Persistence Of Time (30th Anniversary Edition)

(Island Records/UME/Universal Music)

     I sat down to write this review with a bib on because this is one of my favorite Thrash albums of all time.  Copious amounts of slobbering happiness were inevitable. The 30th anniversary celebration of this thrash-terpiece (okay, that's lamer than a Megadeth album title) is a win on just about every level.  

     On August 21, 1990, I know exactly where I was. Driving around Spokane, Washington in my beat ass Chevy Nova with my buddy Derek putting my K-Mart Kraco speakers to the test with the newly released Persistence of Time cassette.  We were utterly destroyed in the best possible way. Here was the mighty Anthrax delivering another plate of metal but with a darker, more sober tone than previous releases. Not so dark that it killed the fun but just more serious.

     Fast forward 30 years and you have a time-tested album worthy of a special edition reissue. This is the last Anthrax record featuring what I consider to be THE classic lineup (Ian, Belladonna, Bello, Benante, and Spitz).  Joey would leave after this record ushering in the John Bush era (Belladonna made a triumphant return in 2010). It is arguably their best work. “Blasphemy!” cry the legions of loyal fans who place Among the Living in the top spot, but to me this is splitting hairs. I can own them both and love them equally.

     In one of the included bonus cuts, where the band is discussing making Persistence..., we learn they had achieved success by this point and were now being exposed to darker sides of the music business and the associated pressures. This fueled the ferocity on display here and the darker edge in the lyrics and playing. 

     Before we dive into all the goodness, I should mention the only negative aspect of this release.  My review is based on streaming audio files so I did not handle the physical packaging but I've seen enough bitching online to understand that this is yet another modern reissue where the sleeve (whether CD or Vinyl) is nothing special. To me, an anniversary reissue should go for the home run and not a stand up triple. You just remastered everything and dug gems from the vaults. Why cut corners on the box or case? It is notable that the original cover art of a stone skull clock has received a melted Salvador Dali type makeover here so the 30th Anniversary cover art is unique and cool.

     As for the music, it's been remastered so it's punchier and crisper sounding but this album never sounded bad anyway. The upgrade is all positive but it's not an overwhelming difference since the original sounded fantastic out of the gate. I had not played this in a while so it was a teeth-rattling trip down memory lane going through these great tracks again.  The ticking at the beginning of “Time” evokes the feeling of waiting for a bomb to blow.  When it does, we are treated to a swirling soup of thrashy goodness.   Belladonna is in full throat over Charlie's monstrous drumming and Scotty's chunky riffs.  It's a devastating opening track with a wicked solo by Mr. Spitz (a fun WTF fact I learned about Dan Spitz while researching is that he left Anthrax to become a watchmaker – huh?)

     The next song, “Blood,” is appropriately loaded with razor sharp riffs. You feel the New York attitude here and even a sense of the band's respect for rap music in the song's structure. The cut is a perfect example of how the band's sound got darker, nastier, and heavier on this release but still maintained the fun that is prevalent in Anthrax's music.

     Keep It In the Family” continues this chugging, creative onslaught and then comes an album highlight for me (there are so many) with “In My World.” IMW is Anthrax absolutely rolling through its peak as a band, flattening everything in its path. One of the ten best songs in their entire catalog, you WILL find yourself singing “I'm not afraid. I'm not afraid. Nothing touches me. I'm a walking razor blade.” If you don't, please have your hearing checked.

     Gridlock” is solid and probably the closest thing I can find to filler on the record. It doesn't kill the momentum and it's not bad but has always hit me as a bit less memorable than the rest of the songs.

     Intro to Reality” is a cool, layered instrumental that has a little majesty to it.  I honestly feel like the king is coming through the door any minute and then it locks into a sweet groove that segues perfectly into “Belly of the Beast.” More classic Anthrax that negates any ability you thought you had to keep your head from moving.  You simply can't do it.  The song features searing guitars over a musical river of thick electricity.  I'm not even sure what that means but it sounds right.  Put another way, if you were actually in the belly of a beast, this song would be playing over the sound system.

     One of the absolute joys of this album is the cover of “Got the Time” by 80's hit man Joe Jackson.  I don't know how the band chose this song to cover but it's a flawless choice. The guys heavy it up without mutilating the original and the results are sublime. The chorus will keep tickin' in your head long after you hear it.

     Next comes the song “H8 RED.” Like “Gridlock,” it's a B+ in a class full of A students. This is hardly a negative but I'm digging deep for mild criticisms here so I don't sound like a totally biased Anthrax homer. 

     By the time we've reached “One Man Stands,” the album has already excavated a Sultan's fortune from the secret cave of awesome riffs and left a mountain of shattered eardrums behind as payment. Have I taken a breath in the last forty-five minutes? More importantly, do I care? The album ends with “Discharge.” Can we go heavier and faster for one more round?  Hell yes!

     Now please excuse me while I go change into a dry bib before we tear into the bonus tracks procured from the Anthrax vaults. With the anniversary release, we are treated to a goofy live version of “I'm The Man” which probably goes on a little longer than necessary to maintain interest. Next, we get a live version of “Time,” which is a great document of the excellent tour that supported this record. Best of all, we get fly on the wall access to riff tapes, pre- production instrumental versions, Scott's awful singing, studio chatter, and raw versions of songs. I'm sure it's intentional that there is something behind the scenes to savor for every single cut on this monstrous album.  

     It's not surprising that Persistence Of Time was nominated for a Grammy in the Metal category. This well-deserved anniversary release properly celebrates a must own piece of thrash history. You must get a copy and also get your own bib. Mine are both wet.

Select Discography

Persistence Of Time (30th Anniversary Edition) (2020)

State Of Euphoria (30th Anniversary Edition) (2018)

Kings Among Scotland (DVD) (2018)

For All Kings (2016)

Chile On Hell (DVD) (2014)

Worship Music (2011)

Caught In A Mosh: BBC Live In Concert (2007)

Alive 2 (CD/DVD) (2005)

Live: The Island Years (1994)

Attack Of The Killer B's (1991)

Persistence Of Time (1990)

State Of Euphoria (1988)

I'm The Man (EP) (1987)

Among The Living (1987)

Spreading The Disease (1985)

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