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Some months after the release of their debut album, Fistful of Metal, Anthrax parted ways with vocalist Neil Turbin and recruited Joey Belladonna. To help their fans (and, maybe, themselves) get better acquainted with the new line-up, they recorded an E.P. Armed and Dangerous, released in February 1985, is more of a collector's item than anything else.
The album cover does nothing to help the band, nor does the fact that the first song starts out with about two minutes of, what sounds like, a ballad. Poor song arrangement aside, this E.P. does include an interesting song that can be found nowhere else, "Raise Hell". It is an average, mid-paced thrash metal track, though the production helps make it more enjoyable. The sound is still a little more on the less-produced side, offering the grittier pre-1986 atmosphere. As for the rest, there is not much to say. Two "live" songs that were merely recorded in the studio, like Slayer's Live Undead or Metallica's Jump in the Fire. Joey does a decent job on these, but does not quite surpass Turbin's performance on Fistful of Metal. There is also a cover of "God Save the Queen", which is pretty out of place.
All in all, Armed and Dangerous is not particularly interesting. At least later versions include the Soldiers of Metal 7". It is clear why this was released at the time, but it became much less relevant the moment Spreading the Disease was released, and it probably something that only hardcore Anthrax fans would be interested in.
Written for http://ritesoftheblackmoon.tripod.com
'Armed and Dangerous' is a genuine classic. It marries melody, vicious riffs & damn fine singing resulting in the earliest example of Anthrax breaking away from the speed metal silliness of Fistful of Metal and creating a name for themselves with thrash. Unfortunately, just like the rest of this EP, this recording is washed over with too much reverb, making it much less enjoyable than the version on the 'Spreading the Disease'. Oops, I just left slip this EP's biggest flaw. Unless you live in 1985, this release is worthless to you: the best song on this thing would appear on their next album. You're best off spending money on the essential 'Spreading the Disease'.
Basically, there's not much here that'll excite you. 'Raise Hell' is by far Anthrax's worst song with Joey. It's the lowest of the low in terms of riffs and lyrics ('I'm on fire, can't hold back my desireeee!') and Joey's vocal melodies are so overdone it sounds like he's warming up for a better songs (but then perhaps that's the analogy). To clarify, if 'Raise Hell' had been the title track, fans would've been crapping their leather pants over what 'Spreading the Disease' would sound like. The cover 'God Save the Queen' isn't too bad, and it's better than Megadeth's Sex Pistols cover because a) the lyrics are actually right and b) it's not useless filler on an otherwise great album. It doesn't really suit the band (especially Kiss/Rush influenced Joey) but it's cool to hear a band's influences, and Dan Spitz's weird ass solo is umm... interesting.
The live tracks are okay although I they're definately live in the studio rather than live at a show, and those rare tracks are basically slower, poorly recorded versions of mediocre songs from 'Fistful of Metal' from a 1983 7".
I'd rate the EP higher if it wasn't for that huge amount of reverb all over it - it dates the music terribly.
Yes, two reasons. And the first half of this EP isn’t one of them. Since the title track comes straight from Spreading The Disease and ‘Raise Hell’ can be considered an obvious generic leftover, this EP has trouble warming up.
No, one of the main reasons for getting this EP if you already own Fistful Of Metal and Spreading The Disease, are the (live?) versions of ‘Metal Thrashing Mad’ and ‘Panic’ with Joey Belladonna on vocals. Not only is the sound slightly more aggressive than on the Fistful of Metal album but with Joeys vocals these songs finally really come to life. Especially ‘Panic’ turns out to be a fantastic proto-thrashing speed metal tune which takes Judas Priest’s Exciter into Metal Militia territory. Simple in your face riffs, fabulous harmonies and leads and, as said, marvellous vocals.
Secondly the addition of the ‘Soldiers Of Metal’ single is pretty sweet and even though the production already very sounded dated in ’85, especially the version of ‘Howling Furies’ is convincing performance-wise. Although I would have preferred the band to have re-recorded the entire Fistful Of Metal album with Joey on vocals and with the Spreading The Disease production obviously. Instead, some of the guys recorded the S.O.D. album, so who am I to complain.
Leaves us with the Sex Pistols cover ‘God Save The Queen’ which sounds rather flat and Joey doesn’t give it his best or just doesn’t ‘feel’ this song. No, with Joey on vocals, classic metal and rock songs are a wiser choice, as the band would prove later with Black Sabbath en Kiss material. When playing punk, just let Scott do the vocals or everyone in the band, like Friggin’ In The Riggin’. Anyone remember their version of Protest & Survive? That’s what I’m talking about.
