Album review mini-roundup: Anthrax, Ladytron, and The New Mastersounds

Anthrax, Worship MusicAnthrax, Worship Music (Megaforce Records) — No disrespect to John Bush, but Anthrax only sounds like Anthrax to me with Joey Belladonna behind the mic. Interestingly enough, his first album with Anthrax in more than 20 years is a much more modern-sounding album than I expected. While parts of Worship Music — tracks like “Earth on Hell” — are right out of the Persistence of Time era, others (“Fight ‘Em ‘Til You Can’t” and “I’m Alive”) sound more the like modern, radio-friendly hard rock found on more recent discs.

Belladonna was in a tough spot here, as he and Scott Ian publicly admitted that Worship Music was largely complete when he was brought in. So he was basically singing over songs that were written with former singer Dan Nelson in mind. To his credit, Belladonna sounds at home with most of the material and delivers a fine performance.

In the end, Worship Music is a decent album but nowhere near as strong as the group’s best. Maybe if Belladonna can keep his gig for a bit, we can hear what a more organically produced ‘thrax record with him sounds like again.

Ladytron, Gravity the SeducerLadytron, Gravity the Seducer (Nettwerk) — Well now this is a damn find record. It’s not completely solid from start to finish, but Gravity the Seducer is a legitimate contender for one of the top 10 albums of 2011. This is the kind of music that Goldfrapp should be putting out now instead of dabbling in fun but forgettable electronica/dance pop.

I like this album even more than Velocifero, which was also good but a bit abrasive in stretches. The music here is much more pleasant but never dull. Helen Marnie’s voice blends beautifully with the textured — and in spots gorgeous — synthesizer arrangements of Mira Aroyo, Daniel Hunt, and Reuben Wu.

There are three cuts from this album that you must hear, and that are included on my Best of 2011 Spotify playlist — “White Gold,” “Ritual,” and “90 Degrees.”

The New Mastersounds, Breaks From the BorderThe New Mastersounds, Breaks From the Border (Tallest Man Records) — Speaking of 2011’s best, this album is firmly entrenched on that list. I was a little skeptical when I read that the band would be adding vocals to their already outstanding funk and soul-drenched songs, but it totally works. The entire band sparkles on this disc, but the rhythm tandem of bassist Pete Shand and drummer Simon Allen has to be heard to be believed.

The album starts off with a bang — “Take What You Need” is the kind of groove that Sly Stone or James Brown traded in back in the day, and that punchy, growling bass tone is pure heaven. My other favorite is “Free Man,” a groovy gas of a tune that showcases the fine lead vocal skills of songwriter/guitarist Eddie Roberts.