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Anthrax's first album holds an unusual place in the band's discography, owing to the sound, production, and the distinctive vocal performance. It is simple and amateur in every regard, and is often shelved by fans in favour of their later, more complex works that define the signature Anthrax sound. However, this is far from a generic throwaway, and is in fact a pioneering album of the thrash movement.
The sound featured is not pure thrash metal, instead featuring heavy doses of speed metal from the likes of Judas Priest's albums Screaming For Vengeance and Defenders Of The Faith, or Raven's first 3 albums. There are some more mid-tempo tracks on here that take from other members of the NWOBHM, most notably... you guessed it, Iron Maiden. The result of this heavy British influence, combined with increased muscle that was inspired from label mate Metallica and Metal Blade's Slayer, is a beefed up version of a characteristically 80's heavy metal sound, which proves to be part of this album's charm. It is one of the few instances where sounding dated works in the album's favour.
Despite the NWOBHM leanings, this sound almost nothing like their similarly 80's sounding follow-up Spreading the Disease, on account of two things, one of which is the production. It is a rather unbalanced mix that heavily focuses on the low end of the album. Sometimes the bass guitar and the drums drown out the guitars and vocals, which are relegated to fight for 3rd. They aren't inaudible however, and this odd mix actually made this the heaviest album in Anthrax's discography until their 1990 masterpiece Persistence of Time. Some songs on here, dare I say it, are heavier than what was presented on the masterful debut of Slayer. Yes, there was a time when Anthrax could be heavier than Slayer. Sadly, they were not as aggressive. No matter how crushing this mix is, the guitars sound quite soft, but they aren't warm or fuzzy, let alone muddy. They just lack the bite that contemporary thrash pioneers Metallica and Slayer had.
The other reason for this album being so distinctive and different to their 1985 sophomore effort is the insane vocal work of Neil Turbin. His voice can be described as a ludicrous, flamboyant caricature of the NWOBHM vocal style, which entails wailing, screaming and gritty mid-range work. That description sounds bad, but it isn't. His screams are some the most remarkable in the genre, his wails surpass even Joey Belladonna in power and duration, and as 'Subjugator' proves, he is capable of some menacing mid-range vocals too. Sadly the rest of the band can't match this level of distinctiveness. Dan Lilker holds a favourable position here, what with the mix, and provides an extremely prominent and powerful low end. Charlie shows some signs of what he would become, with smatterings of double bass and fills here and there, but is mostly keeping time. Dan Spitz rips some excellent speed metal solos; see the ones on 'Panic' and 'Howling Furies' for evidence of that. Scott Ian writes some fairly aggressive, though very NWOBHM sounding, riffs on here. This album doesn't have quite so many of those as the songs are short. What little there is though rivals most of the riffs featured on other speed and thrash metal albums of the day.
The songwriting is nothing amazing, mostly simple and short songs that never progress too much. But they are certainly driven and passionate, never getting repetitious or dull. The sole exception is 'Death From Above', which is too long for its own good, and 'Soldiers of Metal' is a tad cliché and uninspired. They aren't terrible though, and are still enough to make one headbang and air guitar. Also, who can forget the chorus of the former (Jet Fighter! Jet Fighter!) or the ending shriek of the latter? Some very thrash orientated songs are found here, such as 'Deathrider', 'Metal Thrashing Mad' and 'Howling Furies', which are the highlights of the album. Others, like 'Subjugator' and 'Panic' represent the sound of Overkill's debut a bit more, teetering on thrash while still being heavily rooted in the traditions of old.
This is one of weaker albums of Anthrax's 80's discography, but that is more of a statement of this band's progression throughout the decade. It also isn't saying much, given the quality of what would follow. It isn't thrash in the purest sense, and those that prefer the sound seen on the debuts of Metallica, Megadeth or Overkill are advised not to pick this album up unless you are getting it only due to its historical value. Fans of Spreading the Disease, Slayer's debut or the more aggressive songs of Judas Priest or Raven are encouraged to pick this up regardless.
Kill ‘Em All was finally released in July 1983, starting a whole new movement, setting the rules for what would be later known as thrash with their hugely influential most extreme sound around (back then, of course). Scott was already familiar with Hetfield and co.’s music; he had been in those early shows of the Mustaine era, fascinated by their intensity, velocity and aggression. Anthrax took a lot of inspiration from Metallica undoubtedly (like everybody else in those days) as their raw debut Fistful Of Metal proves. In that early subgenre stage, everything was reduced to speed and brutality for those young promising groups’ music, results were chaotic and clumsy for some, while others as these guys luckily managed to conceive something solid and competent.
The first couple of tracks “Deathrider” and “Metal Thrashing Mad” are revealing the band’s intentions to construct truly heavy music. Those direct fierce riffs seem to be exclusively intended to make the listener headbang like crazy, effectively executed and developed with scandalous simplicity, reaching a surprising level of roughness and strength. Tempos are loose and hyperactive, defined by Charlie’s precise double bass-drum kicks during the whole tunes, followed by Spitz’s also frantic pickin’, both guys unleashed. So you see, speed and shred are nearly omnipresent here, indispensable to design cuts like “Across The River” for instance, combined with some complexity and progression on other superior attempts as “Subjugator” and “Panic”. On those 2, riff alterations, bridges and instrumental passages are more notable, part of a stunning structure diversity scheme that demonstrates certain ambition from Anthrax to try something advanced and elaborated. You can even find some mellow harmonies, tenuous melody and sophistication on Spitz’s unusually rich solos. However, technique is often humble and discreet, while the group’s emphasis is rather focused on aggression only on “Soldiers Of Metal” and “Death From Above”, whose rhythms get stable and untouched mostly, following repetitive riffs that refuse offering much transcendent modifications. Actually, some parts of the record are evidently vocal-based. Turbin’s verse might get kinda exhausting at times, his choruses incessant and excessive, not only on that vigorous Alice Cooper cover. Curiously, quietest compositions feature a bigger percentage of lyrics, like “Howling Furies”, so Neil isn’t out of tempo, getting instrumentally tedious in contrast with the dynamism and action of the homonym number.
