Anthrax EP One Of 2013’s Best Rock Records

Anthrax has proven once again with its new EP, Anthems, why it is still one of rock’s elite bands.  This veteran rock act has crafted in its new release a work that is perfect in every way.  From the sequencing to the sound to the very packaging, everything that could have been done right was done right.  Sure, it probably is essentially a space filler between albums, but even if that is the case, it is one heck of a space filler.  It’s a musical history lesson for rockers of all ages.  Here, audiences get a band that by comparison to the bands it covers is relatively young.  Yet it shows that it knows the classics through some expert renditions of said classics.

Anthems opens with a cover of Rush’s ‘Anthem.’  This song originally appeared on Rush’s album, Fly By Night.  That Anthrax would cover Rush is a mind blower in and of itself.  Considering the style of music for which Anthrax is known, one would not instantly consider such a polar opposite sound to be any kind of influence on the band.  So that in itself is an eye opener.  That the band so expertly covered the song is even more of an eye opener.  The band paid homage to Rush and the song with its cover, but still added its own touch to the song, too.  Front man Joey Belladonna makes the song even more solid of an opener when he sings the line, “Welcome to the world.”  When Geddy Lee first sang those words, they obviously had their own meaning.  But having Belladonna sing those same words, they somehow take on a whole new meaning.  Since this is the EP’s opener, it could be argued that those words take on an introductory fashion for new listeners and a whole new introduction even for those more seasoned audiences.  Given, that probably wasn’t the intended function of that line.  But it does seem to have that impact.

The band’s new EP only gets better from the opening cover.  The EP’s second track is a cover of another legendary band’s song.  The band’s cover of AC/DC’s ‘TNT’ is without a doubt, one of this disc’s major high points.  One can’t help but focus yet again on front man Joey Belladonna. Maybe it is just this critic’s own take on the song, but Belladonna sounds eerily like the late great Bon Scott in every sense in this song.  Had one not known it was him, one might actually have thought it was the original song.  This is also thanks in part to guitarist Rob Caggiano, who earlier this year announced his departure from the band.  His take on Angus Young’s guitar work on this rock classic pays Young full honor.  And drummer Charlie Benante’s drumming is just as solid as that of Phil Rudd.  This is one that one could easily see the band performing live as it tours the country on the Metal Alliance Tour this Spring.

If Anthrax’s covers of ‘TNT’ and ‘Anthem’ aren’t enough for fans, then the cover of Boston’s ‘Smokin’’ will impress audiences.  This is yet another spot on cover that keeps the energy flowing from the EP’s first two tracks.  Older, more experienced rockers will love how the band handles this track.  And that such a young band by comparison could so expertly handle this classic will make older audiences smile, too.  Younger audiences will love it too simply because the band shines here even more.  It’s as if the band just keeps getting better and better on every track.  This is the case with the remaining trio of covers included here, too.  Those covers lead into the inclusion of two more bonuses in the form of ‘Crawl’ and its remix of sorts.

‘Crawl’ was taken from the band’s 2011 album, Worship Music.  Including both this track and its remix was actually quite smart.  Whereas so many bands in a case such as this would only include the redone track or live track, Anthrax and Megaforce Records have included both tracks, thus offering audiences the chance to compare and decide for themselves which version of the song they like better.  Regardless of which song becomes one fan’s favorite or another’s these last two tracks help the EP close just as solidly as it opened.  It goes without saying that if any one negative that could be said about Anthems, it is that the band chose to make this an EP, instead of a full length album.  Here’s to hoping one day, fans will see that happen.  Until then, fans can listen to his EP to their hearts’ content as the EP is available now both in stores and online.  It can be ordered online direct from the official Anthrax website here:  http://anthrax.com/2013/03/19/anthems-is-here/Worship Music can be ordered directly via the band’s official website also at  http://shop.anthrax.com/shop.cfm/pk/category/ac/detail/cid/409267/prodid/412162.

Fans can get a chance to win a copy of Anthems for free right now and the chance to see the band live at its stop in Charlotte, North Carolina next month from the Phil’s Picks blog and Facebook page when they “Like” the Phil’s Picks Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/philspicks.  Just “Like” the Phil’s Picks Facebook page and say you want to be entered for the chance to win an EP and to see the band live.

