THE AGING British metallurgists of Iron Maiden sound more lively on their recent "No Prayer for the Dying" than they have in years, but that's not the same thing as sounding fresh. Such new tirades as "Public Enema Number One" and "Bring Your Daughter . . . to the Slaughter" are rote-for-rote renditions of past stompers, though with this album the Maidens do seem poised to become the metal band with the biggest repertoire of World War II songs ("Tailgunner," "Run Silent Run Deep"). Who knows, perhaps their latest generation of headbanging followers even thinks the band picked up its bad disposition at Dunkirk or the Battle of the Bulge.

Anthrax is younger and more agile, but the striking thing about its new "Persistence of Time" is that it doesn't constantly throw that in the listener's face. These semi-reformed speed-metallists have discovered other tempos, and the results are surprisingly listenable. Aside from the occasional drippy instrumental, the New York quintet's music is still hard-edged and its lyrics still crabby; "bile black the thoughts that run through my head," sings Joe Belladonna on "Time," as if anyone might have thought otherwise. But they actually have some fun with the Joe Jackson cover, "Got the Time." And if they could only write songs that shapely themselves, they might make an album that's fun from beginning to end.

IRON MAIDEN -- "No Prayer for the Dying" (Epic).

ANTHRAX -- "Persistence of Time" (Megaforce/Island). Appearing together Friday at Patriot Center.