Released: 2004, Sanctuary
Anthrax, despite slightly improved fortunes with the jump to a supportive label, still drifts, directionless and lacking focus. In the last few years we have had a re-issue, a poorly received studio record, a live record, and soon a re-recording of older tunes. They really, truly need to get their head out of their asses and kick out a killer metal record.
Well, this Live CD is waaay overdo. In fact, of all their former contemporaries (Overkill, Testament, Slayer, Metallica etc) Anthrax is really the only band who had not released any decent live material. I say decent because they did have that lame live-in-studio contract obligation thing a while back. So the ‘real’ live Anthrax album, long overdue arrives and…guess what? Not impressed.
This could have been and should have been an event. Now to be fair, as regular readers know I gave up on the band a decade ago so in all fairness to the band and current fans this IS a killer live package. I am impressed on that front. Credit where credit is due. They band and label did a good job. We get a dozen songs spanning most phases of the career, a DVD, a very impressive package including over 20 live shots, an nice note from Charlie good credits, design, layout…everything gets top grade. I’m not sure about the lame Captain America/Daredevil rip-off character but Anthrax has often been about the comic books so it’s acceptable.
I’m not going to comment on the DVD for now and just focus on the songs themselves and this is where the band falls down a bit. Why did they open with a mid-paced, slow song? A metal concert is supposed to be (in my mind) about energy and the opening cut can set the tone and tempo for the entire show. A poor choice, a bad start, and a sign of things to come. Part of my gripe is they played very few songs that I like by them, too much emphasis on slower 90’s material. The band never really gets going. The pace stays chugging along, the band clearly no longer interested (or capable?) of playing fast. The few old songs they play they slow down considerably. Oddly enough I did like the live versions of some of the slower, newer songs as they translated well into the live environment.
The production was pretty darn good a nice loud sound, a good balance with crowd noise and so on. Charlie’s kick drums sounded like a pair of castanet’s most of the time draining the bottom end of any punch. I like how the band (especially Bello) mixed up the tunes a little bit. It is good to hear him live before he bailed on this floundering ship.
Bush stage raps were good, I like when a band has interaction with the crowd. He plays to the new schoolers (as he calls them) far too often and at times gave weird conflicting messages. For example at the beginning of Anti-Social he talks about (roughly paraphrased) ‘…spreading the love, now let’s get anti-social!’ ha! ha! If anything Anti-Social is about hate not love so it seems odd that he misses the point of their own song, …well…their own cover tune actually. Of course, they launch into a watered down version of the song. Come to think of it there are no songs from the first three releases.
In the spirit of constructive criticism, I would have skipped the DVD entirely, produced a double disc, with way more emphasis on the older material and throw in a few surprises, more solos, a new cover tune, a medley, an unreleased song or two as a bonus or stuff like that. As it stands we get a snapshot of a certain point of time. The sad part is that the band just don’t have the energy or enthusiasm anymore. The performances are flat and uninspired and what really drives it home and resigns me to the fact they are lost is that they really, truly seem to think they are giving it their all. Bush used to sing with another band and would ask, ‘Can you deliver?’ Well, not anymore it seems.
The most telling component of the entire CD is the inside back panel. It has a tongue and cheek comic parody about being a ‘metal head’ which is even sadder when you realize the band doesn’t even get their own joke. The posers themselves, (claiming to be cool) and calling other people posers…now that rich! The band for years has gone on about how they want to distance themselves from the traditional metal crowd/sound and yet suddenly try (in vain) to embrace metal, in a desperate attempt to regain some sort of street cred to win back some of the fans who used to care. The weak attempts at try to win back the core audience are failing. Try putting out a live CD with some fast and heavy songs instead. Mass Destruction indeed. I’ve seen more destruction when my three-year old daughter has a temper tantrum.