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"Young and free, something you'll never be!". The first lines of Anthrax's sophomore output resume the band's spirit back in the days very well. The East Coast thrash metal legend performs carefree songs full of enthusiasm without any compromises. Stylistically, the band sounds still much closer to the New Wave of British Heavy Metal than to the pitiless thrash metal between liberatingly humorous lyrics and socially critical statements on later outputs. The cool main riff of "Madhouse" could be taken from a Judas Priest record of the early eighties while the harmonious guitar play and the high pitched chorus of "S.S.C./Stand or Fall" have obvious Iron Maiden influences. New singer Joey Belladonna offers his most enthusiastic performance and isn't afraid of high notes or fast passages. His technical struggles here and there are outpowered by his charming juvenile spirit. The tight rhythm section of bass guitar and drums harmonizes well and grooves, pushes and rushes us through nine vivid tracks. The guitar work is extraordinary as one can hear both tight heavy metal riffs and orgasmic melodic high-speed guitar solos in all tracks of this fun ride.
Despite numerous influences from other bands, Anthrax always manages to add a surprising note to each song and keeps a high degree of original diversity without losing the carefree guiding line. Especially the opening moments of most tracks are courageous, entertaining and original. The humorous radioplay overture of the charismatic "Madhouse" reminds me of the thought provoking drama One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. The acoustic guitar opening of "S.S.C./Stand or Fall" almost recalls traditional flamenco influences. The drum play and sound effects in the beginning of "The Enemy" make almost any metal fan play air drums and bang his head. The folk infused sounds in the beginning of "Armed and Dangerous" that are carried on by appeasing acoustic guitars and heartbreaking electric guitar solos are atmospheric and progressive but nevertheless related to classic heavy metal. This is one of the most melodic and also outthought tracks ever written by the band. On the other side, Anthrax closes the record with its fastest song ever which is the chaotic and humorous "Gung Ho" where all instruments break loose towards the intentionally random ending.
There are only two songs I enjoy a little bit less on an otherwise incredibly strong output somewhere between classic heavy metal, American power and thrash metal and a small dose of hardcore punk. "Aftershock" has some interesting lyrics and can be seen as a hint at more politically inspired texts to come from the band but the chorus lacks energy and originality and the usually emotional guitar solos on this record are missing on this tune. "Medusa" is slightly better because of a solid heavy metal main riff and a great melodic vocal performance in the verses but the slightly psychedelic and noisy chorus is rather off-putting and plain weird as it doesn't fit at all to the rest of the song. If these two tracks weren't on the record, it would maybe be the best American heavy and power metal album of all times. Despite these two average tunes, this album still is a classic must have for fans of the aforementioned genres.
There is only one thing left to talk about. I would like to know what happened to Mister Brown. The mentally disabled patient welcomes his medicine with hysterical laughter in the beginning of "Madhouse" and one can hear him again during the chaotic and liberating party that is going on during "Gung Ho". Maybe he was able to escape from the madhouse as one can hear him again in another crowd during the performance of "Bud E Luv Bomb and Satan's Lounge Band", a b-side of the band's third record. As far as I know, he was never heard of again after his appearance during this crazy concert with a couple of drunkards in a social club. What happened to Mister Brown? I hope this secret will get revealed one day and that we might hear of him again on Anthrax's next studio record.
Spreading The Disease, Anthrax's sophomore release, is their first album with Belladonna on vocals. He is much better than his predecessor, or his successor. The music at play here is somewhat improved over the debut, but it would improve greatly moving to the next album. On this, they still had plenty of kinks to work out.
The vocals on here are great, and he apparently won some awards for his performance on this album. On songs like A.I.R., he adds a great amount by the way he sings. On that song in particular, he hits a level of clean vocals that very few have hit. Most of the time, I just think of Joey as good, but he's great on that song. He gives an epic feel to that song that would rival some of Dickinson's better work. If you don't believe me, listen to the song again. This album is designed where he can more easily showcase his good range and much less of the grit seen on Among and Persistence.
The drumming is as good as expected as Benante puts up a reasonably good performance. A track like Madhouse features some excellent double bass. He is pretty easily the most interesting instrumentalist. The bass player on this album is new, Frank Bello. He is the nephew of the drummer and he had been a roadie for them. Lilker would go on to form Nuclear Assault and also worked on a few other bands. Frank here is fairly audible, but he really doesn't do much for my liking.