The final result for a debut is quite remarkable. Fortunately, Anthrax was formed by skilled musicians that made an accurate professional performance, specially disciplined on the fastest tempos on which speed isn’t uncontrolled. While others were getting disastrous and comically clumsy, these guys were thrashing fast with precision, particularly that terrific rhythm section Lilker-Benante, which would later speed up even more on the S.O.D. project. Scott is also a splendid rhythm guitarist, defining consistent bases for the songs with those raging riffs, far from complex and generally uniform, without showing much variations, yet efficiently constructed. Spitz’s contribution must be highlighted here, his solos are sometimes based only on velocity and poorly developed, other times really convincing and meticulously executed, richer than any other he would do later. So instrumentally, we got an impressive line-up that could do no wrong, still not making use of their entire potential because after all, progression, difficulty and maturity are lacking completely. There’s no serious ambition or challenge in these titles, they’re only trying hard to be the thrashiest like every other subgenre band back then, although their patterns provide their music of melody and refinement, tenuous but present. Turbin is actually a melodic classy singer, he might scream like mad sometimes, though his polite tender mid-range was never supposed to be extreme or guttural, making theses compositions accessible. He makes a bizarre combination with the sonic brutality of the instrumental section that worked out incredibly well. Not even Belladonna or Bush could beat that “Metal Thrashing Mad” performance…
Well, Fistful Of Metal has its limitations like every other primitive thrash debut, it might sound like an explicit Metallica rip-off so don’t be surprised if some of these riffs remind you so much of Hetfield and co. Anthrax would later determine their identity and obtain their distinctive sound, back then they only wanted to be the heaviest of all. Curiously, the Armed And Dangerous EP which introduced Frank and Joey to the fans including some renewed versions of this first album cuts, didn’t reach the consistency, power and energy of the debut performance. After all, Turbin wasn’t that weak and cheesy so don’t ignore this record; you’d miss Anthrax’s thrashiest.
Fistful of Metal and Overkill's debut Feel the Fire go hand in hand to my ears. Both are energetically delivered, sonically flawed slabs of speed/thrash architecture. However, while Feel the Fire contained multiple indisputable classics like "Rotten to the Core" and "Hammerhead", Fistful of Metal can't necessarily boast the same. The one true trump card that Anthrax has in their deck here is Turbin's air-raid siren of a voice, which is far and away more impressive than any other vocal effort the New Yorkers have committed to disc. I'm personally a big fan of John Bush (mainly in Armored Saint) and Belladonna is a functional-enough front man, but both lack the unhinged decadence present in Turbin's sound barrier-breaching screeches.
That said, a more interesting observation is that Fistful of Metal actually thrives when it slows down ever so slightly, allowing the atmosphere to accrue behind the spirited performances. As such, "Howling Furies" and "Anthrax" are two of the highlights, the former introducing a more controlled, perfunctory assault on Turbin's part alongside more well-planned songwriting. The band's namesake piece "Anthrax" features more of a dissonant atmosphere, and the main riff that the song revolves is murky and potent, definitely a step in the right direction. The hit "Metal Thrashing Mad" is a bit more mid-paced as well, and features a more anthemic slant and some great singalong lyrics.
Otherwise, Fistful of Metal is decidedly hit-or-miss at times. Spitz's proclivity to bust out a wailing solo at any (and nearly every) time is a nice touch, but after a while it starts to become too expected and loses some of it's slicing edge. The production is honestly a bit of a mess, with individual songs sounding entirely different regarding the mix along with uneven delivery on Turbin's part. The short instrumental "Across the River" and the opener "Deathrider" sound entirely different and more uneven than the rest of the record. The leads are sharp and biting, but Ian's rhythm is almost universally buried. It doesn't necessarily matter a whole lot, as Turbin is usually hogging the spotlight, but there are some decent riffs buried beneath the excess that deserve to be heard.
The entire middle section of the album does little for me, with only "Soldiers of Metal" making a strong case for it's existence. The rest is delivered with conviction, but not very well written or memorable. Being a debut, Fistful of Metal naturally gets a pass on many of these fronts, but it still damages the ability to tackle the album in a single sitting. The only other notable track is the Alice Cooper cover "I'm Eighteen", which is one of the highlights and a great transposition of a true classic.
To bring up the Overkill comparison again, they were wise enough to include a few doomy dirges into their early material like "Overkill" and the latter half of "Kill at Command". This added a decent counterpoint to the more blistering numbers and cumulatively added to the lasting power of the material. Either through lack of songwriting ability or desire to rock as hard as possible, Anthrax falls slightly short of the same prize on Fistful of Metal. The dismissal of Turbin due to tension within the band's ranks shortly after was one one the biggest mistakes Anthrax ever committed (and trust me, there are many). Regardless, as it stands, Fistful of Metal is decent and worth a listen - even if for historical significance alone.
Fistful of Metal is the first studio album by the east coast thrash metal veterans Anthrax. Since the beginning, Anthrax has being a very unique case within the borders of thrash. They would draw great influences from the NWOBHM scene, have a vocalist who could actually sing (in this case, Neil Turbin, and in later albums, Joe Belladonna) and yet incorporate elements of hardcore punk, especially in terms of harsh sound and fast tempo.
In this album yet, the punk influences are present, but they only function in such a way as to support the main structure of the songs where structure, as I mentioned before, is mainly consisted of NWOBHM influences (should I mention the twin lead harmony after the guitar solo in “Panic” that instantly brings to mind Iron Maiden?). Also, Neil Turbin performs high-pitched screams that are instantly reminding of Halford and Dickinson, although his voice is quite harsh and better described as a punkish tone sung in a heavy metal range.
