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"Disease! Disease! Spreading the disease!" The opening lines of Anthrax' third studio full length record aren't only a reference to the vivid predecessor, they also indicate the addicting strength of this thrash metal milestone. On its third output, the band has finally found its very own style. The East Coast quintet has moved away from its original New Wave of British Heavy Metal sound, several classic rock influences and even most of their hardcore punk touch inspirations. "Among the Living" is the band's rawest, fastest and angriest release and it defines the thrash metal genre better than any other album ever done.
Over the next fifty minutes, Anthrax is offering nine pitiless tracks filled with fast riffs and unchained guitar solos, angrily pumping bass guitar licks, ferocious yet versatile high-speed drumming and breathless yet powerful vocals that are emotionally over the top but manage to remain catchy and melodic as they are constantly supported by energizing and angry gang shouts. The lyrics vary between angry yet intelligent social criticism and unchained fun anthems inspired by popular culture. The more serious lyrics are related to contemporary issues back in the days such as the outrageous fate of Native Americans, an ongoing Cold War despite a desire for peace and unity from younger generations and a warning that the horrors of war shouldn't be downplayed, forgotten or neglected. The more carefree texts feature ironic statements about complicated interpersonal relationships, unbound lust for life or are simply inspired by fictitious characters from different art media such as Judge Dredd, Randall Flagg or Reverend Henry Kane. Lyrically, this release is an incredibly authentic time document from the mid-eighties but I can still relate to most of the texts three decades later due to their timeless and youthful spirit.
This mixture of mature and juvenile lyrics would become a trademark for the band that was also a guiding line for the next three studio albums. Even though the band found its own musical style on this release, the quintet opted for less urgent variations of that style on the next three records. Anthrax have never been that poignant again as on "Among the Living". Some of their other albums might be more courageous, diversified or intellectual but this release is probably their best due to its emotions, energy and honesty. In my opinion, this is the best thrash metal album of all times.
Apart of one or two less intense minutes in "A.D.I. / Horror of It All" that sounds alien to this release due to its calmer and sluggish approach and an almost epic length of nearly eight minutes, every track on here is an instant hit and still relevant almost thirty years later. Just like a disease, this album makes you sing along, raise your fists in the air and get crazy in a mosh pit. If you want to see what this kind of music can do to an adrenalized crowd, go watch the first thirty minutes of the incredible live release "Chile on Hell" where the band plays the five opening tracks of this milestone in a row more than twenty-six years later. From the first epic and melodic seconds of the atmospheric, pace-shifting and pitiless opener "Among the Living" to the angry message against media creation of plastic people in the album closer "Imitation of Life" that ends this milestone with heavy and low bass play, brutal mid-tempo riffs and some dystopian distortion, the intensity of this album is indeed spreading like a disease. If you like metal music, no matter what genre might be your favourite, this is an absolutely essential record to add to your collection or to quote singer Joey Belladonna: "Among the living - follow me or die!"
There are four albums I think of when I think of great thrash metal. Metallica's Ride the Lightning, Slayer's Reign in Blood, Megadeth's Rust in Peace, and Anthrax's Among the Living. These albums make up what I call the Thrash Starter Kit. You want to get into metal's most rewarding subgenre, you better do your homework. This album takes what makes those other three great and amalgamates them into a perfect example of how the fastest, heaviest, and finest thrash metal is created, but without being inaccessible to a non-thrasher. So, just how good IS Among the Living, and what's so good about it? Where do I even begin?
Instrumentation is incredibly tight here. This is one of those albums where every single note played feels important, and not a single one out of place, which is an impressive feat for an album that moves at such breakneck speed. Scott Ian's riffs are complex but still memorable, Charlie Benante's drums are so tight and fast, you'd think he would have gotten advanced Carpal Tunnel after just a few takes, and Frank Bello's bass is not only layered and proficient but actually audible, something that you almost never hear in thrash metal. I have always believed and will always believe that Anthrax with Joey Belladonna is the only Anthrax there is, and his presence is invaluable on this album. His voice is both melodic and aggressive, something that can only be accredited to such legends as Rob Halford or Dio.
The writing is downright fantastic. There's a perfect balance between dark humor and unrelenting social and political commentary, sometimes both at once. Two tracks stand out to me lyrically; Efilnukefesin and Indians. The former I should mention because it is handled strangely. The song is famously about Jon Belushi, but it's hard to tell if it's a tribute, a scold, or if they're cracking jokes about his death. In any case, despite the poor taste in which it's handled, the track rocks and is still very well written at its core (with another of the album's always-memorable chant choruses). The latter track, Indians, merits mention again, not for its subject matter, but the way it's handled. Countless artists have written about the plight of the Native Americans, and the "Evil white man comes and takes our land" narrative. While I understand the gravity of the atrocities committed during that tragic period in American history, Anthrax is the only artist who's ever handled that much-hackneyed material in in effective way (at least for me). You will indeed cry for the Indians.
The production is a bit fuzzy in spots, but still just as sharp as it needs to be. I'd like it to be just a bit better, especially considering that the brilliantly-produced Peace Sells...But Who's Buying? had been released the previous year (on a shoestring budget, no less), but I can't complain. If I needed an exact comparison point, I'd say this sounds about as good as Ride the Lightning. It's still pretty stellar when you consider the circumstances, and the contrast is very even, something Reign In Blood didn't handle nearly as well.
Among the Living, and Anthrax in general, manage something that few thrash bands (especially in the Big Four) have ever done-they actually have a little fun, and deal with some less serious subject matter. They balance the deadly seriousness of tracks like Indians or Skeletons in the Closet with tracks like I Am the Law, a tribute to the classic comic book Judge Dredd. The acoustic intro to Horror of It All, cryptically titled A.D.I., actually stands for "Arabian Douchebag Intro", poking fun at the Bay Area thrash cliche of acoustic intros to "epic" tracks (someone really should have told that to Testament...but that's another story.)
I would say Among the Living's strongest link is also its greatest downfall-it hits its peak way too early, with the incredible, breathtaking title track. Everything that is great about this album, about Anthrax, and about thrash in general is put on showcase perfectly here. The band works tightly and perfectly as a unit rather than just the sum of its parts, no one steals the spotlight, and best of all, it blends both the hardcore influence of East Coast thrash with the unrelenting technicality of Bay Area thrash. Among the Living by Anthrax is one of the greatest anthems in all of thrash, and one of my favorite metal songs of all time. Every track on this album is great, but none quite live up to the opener.
