Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Top Ten Things: Anthrax Songs (20-11)

And we're back with Part 3 of our Anthrax Top 40 countdown, chugging away toward the best of the best.  Here are #20-11....

Click for Part 1, Part 2 and Part 4...

20. Only

After a hugely successful album cycle with Persistence of Time and Attack of the Killer B's followed by three big 1990-91 tours, Anthrax decided they needed a new frontman.  Joey Belladonna's vocal style simply wasn't compatible with the direction the band needed to go - darker, grittier, uglier.  Enter Armored Saint's John Bush.  In 1993 the band released their sixth album Sound of White Noise, heralding a fairly radical change in direction.  They were still unmistakably a metal band, but with a raw, raunchy, midrange-heavy guitar sound and a gravely-voiced new singer to match.  The first single unapologetically dropped in everyone's lap was the grunge-tinged "Only," featuring rumbling drums and open, strummed power chord riffs, over which Bush's Steven Tyler-esque rasp intoned about a dysfunctional relationship - "Revolve around yourself, it's you and no one else/Hard for me to stay."  "Only" became a huge radio hit, proving it was possible for a band like Anthrax to reinvent themselves for a new era.

19. Caught in a Mosh

Back to classic Anthrax, one of the most beloved songs from one of their most beloved albums, "Caught in a Mosh" was partly inspired by a guitar tech getting injured in a mosh pit.  He literally coined the title of the song, and the band merged it with lyrics about suffering a disagreeable person, creating an all-time metal anthem.  From the blazing speed metal gallop of the verses to the pounding choruses, this song provided audiences ample opportunity to engage in heavy-duty moshing.

18. Invisible

Another tune from Sound of White Noise, "Invisible" is pretty explicitly about a fairweather friend, someone who's never around when you really need them.  Lord knows we've all had unhealthy friendships like that, and this song is one of the band's most relatable for that reason.  The opening guitar harmonics explode out of the speakers and build to an evil, Sabbathy verse riff before ramping up to a driving double-time chorus - "Transparent at critical moments/You drop me when your hands aren't full/You call yourself my closest friend/Then you make yourself invisible."

17. Antisocial

The biggest hit off State of Euphoria was this raucous cover of an obscure song by French hard rock outfit Trust, a single that Anthrax truly remade in their own style, to the point that many fans didn't realize it wasn't an original song.  "Antisocial" became an anthemic battle cry against a cynical system, and the band had an unexpected concert favorite on their hands.  

16. Now It's Dark

My favorite song from State of Euphoria is the ominous "Now It's Dark," inspired by David Lynch's film Blue Velvet and sung from the point of view of Dennis Hopper's depraved antagonist Frank Booth.  Musically the song is bouncy and aggressive, matching the character's raucous sense of perversion.  The lyrics are basically all quotes or references from the movie, but man is the chorus catchy - "Now it's dark, but I can see/Don't you fuckin' look at me..."  

15. One Man Stands

A hidden gem from Persistence of Time, "One Man Stands" has an incredible sense of driving momentum, something Anthrax excels at injecting into their songs.  Inspired by the Tiananmen Square massacre, specifically the image of a single rebel standing in the way of a row of tanks, "One Man Stands" is yet another anthem, exploring the idea of an oppressive authoritarian regime ultimately being no match for the will of the people.  In the end the people will always triumph, "And the walls come crumbling down."

14. The Devil You Know

One of the classic-sounding songs from Anthrax's comeback album Worship Music, "The Devil You Know" features an instantly hooky, bouncy guitar riff and a quintessential vocal performance from the returned Joey Belladonna.  Lyrically the song is open to interpretation - it seems to be about a violent bastard who knows exactly what he is.  Perhaps an ode to an anti-hero?  "I've been a man of brutal means/Dealing out my business, it's so obscene."  He's a murderous son of a bitch but at least he knows it, hence the title.

13. What Doesn't Die

The first full song from We've Come for You All reads like a comeback in its own right.  Five years after their overlooked eighth album, Anthrax returned with an artistically triumphant ninth that kicked off with a one-minute instrumental build, exploding into "What Doesn't Die."  The jackhammer rhythm guitar riffs and brutal double-time kick drumming signaled to everyone that not only was Anthrax back (seemingly from the dead), but they were newly committed to assaulting our ears with fuckin' metal.  "You cannot kill what doesn't die" indeed.

12.Think About an End

For me the zenith of WCFYA is the second-to-last tune, "Think About an End," a searing rebuke of religious fanaticism and all its layers of hypocrisy.  The lyrics take to task any religion used as a reason to kill or oppress others and asks the question, "What if God either doesn't exist or simply doesn't care about you?"  From the syncopated chorus feel to the killer triplet riffs and lead harmonies in the bridge, "Think About an End" is an expertly-crafted song from a band rediscovering itself.

11. Breathing Lightning

Scott Ian is a well-known Stephen King fan, and this epic tune from For All Kings is his latest homage to the legendary author, told from the point of view of The Dark Tower's protagonist Roland Deschain.  "Breathing Lightning" is a midtempo rocker with dramatic chord changes and an instantly hooky chorus melody, featuring some of Joey Belladonna's most soulful vocals.  The song's outro is a clean, minimalist reprise of the chorus that lends the song a final sense of splendor.  This is one of the band's best tracks.

We're almost at the home stretch - bring it back here for Part 4 and our Top 10!

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