Review Summary: An essential thrash record full of exceptional guitar work and impressive vocals.
Although they aren't always regarded in the same light as Metallica or Megadeth, there's no question Anthrax is one of the most influential thrash bands in existence. As most people should already know, the band is considered one of the "big four" founders of thrash. They recently reuinited with their former singer Joey Belladonna who was the band's vocalist on all of the classic Anthrax albums. He really does have an amazing voice and deserves every bit as much recognition as other metal singers of the era. The band's second effort Among the Living
is often considered to be their best work as it took on a relentless thrash sound, but Speading The Disease
proves to be just as enjoyable.
One noticeable difference between Among The Living
and Spreading The Disease
is found in the vocals of Belladonna. Even though his voice is impressive on both albums, I feel like his singing is better on this release. The somewhat harsher sounding vocals he used on Among the Living
fit that album perfectly, but there are times on this album where we can truly hear his singing ability. The stellar 'Armed and Dangerous' is a perfect example of his talent. It starts out slow with his considerably softer singing then shifts tones towards a more thrash based song. He utilizes his voice perfectly to compliment all areas of the song from the ballad like opening to the fast paced ending.
Joey Belladonna isn't the only star of Anthrax, however. In fact, Scott Ian is quite possibly one of the best guitar players all time. His rhythm guitars have been spicing up Anthrax albums since their debut back in 1984. Between Dan Spitz on lead guitar and Ian on rhythm, Spreading The Disease
is packed to the brim with excellent guitar work and impressive solos. It really has more variety guitar wise than lets say Metallica, and the rapid fire drums seem to put Lars Ulrich to shame. The record also seemed to be more experimental than their somewhat disappointing debut Fistful of Metal
. The creative guitar intro to 'S.S.C./Stand or Fall' has an egyptian feel to it and the rest of the song is full of great instrumentation. It seems like they were willing to change it up a little bit in each song so thankfully no two tracks sound the same. The only real missteps on the album have to be either 'Lone Justice' or Gung-Ho'. To be honest the songs have memorable riffs and guitar work, but the verses and choruses feel really uninspired, especially on 'Gung-Ho'
There are many possible reasons this band never gained the attention they deserved. Although 'Madhouse' is one of their most popular songs (and one of the best on the album), the music video was pulled from MTV due to the broadcasters finding the video to be "insensitive towards the mentally ill". Which is a shame because perhaps if the video had been allowed to receive more airplay they would have ended up as big as Metallica. Not only is 'Madhouse' one of the albums best offerings, it's one of the best songs they've ever created. The track is an example of the band at the top of their game and it's full of top notch performances from Ian, Belladonna, and crew.
Containing some of the most memorable riffs I've heard in the genre, Spreading The Disease
truly is a thrash essential. The album is also well produced which only helps make the impressive vocals and instrumentation that much more enjoyable. It's not as balls out thrashy as Among the Living
, but I think both albums are great for separate reasons. While the latter album was the perfect offering to bang your head to, this album is more accessible and a good start for anybody looking to get into Anthrax.