So, that's Among the Living. If you haven't heard it, you shouldn't even be on the Archives right now. When an album's biggest flaws are some ever-so-slightly fuzzy production and having a track that is literally TOO GOOD, it has to be worth your money. I recommend it to absolutely any metal fan.
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.
I'm sure Among The Living isn't really desperate for yet another review, but what the hell; I'll bite. Two years after their excellent sophomore Spreading the Disease Anthrax lynched us with their thrashiest offering to date.
Scott Ian was obviously feeling the pressure of having to live up to the likes of Peace Sells and a whole host of other incredible thrash albums that were released in 1986. As a result Anthrax threw caution to the wind and aimed straight for the throat. This both served as a positive and negative, positive in the sense that this was awesome balls out thrash metal, negative in the sense that Joey's vocals took a back seat and in turn ended up sounding a little stifled.
Of course this features some of Anthrax's best know tunes, live staples such as "Caught in a Mosh", "Indians", "Efilnikufesin (N.F.L.)", "I Am the Law" and of course the title track are all decidedly awesome tracks, most of which I've seen live myself so I can testify to their bad-assery. There album is equipped with a boat load of quality thrash riffs, there are some excellent breaks, leads, Charlie Benante is on stupendous form, in fact with the exception of Belladonna the whole band are on great form. Which is by far the albums biggest draw back, what a waste of the man's talent.
Despite the obvious standouts we still have ass-kickers such as "A Skeleton in the Closet" and "A.D.I./Horror of it All" shows Anthrax can keep it up over a longer track length (we would see more of this on Persistence of Time) For the most part Among the Living is a really cool album, although I don't feel it is up to the standard of their sophomore release. Still, this is mandatory for any thrasher.
After spending several weeks exploring Fistful of Metal, Among the Living was my next acquisition from Anthrax's back-catalogue. My first impression was that this was a horrible album. The vocals absolutely killed it, as well as ridiculous lyrics such as, "I'm the walking dude", which just made matters worse. Belladonna's performance in "Imitation of Life" is about as wretched as it gets and left a bad taste in my mouth. This L.P. was returned within a couple days, as it seemed unbearable. After a month or so, I ended up giving it another chance and putting forth effort to appreciate it for what it was.
Released in March 1987, Anthrax's third L.P. was dedicated to the memory of Cliff Burton, who had died about six months earlier. Among the Living was the band's second release on Island Records and would go on to become their defining opus. One way or another, this is the sound that people identified with Anthrax and the record became somewhat iconic as their definitive statement.
Musically, this record does not live up to its potential. It contains several dark riffs, such as the intro section to the title track, yet fails to capitalize. The atmosphere is lightened by the vocals, which do not seem to fit the music too well. Too many times, it sounds as if Joey is just talking really fast, instead of actually singing. It does not help, either, that the lyrics are less serious and, oftentimes. The themes are quite stupid, at times, such as "Caught in a Mosh" and "Indians". Thrash fans do not care about the plight of Native Americans and, if they do, they need to be rounded up and exterminated as well. There are not enough high-speed songs, as most are centered on the idiotic 'mosh riffs'. A few mid-paced parts are alright, but there was no need to focus on those instead of the faster sections, during which the band sounds much more impressive. That said, Among the Living is filled with memorable riffs and vocal lines as well. While none of the songs reach the level that they could have, songs like "Efilnukifesin (N.F.L.)" and "A.D.I./Horror of It All" are not bad at all.
One of the primary weaknesses of this album would have to be the production. The drums and bass are too high in the mix and, for that matter, so are the vocals. The guitars should always be the main focus when it comes to any kind of metal, and they just do not possess the saw force as on Spreading the Disease. Had the guitars been higher and the other elements been lowered a bit, the character of this record would have been significantly altered for the better.
Among the Living is a pretty decent thrash metal album, though not Anthrax's best effort, by any means. By this point, all traces of NWOBHM influence are long gone. While it may be the one that most people think of when the band is brought up, it pales in comparison to Fistful of Metal and is just below Spreading the Disease in terms of quality and sound. It is certainly worth listening to and not bad at all. Give it a listen and decide for yourself.
Written for http://ritesoftheblackmoon.tripod.com
With the now well defined thrash scene, Anthrax was just another thrash band. Yes, they help invent the genre, and were the among the first thrashers out of New York, but they needed a masterpiece to secure their spot as one of the best and most influential and defining thrash metal bands. This masterpiece was called Among the Living.
Don't get me wrong, Anthrax's material before Among the Living wasn't bad, but it wasn't nearly as mature, or as good, as anything from Among. Among the Living was where everything just came together. Joey Belladonna was at the highpoint of his career, Dan Spitz and Scott Ian were filled with memorable and thrashy riffs, Frank Bello was thinking up some unique things, and Charlie Benante was on fire with fast, thrashy drumming. Like I said, everything just came together.
Joey is fantastic throughout the record. On the title track, Indians, and Caught in a Mosh, he hits insanely high notes absolutely perfectly (Example: Fire! Hot fire! Purge the world with fire!!) and doesn't sound strained at all, which is a big problem on their newest record. He's still young, and this is really where he shines. Unlike a lot of thrash singers, he actually uses his pipes instead of yelling or growling or things of that nature, and it really makes Anthrax the band that they are. His singing is really great.
Dan Spitz is an awesome guitar player. His solos on this record are really good. A lot of people don't like them, and I get where they're coming from, but they honestly are good. He uses the B and E strings along with the whammy bar to create really fast, thrashy solos. It's not clean or technical, but it sounds great and gets the job done.
Scott Ian also does a fine job on this record. His rhythm playing is great, especially in "I Am the Law", and "One World". And who can forget his yells? I know a lot of people bash Scott because they don't think he's that great, but the riffs he thinks up are out of this world, and he's wrote so many songs that nobody can doubt that he's a very talented musician. Also, the energy Scott Ian has live is unmatchable. Seeing Scott Ian live is a treat, to say the least.
