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A more modern take on Anthrax's thrash classics. - 95%

Beyond_Recognition, January 13th, 2011

Back in 2004, Anthrax was celebrating the 20 year anniversary of the release of their debut album "Fistful of Metal." The anniversary celebration included the release of the "Music of Mass Destruction" live album, and this album "The Greater of Two Evils": a live in the studio re-recording of many of Anthrax's most famous songs from their classic thrash era.

I have read a number of reviews of this album over the years and the general consensus has been the same since this album came out. The John Bush fans like this album and the Joey Belladonna fans slam it and call it pointless. Being a fan of both singers and both eras of Anthrax, I feel this album is almost a best of both worlds...

With "The Greater of Two Evils" (referred to as TGOTE from here on) the songs stay relatively faithful to the original versions. The only differences are that the verse sections of Deathrider are slowed down to half tempo and songs such as "I Am The Law" and "Caught in a Mosh" are very slightly slowed down (albeit still very thrashy and certainly not overly slow). However, a few songs including "Panic" and "Gung Ho" manage to bring the intensity to a much higher level than the original versions ever were. Thus, I feel that in terms of speed, heaviness, and other musical/instrumental factors, many song differences tend to even each other out as the album plays it itself through.

Song differences aside, this album was obviously meant to showcase the best of Anthrax's early material with a more updated modern production. The result is highly successful as the songs recorded for this album sound extremely punchy, defined, clear, and thick. In my opinion, this is possibly the best production job of any Anthrax album to date. The guitars are powerful, the bass guitar is mixed well and audible, the drums are not overly powerful but still solid, and the vocals fit nicely among all the instruments.

This album was also meant to give Anthrax fans of the 90's and 2000's period a chance to hear studio renditions of the older songs with John Bush on vocals. Again, I feel the result is successful as John makes the songs almost sound like they were wrote with his voice in mind. His voice is melodic, but in deeper, more baritone fashion, which lends a more unique and different character each and every song recorded for this album in comparison to their original versions.

In terms of the other members, I feel they put in a strong performance as well considering that these tracks were recorded in live takes with likely few to no overdubs. Scott Ian and Rob Caggiano tear through each song adequately and even though one can hear a few hiccups, string noises, and other sounds associated with live metal, it all only adds to organic feel of this recording. Though some of Rob's solos do not follow the exact template of Dan Spitz's solos on the original versions of the songs, I feel that Rob's improvisation is very tasteful and executed quite convincingly. Elsewhere, Frank Bello and Charlie Benante do not miss a beat on the bass guitar and drums respectively. Charlie in particular puts in a stunning performance on the drums and proves that he is still one of metal's elite drummers even in the present day.

Still, the majority of old school Anthrax fans do not seem to enjoy this album one bit. I'm not one to push my opinions or say that others opinions are wrong. Instead I will say that as a 14 year old youngster just beginning the journey of learning to play metal guitar when TGOTE was released, I was inspired to play faster, heavier, and more aggressively after just one listen to this album. Yes, I already knew a few of the songs from their previous versions and respected them for what they were, but when I heard these versions, I knew that I needed to practice my playing for a long time to match the performances on this album. Years later, I appreciate the original versions of these songs much more and have come to like and admire them very much. To this day however, when I pop in TGOTE, I still get that feeling I had as a 14 year old hearing this album for the first time.

So overall, my opinion on this album is that is a classic, even if it is only re-recordings of old songs. TGOTE does not replace the original song versions recorded in the late 80's and early 90's, but I believe the versions here stand on their own and are great in their own right. So for anyone on the fence about checking out this album if you have heard the original versions, keep an open mind about this record. Yes, it sounds different and maybe very different at times, especially vocally. However, if you are a general metal fan with an interest in thrash metal, I think you will like this album. Scott Ian's linear notes in the album indicate that this album was released to give older ears a reminder of the golden age of thrash as well as give newer ears a chance to hear it for the first time. Figuratively for this reviewer, I'd say that this album did just that!

So, in closing I give this album a 95 rating. The only -5 about it comes from the production end. Yes, I said the production is well done. However, some static and clipping is audible on TGOTE due the loud mastering that has become all too common in modern metal releases. I'm hoping to someday hear a version of this album mastered with a lower volume in order to hear more dynamics and rich sound quality. Otherwise, this album is rock solid in my opinion!

Totally useless - 5%

morbert, August 13th, 2009

I hardly ever see the use of re-recording old material which was already perfect as it was. In the case of Anthrax the only exception I ever made were the songs ‘Metal Thrashing Mad’ and ‘Panic’ on the 1985 ‘Armed&Dangerous’ EP where Joey Belladonna and the boys totally shattered the short existence of Neil Turbin. Which in turn made me realise how mediocre Anthrax’ first album actually was mostly because of Turbin. I wished they’d re-recorded the whole damn Fistful album with Belladonna back then really. And of course with the Spreading or even the Among production. Anyway…

When Anthrax went into the nineties and changed their style to fit the era, they also got a vocalist to go with the new sound. John Bush is perfect for the material on Sound Of White Noise and such but his ‘grungy’ rock radio sound never really suited the old songs live. It was adequate. His did his best, but he just isn’t a classic (epic) metal vocalist. He’s the quintessential modern rock vocalist. Joey was metal, John simply rocked. This says nothing about quality or integrity but just the specific sound and techniques.

