Usually our ‘Unleashed From The Vaults’ series highlights obscure albums from those bands who maybe didn’t receive too much attention the first time around. However, following a recent discussion on Social Media we realised that Anthrax’s Persistence Of Time deserves a moment or two in the spotlight…..as it seems to be dismissed all too readily by both band and fans alike!
1990 was clearly a good year for thrash, with three of the Big 4 releasing albums (Megadeth’s seminal Rust In Peace, Slayer’s Seasons In The Abyss), alongside certified thrash classics such as Annihilator’s Never, Neverland, Sacred Reich’s The American Way, Testament’s Souls Of Black, Death Angel’s Act III, Exhorder’s Slaughter In The Vatican, Forbidden’s Twisted Into Form, Kreator’s Coma Of Souls etc hitting the shelves!
However, Anthrax’s fifth album, Persistence Of Time, arrived on 21st of August 1990 amidst a cloud of discontent. Writing and rehearsals for the album were fraught with difficulties – with a large fire destroying their rehearsal space and most of their equipment – while Scott Ian was becoming increasingly disillusioned with vocalist Joey Belladonna; with the consensus being that their frontman was simply not doing justice to his new set of tougher, more urbanised lyrics.
Factor in the groups disappointment with the preceding album, State Of Euphoria and Anthrax’s collective backs were against the wall….and what emerged from these sessions was a surprise to all. Anthrax were harder with much of the comedy of old gone. They’d knuckled down and produced their darkest, most focused work to date and people sure as hell weren’t sure what to make of it!
The cover art was the first major clue that changes were afoot. Previously there would have some cartoony image – or even worse, that god awful Not Man’s gormless mug gawping out at you – but this time there was nothing but desolate wasteland and a skull-adorned clock, ably reminding you of your eventual demise.
Gone were all traces of silliness and comic book connotations and in their place could be found a set of songs that dissected societies ills with teeth-gnashing fervour. This was a heavier Anthrax, one who could still thrash like a bastard when the mood took them but an Anthrax with an altered ethos nonetheless. The opening one-two punch of “Time” and “Blood”, still floor you and it’s quite apparent that Anthrax were on fine ass kicking form from the get-go. However as good as these two songs are, Anthrax proceeded to raise the bar even further with the caustic “Keep It In The Family”. Persistence Of Time is worth owning for the quality of the opening riffs to this track alone! Throw in some of Scott Ian’s angriest ever lyrics – he directs his vitriol towards knuckle dragging racists and poses the simple question, “Why the hell do you hate?” – and you have a stone cold thrash classic on your hands. The band then turn their attention towards fascism with “Belly Of The Beast” before ending with Persistence Of Time‘s two fastest songs, “One Man Stands” and “Discharge”. All killer, no filler!
Anthrax clearly meant business with Persistence Of Time and it was obvious that the band were looking to make wholesale changes to their sound (no one mention John Bush at this stage!). The result was the most focused, most aggressive album Anthrax had released to date, yet for some, inexcusable, reason it’s all but ignored by fans and band alike. Could it be that it was eclipsed by the soon to be released Rust In Peace and Seasons In The Abyss? Maybe. Scott Ian has gone on record to state that it’s “a great record, but it’s very dark” but that doesn’t explain why tracks are rarely aired live…..discounting the obligatory “Got The Time”, of course. Either way, Persistence Of Time is one of those albums from a major player which finds itself consigned to the history books, languishing in the light of Among The Living when it should be equally revered.
Maybe with its 30th anniversary approaching, Persistence Of Time will get some of the re-evaluated attention it most definitely deserves as it’s a classic of the genre, no question!