Volume 8: The Threat Is Real

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Ignored by all but diehards, Stomp 442 found Anthrax in creative freefall, shackled to ideas that had ceased to be interesting years ago. Apparently, the band realized they were in dire straits -- that's the only explanation for the ambitious cavalcade of sounds on Volume 8: The Threat Is Real, the follow-up to Stomp 442. Coming on the heels of Anthrax's blandest effort, the whirling array of styles on Volume 8 is welcome, but it also hides the fact that the group hasn't exactly bounced back from a songwriting slump that first reared its head on Sound of White Noise. Sheer energy and attitude go a long way, however, and for a while the album is genuinely engaging. The speed metal has actual bite, and the departures, from the heavy percussion of the opener, "Crush," through the country stomp "Toast" to the unlisted acoustic closer, "Pieces," are nearly all successful. The problem is, the entire thing adds up to less than the sum of its parts. At first, the revitalized and newly creative Anthrax is enthralling, but soon it becomes apparent that all of the change is on the surface -- beneath the stylistic games, there aren't many memorable songs. Still, the surfaces are quite appealing, suggesting that Volume 8 is a transitional album that will lead Anthrax into new, uncharted territory.

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