The bass doesn't play a huge part in this album, but it does have really nice parts, like the beginning of Caught in a Mosh. Frank had some nice bass lines and provided a solid background to everything. He also had some cool parts in caught in a mosh and I am the Law. I think they could have let him do some more things, because he mostly followed the guitar, but he stood out and the bass playing was solid.
Charlie Benante was just a beast on this record. His drum work on the title track, I am the Law, really every song was just fantastic. He was playing at really fast, aggressive speeds, and he used the crash cymbol A LOT. The energy is just really high, and the drumming is top notch. Everything is played cleanly and skillfully. The drumming is definately a highlight of this album.
As you all know, Anthrax is in the big 4, so Among the Living is one of the easiest metal albums to get ahold of, and it's a true classic. Get it. It's well worth the money. m/
Anthrax is one of those bands that you either really like or really don't care for. To some, they made five solid albums and went down hill and others will say they just went into a different direction. Whatever your opinion about Anthrax is, the bottom line is that this is one of the greatest thrash albums of the 80's. It has everything you want in a thrash album; fast and well played bass, extremely catchy song lyrics, average rhythm guitars, and the legend Charlie Benante (which is the only reason I listen to anything Anthrax after 1990). The only thing that this album is lacking is some serious guitar solos.
I'll start with the drumming by Mr. Benante. It's one of the first things you hear on the album and it's going to be one of the only memorable thing in your head while you listen to Among the Living. The constant double bass is placed perfectly in each song and the overall drumming is pretty much perfect. The drumming stands out in every single song. It's very hard to find a thrash album with better drumming then this. The amount of groove and complexity that flows through his drumsticks is absolutely phenomenal. Although the drum work isn't as complex as say Kreator's "Pleasure to Kill", the amount of groove that Benante puts forth is such a treat to listen to.
The guitar work in Among the Living is the only thing that leaves this album in the dust compared to other, superior thrash albums. It's just too straight forward for a thrash album and there is really no speed to it whatsoever. This album is thrash in almost every single way possible, besides the guitar work. The solos are very simple and Scott Ian has no memorable guitar work at all. It's just slow and steady, but doesn't win the race. Often times it can be very boring and feel like you're listening to a nu-metal tune. I feel like the guitar is the worst on songs like NFL and Among the Living. It's just too slow and groovy to be part of a thrash metal album. As for Dan Spitz and his solos, well they fit each song well and that's pretty much it. They don't blow me away like other thrash solos do. They are usually meant to have some serious speed and aimed to blow you away. The solos provided by Dan Spitz, they don't do anything for me. They are just there in songs. Super slow, but very melodic. Like I said they fit the songs well and you will be humming them, but is that really what you want from a thrash album? Humming the solos that are supposed to melt your face away? The bass on this album is actually pretty good though. I think it easily beats the work from Scott Ian and Spitz. It stands out in all of the songs and is well played. Can't really compare Frank Bello to say Jason Newsted on "Doomsday for the Deceiver", but it's there and is above average for this kind of album.
As for the vocals, well near perfect. The only time I question them is on Caught in the Mosh. Right before the solo it gets a little...too..high pitched. It goes on for a little too long and it sounds pretty awful. That's my only complaint on this record from the vocals side. Belladonna is easily one of my top five thrash singers and this album he shows some serious pipe work. His vocals sync up perfectly with all the tunes and completes this album.
Overall, this album is pretty awesome. You can't really recognize the thrash genre without listening to a select few albums, and this is one of them. Despite the many negative things about this album compared to other gems from this era, it stands out as one of the simple thrash albums of the 80's. It's simple, yet many people's favorite thrash album of all time and that says something. Among the Living is one of those 80's gems that you have to hear and will not be disappointed with. You can pop it in at any time, go to any song and have a great time with it. Sure it doesn't stand to Slayer's "Reign in Blood", Flotsam and Jetsam's "Doomsday for the Deceiver", Metallica's "Ride the Lightning", or Artillery's "By Inheritance", but it still is a fantastic thrash album and I recommend it to anyone new trying to get into the thrash genre. It's very fun and you will come out feeling great.
This album came out at the height of the thrash metal movement in the 1980's, alongside bands like Testament, Overkill and others, but Anthrax were surely different from the likes, injecting more of a punk sound, don't get me wrong, all metal is punk influenced, but Anthrax really showed it more.
This masterpiece opens with the title track 'Among the Living' beginning with a creepy acoustic lead which works it's way into a heavy as fuck sludgy riff, not headbanging is NOT an option, and then, man this thing speeds up, you might as well set your neck on auto-pilot here, because the riffs, the drumming, the vocals just make you thrash around, cool lyrics, and an awesome solo too 'Caught in a Mosh' is next, and opens with a catchy mid-paced riff, then a nice little bass solo leading into a main riff that just beckons thrash, this song is really catchy, featuring a great pre-chorus 'can't stand it for another day, I ain't gonna live my life this way, cold sweat, my fists are clenching, stomp stomp stomp the idiot convention!' Yes, Anthrax tells it like it is, and don't give a fuck.
'I Am The Law' follows, and slows the album down to a bludgeoning pace, this song is so slow and heavy that it could break glass, with a main riff that is really fun, and the lyrics are fun as well, all you have to do is listen to them, that is another fact about this album, Joey Belladonna's vocals are precise, understandable, but not weak, a little less powerful than it's predecessor 'Spreading the Disease' but the band matured in the couple years in between, Anthrax? mature? well you know what I mean.
I'm going to skip down to 'Indians' which is one of Anthrax's most popular along with Caught in a Mosh, and with good reason, this song is AWESOME, opening with a nifty Iron Maiden-esque riff, moving into a total thrasher, awesome verse, awesome pre-chorus, awesome chorus, yeah, it all works, and then you get to the break, oh man, the break, which slows it down to a stomping halt with Belladonna saying "WARDANCE", man this sure is mosh worthy to the fullest, so fucking heavy and intense, this song features more great vocals by Belladonna too, sometimes sounding a bit like Bruce Dickinson, no problem here, throw in an excellent solo, and you have one of the best thrash songs ever.
