Review Summary: I'm the walkin' dude! I can see aaaaallll the world!Part IV of IV: Among the Living, by Anthrax
Anthrax formed in mid-’81, set up by rhythm guitarist Scott Ian and bassist Danny Lilker. Eventually, their initial line-up was completed by vocalist Neil Turbin, lead guitarists Dan Spitz and drummer Charlie Benante. Debut Fistful of Metal
earned the boys some success, but Lilker was soon afterwards kicked out due to unprofessional behaviour, and replaced by Frank Bello. In ’84, Turbin got kicked out next, and was after some time replaced by Joey Belladonna. The new formation would eventually be regarded as the classic Anthrax line-up, and lasted 7 years.
The band were quite different from most other metal bands playing at the time, having a less serious, even often humorous approach to music and image. Follow-up Spreading the Disease
saw the new band earning some more experience together, and it was then, in 1986, that Anthrax would continue to record their contribution to the Big Four Albums: Among the Living
. This would only be released in 1987, but is accounted to the Four famous 1986 works nonetheless, and many agree Anthrax have never come close to equalling it.
Among the Living
Among the Living’s Anthrax was:
- Joseph Bellardini ~ Vocals
- Dan Spitz ~ Lead Guitar
- Scott Ian Rosenfeld ~ Rhythm Guitar
- Frank Bello ~ Bass Guitar
- Charlie Benante ~ Drums
Dedicated to the memory of Clifford Lee Burton.
Artwork by Don Brautigam.
With tributes to Stephen King novels (Among the Living
, Skeleton in the Closet
) and comic book characters (I Am the Law
), Anthrax indeed doesn’t seem to take the thrash approach at all in manner of subject. That doesn’t mean Among the Living
is entirely without serious thematics. Both Indians
and One World
both touch the political subject matter, and Efilnikufesin
deals with the life and death of John Belushi, and most importantly his drug abuse (it says Nise Fukin Life spelled backwards). But even on the more serious of songs, Anthrax’s tone remains light-hearted, and though they’ve always been the smallest brother of the Four, this plays of their greatest strengths and establishes necessary uniqueness.
The boys behind the record form a musical powerhouse. Especially impressive are Ian’s rhythmic work and Bello’s very strong, clear, and instantly recognizable bass lines (especially very present on the first half of the album). Benante shows a wide variety of drum patterns and fills, and manages to play varied in both fast and slow tempos. While Spitz takes on lead guitar however, his work, and especially solos are not very impressive, and perhaps a bit of a letdown, though it works well for the interplay of the band.
The real odd man out, although in the positive way, is Belladonna, who is surprisingly talented for a thrash vocalist. Just listen to Hetfield, Araya and Mustaine. None of them can really
sing, but Belladonna here is quite the exception. He has the expression of a power metal vocalist, almost, reminding of the greats such as Halford and Dickinson, but his range falls in the lower register, making for a very interesting combination of features. He shows his versatility in some powerful shouts more reminiscent of his thrash contemporaries, while his high screams are quite the force to be reckoned with (I Am the Law
, anyone?). While he tends to get annoying after listening to him for too long, he is also an unique player is old school thrash.
What these musiscians produced together is an aggressive, fast and very consistent record that contains much of Anthrax’ very best material. It combines the constant riffing of Metallica with the ongoing ferociousness of Slayer, while adding some unique standout features in incredibly enjoyable bass lines and a somewhat different vocalist. Although it gets a tad repetitive towards the end, Among the Living
will pound your ears for a whole 50 minutes, and you’ll be sure to like it. Certainly one of the more unique of the Four.
Among the Living
Caught in a Mosh
I Am the Law
After the classic line-up fell apart after 7 years, the band parting ways with Belladonna, Anthrax’ success was still moderate with John Bush but unsurprisingly never equalled or surpassed that of the good old days. The classic line-up reunited in 2005, only to fall apart again in 2007, not actually having recorded anything. The band had a brief stint with newcomer Dan Nelson, but as of now, he left, and Anthrax remains with the half-finished Worship Music
and need of a new vocalist.
…And so it was that thrash metal reached a great peak. 1986 was the year, and its releases were great. Shaped out of traditions found in early British heavy metal, the genre chose its roots well. Rebellious, ranting, straightforward and anti-commercial were just a few of its key features, and the Four established a whole new look upon the musical world. It was long that thrash lasted, and it still lives on today, in the hearts of young and old. For those willing to delve deeper than the surface, they will find beauty and joy in the genre that is perhaps not to everyone’s full endeavour.