I'll be very honest with you: sometimes, I walk into these skirmishes with a preordained favorite, an album that I'm rooting for more than usual. But I am honorbound in all cases to listen to both contestants, and you'd be surprised how often the listening shows me how wrong my prejudices may have been.
Such is the case today. There are so many reasons to want to give the nod to DEP. For one thing, Disassociation is (purportedly) the band's farewell album; having already won the tournament in 2014 with One Of Us Is The Killer, they are wisely quitting while they're on top. Also, the 2014 Final pitted them against Revocation, and it's hard to resist the prospect of a rematch of that battle (as DEP's win today would set up in two weeks).
But that's a whole lot of preamble that doesn't talk about the music itself. Anthrax, a band who have made a career of polevaulting over underestimated expectations (and the winners of today's cointoss), rush out of the gate with the stunningly fresh and energetic For All Kings. This is a slippery album, with material that sounds at times like it'd fit in with the rest of Worship Music, Stomp 442, and Persistence... but without suffering a lack of cohesion. The band, consisting now of the classic Persistence lineup (minus watchmaker Dan Spitz), sound as tight as ever, and expertly spin up both classic thrash and newer forms of menace. But most of all, For All Kings is just fun to headbang to.
By comparison, DEP's Disassociation hits all the same spastic marks that its winning predecessor did, but there's something about the album that feels belabored or mired in an uncharacteristic torpor. The careful balancing act between indulgence and resonance found on One Of Us Is The Killer has been blown out, and while there's plenty of examples of jawdropping originality (including that masterful Low Feels Blvd), the album just as frequently carries an air of going through the motions. Much as I hate to say it, Anthrax's For All Kings is the victor today, and will take on Revocation in a few weeks.
That's it for this week! Monday, we end the first round of competition with Ben Weinman's other project Giraffe Tongue Orchestra against Dark Tranquility!