'One World' follows, this song is really catchy, and it will grow on you, it may not sound good at first listen, but keep on listening, because it's a full speed thrasher that will be stuck in your head after a while, trust me, I didn't like it at first, but it grew on me, the same is true for the next track which is 'A.D.I./Horror of it All' which begins with a beautiful acoustic intro, and then the guitar fades it's way into a stomping sludgy riff and then goes into a nice mid-paced song with catchy vocal lines and catchy riffs all throughout, I believe this to be a very underrated song in the Anthrax catalog.
The album closes with 'Imitation of Life' which is another mid-paced number pretty much, but closes the album off in a strong way, it does speed up at times as well, but this is certainly the way to close off a great album, not much else to say about it though.
This is the album that got me into Anthrax, I was weary because of the rap-metal thing, but this was before all that, and I'm glad I didn't hold the rap-metal thing against them, because all their stuff before that is pure unadulterated thrash metal, so in the end, if you're a thrasher, you NEED this album or should already have it, so take your head out from your ass (that was from another song from a different album) and get this album!
While Fistful of Metal and Spreading the Disease were both great in their own right, it wasn't until their third album Among the Living that New York's Anthrax embraced the crunchy thrash of their prime. Packed full of memorable lyrics and more riffs than you can shake Scott Ian's goatee-thing at, it was easily one of the better thrash albums of 1987.
"Among the Living" begins with a creepy whimper, a simple acoustic line doused in reverb, while feedback resonates. The bang comes in the form of a slowly chugging thrash gallop notable for the bouncing bass, like a pair of breasts wobbling out of a tube top. I've always considered Anthrax a unique band because of their ability to match a fairly weak vocal style with some powerful riffing. This isn't to say I think Joey Belladonna has a bad voice by any means; but it's always struck me as very thin by comparison to the powerful weight of the guitars. This is balanced with backups and gang shouts. "Caught in a Mosh" is a catchier song than it has any right to be with such a stupid title, with a nice groove to the chorus guitars and some pretty irresistable gang shouts. "I Am the Law" improves the album considerably, a choppy thrasher based on the Judge Dredd comic (yes, that's fucking awesome).
"Efilnikufesin (N.F.L.)" is a perky thrasher that opens with a nice melodic hook, obviously about some beef the band members had with some suckas. Get it, you say the song title backwards..."Nice Fuckin' Life". So clever...and it would inspire the band to create other classic titles like Penikufesin. Despite itself, the song is still pretty good. "Skeletons in the Closet" is another of the better tracks on the album, with a catchy Belladonna vocal hook in the chorus and a slew of anthemic thrashing rhythms and bass flair. It's based on the Apt Pupil short story by Steven King which was later made into a decent film. I never quite got into "Indians" when I was younger, but the track has aged decently and accumulated on me, especially I like the build-up to the charge riff in the middle of the verse.
The album closes out with three of its strongest. "One World" opens with an almost gladiatoral feel, erupting into a hammering thrash rhythm which would sound fresh if it came out yesterday. The vocals sound great on this track, their level in the mix is just low enough that Joey can go a little crazy and create this desperate, powerful thrust over the guitars. "A.D.I./The Horror of It All" begins with some nice acoustics and a lengthy heavy intro. Once again the riffs in this song are great and Belladonna has some memorable vocal lines here, making 'whoah eh ohs' officially cool in thrash metal. "Imitation of Life" is perhaps the most mature track on the album, with an unforgettable volley of precision riffing and one of the meanest New York grooves this side of old Biohazard. And what disaffected youth could resist the lyrics?
'There's nothing I hate more, than all these plastic people
With all their plastic promises, and all there plastic deals
They just can't be themselves, and live their own lives out
They're just an imitation of what life's all about'
Among the Living brings back a lot of nostalgia, years of skateboarding and chumming around with a half dozen guys who would wear their various 'Not Man' t-shirts for half of every week. Though I truly adored this album when it was released, I do not feel it has aged quite as well as Persistence of Time, which I consider the strongest of the Anthrax catalog. Crank the volume and this remains just as head banging as ever, but the drumming is rather dull by today's standards and a few of the songs' lyrics are quite goofy. At any rate, this is still a great album to rock out to with some dark, memorable riffing.
Anthrax made five excellent full-lenght albums in the 80's and a couple of nice EP's as well. This was their second masterpiece that shows the classic Anthrax sound but at the same time as this one is regarded as their best album by the fans, I find this album to be the weakest with Joey Belladonna even though it's still awesome. Compared to it's predecessor "Spreading The Disease", this is a little more punk influenced and doesn't hold the same quality as that one either.
The opening track "Among The Living" is a special track with an absolutely awesome guitar intro and some great thrashin' metal afterwards. This is the best song on here and one of Anthrax' best as well. "Caught In A Most" and "I Am The Law" are probably the most famous tunes on here and they're good, there's no doubt 'bout that but they're somewhat booring compared to classics like "Madhouse" and "Armed & Dangerous" from "S.T.D.". "Indians" was another single from the album and is defenitely a better song than the previous two I mentioned. It features some killer riffing and a great guitar solo by the excellent Dan Spitz. "One World" is one of the best remaining tunes on here and I just totally love the riffing on that one. The last remaining tracks are all good but I can't really find anything to say 'bout 'em.
The production is good but also the worst on a Antrax w/ Joey Belladonna album. It sounds a little dry but at the same time it doesn't. The guitar sound is the main thing that irritates me. There's where the possible weakness is 'cause the drums and the bass sounds, as always, awesome. The vocals are perfect too. They've really found the perfect sound for Joey's vocals.
The cast are great. When the production let you down a bit it feels safe to know that the band doesn't. Anthrax' member are all great and highly experienced musicians. Scott and Dan's massive riffing and soloing are awesome while Frank and Charlie are building a massive ground with the drums and the bass. On top of all that, we've got one of metal's finest singers - Joey Belladonna. That man's voice is incredible and even though I used to hate it, I can tell ya that I love it know.
So finally to my last comments on "Among The Living"...
This album is in my opinion a little bit overrated but it's still very good and defenitely a legendary album. It defenitely hold a bag full of perfection in those tunes and I recommend this album for fans of heavy, thrash and speed metal. It's a great album and it's defenitely worth checking out.