So what makes this album a “speedy” thrash metal record and not a “thrashy” speed metal record? As I said before, although the function of punk influences is to support the main NWOBHM structure, they consist of a key element. This support is what identifies the band's tune. Anthrax are filtering Judas Priest and Iron Maiden through punk simplicity as someone could figure out in songs like “Metal Thrashing Mad” and “Panic” (that, by the way, are the catchier of the whole album).
Generally speaking, Anthrax are actually quite good heavy metal musicians (the vast majority of all those who passed from the band), but Anthrax doesn’t waste the meaning of their music in terms of “extraordinary” technique exposure (this doesn’t mean that there are no bands that play “crazy” stuff with passion and joy). They build their own trademark sound through harsh and fast riffs, blistering solos, a solid and simple, yet effective rhythm section, and a crazed singer on the microphone, highly energized and obsessed with a vision of demolition. They don’t rely on using chromatic scales in order to make them sound “evil” (a key element for many thrash bands). The way they play their compositions charge the songs and the album in general with adrenaline and power, yet there are some melodic moments that seem like an explosion of gathered feelings.
The song structures are typical for heavy metal, being quite nice and straight, indeed. They don’t play complicated progressive stuff; their music is made to be an instant heart attack to anyone who tries it. The sound quality of the recording is harsh and tough, transpiring the feeling of teenage spontaneity and anger. Anthrax play through the whole album living the very last word of their lyrics, banging to the very last note, and to the very last drumbeat.
Fistful of Metal is no Spreading the Disease and no Among the Living. Fistful of Metal is not Anthrax’s best album. It is a monument of speed/thrash, a monument of what teenage hormones and the will to do something that counts can do. Along with Kill ’Em All, Show No Mercy, Heavy Metal Maniac, Skeptics Apocalypse, Feel the Fire, and many others, it sets the tune for the great thrash metal and speed metal explosion in the mid '80s. Fistful of Metal is classic among these great albums. No, it’s not the best of them, but it is an excellent piece of speed/thrash history, essential not only for the fans of Anthrax, but also for anyone who likes this particular genre, this particular sound, and this particular feeling. The feeling of fast and angry heavy metal.
George ManoSwaR 08/12/11
Fistful of Metal is the debut L.P. from Anthrax. Released in February 1984, on Megaforce Records, this album is possessed by the same spirit that is present on such albums as Kill 'Em All, Show No Mercy and Killing Is My Business. The main difference is that this record is, primarily, speed metal with only bits of thrash tossed in. Along with this, it is the only album to feature the vocals of Neil Turbin (and the bass-work of Dan Lilker), which gives it a unique feeling among the band's discography.
Growing up in the 80s, Anthrax was one of the many bands that I was exposed to, in a passive manner. However, the first time I really paid attention to them was due to an appearance on "Married With Children", in February 1992. Unfortunately, the first album I purchased by them was Sound of White Noise, which was not what I was looking for. I soon ran across Fistful of Metal, on cassette, and nearly wore the thing out after so many repeated listens. For many, the Belladonna years are what defines the band's character, but I find this L.P. to be just as important and it is always the first one that I go for, when in the mood for Anthrax.
Musically, the album is quite varied. It is not high-speed all the way through, but offers a decent amount of mid-tempo tracks as well. The tone of the songwriting seems more serious than many of the other Anthrax releases, which may have a little to do with the lyrics, too. As a result, the music is a little darker, by comparison. Turbin's vocals suit the music quite well, with a lot of high-pitched screams thrown in. He actually has a good range, able to do the high stuff and to add a bit of a snarl when needed. On occasion, his voice is reminiscent of the old KISS material, which probably helped him land the job in the first place. The lead solos are also worth mentioning, as this album is full of killer solos and they really help the album along. Benante's drumming is excellent, also, showcasing his skill while keeping within the boundaries of what each song needs. The flow of the album is pretty decent, with the faster songs spaced out and arranged so that they hit right when they need to, but the vibe never becomes repetitive. They even manage to make an Alice Cooper song sound natural, among the rest of the tracks. Overall, there is still a good measure of NWOBHM influence, mixed with speed and thrash.
The sound of the album is not the best. The production is not quite as strong as that found on the debut albums of Metallica and Slayer, and the master tapes possessed flaws that have been retained throughout the years, never removed from cassette or CD re-releases. Fistful of Metal has that old school early 80s sound that truly fits the music. If the production was any clearer or more polished, the album would lose a lot of its charm. This is one of those cases where the fact that something sounds dated actually works to the benefit of the atmosphere. Everything is clear enough and the mix is quite good, with the guitars driving the album forward yet taking nothing away from the vocals and drums.
Fistful of Metal is a classic speed metal album, one that should be in the collection of any old school Metalhead. It offers a different perspective on a band that many people consider to be somewhat 'fun' or 'comical'. One has to wonder just how the band would have sounded had they not abandoned this approach. Either way, this is essential for speed / thrash fans.
Written for http://ritesoftheblackmoon.tripod.com
That artwork. Is there anything more metal than that? This is Anthrax's reply to Metallica's 'Kill 'Em All' and Slayer's 'Show No Mercy', and so you'd expect it to be full of dirty, thrash metal gems that still find their way into the band's setlist now and again. Unfortunately you'd be wrong, and whilst the music is pretty kicking, 'Fistful of Metal' is on the whole a forgettable little thing, outclassed by pretty much everything the band ever did afterwards.
The problem with this album exists purely with the singer. Neil Turbin certainly has a set of lungs on him, and his range is almost worthy of Rob Halford himself, but he lacks any character whatsoever. For instance, a song as simple as 'I'm Eighteen' (a cover of a great Alice Cooper song) needs the vocals to shine, to make the lyrics reach out to the listener. Whilst the rest of the band have interpretated the music quite well, Turbin supplies zero life to it, and the song ends up feeling as faceless as a bad Kiss song.