The second aspect which often damages re-recording of eighties material in the 21st century is the production. It’s mostly digital these days and everything’s become so transparent and lifeless, most modern metal records have lost rawness, character and sparkle at the same time. Walls of guitars and in-your-face drums blur each possibility of dynamics. However, on ‘The Greater of Two Evils’ the whole damn sound is flat. Monotone and dull. Hell, even the guitars aren’t loud enough! Because of its flatness, the production, or whatever you want to call it, is worse than your average modern day demo (which are often home recordings even)

Bush’s voice and the flat sound just don’t do justice to energetic stuff like ‘Gung Ho’ and ‘Caught In A Mosh’ let alone relive or revive that youthful enthusiastic and eager feeling the original versions did have. It’s just dull. Sounds like a bunch of lame covers from an obscure band. You know, one of those millions of ‘tribute’ albums out there these days, filled with unknown crap acts you don’t give a shit about from Poland, Italy and Sweden or whatever country. The fact that Spitz’ leads often aren’t played right makes things even worse. And when you change a historical landmark, ouch, who needs that?

I don’t see it. I just don’t. What is the use of this release other than for the band themselves? To get an idea themselves what old Anthrax sounds like in 2004. This album gives me exactly the same feeling as those ‘official bootlegs’ by Dream Theater, covering the entire Master Of Puppets and Number Of The Beast albums, or the infamous ‘Let There Be Blood’. I just don’t see it.

Now, I can go on and give this album just an average rating. 50 or 60 points or whatever since the album didn’t hurt anyone and leaves me almost emotionless. But the utter uselessness of it forces me to discard it.

Solid re-recordings nothing special - 78%

Metalwontdie, July 13th, 2009

The Greater of Two Evils is a compilation album of re-recorded songs from Anthrax’s first five albums from their thrash metal period. While the re-recorded versions are solid only a few actually live up to the originals. The track listing is well set up containing most of Anthrax’s classic songs and a few surprises. One main difference is that these versions are sung by John Bush instead of Neil Turbin and Joey Belladonna on the originals.

Most of the songs themselves are very close to the originals considering that they were recorded in a live studio. Most of the songs are longer than their original forms like I Am the Law, Belly of the Beast, Among the Living, and Indians. The Greater of Two Evils is just as thrash based as the original versions considering that this line up has never released a thrash metal album. The production is top notch really giving a cleaner heavier punch to most of the tracks. Surprisingly John Bush’s mid- range grungy vocals work really well with the three cuts from Fistful of Metal, I can even say that these three songs are better than the originals.

The bands performance sounds much more solid than they have for years you can hear that they are really enjoying recording these classics again. John Bush’s voice fits well with the Turbin era songs but not nearly as well as on the Joey era since he can’t do the very melodic high pitch range at all. Dan Spitz and Scott Ian play most of the songs even faster than on the original’s which is quite a feat considering the originals were pretty fast. Frank Bello’s bass unlike the originals is unfortunately inaudible though I pin that blame on the album’s production. Charlie Benante’s drumming is awesome he doesn’t sound nearly this good on the originals (just listen to Panic its drum intro is much better here).

Unfortunately the songs are usually longer than the originals, making many of them lag especially since they are performed at higher speeds on this compilation. Some great songs are not present like Anthrax’s cover of Got the Time, Blood, Time, Armed and Dangerous, Finale and S.S.C/ Stand or Fall. The production while clean and much higher in volume lacks the killer rawness of the originals. Finally the album length is much too long clocking in at just under 75 minutes, if Anthrax added some more songs they could have made a great 2 disc compilation instead.

The Greater of Two Evils is overall a solid compilation of re-recorded Anthrax classics. The Best songs are Deathrider, Madhouse, Panic, and Gung-Ho (which also features Lone Justice on the second half of the song). I recommend this album to Anthrax fans and thrash metal enthusiasts only.

-5 points John Bush fails on vocals for the Joey Belladonna period
-5 points many of the songs lag because of length
-5 points some great Anthrax songs are not present
-5 points album is too long
-2 points production lacks the rawness of the originals

Not a madhouse, but a slaughterhouse - 30%

thrashidosis, January 1st, 2009

The material on this album is killer. Sadly, the album isn't. The material is that of classic Anthrax from the best known eras of the band, which happens to be 1984-1990. Yet this isn't classic Anthrax. With this album, the band at the time which consists of Benante, Bello, Ian, Caggiano, and Bush plays all the classics of the older era live.This is what you hear on the album, just covers.

Playing your own covers isn't a crime, It can actually be a good thing sometimes. Yet it just doesn't sound good. This is due to the fact that this era just DOES NOT sound like the classic Anthrax which also consists of Benante, Bello, Ian with Dan Spitz on lead guitar and Joey Belladonna on Lead Vocals. John Bush can't pull off Joey Belladonna's vocals. John Bush has a more raw voice that is better put with other thrash acts. Yet, what made this material unique was Joey Belladonna's melodic, high-pitched, powerful vocals.

