Beloved by thrash metal fans nigh on four decades, Anthrax‘s unique style, sense of humour and pioneering attitude towards mixing styles and genres of music (yes, rap metal is pretty much their fault but we forgive them) has led to an enviable career which has yielded some of the finest thrash albums in existence.
Only one question remains. Which 5 albums stand out as the finest of Anthrax‘s illustrious career?
5. State Of Euphoria (1988)
The fourth studio album from Anthrax may have failed to match the commercial highs of Among the Living or Spreading the Disease, but real Anthrax fans know that State Of Euphoria is arguably one of their finest ever releases
Sure, it’s not quite the equal of the albums that came immediately before and after – Among The Living (1986) and Persistence Of Time (1990) are stone-cold classics – but State Of Euphoria is so much more than just the album that happens to contain “Antisocial”.
While it may not be overflowing with ‘Thrax ‘classics’, in reality there’s so much underrated quality thrash on this thing that it’s beyond sacrilege that State Of Euphoria is so often glossed over!
Opener “Be All, End All” is a masterclass in melodic thrash while closer “Finale” is as crunchy as fuck…. and those who consider the likes of “Make Me Laugh”, “Schism” and “Misery Loves Company” to be merely ‘filler’ are kidding themselves. A class album from a class act.
4. For All Kings (2016)
This album has everything you want and expect from a band of Anthrax’s calibre. Stomping riffs courtesy of Scott Ian? Check! Frank Bello’s live wire bass lines? Check! Charlie Benante’s always phenomenal beats? Check-fucking-check! Credit must also go to Jon Donais who fits the band like a metal studded glove, some of his leads and melodies on this album stand toe to toe with the bands finest work and the man solo’s like the glory days of 80’s thrash never ended.
“You Gotta Believe” is a ferocious opener, all razor sharp riffs to begin with before launching into a mellifluous mid section that gradually builds into what Anthrax of 1987 would label on the inlay card as the “mosh part”. Next up is the mid paced “Monster At The End”, which along with “Breathing Lightning” is as catchy as a particularly virulent dose of herpes. Anthrax have been at this game long enough to know that speed is not the be all and end all (pun completely intended) and there is a grinding malevolence to the music – and a political edge – that harkens back to the classic Persistence Of Time. The band have rarely been sounded so pissed off at the world with the likes of “Evil Twin” and the hulking “All Of Them Thieves”, taking aim at religious extremism and crooked politicians.
For all the real world rhetoric, mature and expressive songwriting and stomping riffs, For All Kings is a triumph for one good reason; Joey Belladonna’s vocals. In the 80’s, Anthrax set themselves apart from their peers through Joey Belladonna’s classic rock and metal vocals, a huge contrast to the standard barking of most thrash throats. On For All Kings, Belladonna simply served up one exquisite vocal after another, delivering what is possibly his finest performance to date.
If you like your thrash with a hefty – and we mean hefty – dollop of melody then look no further, because in 2016 Anthrax served up a veritable melodic thrash masterclass.
3. Spreading The Disease (1985)
Anthrax found their melodic yet crunching sound on this, only their second full length album, and it catapulted them to the forefront of the then fledgeling thrash metal scene.
Containing perennial favourites “A.I.R”, “Madhouse” and “Gung Ho”, this record never lets up from start to finish and ranks as one of the best thrash metal records to emerge from the genre’s infancy.
Joey Belladonna impressively sings, screams, shouts and wails his way through 9 tracks of seriously consistent material which elevated Anthrax to the top of the thrash pack. Belladonna stood out as a vocalist who incorporated significantly more melody than the the generic bark adopted by lesser thrash bands.
Anthrax were fortunate to be blessed with a classic metal vocalist in the vein of Rob Halford and Ronnie James Dio as opposed to the gruff, no-thrills approach adopted by the barking and screeching vocalists of many lesser thrash bands. More importantly, he was a full-time frontman. Unlike Metallica and Megadeth who’s singers also had to play guitar, Belladonna, unencumbered by playing an instrument, could concentrate on singing and his showmanship and subsequently the band benefitted greatly.