And as for his screaming... well. Screaming should be used sparingly and only when neccessary, to emphasize a climax, or punctuate a verse or chorus. But Turbin's constantly screaming (he can really scream) throughout the album, and I always finish listening to the album thinking there were more screams than actual singing. Again, this is down to the fact that when Turbin isn't screaming, his voice is so frustratingly boring and generic that apart from the simple and silly verses of 'Metal Thrashing Mad' and a chorus or two ('Jet FIGHTER!! Jet FIGHTER!'), you won't remember a damn thing he's sung.
In all fairness, the rest of the band can sink into sheer mediocrity at times, and is only ever saved by Dan Spitz. 'Panic' is a good example, a fairly standard speed metal track, transformed in the second half to a melodic-as-dick-catchy-as-a-pokeball joyride. Spitz is let totally loose on 'Fistful...', without the apparent parameters of later albums. Whilst he's still piddling about with pentatonics and stuff (the kind that just kill an atmosphere of a song, see 'Damage Inc.'), to someone used to hearing Danny's later more melodic/vicious/Judas Priest-type solos, it's a real nice to hear that he could do wankery-ass Hammett stuff if he wanted, but that just wasn't his style.
Sadly, the production really doesn't hold up well, and there's an unnatural amount of reverb on here that really amplifies the drums (which didn't need anymore encouragment to get louder), so the snare is insanely tight and loud throughout, and the symbols never seem to stop crashing. It's quite an unpleasant sharp sound which just soaks through the rest of the instruments as though the band recorded the thing live in studio and didn't take any care in adjusting the bleed through each microphone.
So the album doesn't ever really live up to its cover. Yes it's primitive, very very fast & heavy, and those solos are a blast, but 'Fistful of Metal' is let down by what now seems like amateur production and some soulless vocals. Besides the essential crowd favourites, 'Metal Thrashing Mad' and 'Deathrider', the rest is take it or leave it.
So as to reduce any suggestion of impropriety, I'll come out and say it immediately: I still have yet to find any work by Anthrax that I can find tolerable, much less 'good.' They are without a doubt my least favorite of the big 4 of thrash (and since I only like one of them anyway, that does mean something) and throughout their career do nothing but release album after album which I find either interminably boring at best or actively offensive to my senses at worst. I have a horrible relationship with the band and I'm still to this day incredulous that people actually enjoy them unironically.
I can't even pinpoint what it is about Anthrax that I viciously hate so much apart from how feeble and also-ran all of their material is. Of the big 4, I enjoy Slayer but basically dislike everything by Megadeth and Metallica, but at the same time, it's very easy for me to see how horrifically outclassed Anthrax is by the double Ms. Does anyone really make the argument that Anthrax can stand up to any other major thrash band from the '80s on a musical level? Slayer obliterates all of Anthrax's attempts at heaviness, Megadeth murders them on a technical level, and even Metallica robs them of the crown of pure songwriting capability. So what does that leave Anthrax with? A ton of irritating ninth-string thrash albums solely remembered and listened to by the same sort of people who are convinced Exodus will turn it around one day? They do nothing, the only thing they ever influenced were the worst and dumbest parts of thrash, and they've contributed nothing to the metal scene today apart from Scott Ian chewing the scenery on VH1 specials.
With that out of the way: 'Fistful of Metal.' I guess the most important thing to state about this is really that it's more of a power/thrash album than a straight thrash record; the influence from NWOBHM and oldschool speed metal is palpable, with Judas Priest a clearly relevant part of the whole package. With riffs that sound carved from the fastest parts of Iron Maiden's early, punk-influenced catalog, 'Fistful of Metal' is the most overtly traditional of Anthrax's discography, setting it far apart from contemporaries like Slayer who were busy pushing the boundaries of speed and aggression. Anthrax, on the other hand, seemed more inclined to simply rock out with oldschool heavy metal heavily influenced by both rock and NWOBHM. Apart from some concessions to double bass and slightly more intense tracks like 'Metal Thrashing Mad,' arguing this album as an instrumental one in the establishment of thrash would definitely be a hard sell. For the most part, the material on this disc is softer than anything on 'Kill 'Em All' or any other heavy hitter from the same era.
It's probably due to this that, rather unsurprisingly, 'Fistful of Metal' has aged worse than the debut albums of any others in the big 4. A primary offender are the vocals of Neil Turbin, who apes the big vocal names of NWOBHM but without the necessary power or natural talent to successfully replicate the style, making them come off as whiny, mush-mouthed, and ragged (and not in a good way.) Of course, the rest of the package doesn't exactly stand the test of time either- the instrumentation tends to be sluggish, lazy, and relatively unadorned, with long stretches of unbroken instrumental repetition padding out the running time excessively, 'Death From Above' being a prime example. For the most part it just sounds juvenile and easily outclassed by just about any other record from the same time. I'm really at a loss as to how Anthrax managed to keep momentum after this release when more obviously skilled members of the same scene might have floundered for a few years before consolidating their grip on the underground. These guys should have been the first to bow out of the race, but somehow, thirty years later, they're still around.
My interest in this is purely historical and my prejudices against this style of happy thrash are well known, so don't take my opinions as anything reasonable. Still, though, I can only guess as to what others hear in stuff like this- maybe this was good enough back in '84 (though I doubt it,) but we're definitely past this now. Just about anything from the same era was better from this, but I have no doubt a copy of this resides in your collection like a canker sore even then.
If there is one thing that albums like this one do not deserve, it is to be shelved as some sort of Solid Rocket Booster that ran its course the minute something different and more definitive was put out by the band in question. Fortunately, throughout Anthrax’s career in the 80s they didn’t pull a Def Leppard and disowned what got them to where they were, although much of this album was not proportionally represented on their set lists during the later 80s and then completely stripped from their live shows when Belladonna left as some sort of obsolete software program.