John Bush just sounds like a guy in an another metal band doing a one-off cover of Anthrax and continuing it out for 14 songs. Another element of the album that doesn't live up to the fans expectations is Rob Caggiano's leads.
Dan Spitz was a guitar player that didn't make all his guitar solos sound the same. What happened here sounds like a frustrated Caggiano who couldn't learn Dan Spitz solos, so he played random notes fast with the addition of a wah-wah pedal (i.e. Kirk Hammet).

This sounds like the late 90's era band just slaughtering the classic Anthrax material that made the band famous. It just doesn't live up to the standards that the classic line-up had left for the fans to hear and adore. To anyone who is considering buying this album, I just think it isn't worth it. Why listen to badly played classic songs like 'Deathrider', 'Indians', and 'Caught in a Mosh', when you can listen to the outstanding original versions of all these songs.
I reccommend you buy the classic albums like anything from 'Fistful of Metal' up to 1990's 'Persistance of Time'. If you happen to see this album, just skip it. It isn't worth the time.

The Greater of the Lesser of Two Anthraxes - 85%

darkreif, February 13th, 2007

With the end of the reunion recently (and the controversy that seems to be following it) I revisited this collection of re-recorded classics with John Bush on the vocals. I realized how much I enjoy John Bush’s chemistry with Anthrax. The Greater of Two Evils is literally (at least in my opinion) the best of both worlds for Anthrax.

The Greater of Two Evils consists of classic tracks (as chosen by fans on Anthrax’s website) from the pre-Bush era. They then took this list of songs and went into the studio to re-record these songs with the at-the-time current singer, John Bush. No new original material is present on the album, just a very original and fun vibe (that Anthrax usually has live.)

Musically, the album is only made up with tracks from the “thrash era” of Anthrax. Thusly, you are going to be listening to heightened speed and heaviness. In fact, with the updated production, it’s almost heavier than the previous recordings of the songs. The guitar tones are definitely cleaned up (20 some odd years of touring will do that to a song) and the bass and drums finally are relevant as compared to some earlier versions of the songs. The songs are tight and well performed with a few differences in them timing wise. If you are a fan of the original versions, these are going to sound overproduced. I know that’s what I thought when I first heard this collection. I missed the “raw” sound of some of the older tracks and the lack of characteristic pops and scratches also brought a tear to my eye.

So how does John Bush fit in with the “old” material? Quite well, surprisingly. He has a voice that fits the music very well. I was cautious coming into the collection – John Bush era music was groove oriented and rather “grunge” inspired metal. He does a fine job (I wouldn’t say he was better than Belladonna) but he doesn’t slaughter the material in any means. There are even a couple of songs from the Turbin era (one album really). In fact, there are a couple songs that sound even better with Bush singing. One of those tracks includes the opening track, Deathrider. Granted, that’s a matter of opinion not so much fact.

In essence, this album isn’t for old school Anthrax fans. If you truly love the old recordings then this isn’t a great buy for you – unless you want a way to start to get into the Bush era material – for which this is the perfect album to which do so. I personally, loved this collection. It’s really for fans of the entire Anthrax discography though. So keep that in mind.

Songs to check out: Deathrider, Belly of the Beast, I Am the Law.

Why couldn't they still write songs like this? - 72%

a8o, June 19th, 2005

You could look at this album in two ways. It could be seen as the first step towards Anthrax abandoning their 1990s output and reverting back to what they did best when Joey Belladonna was around in the glory years: write great songs. After Belladonna left at the end Comparisons to the Belladonna years are inevitable and the band’s most critically acclaimed albums, “Among the Living” and “Spreading the Disease”, when Belladonna found his feet as a vocalist, contribute more than half the tracks.

This release is the best thing the band could have ever done. It’s a greatest hits record for those of us who’ve worn out the grooves of Among the Living and Spreading the Disease.

The songs were chosen by a poll of which classic tracks fans would like to hear covered by a John Bush fronted Anthrax and the best Anthrax songs are naturally here. It provides new interpretations of the Anthrax metal classics we love so much; it’s really a covers album featuring members of Anthrax. Highlights include “Metal Thrashing Mad”, where Bush’s voice sounds most at home and “Efilniklufesin (N.F.L.)” where Benate actually improves on the drumming of the original recording adding to the intensity Bush brings to the track.

On the other hand, “The Greater of Two Evils” feels a bit like Belladonna’s last album, 1991’s overblown “Attack of the Killer B”. That album, complete with re-recordings of “I’m the Man” (1987) and a version of Public Enemy’s “Bring the Noise” ended the creative vitality of Anthrax. They have not put out an album of original material to stand beside “Among the Living” or even the lesser “State of Eurphoria”. But, “The Greater of Two Evils” is a worthy release and is very much worth your time, if only to hear Bush and band rip through what must certainly rate in the upper echelons of heavy metal.