Together with “Spreading The Disease” this album has gone into history as being an ultimate Anthrax album. Once again this is an album, worshipped by many and incidentally trivialised by a small group calling themselves thrashers but who were between 0 and 5 years old when this came out. Fortunately most younger thrashers eventually learn to appreciate this masterpiece.
Okay, just brainstorming for a second. What if Charlie and Scott never did S.O.D.? If one listens to Among The Living unbiased (or at least without emotions) and keeps in mind the period in which it was written, the elements of crossover and speed metal, it becomes so clear that Among The Living was simply the ultimate mix of “Speak English Or Die” and “Spreading The Disease”. Speed Metal played with crossover riffs and intensity, resulting in that typical Anthrax form of stomping thrash metal.
This new found style aka symbiosis on itself is of course not enough to create a classic album. The time in which this was done as well as the quality of the individual songs and performance are also important conditions. In 1987 thrash metal was out of the underground dungeons and bands started develloping the style even further. Metallica was getting more epic and melodic, Slayer had just made a point with a short and fast album that oozed a hardcore punk attitude etcetera etcetera. Anthrax re-invented themselves on this album and went beyong their earliest form of NWOBHM influenced speed metal.
Secondly as said the individual songs are varying from good to genius here. There is not a single bad song or filler here. “Skeleton in the Closet” is a forgotten classic because they other songs are simply better. But if this song had been on any other Anthrax album it would have been one of the better or even best songs. In the live environment however this song was a little too long.
The two most famous songs are “Indians” and “I Am The Law”. “Indians” starts off with a great native american beat and harmony before plunging into raging thrash metal with a great catchy chorus and a fabulous stomping bridge in the middle (“Wardance!!!”). “I am the Law” is mostly mid paced but speeds up near the end, which is exactly what the song needs at that point. A classic example of effective songwriting.
Third place must be “Caught In A Mosh” which is a personal favorite and one of the most aggressive songs on the album together with “Imitation Of Life”. These two songs are not as straight forward as “Gung Ho” or “Panic” on earlier albums but just as strong and actually even more impressive because of the variation within these songs without losing power.
The title track “Among The Living” and “Efilnikufesin (N.F.L.)” are catchy, powerful and have a good balance between a sense of eeriness, melodic vocals and moshing power. The title of the last mentioned song has become somewhat of a running gag on later releases. So what about “One World ” and “A.D.I. / Horror of It All”? Well “One World” has great riffs and a mighty chorus (also the “One, Two - NOT! Three, Four - DIE! ” is a brilliant catchy highlight on the album) and “A.D.I. / Horror of It All” is simply a lengthy thrashing monster of epic proportions!
So much for the songs. Now for the perfomance and sound. The performance is great. Anthrax did consist of some of the best musicians in thrash metal at that time so not much to complain there. Scott and Charlie were two of the tightest playing thrashers around and Dan Spitz puts just enough melody in his leads to make them stand out and still sound powerful. Frank Bello, playing with fingers and not a pick, has a typical plucking sound and can easily be heard through the guitar assault. He also really adds something to the music. Last but not least there was Joey. One of the most melodic vocalist in thrash metal and the finishing touch to their mighty sound.
The production balanced between ‘suiting’ and ‘good’ for 1987 standards. It’s very organic and honest and none of the instruments have the upper hand. The only production I know of that was beter than this one was Persistence Of Time and I wonder what Among would have sounded like with that sound.
Simply said there is nothing here to complain about. All things fell into place on “Among The Living” and Anthrax (unfortunately) never equalled this masterpiece. Mosh It Up!
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.
By the time that “Among the Living” hit the stores, Thrash metal was out of the hellish underground and in the faces of everyone with eardrums in need of a good busting. With all the competition that this entailed, Anthrax was sort of pushed off to the side by more extreme acts such as Slayer in terms of being a revolutionary force, though they did maintain a large following and Scott Ian was wherever the cameras were. In some respects it is unfortunate that this ended up happening to the band, but it’s hard to compete with something as brutal as Reign in Blood and the emerging death metal scene it helped inspire without sounding light in comparison.
Unlike its two predecessors, both of which were timeless masterpieces, this album is mired by too much standardization and not enough risk taking. It tends more towards the punk side of the thrash coin, complete with loads of minimalist riffs and shouted backup vocal slots. Ultimately this format works well for everyone in Anthrax except for Joey Belladonna, whose voice bears more similarity to the original NWOBHM singers rather than gritty shouters like Tom Araya and Billy Milano, who would fit in quite well in the underground punk scene. He does the best he can, but you can tell that his voice doesn’t naturally do what Scott Ian was likely demanding of it.
All things considered, this album is well realized, but sort of tapers off in the second half due to some recycled ideas. The first half of the album is amazing, trading blows between raucous mosh pit riff monsters like “Caught in a Mosh” and the politically conscious thrash epic title track. Up until the end of “Skeletons in the Closet”, which sports a solid gallop riff, the pit brutality and melodically inspired solos of Dan Spitz don’t relent for a second. Everything just makes you want to throw your fist in the air and shout chant-like praises to the gods of thrash.
After that, things sort of gradually die down and resolve on a somewhat unresolved note. “Indians” and “One World” are both solid thrashers with interesting intros, but you can’t help but pick out bits and pieces from early songs. “A.D.I./Horror of it all” is a little too long for its own good, as the kind of simple thrash Anthrax deals in is not as conducive to the 7 minute plus epic the way Metallica’s early stuff was. “Imitation of Life” starts off slow and tired sounding, then picks up to rocket speed with Belladonna shrieking away as best he can. It’s not bad, but I wouldn’t quite put it up to the same caliber as “Gung Ho” was.
Obviously this album would fit in well in any metal head’s collection, but I think it gets a bit too much credit when shacked up against “Fistful of Metal” and “Spreading the Disease”. It cooks with the best of them, although sometimes the drums upstage the guitars and Belladonna’s voice clashes with the arrangement. This is still Anthrax before Scott Ian established himself as one of many heavy metal weathervanes who would twist with the winds of public opinion on what was considered good music, rather than sticking to what actually was good music.