The label generic, when applied to this album, is extremely unfair considering that the most thrash-oriented song on here, “Howling Furies”, was recorded in demo format a mere matter of months after the first recording of “Hit the Lights”, all the way the hell over in New York. Granted, the principle riff of the most popular song on here “Metal Thrashing Mad” is cut from the same speedier format of a NWOBHM riff that can be found on the opening thrasher from Metallica’s debut and Riot’s “Swords and Tequilla”, something of a proto-speed/thrash song from 2 years before this album was recorded, also in their native New York. But there is nothing on here that is any more or less derivative than Metallica’s “Kill Em’ All” is, and this one proves to be a lot more fun.
“Fistful of Metal” listens very much like a 1983 proto-thrash album, very similar to Slayer’s “Show No Mercy”, but without all of the occult oriented lyrics and a very different vocal approach. Neil Turbin’s vocal delivery is nothing short of amazing. Even when compared against the most ridiculously flamboyant voices of the NWOBHM, the amount of rawness combined with solidly executed, glass shattering high notes dwarfs them all. The vocal delivery is not really in line with anything put out by the others in the Big 4, and even dwarfs the vocal acrobatics Blitz put forth on Overkill’s first two albums. One listen to the opening blazer “Deathrider”, with its vintage speed riffs and endless high end siren wails, and Belladonna and company struggling in recreating what is on here live is to be expected.
The band also proves capable of slowing it down a little, though there isn’t anything that comes close to being slow or subdued. The Alice Cooper cover is a fairly typical blend of faithful reproduction and an extra bit of speed and aggression to give it a metal edge that Anthrax is known for, not to mention a good display of Turbin’s ability to sing in a normal ranged voice without sounding garbled or gritty like Dave Mustaine. The band’s self-titled song presents an early version of the mid-tempo thrasher, kicking off with an evil slower intro that sounds quite similar to the louder part of the beginning of “Among the Living”. Some of it also features ideas similar to “Four Horsemen”; it’s something of a brainchild of their own evolving thrash formula and the time they spent with Metallica.
Aside from the aforementioned exceptions to the rule, the bulk of the material on here heavily resembles early Overkill speed metal. “Panic”, “Subjugator” and “Death from Above” all follow simplistic structures, featuring a singular driving riff with a few variations, a singular guitar solo and repetitive vocal sections. They are all extremely memorable and fun, but they tend to lag behind the sheer intensity of “Demonrider” and the heavy edged “Howling Furies”, which is proceeded by one of Dan Spitz’s finest moments as a lead guitarist “Across the River”.
Although a pretty unpopular viewpoint in thrash circles, I’d put this one slightly above “Kill Em’ All”, “Ride the Lightning”, “Show No Mercy” and only slightly behind Overkill’s debut. It really captures that raw, unadulterated love of excessive speed and crushing guitar riff goodness that typified the early speed/thrash scene in America. It heavily resembles NWOBHM and the early German speed metal of Helloween and Running Wild, but the level of intensity sets it and the genre the band helped pioneered in a different realm. I often wonder how “Spreading the Disease”, the one album by Anthrax I like better than this one, would have sounded like with Turbin at the helm. The only reason why Belladonna remains the top Anthrax singer, in my personal opinion, is because he lasted longer than one album; as I am sure is the case with the question of Di’anno versus Dickinson in Iron Maiden circles.
Even if Anthrax were included in the thrash metal founder’s group back at the beginning of the 80s, their debut was yet in pure speed metal style and even if, from Spreading The Disease, they began to fill their sound with heavier parts, here we couldn’t find them. Exodus, Slayer, Megadeth and Metallica were far more thrasher.
Their way of playing speed metal was quite particular with the good use of fast double kicks, as we can find in the opener “Deathrider”. The rhythms are always fast with catchy melodies and fast guitars. We can find also some hardcore influences in the riffage of a song like “Metal Thrashing Mad”. This is a true hymn for the first generation of thrashers and metalheads in general. Here we can find also some more thrash metal parts but everything sounds very melodic and a bit sugary if we want.
The Alice Cooper cover song “I’m Eighteen” is perfectly done and that original atmosphere has been conserved during each and every note. The group’s skills are always well visible, especially during the melodic/fast guitars solos. Neil Turbin has the classic speed metal voice, that sometimes is NWOBHM influenced, especially when it doesn’t go so high in the tonality. It’s good but surely not so personal and powerful. “Panic is remarkable for the great Iron maiden style solos and for Benante’s way of playing the drums: he’s always excellent, precise and restless.
The other songs are always quite enjoyable but they cannot compete with the goodness of the first three ones. Sometimes there is some filler parts in some songs that could be perfect without even just one minute of music. It’s the case of “Subjugator” or “Death From Above”. “Soldiers of Metal” is quite funny for the childish lyrics and it’s understandable for the period. Anyway, it seems to me that going on, the album loses in impact and ideas, becoming a bit too monotonous and boring.
The only remarkable song is “Howling Furies” for the apocalyptic, murky atmosphere. The riffs here are better structured and less impulsive, re-conquering some good ideas. At the end, this Fistful Of Metal presented us a young band that was growing musically and technically; a band that was more speed metal oriented than thrash but everything already sounds quite good. It’s difficult to put out a masterpiece for a debut and surely Anthrax didn’t do it but it’s a good way of discovering early 80s sonorities.
Nothing spectacular about this debut by Anthrax except for four very good songs. Most of this album is still build around NWOBHM riffs and melodies (and even an Alice Cooper cover) and some up tempo speed metal material comparible to early Metallica. But still a far cry from the type of music we’d now like to call thrash metal. “Fistful Of Metal” is a decent album with a few highlights.
There are two songs here that are an omen of the thrash metal side of Anthrax. Ultimately these songs are also two of the best songs on the album. I am talking about “Deathrider”and “Panic”. These songs are very similar to the song “Gung Ho” on the next Anthrax album. Up tempo, faily simple, cathcy vocal lines and especially “Panic” has a brilliant solo section in the middle.
