Album Review: Anthrax – Persistence of Time

Anthrax Persistence of Time album artwork

The day I left for college 3,000 miles away from home to study a career I had little interest in was an event I pretty much dreaded for a year.

On that date, Rush released a new album as I headed East but already in heavy rotation was Anthrax’s Persistence Of Time. Turns out, I’d withdraw three months later after living with three garbage roommates and quickly realizing what I knew all along: I did not want to be a chef.

The angst and turmoil of those three months were in some respect alleviated by the angst, darkness and sometimes fighting words of Anthrax’s fifth studio album, released 30 years ago in August, a near heavy metal masterpiece of a record that still today brings back memories and feelings three decades old.

Anthrax posed a grand departure for me musically and I argue Persistence of Time represents a departure of sorts for the band from their previous albums. Persistence of Time sounds less bombastic, undisciplined thrash metal like Among the Living and State of Euphoria but instead grasps a more gloomy undertone while adding maturity to Anthrax’s music.  The 11-song nearly hour long Persistence of Time features seven tracks topping the five minute mark and two surpassing seven minutes. Persistence of Time embodies a considerable album to absorb but if you can lay down the songs several times, it ultimately proves quite satisfying.

A guy I knew in high school claimed he chanted the lyrics “I’m not afraid” from the cut “In My World” when he lined up against an opponent on the football field. I doubt it but that should offer a clue into the type of music and energy Persistence of Time wrought from the listener.

Anthrax Persistence of Time Album Review

I did not follow Anthrax much after Persistence of Time was released. I did get the follow-up Sound of White Noise which was a solid effort but overall Anthrax has toured and recorded consistently for nearly 40 years. Singer Joey Belladonna left two years after Persistence of Time, perhaps one reason I lost touch, but he returned, left again and has been back since 2010. The awesome Scott Ian, founder and guitarist, remains and keeps churning out head-banging chords while drummer Charlie Benante has kept time since 1983 and bass guitarist Frank Bello has more or less stuck around since 1984. Lead guitarist Jon Donais joined in 2013.

Nevertheless, Anthrax keeps a mostly classic line-up of sorts as they tour, sometimes as headliners of smaller venues, or as one of several supporting acts for bigger bands. I have not seen them live yet but Anthrax has a spot on my bucket list of bands I want to see.

The lasting four played on Persistence of Time while Dan Spitz took lead on guitar. The album contains one of the great all-time heavy metal songs, a cover song they now own and pretty much a fistful of metal to represent the rest.

Persistence of Time opens with “Time” a rager of a song loaded with guitar. It’s heavy and hard but moves along at a fairly good clip. “Blood” slows the pace a little but not much. It’s the longest song and does get repetitive after a while. I liken “Keep It In the Family” to a long, slow freight train working its way up a mountain until it hits a plateau, picks up some speed then hits another incline . It’s just a few seconds shorter than “Blood” full of crunching guitar with a driving middle jam.

I submit “In My World” stands as one of the greatest metal songs ever written. Call it a magnum opus for Anthrax. The pace never lets up and if you like weighty, bleak lyrics “In My World” owns it. The opening drops an immediate sprint as Ian says “They’re going to put me in jail / Man I’m already in jail / Don’t they know that my life / Is one big cell.” Belladonna resumes control of the mic with pretty much an entire song full of lyrical gems like “My greatest fear as a kid / One which I always kept hid / Was to come home from school and / Find my mother dead.”

Awesome.

I cannot nor did I ever relate to those lyrics in anyway shape or form but I certainly felt the gravity and the dread. And yet musically, “In My World” flourishes with melody and never takes the foot off the gas . I see why some walks of life gravitate towards heavy metal as the guitar laden chords and aggressive sounds extracts an emotion unavailable from other music categories.

After listening to “In My World” a few times you can move on! The first side closes with “Gridlock” and coming after “In My World” the title sums it up. It’s not a bad song but it peters out the high that builds with the predecessor.

But! Flip the disk and you get a string of classic metal songs. Anthrax begins”Intro to Reality” with a cue from the TV show The Twilight Zone and eventually works this instrumental into “Belly of the Beast” for a methodical journey spanning more than eight minutes. If you think Anthrax simply adds to the lexicon of a mind-numbing head-banger of a band then pop these two on. Very well done and crafted with precision.

I am pretty sure hearing my brother play the Joe Jackson cover “Got the Time” originally hooked me on to Anthrax and Persistence of Time. In some respects, “Got the Time” sounds like recess for the band as they blow the roof off and clearly have fun with this fast paced, high energy song that sounds almost an anomaly for the album compared to the nature of the rest of the music. My only complaint? Too short!

Persistence of Time closes with more heavy metal hitters in “H8 Red,” “One Man Stands” and “Discharge.” All three help book end the album giving Persistence of Time the authority as a quintessential heavy metal record that fully speaks for this genre.  Not a ballad in the bunch.

Grade: A-

Anthrax Persistence of Time Track List:

  1. Time
  2. Blood
  3. Keep It In the Family
  4. In My World
  5. Gridlock
  6. Intro to Reality
  7. Belly of the Beast
  8. Got the Time
  9. H8 Red
  10. One Man Stands
  11. Discharge