Thrash Under Pressure: Anthrax

Thrash Under Pressure: Anthrax

21st November 2015 0 By Tim Jones

And so we come to Anthrax, the final piece of the jigsaw of thrash metal’s “Big 4”.

Anthrax started at around the same time as Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer, but were the only major players on the east coast of the US. Hailing from New York, their sound was always different to their contemporaries – they were notably heavier and there were clear hardcore influences in their sound.

Their first album didn’t have the impact of other bands’ debut offerings and Fistful of Metal is generally overlooked. Many fans prefer to see Spreading the Disease as Anthrax’s first outing. It was released a year later by then, they’d found the sound that came to define them as a band. It was also the point where they settled on personnel who would be within their ranks for a good while.

In Joey Belladonna, they certainly had the greatest vocalist in thrash, even if he does tend to overegg it every now and then.

The band were influenced by punk, classic rock and, of course, metal. Their appeal was broader than most thrash bands – it was ok to like Anthrax if you weren’t a metalhead. They didn’t look like metallers. Yes they had long hair, but there was a distinct lack of leather and spikes and they dressed in a way that caused many people to liken them to surfers.

Like many other bands, Anthrax went off the boil a little in the mid-90s. Belladonna left and in came former Armored Saint warbler, John Bush.

1993’s Sound of White Noise was the first album to feature him and it wasn’t the same anymore. Grunge had really taken over as thesound de jour and its influences started to creep into the sound of Anthrax. It was wrong, totally wrong.

Three more un-Anthrax releases followed within the next decade and it looked like the band had really run out of steam.

The naysayers were proved wrong as Belladonna returned to his place behind the mic and the band released Worship Music in 2013. This was a return to the good old days and they showed more than any other thrash band how easy it was to return to their roots and abandon all the experimental lunacy that had dogged them for 20 years. Metallica could learn a thing or two here.

Drummer Charlie Benante and guitarist Scott Ian have been ever-present and it is the pair’s combination of frantic drumming and chugging riffs that are the heart of Anthrax.

The records from the first ten years are definitely the band’s best. Persistence of Time, State of Euphoria and Spreading the Disease are all moshtastically brilliant offerings, but it’s Among the Living that really stands much taller than anything else they’ve ever created.

It’s a near-perfect album. Their signature dish, if you will.

Stick Among the Living on and you can pretend it’s 1987 for 50 minutes. You may have forgotten that it was the year Ronald Reagan underwent prostate surgery and Lester Piggott was jailed for tax evasion, but what does that matter?

From the opening title track to the last note of Imitation of Life, you’re basically listening to Anthrax’s 1987 and it was a great time to be alive. The songs are all mostly around the five-minute mark and the album plays like Scott Ian’s CV of riffs. If they never recorded another thing and embarked on a perpetual tour playing only this record in full, there would be few complaints.

The major mark against the name of Anthrax comes from thrash/rap car-crashes, I’m the Man and Bring the Noise. They were seen as “ground-breaking” by many, but there is a darker side to these two songs. Anthrax were credited with kickstarting rap metal and nu metal as a result, so you see Limp Bizkit? Totally Anthrax’s fault.


Put them on your playlist: I Am the Law, Caught in a Mosh


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