Then there is of course the anthem “Metal Thrashing Mad” which also is a step ahead of the rest of the album in terms of being more speed metal already and reminiscent of their next album. Last but not least I must mention “Howling Furies” which is in fact more NWOBHM than later Anthrax but simply a very good song with a catchy opening riff.
Neil Turbin is an adequate vocalist. But as we all know his successor Joey Belladonna focussed more on the melodies which proved very successful for Anthrax in years to come. Neil balances between some melody and standard raw metal vocals and sounds decent but never stands out.
Dan Lilker co-wrote some material but he still has a serving role on these recordings. Nothing spectacular about his parts here. I’m glad he, Scott and Charlie later on (after Dan had left Anthrax) did something else which suited them so much better (S.O.D.).
I do not dislike this album but I obviously prefer the next 5 Anthrax albums. The earlier mentioned four songs however are the kind of songs we’ve all been hoping Anthrax would once again start to writing after they musically crashed on Stomp442! Ohw, and just like the debut albums by Metallica, Slayer and Megadeth, the Anthrax debut also features one of the worst album covers in thrash metal history. Something they all got right the second time!
ANTHRAX - FISTFUL OF METAL
Anthrax were well known in their time for being one of the more distinctive and unique thrash bands of their day despite never touching on much new ground as far as influence or innovation was concerned. Even to this day Anthrax's main legacy was influence on mallcore, stemming from their cover/remix of Public Enemy's "Bring The Noise". However Anthrax did not know this when starting out, and they were simply a band trying to make a name for themselves.
The music presented on this release isn't completely thrash, it has alot of traditional heavy metal influence on it still and at times even sounds like a more aggressive/souped up version of Judas Priest crossed with Iron Maiden. Most of the guitar solos here are harmonic heavy, and Neil Turban sounds like a stereotypical traditional metal vocalist almost entirely. Only "Metal Thrashing Mad" and "Howling Furies" have distinctive thrash elements, with the first of them being the direct border between speed and thrash. The rest is pure Speed Metal for the most part. The riffs aren't particularly fast or grabbing save for a few great riffs such as the opening riff for "Panic". The drum work sounds bland and pretty uninspired for the most part. The guitar work turned in here is more then solid although not really anthrax.
Some highlights include "Metal Thrashing Mad", "Deathrider", "Howling Furies" and the cheesy and fun "Soldiers of Metal". All of these songs are executed well to enough of an extent that they ought to be on Anthrax's setlist from time to time. "Metal Thrashing Mad" is a true speed/thrash metal anthem and combines the best elements of both genres into some catchy vox and catchy riffs. Easily a must-own song for any thrasher. "Deathrider" is a nice opening to the album, and has possibly the coolest riffs on here. "Howling Furies" wouldn't be out of place on a later Anthrax album such as "Spreading the Disease" if it wasn't for the vocals. Easily the thrashiest song on here, and easily worthy of a highlight spot. "Soldiers of Metal" has cool drumming, and a really nice chugging riff. Its just a general metal anthem that is executed well by the band.
The lowlights are the recurring feelings or oddness on alot of these tracks. Alot of solo's sound almost like deja vu from a Judas Priest album, not to mention that the vocals just sound downright repetitive half the time. The riffs aren't that amazing, and while their solidly memorable their is too much chugging even for a speed metal album. In general this album provides primitive, fun and occasionally catchy speed metal. Its not that its not worth listening to, its that its downright weak compared to other Anthrax releases from later in their career. Of course it still has value and deserves a listen every once in a while for sure. I'll admit it took me a while to really appreciate this one, but having listened to alot more traditional heavy metal/NWOBHM made me appreciate this a lot more. So in the end, while not Anthrax's best, Fistful of Metal is not that bad a album after all. It may be one step away from thrash, but its a downright competent debut.
Conclusion: Pretty much an average album of Speed Metal, but worth getting easily. One step away from thrash and being truly good, but definitly an average album in the genre its in.
As probably all of you Anthrax fans out there know their singer of this era, Neil Turbin, wasn't too great for them. I find this album great in many ways but there's no doubt on who's the better singer, Neil or Joey Belladonna... It's defenitely Joey. This is a typical 80's Metal album with raw production, great guitar solos & the vocals are very 80's too.
It seems like many people like this album except for the vocals & well, it's true that these guys would find their singer later in 1984 but if we just focus on this release right now & we'll see what's good with this album....
It starts with a great opening track called "Deathrider", a classic then & still a classic today. It's a great example of how good thrash metal is supposed to be played. Track #2 might be an even bigger classic & it's called "Metal Thrasin' Mad". The title has become a description of how thrash metal is, it's simply heavy metal that goes thrashin' mad (fast of course). The first more lacker track is "I'm 18", an Alice Cooper cover that isn't any special. The next 2 tracks are classics aswell & is still loved by many Anthrax fans but then the rest is pretty much average due to the fans but not for me. I like every track on this release & I don't really understand why there isn't more fans that like "Howling Furies"... I mean, it's a great tune but the production drags it down.
Well, the production is in my opinion both pretty good & really bad. The good things is that you can hear anything but the bad thing is that nothing's stabilized. The raw guitars drowns in a sea of bass & drums & that can really get you on your nervs sometimes. Except for that thing it's pretty good, not expensive but probably the best production of the big fours diverse debut albums.
The cast performs great, although they would become better... Especially Charlie. Dan Spitz performs some really nice guitar solos while Scott Ian & Dan Lilker is steady as rocks in the background of it all. Neil Turbin is an OK singer but not the right one for Anthrax, I wouldn't say that he drags this album down in the dirt but he didn't really lift it to the stars either. He was OK but it became better with Joey Belladonna as their singer.
I strongly recomend this release for any fan of Metal music. Love it, hate it, I don't care!
