1986 is synonymous with the rise of thrash metal in music. Probably a lot of other things too, but mainly this as in this year we got the two big thrashterpieces Master of Puppets and Reign in Blood. (Yeah, yeah, there was also Peace Sells, but that album sucks.) However, there was a fourth band who released a thrash milestone this year. Sadly, they seem to be the criminally forgotten fourth brother of the Big Four thrash movement. Yeah, I'm talking about that same band that went into some cheap imitation of a soap opera these days, so they may not be -that- relevant at all anymore.
But ***, they were relevant back then. Among the Living is chock full with riffs. Not the silly Iron Maiden/Judas Priest power metally weakass ones. No, Anthrax chugs with the best of them. Metallica's riffs were chunkier. Megadeth's were more Iron-Maidenesque. Slayer's were quicker. Anthrax's riffs, however, are more captivating. Every riff on this album is a winner. 100% Grade A riff content. No need for a graveyard. No need for 9 good tracks and six filler ones in the middle. Anthrax could play every song from this album, and their fans would get caught in a mosh.
And the best part is, there aren't any moments where the abrasive guitars let up. It's riffing all the way through. Apart from a silly acoustic intro (Arabian Douchebag Intro indeed, boys). Did you hear Mr Benante behind the drums? I definitely did. He whacks the bloody living daylights out of his double bass pedals. Almost every song is a guaranteed explosion of high speed, top notch, 250 bpm thrash metal. The bass is being hit at uber top speeds. It's incredible, but the band manages to keep it up for a solid fifty minutes and not get dull. Milestone of thrash metal, this one? You bet.
Yeah, and then I didn't mention the best thing about thrash bands. Guitar solos. The kind where they shred at you with 10 notes every second. Have Anthrax got them, you say? Of course they do. Not the silly Kerry King style "LOOK I CAN PLAY 1 NOTE 20 TIMES IN QUICK SUCCESSION" either. If he could get quick succession out of his mouth, that is. These solos shred with precision, melody and speed. Yeah. Say all you like about Marty Friedman or John Petrucci. In '86, this album is where solos are at. Doesn't get any better than this.
Only complaint one could utter is Joey Belladonna's voice, which sounds like the male version of a banshee. Instead of resorting to the typical thrash metal "yell-something-in-the-mic" technqiue, he uses something reminiscent of power metal, but less operatic and with a slightly more annoying pitch. Not as bad as Araya, no. But if you don't like power metal vocals, you probably won't like this, either. Mind you, the choruses do use some gorgeous vocal harmonies, like "I Am The Law", which works perfectly with the hardcore roots of the band. It covers up the more annoying aspects of Belladonna's voice and the choruses sound more full and interesting as a result.
There is a reason why Anthrax still play I Am The Law, N.F.L., and other songs from this album live. There is a reason why Anthrax can still tour even with all the *** they've gone through. The reason is, this is a big thrash bastard that obliterates anything in its path. If you're looking into thrash metal, this album is not only Anthrax's best, this is one of the best albums in the business. Highly recommended to any fan of thrash metal or 80s metal.