Qualitatively speaking, only point deduction for Raise Hell and God Save The Queen. Apart from that, just a great collection of stuff.
This is when Anthrax picked up the pace, dropped the mediocre-ism and began to develop their own sound (though they seem to have shifted from Priest to Maiden in terms of inspiration this time around). The songwriting is MUCH more memorable and the re-recordings of a few older songs are vastly superior. They have a lot more BITE to them.
The title track, Armed And Dangerous is one of my all time favorite Anthrax numbers. It starts out subdued with an acoustic intro and soulful vocals, before building up into a fast paced speed metal attack. There is a harmony solo in the middle very reminiscent of Maiden and a very good drum performance from Charlie Benante. Raise Hell brings us back to the mediocre songwriting that was on hand for Fistful of Metal with a very annoying chorus. The verses and riffs both sound good though, so not all is lost. The Sex Pistols cover is okay, nothing great about it, just a song to play for fun. Which brings us to the two re recordings. Metal Thrashing Mad and Panic are both made better, tighter, heavier, beefier and so much more forceful this time around without a sucky vocalist holding them back. Belladonna sings this song the way it SHOULD be sung.
After this, Anthrax proved to the world that they were one of the few thrash bands to beat in terms of good, memorable songwriting and letting their inspirations help them to develop their own sound (Spreading the Disease would still have the Maiden influence, but was much harder, thrashier and more aggressive, and they'd move away from it tenfold by the time Among the Living came around).
This release is by no means essential, however I got it with Fistful of Metal for pretty cheap so it was sort of a bonus. The EP contains two studio tracks, two live tracks, a cover and Anthrax's first single.
The music is a mixed bag. On one hand you have the awesome song 'Armed and Dangerous, which starts off like an acoustic ballad before erupting into some damn nice speed metal. The two live tracks are excellent, with Joey Belladonna pulling off the vocals flawlessly. Then on the other hand you have the throwaway tracks, which consist of 'Raise Hell', and 'God Save the Queen'. 'Raise Hell' is a boring repetitive track which fails to keep me interested enough to listen to the whole song, while 'God Save the Queen' features badly done vocals and sounds half assed.
The last two tracks are pretty much the same as their later versions on 'Fistful of Metal', except with a greater NWOBHM influence and less speed. They're alright tracks I suppose, but the versions of them on 'Fistful of Metal' kill them.
In conclusion, this EP is somewhat of a mixed bag. There is virtually no reason to get it unless you're a collector, but alongside 'Fistful of Metal' it's a good deal. Although it would've had it's value in 1985, nowadays it is just an average EP which fails to stick out of the crowd in any way or have much historical importance.
There's no doubt that this release is not among the finest to come from Anthrax, and it is good to see reviewers viewing it in it's historical context. But I, for one, do enjoy it and see it as a decent warm-up for Joey Belladonna, and a slight shift in sound for Anthrax. FISTFUL OF METAL, their first album, was a very straight-forward aggressive metal/bordering on thrash release with few frills and a lack of technical wizardry. But clearly the band's skills were improving and a desire to write more complex and skill-dependent material clearly arose. Not to mention the more acrobatic vocal style that Belladonna brings to the picture. The title cut packs some glorious riffing into it's chorus, and the intro is a pretty damn memorable piece of writing. "Raise Hell" on the other hand, is overall a waste of time. When Anthrax write filler material, MAN do they write filler! Now the cover of the Sex Pistols "God Save The Queen" is decent, but as Belldonna has NO believable vocal snottiness, their version lacks the bile of the original. However both new versions of "Panic" and "Metal Thrashing Mad" are slightly improved from the debut album. Not because of the vocals mind you, but because the band perform them with greater tightness and authority. So yeah, not an amazing release, and not one of this band's premiere moments, but still not bad or even average all the same.
I think this record had an important purpose in 1985. Thrash metal was on the rise and Anthrax was about to release their 2nd LP. However, they'd changed singers, and this can be a mortal blow for many bands. How do they entice new fans while calming the fears of old fans? By releasing a moderately priced EP with a couple songs destined for the new LP, plus re-recorded versions of older songs with the new singer. Good thinking. This record starts off with "Armed & Dangerous", one of Anthrax's best tunes. From the acoustic intro to the raging body of the song, this one is a total classic. Next comes "Raise Hell", which was going to be on "Spreading The Disease" but ultimately wasn't. Its not really a great song, but not horrible, either. Anthrax's cover of "God Save The Queen" is pretty awful. Joey really doesn't have the voice for it. Follow that up with a couple of "live" performances of old songs with the new singer. Joey proves he can handle it (and really, his isn't so drastically different from Neil Turbin's that he would completely alter the vibe of the songs).
