ALBUM REVIEW: XL

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July 18th 2021 marked the 40th anniversary of thrash metal heavyweights ANTRHAX. During this time the band have released 11 studio albums, have been awarded multiple Gold and Platinum certifications, received six Grammy nominations, and have a number of other awards and accolades from fans, the media and music industry. For ANTHRAX, their 40th anniversary is not exactly in the rear-view mirror. With the anniversary itself spent in prime lockdown, ANTHRAX have produced new album XL – a live performance of their greatest hits that comes in at a pretty remarkable two hours.

For those who are unfamiliar with ANTHRAX, the opening track itself showcases everything that is great about them. After all members have graced the stage, we are treated to a rendition of Fight Em ‘Til You Can’t, a classic thrash track that does absolutely nothing to ease the audience into an ANTHRAX live show. It allows the band to explode onto the scene, taking absolutely no prisoners as they segue perfectly into arguably their most famous track, Madhouse. It seems a bit of an odd choice to choose this track as just the second on the track list, yet this is being treated as any other ANTHRAX live show, so it aids in rousing the audience and getting them moving properly.

But the band are far from peaking too early. With another 20+ tracks to go, there is still plenty of music left for even the most casual of ANTHRAX fans to recognise. The next track itself is a prime example – Caught In A Mosh does exactly the same thing and feeds off the energy created in the last five minutes. The band seem to be oblivious to the fact that there is no audience watching them and instead give their all regardless of the fact they are performing to a group of cameras.

ANTHRAX have definitely taken advantage of the COVID-19 prohibition of concert touring with this album, adapting to the times and performing regardless. The lack of audience doesn’t deter them in the slightest and they are still as solid as ever, with Scott Ian’s aggressive, head pounding guitar and Joey Belladonna’s soaring vocals throughout. Though these may be the most notable members for most, there is no denying the fact that the rest of the band are a well-oiled machine. It’s a well-settled line-up with Charlie Benante thundering away at the back of the stage on drums, Jon Donais complimenting Ian’s riffs on guitar, and Frank Bello pounding away at the bass.

As one of the bands responsible for the emergence of thrash and speed metal and as one of the card-carrying members of The Big Four, ANTHRAX constantly have to worry about living up to audience and critic’s expectations. But time and again they consistently manage to exceed these expectations and do the unexpected. The fact that they could not embark on an anniversary tour does not slow them down or discourage them; it only motivates them further to be the best band that they can truly be. The passion that ANTHRAX have is so clear in this performance, and even if their music may not be to your tastes, you can’t disagree with the fact that they know how to put on a good show.

Rating: 8/10

XL - Anthrax

XL is out now via Nuclear Blast Records.

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