Sunday, November 20, 2011

Anthrax - Persistence of Time (1990)

Anthrax's fifth full-length album was a darker and much more serious record than those that preceded it. Persistence of Time was born out of the misery and anger that plagued the band during the recording process as a fire had destroyed their equipment and cost them their studio as well. There was also just the natural progression of a band that was maturing and becoming more comfortable with their sound and looking to take it to the next step of evolution. Unlike the more simplistic State of Euphoria, the band's fifth L.P. featured more complicated song structures and was anything but listener-friendly, for the most part. It seemed as though all the pieces were coming together and Anthrax had recorded their most cohesive album since Fistful of Metal, yet it was all soon to fade away. Just as they finally dropped the goofiness and got down to business, cracks began to appear and, before they could follow up on this, doom was soon to befall them. Released in August 1990, Persistence of Time marked the end of an era rather than the beginning.

I picked this album up, after having an experience with Among the Living so bad that I ended up returning it. This record was a completely different beast. Joey's vocals seemed to fit in with the music much better, and the more serious approach was a major reason for this. Instead of unleashing ridiculous lyrics in an annoying manner, his voice matched the darker feeling of the songwriting, in general. This was listened to, quite a bit, along with Megadeth's So Far... So Good... So What! and really helped me to give some of the other Anthrax albums a chance, rather than just giving up on them.

The tone of the music is dark and ominous, at times. There is a dismal feeling that permeates almost every song. The riffs are heavier and more focused, with more technical song structures than what was found on the previous release. Also, it sounds as if the songwriting favours the guitar riffs, moreso than the percussive rhythmic combination of guitars and drums. The bass also adds to the sombre and oppressive vibe. To go along with this, the songs are lengthier and more involved, requiring more of an investment from the listener as well. As such, the material is more difficult to digest and may prove to be too much for more casual fans. Songs like "Time", "Blood", and "One Man Stands" just roll over you like a tank of pure negativity, leaving you weak and vulnerable. For some reason, the cover tune "Got the Time" is the one song from Persistence of Time that the band most likes to play, even though it is the weak link of the record. The highlight of the L.P. is probably "Belly of the Beast", featuring some catchy guitar riffs and being a little easier to take in. "Discharge" is another good track, picking up the pace and delivering an energetic performance. Though some of the songs take time to grow on you, nearly all of them are memorable in one way or another.

There is no way to know, for sure, where Anthrax would have gone from here had Joey Belladonna not left the band. They may have still abandoned their trademark sound in a feeble attempt to update their music or they might have gone farther down the path of darkness and continued to evolve into a more serious band. Either way, Persistence of Time should have been the turning point where they left childish themes behind and took themselves more seriously, but it was not to be. This is, probably, the most solid release during the Belladonna era and is a safe starting point for anyone looking to explore this band's back catalogue. A must-have for all Anthrax fans and quite essential for Thrash Metal fans as well.