This is the Anthrax true masterpiece to me. Even if they didn’t miss a shoot ‘till 1993, this is one of those thrash metal albums you must own if you are a true thrasher. The ironic behaviour (with great lyrics about politics and society) and the sonic violence are the most important characteristics of their sound and here we have the maximum expression of them. Those years were great for thrash and I can only imagine it because I’m too young…
The title track is truly great with up tempos, great bass drum work and the Belladonna vocals so scratchy in some parts while a bit childish in others. The bass is always pounding, in Overkill style for example. “Caught In A Mosh” is another classic with the funny, moshing refrain. What a song. The melody is always a very, very important characteristic in the music. The natural ability in creating always extremely catchy tracks without losing anything in impact is unbelievable.
Check out the main riff on “I Am The Law”. Amazing. The tempos are for pure headbanging. The riff on “Efilnikufesin” gets stuck in your head along with the more melodic refrain. Devastating the drum work on “A Skeleton In The Closet”; one of the heaviest tracks here. The riffs are so fast and quite technical too.
The massive, gloom riff on “One World” is followed by great thrash assault. Hammering drums and fast riffs. “Horror Of It All” is the main introverted song here, with an obscure beginning followed by some mid tempos. Not the greatest song here in my opinion. Only the beginning of it is remarkable, while the rest is a bit weak. To close this album we have the famous riff of “Imitation Of Life”. This song is one of the best ones here. Pure fucking fast thrash with one of the most strange solos I’ve ever heard!
A very good album, in my opinion the best from Anthrax. The first 5 tracks are awesome but some of the following are a bit lower in terms of songwriting and catchiness. Except for the last one obviously. Anyway you can’t go wrong with this if you like thrash.
'Among The Living' is absolutely the best album from Anthrax. There isn't even one song which is below awesomeness or pure fun, the riffs are top-notched in each song, the lyrics quite interesting, the vocals amazing in their catchiness and overall this album is very enjoyable and you can listen to it a lot times and still like it each time.
The opener track begins with an epic riff which repeats himself in different variations with 3 guitars till it reach the main riff and then the drums becomes much more sharp and the first verse begins. "Disease! Disease! Spreading The Disease!" this is such a mooshing part that your neck is gonna break off and your eyes will fly away from their holes. The verses are amazingly catchy and so is the chorus which is a great example for a Thrash hymn. Seriously, this is such a killer song that no one can stand of and it's really enjoyable one that you'll dig off for a long time once you are into it. "Caught In A Mosh" is one of Anthrax most well known hits. It's fast, intense, catchy and has very varied vocals. There are the rapid singing in the verses, the shouting back vocals in the bridge and the softer in the chorus. It keeps on interest for each second and it has a blowing mind riffs and it's an unparalleled hit. "I Am The Law" has an overwhelming guitar riffs and a lot of groove and it's a bit slower track then the former tracks. The chorus is a bit aggressive in it's lyrics and vocals and there is a fast headbanging section which begins in 3:30. It's a blazing track and awesome as all the tracks in this album.
"Indians" is the most epic song here and very memorable one. It begins in mid tempo drumming and then dual guitar riffing and when it's all balanced together (in 0:21) it's sounds just perfect! The verses has a load of killer riffs and the chorus is amazing one with the best vocals ever of Joey Belladonna which sounds perfect here.
The only reason why I didn't gave this album 100 [and this album is really close to it!] is because there aren't enough leading guitar here, and there are some which sounds pretty mediocre for such flawless songs. If it had an exciting solos or something which gets a bit close I could give it 100 without hesitate.
In conclusion: this is a very enjoyable album without even a single weak or average track. This is definitely one of the best and the most memorable Thrash albums of all time and if you call yourself a metalhead, then you MUST buy this flawless classic. Easily one of the best albums ever and Anthrax at their highest peak.
Looking for a high quality, full-speed, brute force slice of An-thrash? Well look no further, because Among the Living will satisfy your every need. The album is not without faults, but it does more than enough in the "Right" department to make up for them.
This is easily Anthrax's heaviest and most intense album to date. The band has never thrashed harder than on here, and actually, few other bands have either. Among the Living is all about particularly crushing thrash metal. The Spitz/Ian riff tagteam doesn't fail to deliver, with a shitload of memorable riffs of varying degrees of speed and awesomeness throughout the album, but it's the drums that send this into hyperdrive. Charlie Benante is always insane, but on here, he's otherworldly. His drumming style, as mentioned in some of the other reviews, might take a bit of getting used to (he likes to do snare/bass double time beats as opposed to always using bass/snare ones), but it's that uniqueness that adds charm to his performance. Add Frank Bello's interesting bass lines and the soaring vocal delivery of Joey Belladonna and you've got yourself one hell of an instrumental powerhouse. The lyrics are quite well done also, touching on everything from the Cold War, to Native Americans, to Judge Dredd. And did I mention there's plenty of nice guitar solos?
On paper, this album rules without question. Unfortunately, some problems arise in the songwriting. Though there's plenty of Anthrax's catchy riff progressions and plenty of catchy Belladonna lines, somehow much of this tends not to stick with the listener. The only memorable lines I can usually recall are limited to choruses, namely the classic chorus of "Caught in a Mosh." Maybe my memory is failing me, but most of the riffs and lyrics on this are lost to me as soon as the album is over. I don't have this problem with Fistful of Metal or Spreading the Disease, where every song is just as killer as the previous one. Somehow Among the Living comes off as unremarkable, even though it absolutely rules while it's playing. The other problem I've found with this is similarities in riffing. That first riff from "I am the Law" is too damn similar to the first riff of Slayer's "Tormentor" and that detracts from the song every time I hear it. That main riff from "Indians" sounds a lot like Rush's "A Passage to Bangkok" too. I'm sure there's more, I just haven't found them yet. But hearing riffs like that just remind me that I could be listening to the other songs rather than these ones that sound ripped off.
Even though there's some shit in here that bugs me personally, I still must recommend it to fans of thrash metal for the sheer intensity of the music and quality of muscianship. The lack of memorability that I've noticed might be just me.
Man, Anthrax is one hell of a fun and heavy rock band. On this album Scott Ian really comes into his own as an immaculate writer and performer of brain-meltingly awesome riffs. I mean, sure you have your Exodus and Testament and Overkill and whatever but whenever I listen to them I'm all like "argh" and then "zzz", because unlike Anthrax those bands piss me off with their incredible stupidity and dorkiness. Yeah sure, the 'Thrax can be pretty stupid too but at least they don't take themselves that seriously as "thrashers", preferring instead to write fun, catchy songs instead of trying to construct the longest sequence of boring chugga-chugga riffage this side of... well, another generic thrash-for-thrashers band I guess.
