychedelic.

There’s no filler here – and the album is the band’s heaviest since “Remission,” even while the band moves further away from “traditional” metal. “Crack The Skye” suggests the members of Mastodon still have endless musical vistas in front of them.

You can hear tracks from “Crack The Skye” on the band’s Myspace page. Also, here are the official videos for “Divinations” and “Oblivion.” You can find a live performance of “Oblivion” from Spinner.com here.

Interview: Obituary vocalist John Tardy talks about “Darkest Day,” his career in music and the band’s influence on death metal

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Although the Florida death metal scene was spawned in the early 1980s by bands like Death and Possessed,  many of the influential members of the scene are still actively making records and touring today.

John Tardy, vocalist for Tampa’s Obituary, thinks the seminal band has not only survived, but – with the just released album “Darkest Day” –  is creating some of the best music of its career.

“With the new album, I feel we’ve hit our stride,” Tardy said during a phone interview shortly before the band left for the European leg of its 2009 tour. “We accomplished everything we tried to do.  It’s just a very satisfying record.”

Obituary started as a garage band, inspired by Florida natives Nasty Savage and Savatage. Metal was evolving into something darker than Bay Area thrash in Florida’s hot cauldron, and Obituary built a heavier sound on the foundations of their local idols.

 The band got its break when Roadrunner Records signed them to a deal. “Trevor (Peres) and I were just jamming in the garage. We were so happy just jamming that we never thought about making demo tapes,” Tardy said. “When Roadrunner came to us … we just signed. That was a special moment when I got (“Slowly We Rot”). Now, when I look at the albums and songs, they bring back memories of what we were doing.

“For me – and keep in mind I was in 11th grade and D.T. (drummer Don Tardy) was two grades behind me – in our neighborhood we’d be riding bikes and the guys in Nasty Savage would be jamming in their garage,” Tardy said. “It was the same with the Savatage guys … Those two guys for me are what got us started. We just got heavier and heavier and we haven’t taken our foot of the pedal ever since.” 

The band’s 1989 debut, “Slowly We Rot,” is considered the blueprint for what later came to be called death metal. Further, the songs on “Slowly We Rot” were absolutely scary, as Tardy pushed metal singing to a new limit – sometimes using guttural sounds instead of words to convey the raw dread of the music.

After a string of acclaimed death metal albums, including “The End Complete” and “World Demise,” Obituary split up in 1997 and the band members went their separate ways:  Drummer Don Tardy joined Andrew W.K. for a time and guitarist Allen West went on to work with Six Feet Under. Tardy went into the private sector before eventually returning to music.

Obituary regrouped in 2003 and the reunited band’s first album, “Frozen In Time,” was released in 2005. West performed  on “Frozen In Time,” but a DUI arrest sidelined him just before the band had planned to go into the studio to record “Xecutioner’s Return.”

To complete the record on schedule, the band tapped Ralph Santolla, who had recently left Deicide, another landmark Florida band. Since then, Santolla has remained with Obituary, performing on last year’s “Left To Die” EP and “Darkest Day.”

“So far, things have been going great with Ralph,” Tardy said. “He came in at a time of need. Allen had been thrown in jail … it got to the point where (he would) be gone for a year and we couldn’t wait a year.”

While Santolla is not actively writing songs with the band, his prowess as a lead guitarist has expanded Obituary’s sound, Tardy said.

“(Leads and solos) were something we never felt were that important,” Tardy said. “But, because Ralph is so talented, we can bring him to the forefront. I think Obituary is still feeling out how we can use him” without altering the band’s core sound, he said.

“Darkest Day” was recorded in Tardy’s home studio, as was “Xecutioner’s Return,” “Left To Die” and John and Don’s long-discussed “Tardy Brothers” side project. “For me, it has been an absolute blessing,” Tardy said of the studio. “I can go out at 10 o’clock and sing half a song … It does make our life easier and explains why we’re doing so much” new material.

“We wrote and recorded (“Darkest Day”) faster than we’ve ever done,” Tardy said. “… It’s easy to overproduce your records, but that’s not us. When we write songs and record, we know what we want to do and we’re very laid back.”

Obituary’s impact on death metal – which later bled over into metal in general as other bands adopted death tunings, drumming and vocals – is difficult to overestimate. But Tardy said he was unaware of the band’s impact until Obituary reformed in 2003.

“We’ve met the guys in Slipknot and Down that are big Obituary fans,” Tardy said. “… When we came back, that’s when I noticed it, because a lot of people came up and said, ‘I’m glad you’re back.’ That was the first time it dawned on me that a lot of people had been influenced by our stuff.”

Obituary will perform at Headliner’s Music Hall in Louisville on Sunday, Oct. 4. Opening the show are Goatwhore, Krisiun, The Berzerker and Warbringer. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at www.ticketweb.com

To hear tracks from “Darkest Day” and other Obituary albums, visit the band’s MySpace page here.

Metal Mood Stabilizer Song of (Independence) Day: Twisted Sister: “We’re Not Gonna Take It”

Tomorrow is the 4th of July here in the U.S. of A. So what better way to say, “Ha, we’re free, so stick that in your pipe and smoke it, King George III,” than with the video for Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”

You love Twisted Sister, so stop pretending otherwise. Play it loud and go launch fireworks now.