Review Summary: The best Anthrax album. The one that legitimizes them within the Big Four.An Anthrax Story:
Episode II: Spreading the Disease:
For Anthrax, the debut album Fistful of Metal had plenty of potential to launch them within New York's thrash metal underground. While it did succeed in giving them a certain reputation, it was, quite simply, short from being a masterpiece. Lousy production had severely hampered that album's potential, and the band seriously needed to improve and polish their sound. Of course, this would require some changes in staff.
Enter Joey Belladonna, who possessed one of the finest chimes in heavy metal, and who was also gifted with an impressive vocal range. His style suited Anthrax perfectly, an would prove effective in making the band distinctive from many of it's contemporaries (and from the rest of the Big Four in particular). Another change would come with the arrival of Frank Bello on bass. Replacing Dan Lilker, he would become distinguished by his catchy, playful grooves: this aspect would be a crucial ingredient in the band's sound, due to the band's humourous tendencies. The stage was thus set for Anthrax to truly take their place amongst the Big Four of Thrash.
So, by now the band personnel were:
Scott Ian: Rythm Guitar
Dan Spitz: Lead Guitar
Frank Bello: Bass
Charlie Benante: Drums
Joey Belladonna: Vocals
The band definitely learned their lesson: the production is far superior to that on Fistful of Metal
, which provides a major advantage for the band to truly deliver a demolishing performance. Scott Ian's riffs are nothing short of spectacular, which places him well alongside the more acknowledged metal rhythm guitarists Dave Mustaine and James Hetfield. Dan Spitz's solos are loud and clear, he demonstrates a keen ability to shred out without sacrificing cleanliness.
Charlie Benante is truly one of the most overlooked drummers in metal. While he's no ace when it comes to improvisation, he's still able to pull off epic blast-beats, and he never plays quite as intensely as he does here. And let's not forget the bass: as mentioned, Bello proves to be a fine addition to the band: he keeps up perfectly in sync with Benante, and adds to the breakneck feel of the music; in the succeding records, he would opt more for using more relaxed grooves, but his bass is one of the easiest to hear in metal.
The album kicks off greatly with A.I.R.
, a song about some teenager who rebels against the adults around him. The opening riff and following solo tell the listener he's in for the ride of his life. Again, the rhythm sections do not disappoint, and the rest of this album pretty much carries in the same spirit of this song.
For this reason, let's just mention by name some of the best tracks here: Lone Justice
, The Enemy
, S.S.C./Stand or Fall
, Armed and Dangerous
, and the epic closer Gung-Ho
. While listening to this, you might probably think to yourself: "Is this just another metal album"". The answer is no, this is one of the finest metal albums ever made, period.
That's the reason why, after this, Anthrax would only make yet other metal classics. But they could never quite top this. Among the Living might be the most "historic", Persistence of Time the more lyrically exploratory, State of Euphoria heavy enough to please. But in the end, this is their finest record. It is this, and not any of the other, which stands truly, head over shoulders, as Anthrax's masterpiece.
Episode III: Among the Living