Bucking a trend that had barely begun, Spreading the Disease embraced the classic heavy metal of old as opposed to worshipping the likes of Venom, Raven and other New Wave of British Heavy Metal alumni….and it was this nod to the old school that led to an instant classic.
2. Among The Living (1987)
This is the real fuckin’ deal and one of the greatest thrash records of all time.
On “Among the Living”, all the ingredients that make Anthrax great came together to form the perfect whole. Joey Belladonna had bedded in and his melodic yet powerful vocals are exceptional throughout. Scott Ian and Dan Spitz combine thrillingly and cement their reputation as one of the most skilled guitar partnerships in metal and Charlie Benante’s stunning, highly influential bass drum work propels the band forward at breakneck speed throughout the entire album.
Lyrically and thematically Among the Living combined the comic book/horror movie aesthetic which could be found on Spreading the Disease / State of Euphoria with the social commentary that would go on to be perfected on Persistence Of Time; resulting in a near-perfect thrash album which still holds it’s own against the finest albums the genre has to offer.
Heavy on comic book, pop culture and horror movie imagery, (the cover artwork depicts the diabolical Rev. Henry Kane character from Poltergeist II & III), the most iconic reference is “I Am the Law”, their tribute to comic book enforcer Judge Dredd. This head-crushing stomp through nearly 6 minutes of coruscating riffs, courtesy of rhythm master Scott Ian, remains a fan favourite an incredible 35+ years after it was written.
The pick of a very good bunch though are stonewall classics “Indians” (a politically charged indictment of the treatment of the Native American and a nod to singer Joey Belladonna’s ancestry) and the mosh pit anthem “Caught in a Mosh”. These songs stand toe-toe with the best tracks thrash metal has to offer and are as thrilling today as they were way back in 1987!
1. Persistence Of Time (1990)
Persistence Of Time was the last Anthrax album to feature vocalist Joey Belladonna until 2011’s Worship Music and he bowed out with a bang because Persistence Of Time is a timeless thrash record which ranks as a bonafide classic of the genre.
All but abandoning the recognisable goofy sense of humour which had permeated throughout heir career to date, on Persistence Of Time Anthrax changed tact entirely and the tone was noticeably more mature. The only track to seem ill-fitting in this context is their insanely popular cover of Joe Jackson‘s “Got the Time”, slightly out of place on an album intent on bludgeoning the listener with social commentary and a harder, more mature edge but their sense of humour inevitably had to bleed through somewhere.
On Persistence Of Time, Anthrax demonstrated a social awareness previously hinted at (“Indian’s”, from their Among The Living Album springs to mind) but rarely employed as succinctly and with such righteous conviction; less comic book and more social realism penned to exhilarating and challenging thrash metal. Elsewhere, balls-out thrashers “Gridlock” and “Discharge” were powered as always by Charlie Benante’s inventive and powerful double kick drum patterns but the tracks which elevated this album to classic status were the dark and foreboding epics “Blood”, “Keep It In the Family” and “In My World”. Perhaps more reminiscent of Black Album-era Metallica than Anthrax‘s speed metal of old, these tracks highlighted the bands growing confidence and musicianship. By 1990, Anthrax had no option but to up their game in light of the progression made by Metallica and Megadeth and this darker sound and mature approach was admirable….and, frankly, it was necessary!
Persistence Of Time is an impressive, against the grain, descent into the plight and perils of urban life and it’s those attributes that have us laud it as the best album Anthrax ever recorded.
Fistful Of Metal (1984) / Spreading The Disease (1985) / Among The Living (1987) / State Of Euphoria (1988) / Persistence Of Time (1990) / Sound Of White Noise (1993) / Stomp 442 (1995) / Volume 8 – The Threat Is Real (1998) / We’ve Come For You All (2003) / The Greater of Two Evils (2004) / Worship Music (2011) / For All Kings (2016)
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