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Say what you like about Anthrax, but it must have been the coolest thing to see them live with legendary rap group Public Enemy, whilst touring the 'Persistence of Time' album. I knew of Public Enemy long before I'd even heard of Anthrax, even before I'd heard of thrash metal, and I've always had a soft spot for them. A lot of fans of guitar based music tend to dismiss rap as artless music. 'It doesn't take any effort!', 'It's just talking in to a microphone!', 'Where are the instruments?' they'll no doubt say, ignoring lyrical subjects, and disregarding how much a rapper has to perfect the art of delivery, how much effort the sound engineers put in to make the genre sound as clean and professional as possible, and how good an ear the artists and their DJs have for samples and drum loops. I'd much rather listen to a cleanly recorded rap album by the likes of Public Enemy or Ice-T (of the most ironic 'Cop Killer' & Law and Order: SVU fame) than some poorly recorded metal album, clung to like winnets by the most unlovable of metalheads. Anyway, back to 'Attack of the Killer B's', which features covers, remakes, unreleased and live tracks, released shortly after the tour.
The covers can be awesome - There's 'Parasite', (one of Anthrax's many Kiss covers) which is suitably sped up to a grooving thrasher. The story goes that after hearing Anthrax's version, Gene Simmons believed the band had hired a new singer, and couldn't believe it was Joey after all. He does a sterling job. Then there's surf anthem 'Pipeline' (originally by The Chantays), which is covered with such intensity, it's hard to imagine someone surfing to it. It's more... jet-ski appropriate. But the others aren't quite as worthy as the originals, 'Sects' is a little weak compared to Trust's original and the cover of Discharge's 'Protest and Survive' (featuring Scott on vocals) isn't particularly exciting.
My opinions on the S.O.D. tracks are based on the fact I know the originals. Most fans tend to write them off, and I definately prefer the original 'Chromatic Death', and I don't think 'Milk' needed the extra length, but both are well executed (whilst not a shining example, Joey doesn't sound too out of place singing crossover, something I'm always quick to point out).
The reworked version of Public Enemy's 'Bring the Noise' is, quite possibly, Anthrax's crowning moment of coolness. Channeling the fury of the original perfectly, Anthrax turn up the tempo and the gain, introducing heavy guitars and a live drumkit. It features the obvious suspects: Chuck D and Flava Flav, but Scott Ian also fills on vocal duties (and doesn't sound half bad!) on a verse or two! A remake better than an original classic? How I wish I could see this live!
'Keep It In The Family' and 'Belly of the Beast' translate very well to the live setting, as Anthrax speed them up, giving them a heightened sense of urgency and emotion. I've always found it strange why they put these songs on here, as Joey is literally untouchable in bringing a real energy to the songs. Since the band were no doubt planning to kick him before their final decision, it feels like their trying to say... 'Here's Joey. He's great right? But we can do so much better!'. Whether or not they did do any better, will be covered in my 'Sound of White Noise' review.
The original tracks, 'Startin' Up A Posse' and 'N.F.B.' are generally nothing to write home about. 'Startin'...' is a trying-to-be-funny anti-censorship song, full of swearing and sound samples of porn which just seems a bit cheap in my opinion. 'N.F.B.' or 'Dallabnukifesin' is a dumbass parody of metal ballads, sung rather effectively by Belladonna, but totally ruined by the fact Anthrax (without Joey or Dan Spitz) would record one for real not long after.
And then there's the trash. A few things about 'I'm the Man': it was one of the earliest rap-metal songs, the EP went platinum (!) and it was generally intended as a joke. A joke. 'I'm the Man '91' exists to piss on Anthrax's legacy as fun and goofy by taking the innocent, light-hearted original and making it serious! It ruins the whole point of the song! What you end up with is a stale, bitter end of an era. Anthrax aren't fun anymore. What's most depressing about this remake, is that the line mentioning Joey ('Joey mailed the mail, the mail he mailed!') is cut completely, so you can't even enjoy it as some cheap nostalgia, purely because the band refuses to acknowledge their soon-to-be-kicked 5th member.
All in all, an essential purchase for Anthrax fans ('Attack...' went gold too!), even if two or three songs are amongst the band's worst. If you're a fan desperate for some more Joey-era Anthrax beyond the four studio albums, here's something worthwhile, if you can stand the foreshadowing atmosphere.