Wow, got off to a ranting start there sorta. Well anyway Among The Living is a pretty damn great marriage between ridiculously gleeful guitar brutality and fun hardcore-style SHOUTING CHORUSES!!!. There are nine songs here and they are all amusing in some way. For example, you might think there's not much entertainment to be had in overlong clunker Horror of it All, but even that song, the crappiest on here, has a cool breakneck-style blitzkrieg ending. And the lyrics on here are pretty satisfying, at least by metal standards; they are self-conscious and silly yet somehow manage to avoid total obnoxiousness.
Joey Belladonna is a cool vocalist, too. Sure, he sounds rather wimpy without his pals backing him up with hardcore SHOUTING!!!, but when it all comes together, the grinding riffage, the back-up vocals and Joey's kiddy singing, like on the choruses, the effect is positively anthemic. And starting from this album on to Persistence of Time, Scott Ian get the perfect guitar tone. It's loud and suffocating and tight as hell. And it never feels out of place, unlike say "hey we're fucking Symphony X and WE KICK ASS!!!". Too bad lead gitaroo man Dan Spitz sounds like he's high, what's with those grating psychedelic solos of his...
But really, the main reason why I like this so much and prefer it to less-mainstream thrashers is that it feels so classy. It's like, the ultimate tribute to skateboarding and comic books, it's not just thrash for thrash's sake. And as such, you should be able to enjoy it even if you ain't so hot on metal as a whole.
With Among The Living, Anthrax moved from the more or less traditional heavy metal influenced sound of their first two records to their trademark style of thrash metal, with lots of one note mosh riffs, thrash breaks and humorous lyrics. Eventually, this slight change probably also led to the rap thing couple of records later. This is a full-out thrash record, though. And a good one too.
The LP has a great overall feel to it. While being really thrashy and aggressive in a way, it also stays melodic and really fun to listen to. The production is very satisfying, although rhythm guitar gets a bit drowned in the mix at certain times. Otherwise, the guitar tone is nice and heavy. The palm muted riffs sound great and the tone for the solos is outstanding. Bass is very audible as it also should be, since Frank Bello is a great bassist and he doesn't dissapoint here. His lines diverse and well played.
I really wonder why Dan Spitz and Scott Ian aren't a bit more appreciated in metal circles, because they mastered their instruments extremely well over the years. And their performance on Among The Living is one of the best if not the best in their career. Ian's playing is the tightest EVER. He plays every single triplet or palm muted riff on this one perfectly, like he is some kind of a machine. Dan's solos and leads are again great. He still has that middle-eastern feel to his playing which actually works out really fine. Some of the best solos in thrash metal are his, and most of them are on this record.
The riff work here is good, the main thing about it is that the riffs are really memorable and great to headbang to. There are also some great thrash breaks and sudden tempo changes on here. Not to mention some awkard time marks which end up being really good for the overall song feel. You probably all know Joey Belladonna. He doesn't dissapoint here, no way. His specific voice suits great in the 'Thrax music. He isn't as menacing as let's say Blitz or Ballof, but he can still sound thrashy. He's also one of those thrash singers who can sing some high pitched vocals. There aren't much true high screams on here and he's no Russ Anderson, but it's all OK. Charlie handles the drums nicely, he plays some nice fills and his rhythms throughout the songs are diverse and well played.
The lyrics are one of the best thing of the release and a high water mark for all other thrash metal bands. I don't know who came up with this, but it's intellegent, funny and right to the point. |Wake up dead in a plywood bed/talking to you is clapping with one hand/stomp, stomp, stomp the idiot convention| are just few of those great verses.
There aren't any real downers on Among The Living, but there certainly are some great classics. Everybody knows ''Indians'' with that great epic feel to it, ''Caught In A Mosh'' which is actually not about the metal mosh but about mosh in the classic meaning of the word. N.F.L. is funny as hell, and I Am The Law is the crazy riff monster.
Hell, I think I made my point. Get it! (the point and the record ;))
This is one of the heavier albums by Anthrax, but it is also a bit unexciting. There are only a few good songs that I can recall that have some sort of replay value. “Among The Living,” “Caught in a Mosh,” and “Indians,” are the only songs that stand out in this album. What they achieve in heaviness they lose in lyrical catchiness as opposed to other albums in their discography such as Spreading the Disease or Persistence of Time.
This album is definitely heavy, as can be heard on songs such as “I am the Law” and “One World.” These songs are as, or even more so, aggressive like the highlight songs I have mentioned before, but they lack the memorable choruses and melodies, which make the other songs superior. The deficiency of this album is definitely the lack of compatibility between the heaviness of the riffs and vocals and the overall structural melodies and lyrics. Persistence of Time had its heavy songs, but each of those songs had something to offer. Heaviness is not the most important object a band such as this should aspire for, it is how a listener will remember the album. If one can only recall three or four tracks that they enjoyed the objective has not been achieved, in my opinion anyway.
Anthrax has put out an album that, although was heavy and had some great riffs, was not very memorable. This aspect, which they failed to attain, is an important portion of a thrash album. The highlighted songs, especially “Indians,” was relatively softer than the other songs, yet was better overall because of the catchy choruses and melodic riffs.
On the whole, this album is moderate. It does offer some excellent tracks, yet comes up short with such songs as, “Efilnikufesin (N.F.L.). This shouldn’t be the first Anthrax album in one’s collection as it is a bit lackluster compared to the other Anthrax albums. The best place to get introduced to Anthrax would be, Persistence of Time, Spreading the Disease or Fistful of Metal, among others. Overall this is a 2nd rank Anthrax album.
Wow, Anthrax created a real barnstormer of a record here, abandoning the rather stilted and predictable(albeit entertaining) sound of the past few releases to create a new sound full of electric hardcore, the goofy tude and punked-out speed of the S.O.D, with a hint of the Bay Area Thrash discipline, the sound that would make Anthrax famous, and in the process one of thrash's Big Four.
