Thursday, August 12, 2010

Anthrax - Among the Living

Charlie FUCKING Benante

Of the Big Four of thrash metal, Anthrax is always the most overlooked. Metallica, Megadeth, and Slayer have legions of fans across countries yet undiscovered, while Anthrax has to make do with the smaller, yet entirely more rabid, fanbase they currently have. How it was in1987? I'll never know, I'm a young'un, I wasn't around then. But as of now, they are the least appreciated of the Big Four.

Among the Living is their most popular of the 80s material right next to Spreading the Disease, and it is easy to see why. Among the Living stands as my favorite Anthrax release, as it is the perfect blend of the New York style thrash and hardcore punk tinges they've always had. This has far more thrash than punk though, but the blend is still there. Scott Ian is one of the "faces" of metal. He's the guy who's always on TV, always promoting, always giving 130% on stage, and always being the center of energy and attention with the band. He's not the most impressive guitarist in terms of technicality, but he is one hell of a riff writer. In fact, the entire band was almost perfect around this time, barring Joey Belladonna. I've never been a huge fan of his voice, it fits fine, but it just isn't very good for the most part. Listen to that scream around three minutes into Caught in a Mosh..... that's right, he's not very good. Dan Spitz plays good leads on the rare occasion they show up, and Frank Bello is a competent bassist, although he doesn't get too many standout part. Then there is Charlie Benante, one of my favorite thrash drummers of all time. Really the only people he's behind are absolute gods (Gene Hoglan, Dave Lombardo), so it's should be a testament to how great he really is. He keeps in time greatly and has some spectacular fills. Not to mention he is extremely fast as well as he is precise, almost on a Hoglan-esque level, just not quite.

The production is nothing to shout about. Clean, yet thrash-like. Nothing super spectacular, but nothing shitty either, so not much can be said.

The last three songs aren't as great as the first six, as they kind of run together and are a tad overlong, which is bad considering Imitation of Life is the shortest song on the album. The last three just get kind of boring, whereas the first six are astounding and you are honestly upset when they are over. None of the songs are overtly megafast, but none of them really plod barring the final triad (in case you can't tell, those are the only bad parts of the album). The lyrical themes are pretty diverse, ranging from disrespectful fools (Caught in a Mosh), comic book characters (I am the Law), Stephen King (A Skeleton in the Closet), history (Indians), and even John Belushi (Efilnikufesin (N.F.L.)).

I'll start with the positives this review, and that is the first six tracks. Among the Living takes a little bit to start, but once Benante's pounding rolls around the 1:30 mark thunder through, the song picks up with his awesome double bass and a fast as fuck thrash riff. Most of the album you'll find yourself noticing the drum patterns above the riffs, which really shouldn't happen in thrash, much less NY thrash where the riffs take prevalence over most everything else, but that's just what happens when you have Benante on the kit. Despite that observation, this is actually almost the epitome of NY thrash, with only Overkill doing better. The mosh riffs, the shouted gang choruses, it's all here, and it's here in fucking force.

Efilnikufesin is easily the greatest thrash song about a dead comedian, hands down. Do you hear any Bill Hicks or Mitch Hedburg tributes? No? Well then I guess this wins by default, but that doesn't stop if from ruling. It's got one catchy fucking chorus, as does the rest of the whole album really. Try not to sing along to A Skeleton in the Closet, it's a physical impossibility, they proved it on Mythbusters. Actually, the aforementioned song ranks as one of my favorites because it's a song based on literature that doesn't drag itself out over the course of a whole album like certain power and prog bands tend to do (it's based off Stephen King's short story Apt Pupil from A Change of Seasons), not to mention the drumming is, once again, phenomenal.

Alright, that paragraph would be a tedious and redundant read if I said what was great about each song, because, while indeed different, I had to delete a large chunk of that paragraph after realizing how much I repeated myself. One World has a pretty boring chorus, but I will say that The Horror of it All would be perfect if it weren't for that intro. And that's about all there is to be said about the negative aspect.

So what I'm trying to say is that this is a great album and shouldn't be missed by any thrash maniacs. Anthrax remains the most underrated of the Big Four and this album deserves a fuckload more respect than it actually gets. An A- for Anthrax. I'd love to give it higher, because the first two thirds are nuts, but the end kind of kills it a bit. Otherwise it's a great NY thrash record on par with some of Overkill's best, albeit a slightly different style.

And oh yeah, Charlie Benante.

RATING - 93%

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