By KRISTOF G.
Last year, Anthrax not only released a graphic novel adaptation of their classic AMONG THE LIVING record (read our review here), but the band–part of the Big Four of thrash metal alongside Megadeth, Slayer and Metallica—also celebrated four decades of activity. Forty freakin’ years of headbanging, moshing and thrashing like maniacs. Following the release of an extended web series on the history of the band (available on YouTube), the quintet offered their fans a pay-per-view livestreamed concert on July 16,, 2021–prerecorded from a nice LA soundstage/studio, as large gatherings were still kind of risky to put together back then.
On July 15, the NYC band released this event as XL (MCMLXXXI – MMXXI) on CD and Blu-ray, the latter with some extras, for their fans to own. If you can’t stand hearing the crowd when you listen to/watch live concert recordings, well, this XL one was made for you (no crowd = no noise). Plus, the two-hour-plus show was professionally shot, with great lighting and a bunch of cameras, and has been tightly edited with nice visuals and titles. Director Jack Bennett, also behind Mr. Bungle’s THE NIGHT THEY CAME HOME (2020), has been working with Scott Ian (Anthrax’s founding guitarist and main lyricist) for a decade now; he directed the BLOOD AND GUTS WITH SCOTT IAN series, as well as music videos for Anthrax and Motor Sister (also featuring Ian).
Of course, an anniversary as important as the 40th needs a great setlist. And their aforementioned 1987 horror-centric masterpiece AMONG THE LIVING is well-represented, with the band playing six songs off of it (out of nine!): “Among the Living” (a homage to Stephen King’s THE STAND), “A Skeleton in the Closet” (inspired by King’s APT PUPIL novella), “Caught in a Mosh,” “I Am the Law” and “Indians,” as well as “Efilnikufesin (N.F.L.),” performed at the end of the three-song encore. Almost as many cuts from SPREADING THE DISEASE (1985) are present as well: “A.I.R.,” “Madhouse,” “Medusa” and the rarely played “Aftershock” and “Lone Justice.” Speaking of rarities, the band plays (during the encore too) “Protest and Survive,” a rabid Discharge cover found on 1991’s ATTACK OF THE KILLER B’s. Also off that compilation, Anthrax delivers their classic cover of Public Enemy’s hymn “Bring the Noise,” with none other than the mighty Chuck D as special guest on the mic.
Among the most recent material on XL (MCMLXXXI – MMXXI) is three songs from each of the WORSHIP MUSIC (2011) and FOR ALL KINGS (2015) records. A trio of tunes is also present from 1988’s STATE OF EUPHORIA (album opener “Be All, End All,” their classic Trust cover “Antisocial” and the not-often-played “Now It’s Dark”). Finally, from the great PERSISTENCE OF TIME (1990) record, only “Keep It in the Family” and their popular Joe Jackson cover “Got the Time” are included, though they do start the show with a two-minute tease intro of “Time” before jumping right into “Fight ’Em ’Til You Can’t,” off of WORSHIP MUSIC. So, fans got a great best-of concert from the records released during the Joey Belladonna-fronted eras (excepting, as usual, anything from the four albums with John Bush from 1993 to 2003), plus the fast-as-hell “Metal Thrashing Mad” from the Neil Turbin-fronted first Anthrax record FISTFUL OF METAL (1984).
On the Blu-ray bonus-features front (40 minutes of extras), even though including the aforementioned web series would have made this a truly comprehensive package, one can appreciate the inclusion of some backstage and rehearsal footage, as well as all three songs from the encore. Finally, there is Scott’s NYC Walking Tour, where the guitarist comments and visits Anthrax-related spots, such as the Megaforce Records office, recording studios, clubs and venues the bands visited and played shows at back in the day and more (like a cult comic book shop and a delicious pizza parlor!).
In a nutshell, this disc is a must-have for any self-respecting Anthrax fan. Those devotees can also catch the band live on tour in North America this summer (with Black Label Society and Hatebreed); see the schedule below!