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Something Unto Nothing Is Something Indeed

Courtesy:  Robo Records

Courtesy: Robo Records

The debut album from rock supergroup Something Unto Nothing is perhaps the first great rock record of 2013.  The band—Sass Jordan (Canadian Idol), Brian Tichy (Whitesnake, Billy Idol, Foreigner, Ozzy Osbourne), Michael Devin (Whitesnake, Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience, Kenny Wayne Shepherd), and Tommy Stewart (Godsmack, Lo Pro, Everclear, Fuel) have come together for a record that’s a solid, no-nonsense rock record.  The project was originally started by Jordan and band mate Brian Tichy.  Tichy notes in an interview about the album, “I had played drums on Sass’ Rats record.”  He added, “I knew she was one of the best rock singers out there.  So after many years, we reconnected and tried a bit of writing together.”

Fans of the stoner rock genre will especially enjoy this album as it opens with a sound similar to the likes of Fireball Ministry, Nebula, and others of that ilk.  Jordan even noted in an interview of how the album came to develop its sound.  “As we continued the songwriting path from the quintessential rock tunes, ‘Burned’ to ‘Mobile Again’ to ‘Nomad’ and on…The whole thing started to take shape in the form of a 70’s odyssey, a time travel trajectory”, she said.  That couldn’t be truer.  The album’s opener, ‘Burned’ will take audiences back to rock’s heyday thanks to the combination of Sass’ vocals and the band’s musical backing.  Sass sounds like some wild hybrid of Janis Joplin and fellow veteran vocalist, Geddy Lee (Rush).  Stewart expertly keeps a solid 4/4 beat for the band all while tossing in some nice little flourishes throughout.  And Tichy’s guitar work is just as solid here.  Just as Stewart’s drumming proves the K.I.S.S. formula true, so does Tichy’s guitar work.  There’s nothing overdone about what he does here.  But it’s that simplicity and solid playing that makes this the right choice for a first impression on this record.

The band follows up the success of ‘Burned’ with an equally simple yet rocking song in ‘Crazy Head.’  There’s no question what this song is about, lyrically speaking.  It’s a song about a relationship issue.  Given, that’s the most common lyrical topic of any song.  But it’s the way the topic is tackled both lyrically and musically that makes it such an interesting piece.  Jordan sings in the song, “You, You, you/You’re crazy/Don’t you call me baby/You, you , you/You’re crazy/You got a crazy head.”  It’s amazing what a few words can do.  But that chorus is enough to explain everything that’s needed to understand this song.  This is not just some “oh-woe-is-me” style song.  This is coming from the standpoint of a strong empowered individual.  It’s someone who isn’t going to take any junk from anyone.  Add in the music’s fiery exuberance, and that becomes increasingly clear.  Yet again, Brian Tichy shines on this song, adding a solo that would make any guitar purist proud.

The band continues much in the same style in the album’s very next song, ‘Nomad.’  This is one of those songs that will instantly have the horns in the air and the hair flying as heads bang.  It’s sure to become a fan favorite both from the record and both as the band hits the road to perform the songs from this album live.  And for those worrying about whether or not this first trio of songs is all that the band has to offer on its debut, those fears are instantly silenced as the band launches in the Red Hot Chili Peppers style funk-rock of ‘Did Me No Good.’  Together, Tichy and bassist Michael Devin make for a sound that would make RHCP guitarist and bassist Josh Klinghoffer and Flea happy.  The band barely lets up from here with the southern rock styling of the album’s next two tracks, ‘Mobile Again’ and ‘I’m The One.’  ‘Lynyrd Skynyrd fans will appreciate ‘Mobile Again’ with its classic southern rock sound.  The same applies with ‘I’m The One.’  There’s more than enough rock to make any rock purist happy.  For those who want something a little softer, Something Unto Nothing offers that, too as it only slows down a few times.  That slowing is just enough to let listeners catch their breath before the band launches into its next aural assault.  The last of the slower songs is the album’s closer, ‘Goodbye.’  On the surface, it would appear that this is a breakup song as Jordan sings, “I don’t want to leave you/But I’ve got to say/Goodbye.”  And given the song’s tone, it would appear even more that this is a song about a breakup.  But on a deeper level, it could also be interpreted as Jordan and company saying goodbye for now.  It’s as if she and her band mates are collectively saying, “We’ve had a blast entertaining you, and we don’t want to have to leave, but we have to say goodbye.”  On that level, it’s a fitting end to what is without a doubt one of the first great rock records of 2013.

The band currently wrapped a series of dates in support of its new album.  In order to find out when the band will next be hitting the road, fans can check out the band online at http://www.somethingunto.com, http://www.facebook.com/pages/SUN-Something-Unto-Nothing/177605938956922, https://www.twitter.com/teamsassjordan, and http://www.reverbnation.com/sunsomethinguntonothing.

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