Review Summary: A truly unique and amazing album
Few thrash acts could ever claim to be as diverse or as flat-out fun as Anthrax were throughout the 1980's. This was the band that released such songs as the great cover of Got The Time and the entirety of Spreading The Disease. However, the band were at their most enjoyable period, in my opinion, upon the release of Among The Living. During a period where bands such as Slayer and Kreator were playing as fast as humanly possible and Megadeth were experimenting with odd structures and a more technical side of thrash metal, Anthrax were busy reinventing their own brand of thrash.
This was the band's breakthrough album, containing some of their most well known songs such as fan favorite Caught In A Mosh, anthem N.F.L, the thundering anthem Indians and the incredible title track. This was where Scott Ian, Frank Bello, Charlie Benante, Dan Spitz and Joey Belladonna managed to revolutionize the thrash scene with one of the most bizarre albums of its day, an album that has stood the test of time and remains a classic to this day, although often overshadowed by Spreading The Disease.
This album was the last album to feature any form of credit given to Danny Lilker, the bassist of Anthrax throughout Fistful Of Metal, who left shortly after that album. His contributions stretch to having written a small amount of the songs I Am the Law and Imitation Of Life. Among The Living was dedicated to Metallica's bassist, Cliff Burton, who had passed away prior to the release of the album, and was a major influence on Frank Bello's style of play, and the album was the band's major breakthrough, with the video for Indians having had a large amount of airplay on MTV.
The sound for this album is a large change from what was found on Spreading The Disease, being a little more fun and relaxed, with not as serious an overtone. Whilst Spreading The Disease still carried Anthrax's stamp, the band had clearly matured a lot as musicians over the thirteen months that separated the two releases. Here we have a slightly more progressive nature to the songs, with some of them having rather unconventional structures and numerous riff changes in the space of a short amount of time, whilst still being crushingly heavy and maintaining a speedy pace to much of it.
This truly is a cracking album to just put on and get dragged into the signature Anthrax sound, maintaining a completely light hearted sound to it throughout much of the record. I Am The Law and N.F.L. stand out as being the best of the bunch, with the latter being a speedy thrash number with thoroughly enjoyable and yet incredibly sarcastic lyrics, coupled with that amazing voice that Joey possesses to make for a great listen. However, it is the former that takes the belt as the standout song of the album. It is a song about Judge Dredd, with brilliant lyrics about the comic book legend himself, and one of the most progressive feels to it of any song of the album. In the first minute alone, we are showcased Anthrax at their riff-happy best, with six fantastic riffs strung together in such a way that it flows perfectly, and containing a number of tempo changes. This is how classic thrash metal should be crafted.
Caught In A Mosh, the title track, Indians and Imitation Of Life take the styles already outlined and showcase them all to a near perfect degree. Indians contains the infamous shout of "WAR DANCE" and an absolutely killer drum beat, possibly the finest drum song of the album. It has a stomping feel to it, and thunders along with breath taking confidence. Imitation Of Life is a perfect closer, after the long predecessor A.D.I./Horror Of It All, being fast and to the point. Caught In A Mosh, however, is the real winner of these four songs, with the marvelous bass intro that shows off Frank Bello's style really well, before launching into a straight forward thrasher.
One World and A Skeleton In The Closet, in my opinion, are not quite as good as the other songs found on this album. A.D.I/Horror Of It All may suffer from being too drawn out, but it does not detract from the album itself, merely slowing up the pace a little. One World really does come across as a song that is just there to bridge the gap between Indians and A.D.I, whereas A Skeleton In The Closet just never clicks together, feeling like a half finished song. Despite the clever lyrics and the above average vocals from Belladonna, this just felt like a song where the band had not got enough ideas for the song.
This album is undoubtedly one of the finest releases thrash metal has to offer, but is still not quite the band's best. Whereas this had a couple of filler songs, the band managed to iron that crease out over the album that would follow, ready for their masterpiece, The Persistence Of Time. However, if you really want straightforward thrash with a lot of utterly hilarious and yet completely thought provoking lyrics and instrumentals that leave many bands standing throughout, this is definitely an album to purchase. 4.5/5