The first time I heard Anthrax it was with their 3rd full length album "Among The Living" and in my opinion is the second best thrash metal album ever written. I really got into Anthrax and decided to find all their stuff, and there isn't a better way to get to know a band than by starting with their first album, right?
At first, I noticed the different vocals. It's Neil Turbin who sings here, and although Belladonna was the best Anthrax vocalist, Turbin may be the second. He actually screams the lyrics instead of singing them and it really fits the songs well. "Fistful Of Metal" is maybe the most aggressive and the dirtiest album by Anthrax. The lyrics usually have to do with violence, death, driving fast and other pretty cool stuff.
The music itself has fast guitar riffs and really cool solos. "Deathrider" has such a kick ass main riff that will really get you into a headbanging mood 'til your neck breaks, and with insane high pitched screams and a catchy chorus, this is definitely the best song here and one of Anthrax's greatest hits. "Metal Thrashing Mad" is a totally amazing classic with a simple and great guitar riff and outstanding bass line during the solo. The Alice Cooper cover is much better than the original version, but it isn't of the level of the original songs here because it's maybe a little bit slower and less interesting. Another outstanding song is the closing track "Howling Furies". Here Turbin really sings calmly and doesn't scream. The riffs are just wonderful, the second solo is the best one in the whole album, and it's just an amazing way to close such a great album.
This album is, without a doubt, one of the best albums in the 80's thrash scene. Each song here is good in its own way and you won't get bored of this album easily. I have heard it so many times that I can't remember exactly how many times I've enjoyed this goddamn album.
Highly recommended for all the "metal thrashing mads" out there.
I really shouldn't like Anthrax, they consist of pretty much every element of music I hate. On this album they use these elements more than usual, and I almost think this is their best effort. There are heaps of elements that usually relate to "fun" music, which I generally see as lame and irritating. The vocals are high, I mean extremely high, the guitar tone isn't overly fierce, the lyrics are often about 'being metal' and other stupid shit, The cover is stupidly over the top, and finally, you have the look that they sported, not just long hair, they were full out glam frizzy hair, but still this album just kicks so much ass.
However, this album is fun, not stupid power metal shit that most people pass off as fun, this is actually fun to listen to. The tones of the band are not overly aggressive, but the riffs are fast and are generally as good thrash riffs as you can find. Despite being fast, their are so many headbangable grooves through here you can't help but get sucked into this.
Most of the songs are in the fast to very fast range, with the exception of the Alice Cooper cover, in fact, this is probably the fastest of the big four debuts. Helping this speedy approach to metal is the quality production this album has. Note that I have the re-release with the Armed and Dangerous EP, and it seems as if the production has been massively improved since it's original release. Anyway, people looking to buy this at this stage probably aren't going to find it on vinyl. Back to the production... It's clear and allows the fast guitarwork and drumming to sound fantastic and easily discernible from each other. Also the crisp sounding guitars avoids 'muddiness' which could easily cause the riffs to run together and loose some of that groove.
This album also has a surprisingly strong drum sound, which is extremely rare for thrash albums, with an almost modern level of dominance. This leads to the music having that irresistible groove due to the catchy drumwork. Not overly polished, or difficult, but damn it emphasises the sheer amounts groove on this album.
It's this simultaneous mix of groove and thrash metal (Which doesn't happen much, most bands generally just do one or the other. And yes, I know groove metal wasn’t around yet) which actually makes the high pitched vocals of Neil Turbin actually seem like they fit. He actually does come across as fun and enjoyable. Turbin is about as enjoyable as Belladonna. Both have their advantages and drawbacks. Turbin has a little bit of a rougher sound on his lower vocals, which I enjoy as it makes the sound a little harsher, and avoids making the album becoming too fun and cheesy, maintaining the album's serious respectability. However, He has an awful high squeal, he just vibratos the note like 7 times a second and it kind of sounds like high pitched controlled gargling.
This really hurts other wise solid, catchy fun songs such as "Metal Thrashing Mad" and "Panic", as they have too much emphasis on these notes that are executed so poorly.
The song writing on the album isn't overly amazing, most songs have a verse which flies along at insane speeds, before going into a chorus which generally involves one guitar playing heavier chords in a simple, but effective manner, while the other continues the lower fast as hell rhythm. Then there's generally a solo after that and another chorus. There you go, you have how all the songs are written, luckily the riffing and rhythm sections flow along with enough originality and catchiness make this not a problem.
The songs have one last element which makes them stand out. The Soloing. This is sheer catchy, musical soloing at it's finest, they're very fast and don't really deviate from the tempo of the song, allowing the solos to fit into the songs perfectly, again, making the album more concise and enjoyable, but restricting the number of major tempo changes.
As for best songs, I'd have to say the opener "Deathrider" is the best song on here for the "High pitched haters" like my self, as there are really no notes out of place, and it's verse riff is probably the most fun riff ever written, "Howling Furies" has pretty much the same riff, and also a little bit more variation to the old layout.
There aren't any bad songs as such to be found, "Panic" has some annoying vocals, and the cover of Alice Cooper’s "I'm Eighteen" is average, but even then, those aren’t bad songs, only average ones.
In conclusion, every thrash fan should have this, and even if you're not a thrash fan this album deserves to be in your collection, if only for something to throw on every now and then for some actually fun music.
I was actually really disappointed with this album. When I bought it I already owned Among the Living and Spreading the Disease, which are both very amazing, fast heavy albums. This album lacks so much that those albums have. Charlie really didn’t get the whole drumming thing on this album, and Neil Turbin’s vocals are terrible. On top of that, it probably has the worst production I have ever seen on an album.
There are four decent tracks on this album, Deathrider, Panic, I’m Eighteen, and Metal Thrashing Mad, the other six songs aren’t anywhere near good, making this the worst debut of the Big Four, with Show No Mercy, Killing Is My Business, and Kill ‘Em All in front of them.
