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.
“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.