With this most recent collection of covers, Anthrax has produced an infinitely likable and highly listenable tribute to 1977 hard rock radio. Kicking off hard with their version of “Anthem,” the lead track from Rush’s 1975 album Fly by Night, they prove up to the task and tackle some of rock’s trickier musicians to mimic. And singer Joey Belladonna shows he’s still got lots of years and range left on his vocal chords. They take AC/DC’s “TNT” head-on, and while it’s fun, you almost wish the band had dug deeper into a less well-known (or at least well-worn) song to cover. It’s also interesting to hear Anthrax so restrained — in particular, drummer Charlie Benatante, who is known for his over-the-top playing.
Thin Lizzy’s “Jailbreak” and Boston’s “Smokin’” are great fun, as they’re largely overlooked cover sources. And Anthrax goes the extra distance on “Smokin’” with the addition of keyboards, courtesy of the legendary Fred Mandel, who has played with everyone (just flip any of your records over and check.) The standout track here though, is their take on Cheap Trick’s “Big Eyes.” Anthrax give it a perfect sense of melody with just the right amount of drive and distortion to make it irresistible. The band doesn’t take too many liberties with these covers as they have in the past, and classic rock DJs should work these versions into their rotation to goose listeners out of their audio torpor. Anthems was probably meant to be a one-off, but for many it will be the moment they begin to reconsider Anthrax as suddenly having much more to say.