Man, it would be so easy to hate Arson Anthem’s debut EP. I could roll my eyes at the band’s blatant unoriginality. I could bristle at the idea of the band members devoting their press campaign to spread the word about how little they care about what people think. Maybe make a joke about how Phil Anselmo gave up heroin for a side-project addiction — Arson Anthem makes three currently active bands featuring the ex-Pantera frontman, with at least five others drowning in his wake.
But I just can’t bring myself to hate Arson Anthem. These eleven minutes of violent, old-school hardcore, while totally derivative of bands like D.R.I., Negative Approach, and Discharge, rush recklessly by with a satisfying “vulgar display of power,” for lack of a better term. Every now and then a renegade pick-scratch or short sludge stomp interrupts the assault, reminding us that, yes, Arson Anthem does contain members of EyeHateGod, Superjoint Ritual and Assjack. But mostly it’s sub-two-minute bursts, all pissed-off energy and no finesse, just like the good ol’ days.
There’s something charming about a group of well-known musicians that refuses to make the most of any of its members’ talents. Anselmo doesn’t even get behind the microphone, instead tending to guitar duties while EyeHateGod’s Mike Williams screams about whatever and the bastard grandson of Hank Williams bashes away on drums. (Bassist Collin Yeo is the token unfamous member, and he does just fine.) Horrible production, yeah, but it’s intentional. Anything cleaner and the EP would lose its “fuck it all” vibe.
Is Arson Anthem gonna sell many backpatches based on its first release? No, and it doesn’t deserve to. But for a throwaway album by a bunch of New Orleans metal dudes with too much time on their hands, Arson Anthem is a pretty good time.