The guitars on here are fairly mediocre. These are just not very good, varied, technical, or interesting in any way riffs. They are big and sometimes fast. This is enough for me to enjoy a handful of tracks, but the playing is just plain meh. The soloing as well is rather odd. Some people enjoy Spitz's solos, but for me they're just weird. They aren't very aggressive, melodic, or technical. They are also rather similar after awhile. Ian is on TV a great deal these days and I wonder if he isn't being used as a sort of obligatory metal opinion/aficionado. I find this rather bizarre as Joey and Charlie are far more enjoyable than Ian has ever been, and there have been many metal bands to chose a voice. I suspect that the force of the east coast media (yeah, I went there) has helped him out in terms of staying relevant.
The direction on here is not focused. Most of the reason Joey can show off his range is the fact that much of this is USPM. I enjoy early Fates Warning and several others, but they made whole, quality albums off of it. This is a power/thrash mix that alternates at times and just doesn't work very well for me. It might have also helped had the album been consistent in quality. There are a few gems here, but most of these are just uninteresting. One positive I will note is the difference between Madhouse and (Welcome Home) Sanitarium. The former works better as a song because Anthrax understand what kind of subject matter they're dealing with. Escaping from or living in an asylum is not deep or heavy. It's just either sad or funny. Anthrax carefully made it into the latter and it works very well. Metallica chose to try to make it heavy and they failed.
This was just not a very cohesive or, at the end of the day, a good album. It isn't unlistenable, but I wouldn't want to go start to finish either. A. I. R., Madhouse, and Aftershock are the songs that I enjoy. For as much love as this album often gets by old school thrash fans, I just don't really get it. Anthrax did much better on Among and Persistence. I suspect it's a built-up love from nwobhm. This still had many of those elements of simple catchiness, among others. I'm not much a fan of that style, so an album that was hearkening back when it was new does little for me and I doubt it will do anything for a younger listener.
I recommend a fan of early, power, or thrash to grab the songs I mentioned. A fan of nwobhm could perhaps enjoy the whole thing.
Anthrax’s second album meant a big step forward for the achievement of their characteristic sound, pushing away the topical elements of early thrash they included on the refreshing debut Fistful Of Metal. The crucial changes in the line-up contributed to develop their own style. Belladonna’s explicitly melodic voice would make the band’s music totally unique and peculiar, specially. These guys got rid of a competent bassist and song-writer (Mr. Lilker) but added an also professional player (Frank). This formation already proved itself competent on the Armed And Dangerous EP, though they needed to make it clearer by writing new material if they wanted to compete with the bunch of serious rivals around.
Their ways have become more sophisticated and precise, as the brilliant display of energy and controlled velocity on “A.I.R.” shows, which isn’t exclusively intended to be brutal and harsh, its melody and certain difficulty were unexplored elements on previous attempts. “Armed And Dangerous” embraces a similar scheme, right after that cheesy acoustic intro it turns into raging power thrash, as vibrant and disciplined as the opening cut, professionally constructed and passionate. Other thrashy compositions whose riffs nature fits the subgenre standards are the outrageous “Gung-Ho”, kinda humoristic and stripped-down from the precision of the rest, becoming a chaos at the end intentionally, in contrast with the more serious performance on “Aftershock”, which is fast too but clearly vocal-based with that tiring lyrical repetition making it unoriginal. Velocity and vigor soon get discreet on the rest of the record, deprived of thrashy lines, featuring more calmed tempos and a much notable presence of melody. Well, “S.S.C./Stand Or Fall” is kinda aggressive and loose, though once again the tender vocals make it so accessible. Verses get even mellower on “Lone Justice” and “Madhouse”, on which Anthrax combine heavier riffs, traditional quiet rhythms and insistent lyrics successfully, denying thrash’s basic characteristics. Melody is incessant on those as well, brilliantly materialized by Joey’s delicate voice, who’s even leading the instrumental sections on some “Medusa” sequences. That’s the slowest number of the pack, conceived by a weighty rhythm and powerful rough riffs, the absence of velocity and aggression is scandalous in comparison with the thrashy titles, fortunately the band develops it correctly, even though guitar lines remain untouched mostly.