And man, what a calling card! Among the Living is a non-stop, relentless, freak out of an album, rendering Spreading the Disease plodding, showing us another way to blitzkrieg besides the Reign in Blood/Darkness Descends wall o' insanity. Blistering tempo's, stumbling vocals (check Joey trying to keep up on the "Indians" chorus), and ballsy NYC attitude. Anthrax was probably more influential than say, Megadeth, because of how many elements of the band's sound ended up in other places. That big bellowing army of back-up singers was everywhere in the second-tier thrashers(granted, Exodus had it too, but never as well or as famously), the goofy acronym titles("N.F.L" "A.D.I", etc.), and even the high-pitched Halford-wannabe on the stick(with more witless charm than the technically superb Metal Church singers), which by it's very contrariness to the Hetfield/Araya vocal style must have stuck out like a sore thumb, giving us bands like Flotsam and Jetsam in the process.
Anyway, the album. "Among the Living" is actually one of the tracks I'm not such a huge fan of, but it's an excellent showcase for those off-kilter song structures and frankly bizarre Belladonna vocal melodies, allowing us to watch the skinny little bastard trying to come up with something that follows a song that winds like a broken-backed snake. Plus, I dig the newfound belligerence and anger, even if it is on a Stephen King tribute song/album.
"Caught in a Mosh" is just brilliant, up there with "Whiplash" and "The Toxic Waltz" on the thrash anthems chart, probably beating them with it's ludicrous ludicrous-speed (Spaceballs!) speed, headbanging moshpit-ready breakdown, and truly hilarious lyrics. "Stomp stomp stomp/The idiot convention/ Which one of these words don't you understand?" Comedic genius, with a shout along chorus that ranks as the best in their impressive catalogue. This song probably makes me look like I'm having a seizure, what with the thrashing being so hardkore.
"I Am the Law" is a 'Thrax classic, again I mysteriously don't enjoy it that much. Still, fun riffery, yet another moshtastic break, and some dopey sing-alongs. DROK IT!
"N.F.L" is a great tune, spinning a vitriolic and rather effective tale of woe, the first hint of seriousness of any substance on the album. The riffs are pretty loose too, but still more focused than the almost wobbly title track with its occasionally mystifying melodies and tempo changes. Nice solo too. I believe this is about comedian John Belushi's tragic death, which Anthrax seems somewhat ticked about. Anyway, it's just another example of a band going completely off the wall and writing outside the box, although I doubt that Anthrax was going about it with the focused intention to reshape the boundaries of metal like an Anacrusis or a Watchtower.
"Skeleton in the Closet" is based on the Stephen King story "Apt Pupil", good material for metal, even if Anthrax is too over-the-top mosh-pit ready for themes this deep, and they don't exactly spend much time trying to really get a message out of it. Still, love that chorus, Joey hammering the listener with repetitive questions, not that many cared back in '87 when they were trying to learn all the patterns to headbang properly.
Now here's a fun one, "Indians" being a total Maiden tribute, while in my eyes beating the high holy hell out of "Run to the Hills". Check that steely twin lead intro, Joey's Bruce-alike phrasing and soaring high notes, hell even that break seems spiritually Maiden-esque, although it's really just a standard mosher with an atonal solo, albeit an atonal solo full of attitude. That's one thing about 'Thrax, they can fuck up a lot, but who cares when they have such a great attitude? It's one of the things that really hobbled the more recent material in my view. Also, special notice to that chorus, a jumbled mass of speed-reading that you helplessly try to sing along too despite its difficulty. Great, great stuff.
Now, my personal favourites on the album back to back. "One World" ditches the scrambling structures for some bolted down Metallica-esque aggression, this song being a lean mean thrashin' machine. That riff is loud and hard, Belladonna screaming (for vengeance?) like he rarely can (or bothers to), and man, nice Benante drumming and vicious dual axework from Ian and Spitz. Just an unsung classic, check it out folks.
"A.D.I/The Horror of it All" is the serious epic, sort of along the lines of "Like Father, Like Son" from Exodus's Fabulous Disaster, but better. All mid-tempo venom, with a number of strong strong leads, a reserved yet powerful Belladonna, and man, I love that little riff that transitions the verse and chorus under the "saaaaaay goooodbye..." bit. Mesmerizing, and also a fair argument to include Anthrax in the same artistic breath as Metallica and Megadeth, trumping every effort at the epic the band had tried thus far (sorry "Armed and Dangerous"), as well as pointing the crooked finger towards the titanic Persistence of Time.
As such, "Imitation of Life" comes off as a little tossed off, a little forced, a bit of a letdown after the preceding three tracks. But man, lyrically it's a ball, Joey Belladonna going all comedic again for a hilarious send-up of record/TV execs, describing a battle Anthrax would win after this release because of its platinum-certified success that allowed them to do more or less whatever they wanted.
All in all, the high water mark in the Anthrax catalogue, and their most indelible contribution to metal, even if their most influential was probably the I'm the Man EP.
Stand-Outs: "Caught in a Mosh", "The Horror of it All", "One World"
Here is where Anthrax really developed their trademark sound, full of mosh riffs and shouted backup vocals. Overall, it's not a bad album, but sometimes it does get a bit repetitive - it's not done as well as other New York thrash albums like Taking Over (Overkill) or Survive (Nuclear Assault).
There are definite highlights here. The opener, "Among the Living" is pretty nice, and "Caught in a Mosh" is a fucking masterpiece. The main break in the middle, that's textbook New York thrash right here. Stop whatever it is you're doing, and play an entirely new riff at a different tempo, usually about 70% as fast as the previous riff. "Imitation of Life" is catchy as fuck, and originally it was an S.O.D. song that was written in 1985 but didn't make "Speak English or Die", and I can't remember what the S.O.D. song title is, it has the same riffs but different lyrics.
Some of the songs are a bit boring. "I Am the Law", for instance, just isn't fast enough. Same with "The Horror of It All", and "One World" has a particularly non-interesting chorus. Also, by the time you get to, say, Indians (track 6), you'll have heard most of the riffs by Caught in a Mosh (track 2) or Efilnikufesin (track 4)... so for real highlights, one has to go to either the title track, or "A Skeleton in the Closet", which just sound a bit different.
Overall, this is a somewhat decent album, but it would take the next two albums before Anthrax really got their shit together again.