Fast forward a few years and one can see that this record has outlived its usefulness. The best song on here is available on another album. The Belladonna-fronted line up got so popular that many newer fans by-passed the Turbin-era entirely, so fewer people are curious to see how Joey might handle the Neil Turbin songs. The 2 tracks exclusive to this disc are mediocre at best. The only other thing a record label can do to entice buyers is tack on the band's first (and very rare) single so that diehards who have everything else have something new to buy, since that single is not available anywhere else. Thus, if you are a completeist or diehard fan of either the Belladonna or Turbin-eras, you might want to look into this one. Casual fans probably won't be impressed.
EP's are interesting things...some of them serve as a stopgap between albums, a way for the record label to make some extra money and make sure you don't forget about their band while the next album, for whatever reason, takes forever to come out. Other EPs are there to say goodbye to an old member - putting out whatever last songs were recorded with him/her before it all falls apart (Sentenced's Love & Death EP comes to mind) Then we have EPs like this: Ostensibly, it was to intoduce new singer Joey Belladonna and new bassist Frank Bello (former bassist Danny Lilker's bass tech) to the world.
I remember when this came out back in '85 - I was pretty damned impressed. Now, 18 years later (god, am I getting old!), a good portion of it has held up pretty well, and a good portion, well, just sounds dated!
Armed and Dangerous sounds as stunning now as it did then. Great intro, masterful, well-placed and well-played rhythm work, catchy riffs, tasteful, speedy drumming, and well-played (and, for a Carl Canedy production, surprisingly audible - see Metallica's Kill 'Em All and Overkill's Feel The Fire for an excercise in treble metal) bass.
After this great intro, we get the horribly boring original "Raise Hell". God, what an inane chorus "raise hell, raise hell, raise HELL". If Armed and Dangerous introduced Joey Belladonna at her powerful, clear-voiced best, this song equally introduces him at his whiny, annoying, unconving worst. Subtract an extra 5 points for the world's most annoying rhyme "I'm on fire, oh, the desire"... geez, what is this, mid '80's Madonna?!
Their cover of God Save the Queen is not great, not horrible, but is ultimately throwaway filler in its averageness.
"Live" recordings (live in the studio, a la Slayer's Live Undead), Metal Thrashing Mad and Panic are both good, by the numbers thrashers, not a hell of a lot different from the Fistful of Metal versions beyond the new voice... Joey sounds better than Neil on these, although maybe a bit lacking in personality. The intro riff to panic has always been one of my favorites, though!
Finally, the "Collector's rare tracks" Soldiers of Metal and Howling Furies. Both decent songs, if not special... tell me the first 15 or so seconds of Soldiers of Metal don't remind you of Metallica's Phantom Lord, and the next 15 of the same album's Four Horsemen. A little labelmate thievery here, kids?
Ultimately, if you're an Anthrax fan, an EP well worth having. If not, the only true classic on here is Armed and Dangerous, for which you might as well go out and by Spreading the Disease, which contains the same version of Armed And Dangerous, and is the best damned album Anthrax ever made! (but more about that in another review!)
This EP doesn't do for me what it did in '85, but it's good for a spin down memory lane every now and then, which makes 7 bucks or whatever it was 18 years ago mighty well spent!
The only song that really totally must be heard on here is Armed and Dangerous, which is identical to the version of Spreading the Disease, so there really isn't much reason to get this EP. It was put out in late 1984 when Joey Belladonna first joined the band, just so the world could hear his less-shrieky-than-Turbin voice. There is another original on here, Raise Hell, which is not available anywhere else (except live on some old bootlegs) but it isn't exactly top notch. The cover of God Save the Queen is also kinda forgettable.
The last two songs on here (the re-release anyway) are with Turbin - and also with Greg D'Angelo on drums, as they are from the July 1983 Anthrax 12" single "Soldiers of Metal" (produced by Ross the Boss of Manowar, for trivia freaks).
There are two live-in-studio tracks which sound pretty similar to the versions available on Fistful of Metal, other than having Joey on vocals. They are worth getting for completists, but otherwise this EP, like most other EPs, is pretty much non-essential.