Back then, Anthrax were denying thrash standards generally, 60% of this record should be rather described as heavy metal, melodic, weighty and polite. The nature of riffs speaks for itself on most of the compositions along with the common tempos. At times Charlie is making use of one bass-drum only, a shocking fact if you compare this with the terminal velocity of S.O.D.. Actually, for this project, it seems Scott preferred not introducing hardcore influences, I guess this was intended to be serious, reflecting a clear inspiration from heavy rock heroes as Iron Maiden and Kiss instead of emulating Motörhead and Venom as most of their peers did by that time. The exceeding percentage of melody and the supremacy of vocals make it evident, which turned the dynamism and fury of the debut into something more refined and commercial. However, the thrashy exceptions must be highlighted. They were the precursors of the splendorous sound these guys would achieve afterwards, determined by those hyperactive rhythms, violent riffs and raw attitude. It seems they did a wrong choice by playing so many casual slow tunes instead of going further into the previous record patterns of speed and intensity. It would’ve been a much more consistent energetic record if they kept aggression and loose riffing stable. Although this material is musically stronger than the primitive debut, inevitably, not only because instrumentally this is more advanced and exact, also because technically they reached a higher level. Of course, it’s not super complex, though structures are more solid, intentions not that vain, melody better defined. On other hand, these numbers lack the stunning energy and roughness of Fistful Of Metal, no matter how musically superior they are. And well, that tremendously dry clean production didn’t help, it particularly made that backing choir sound comical and dumb (voices distorted as Neanderthals screaming!).
They were still looking for their sound, evolving, exploring, step by step they were defining their identity. Spreading The Disease wasn’t the culmination, it obviously contributed to that process, we wouldn’t have splendid later albums if the band didn’t go through this primitive stage. So many cuts here ain’t thrash strictly but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy them as long as you tolerate melody and sophistication. The most diehard subgenre fans might find it boring, though after all, these guys have always been transgressing the thrash standards by playing it melodic, including urban lyrics, breaking the usual limitations and clichés proudly, something that made them victims of vituperation for many years, something that took guts for sure.
Stale bread works. It's fine. Put a little mayonnaise and some deli meat and cheese and you have a decent lunch. Anthrax's stale songwriting is made stronger by record company muscle. That muscle makes this album widely available to the masses for cheap consumption. Much like stale bread.
That cheapness is the very reason I got this album. I remember sampling a trough of Anthrax on the internet a long time ago, and even then thinking that it sounded pretty boring. But I saw this new, not even used, at a fye for like 6 bucks, so I snatched it up. Now it’s nigh impossible to make me regret a purchase so cheap, but thank goodness it is cheap.
The songwriting here is very boring. The only parts that separate the songs in my memory are the vocal lines, which are delivered with gusto by Belladonna. He doesn't have the most powerful voice, but his enthusiasm comes through, even if he sometimes sounds pretty flat and flawed. The chorus of Lone Justice is a great example of his voice just not being strong enough to achieve what I think they wanted to achieve. "...stubbled chin, he rides through historeeeeeee!" Listen to it, it falls so flat of the power it should have had. Which makes the cheesiness of the lyrics that more obvious.
He fares better and tracks like Madhouse and Armed and Dangerous, where his wonky delivery fits perfectly with the music. Like the weird inflection used when belting out "Armed and DANGER-US!” I find his best performance vocally here is on Medusa, my personal favorite here, because the vocal lines are the most memorable.
For musically this album struggles to hold my attention. For one, the guitar tone is like the tinny sound on ...And Justice for All but without the concussive power to them. Though unlike Justice this album actually has a great bass tone albeit it just follows the rhythm guitar. And the guitars are so uneventful; it drives me crazy thinking how and why this band got signed to a big label.
After repeated listens, almost no sections are in my memory. I just fucking listened to it two minutes ago and I don't know how the hell I'm going to finish this review! Grasping at straws, the main riff of A.I.R. is nice and bouncy, with a good groove to it. And it's no surprise that I remember that riff, since it is repeated through the entire song....
But really that’s all I can remember. The songs do not progress in a memorable fashion. There are no great bridges, or solos that stick out at all. Just decent rhythmic chugging for every song. Only a few decent choruses. Madhouse comes to mind immediately, and the delivery is one of the more solid of the album, though still lacking a lot of the power I wanna hear from my metal vocalists.
The few chorus sections that aren't decent are downright grating. If gang shouts are your thing then pick this up, but holy shit it annoys me. I was gonna count how many times STAND OR FALL is shouted in that damn song to illustrate my point, but I can't put myself through it. Armed and Dangerous would have been a highlight if it wasn't for the freaking gang shouts. And Gung-Ho is downright annoying for the same reason. Some albums gang shouts sound a little off (like The New Order) but here the tone is actually pretty good, but that does not mean it should be flaunted 3000 times in the 45 minute run time.