It may have been Neil Turbin that made this album so bad, I don’t know, for he is only on this album, but the second album Spreading the Disease, which came out one year later, was much different, heavier, faster, and you could tell that everything was written so much better. So Turbin may have just been holding them back, while Joey Belladonna, let them do it how they wanted to do it. So, if you are a diehard Anthrax fan, then this is for you. But if you are expecting another Among the Living, or Spreading the Disease, then you won’t like this album at all.
So heed my warning and don’t get this unless you really want it, and as I said, I prefer Show No Mercy to this, which is not a very good album it self.
I hope you found my review helpful, just remember what I said.
Oh man, this album just gets me up in arms. Sure it's not the most refined thrash album, nor is it the most technical, but by God, it may just be one of the most fun, enjoyable listening experiences in the entire genre. One can't help but headbang to every single glorious moment of it.
Looking at the cover image, you know this album is going to rule. Yeah, I've said it before, and I'll probably say it again. But the image of some guy getting his face destroyed by a chainmail-clad fist just screams heavy fucking metal to me. I first discovered Anthrax during the John Bush era and almost completely disregarded them as utter crap. Thankfully, I stumbled upon this prime example of classic thrash metal and was forever converted to the Anthrax fanbase.
I actually prefer this to all the other Big Four debut albums. Not to slight any of them, but their debuts cannot top this. I think it's due in part to the magnificently over the top vocal performance of Neil Turbin. Holy shit, that guy can wail like no one else.His first line on "Soldiers of Metal" is downright amazing. Very reminiscent of Manowar's own Eric Adams. I can only imagine Neil's solo stuff to be equally impressive. The lyrics he delivers aren't bad either, even if they don't stray from early thrash's typical subject matter.
The guitarwork here is phenomenal. Maybe it's the killer quality of the riffing throughout or the solid production, but the guitarwork sounds amazing. The lead guitar work is quite impressive as well, accentuating the rhythm guitar parts it happens to appear over. Lots of memorable solo/riff combinations here, namely the intros to "Death from Above" and "Anthrax." Legendary heavy metal, my friends.
Charlie Benante's drumming is clearly heads and tails over just about everybody else at the time of this album's release. His intricate playing coupled with Danny Lilker's sweet bass work make for a rock solid rhythm section.
If you're any kind of metal fan, you should be able to appreciate the glorious thrash metal presented here. The only song I don't really care for is the instrumental "Across the River," mainly because I enjoy Neil's vocal work so much. I might even argue this as Anthrax's best album simply because of Turbin's presence. A good vocalist can make all the difference sometimes. But anyway, this is a solid, powerful, creative, and yes, a glorious thrash metal masterpiece that should garner far more respect and admiration than it generally does. Highly recommended.
(note: this is a resubmission. My old review was worked up to this album being a 5 star classic, but after a few recent listens, I realized it really isnt)
I dont mean to be an ass, but this really isnt a great album. It has a few songs that are absoloutley great, and when they are good, they are smoking! But there is a lot of filler on this. Examples are Soldiers of Metal, Death From Above and Across the River. I'm also not keen on Deathrider, but its still an alright song to listen to.
But man oh man, the rest of the album is collosal. Metal Thrashing Mad, Panic, Subjugator, Anthrax, Howling Furies. All of these mentioned songs are absoloutley great. Anthrax has a heavy intro which shortly speeds up and Panic has a very nice Maiden worship "speed harmony" in the middle which makes the song all the more better. Subjugator is a personal favorite of mine, due to its different shades and colors. Its filled to the brim with solos and riffs, and the vocals are also great. It's probably my personal favorite on the album. Death From Above tries to be this song, but fails horribly because of its repetitive and annoying chorus.
I guess there are a few things that make this album less than it could be. First off is the annoying vocals of singer Neil Turbin. No doubt, the guy can wail, he can shout, and he has lots of conviction behind his voice, but I find it annoying, over the top, and clownlike. Now hearing this from a guy who enjoys Joey Belladonna, Bobby Blitz and Rob Halford, obviously cant be a good thing.
Another thing is the sub par production. The guitars are very low in the mix, and the bass and drums overpower it. I think they perfected this sound on the Spreading the Disease album, where they struck a balance of all the instruments without them overshadowing one another. The songwriting could also be better. It doesnt have a shortage of good riffs, but the songs themselves are hardly memorable, with the exception of the ones I praised above. Of course, they were pretty much a Judas Priest clone in these days, but even Slayer did the NWOBHM type sound better, while maintaining originality.
Luckily, Anthrax sacked neil Turbin after this album and the production quality went up a few notches after this one. This is not a horrible album, just nothing outstanding or noteworthy. Still, for die hard Anthrax albums, its something worth hearing, because even if the listening experience isnt good, seeing the progress from this album to Among the Living will be.
It's pretty difficult to fuck up speed metal. This album is a bit generic, but for 1984 it will pass. The songs are nice and catchy, and there are really no throwaways. Neil Turbin's vocals are completely over the top, and for some people that is a negative point, but I thorougly enjoy them.
There are a few thrash moments here, but not as many as on, say Show no Mercy or Kill 'em All. Howling Furies has a nice backbone thrash riff, and Metal Thrashing Mad is pretty much borderline between speed and thrash. The rest is all-out speed metal. Some of the guitar work is totally reminiscent of Judas Priest or even Iron Maiden, especially the middle solo of the song Panic, which has a definite Let us Prey vibe.
The weakest song on here is probably the Alice Cooper cover, I'm Eighteen. It's not bad, just not blazing fast, but oh well. Highlights include the aforementioned Panic, Subjugator... "lashing out, striking down, all those who stand in the way!" - also Death From Above ("jetfighter! jetfighter!"), and the most thrashy song on here, Howling Furies, which would not look out of place on Spreading the Disease. Overall, a pretty decent album.