The Greater Of Two Evils


Sanctuary Records, 2004

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


You've got to hand it to John Bush and the boys in Anthrax -- they're not ones to play it safe.

Coming off of a live CD/DVD combo Music Of Mass Destruction, one would have expected the band to burst forth with a collection of new songs. Instead, the band turned to their fans, asked them for their favorite songs from the pre-Bush era of the group, then went in and re-recorded those songs.

The end result, The Greater Of Two Evils, dares the older Anthrax fan to see how the music has grown in nearly two decades while staying true to the structure of the songs made famous by vocalists Neil Turbin and Joey Belladonna. While these songs will never take the place of their original counterparts, they do hold up surprisingly well.

First things first: Bush is neither Turbin nor Belladonna. His vocal style is in a much lower range, so anyone expecting to hear Bush go for the high-pitch screams in songs like "Panic" and "Metal Thrashing Mad" are going to come away disappointed. And, I admit, I included myself in that category at first; it seemed like Anthrax was daring to disinter the corpses of their past and try to make those old skeletons dance -- never mind the fact many of these songs have been part of their live repertoire for some time now.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

In the end, the listener comes to realize that Anthrax doesn't want you to forget about the original songs -- after all, those were the ones that put them on the map. If anything, The Greater Of Two Evils is a disc that tries to show respect to the past while bringing it into the present. In that regard, they do succeed, as Bush does put a respectable stamp on such classics as "Among The Living," "Caught In A Mosh," "Madhouse" and "N.F.L." (Listen close at the end of the disc for the "hidden" track, "Lone Justice." Kudos to Anthrax for not burying it with minutes of dead air -- not that there was much time left on the CD anyway, clocking in at over 78 minutes.)

Yet there is still something missing in these arrangements. No disrespect meant to lead guitarist Rob Caggiano, but his solos just aren't up to the caliber of those laid down by departed guitarist Dan Spitz. He would have done better trying to stay closer to what Spitz played than to create his own unique take on them, as heard on songs like "Be All End All" and "Madhouse." (Playing devil's advocate for a moment, I can imagine that even if Spitz had stayed in the band, he would have made changes to his solos along the way.)

This disc also serves as a farewell to bassist Frank Bello, who left the band a few months after these sessions were recorded. Joey Vera, Bush's bandmate in Armored Saint, is presently handling the bass duties for Anthrax. Nothing against Vera, but I am sad to see Bello no longer in the band for both his skills and a tight-but-loose attitude in his performance style.

The Greater Of Two Evils was a risky project to undertake as it could have alienated older Anthrax fans from the present-day band with their takes on old material. Fortunately, the end result is one which should be pleasing to all sides, and illustrates that bands don't grow old, they just grow musically.

Rating: B

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© 2004 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Sanctuary Records, and is used for informational purposes only.