The Enemy is a nice moodier track and, along with live staple Madhouse, has a very good use of gang shouts. But the album definitely suffers from an over-saturation of them, and even the more effective ones aren't as powerful as heard on "In Union We Stand" or "Wake up Dead." In fact on every level this album isn't as effective as a slew of other thrash bands. The riffs go in circles, the drumming is hardly noticeable, forget about memorable, the bass is there which I suppose makes it better then on some albums, and the vocalist sounds less like a singer and more like a guy with a high pitched voice. But, as stated before, this album can be found very easily, and for cheap.
And that is my verdict and tip of the day for you. This is not horrendous or revolting. It's pretty effective in some respects. It’s got a decent bass tone, a respectable vocalist though his range and dynamics are not top quality, and a nice lightheartedness to it that makes it pretty charming. But if you really want some good early east coast thrash, Overkill is a much better option. So grocery customer, will you grab the stale bread that’s readily available or dig a little deeper and find some fresh baked honey-wheat?
For lacking a lot of substance to every aspect of the album, Anthrax's Spreading the Disease gets 45 out of 100 or 2 out of five.
One of Anthrax's best albums that they totally did right. From the start, the thrashing is there in spades, and while it's certainly not the same as Bay Area thrash, it definitely has a nice punk vibe while earning them a slot in the great "Big 4". They just sound like they are having fun, not taking things too serious, but still doing a professional job. Not only that, but everyone does a great job on this album.
Scott Ian's rhythms are heavy, punk-influenced, and give the impression of someone making a devilish, but entirely-pleased-with-himself smile. The rhythm guitars are great throughout the disk, but especially so on Madhouse. His tone is also worthy of noting as it's nice and crunchy and well-balanced as well. It's not your typical Marshall on steroids with a boost connected to the front end and a high output pickup in the guitar. It certainly goes to 11 and kicks your ass as he thrashes away on his guitar, which is either a Gibson flying V, Jackson soloist, or Jackson RRV according to interviews. His tone is also a nice backdrop for Danny Spitz to solo over.
Frank Bello is a pretty underrated bassist. I think the intro to Lone Justice is great even if it is simple. There's also nice little fills that Bello adds throughout the entire song that really sets it apart. He really lets loose on this song and even if you thought the song was a 7 out of 10, his bass parts easily make Lone Justice a 9. His playing on Madhouse is also worth noting as his fills really add something to the songs than just following the root notes of the guitars alone like most metal bassists do just wouldn't add. Of all of the thrash metal records of the '80s, I think he possibly has the best space in the mix of the album because he's always as discernible as the guitars are. He definitely isn't buried or is just there to add a little more low end to the guitars.
Danny Spitz is definitely an interesting guitar player. Like all of the lead guitarists of the Big 4, he has an identity that, if you know your Anthrax, would be easily identifiable. While his playing isn't super clean and precise like Yngwie J. Malmsteen's, he definitely can play with reckless abandon. All of the other guys in the Big 4 and '80s metal in general were obsessed with precise notes in the sense that if they were 16th notes, they were almost robotic with how even spaced all of the notes were. It's hard to describe, but Danny's playing is more about feel and less about how rhythmically precise they are. A particularly interesting solo is on The Enemy. I'm not sure whether it was a composed or improv solo, but it has a nice flow and in a short space of time and has a beginning, middle, and end to it. His solo for Armed and Dangerous is great as well, which follows a nice heavy riff and the solo is also preceded by a cool harmonized guitar riff. The song in general is notable because of the clean guitar intro which is accompanied by drum accents and Joey using a more intimate singing style to fit the feeling of the intro.
Some argue whether Joey Belladonna or John Bush fits Anthrax better, but either way Joey does a great job. His style is more of a singing vocal and helps further separate Anthrax from the other Big 4 bands. He does a nice falsetto as well, which is great if you can get into it and is a strong plus as it doesn't sound forced like a lot of male singers who try to do falsetto. I'm curious what his singing background is because he's got some serious pipes. Anyways, I think his best performances on this album are Madhouse, Medusa, A.I.R., and Armed and Dangerous, however his work is consistently great.
The mixing and production is great. I'm not entirely sure what the budget was, but the band comes across as very well-rehearsed, which I'm sure helped them put every penny into the recording and less into renting the studio trying to get decent takes. As I mentioned when talking about Frank Bello's great bass playing, the mixing is well done because Frank's bass isn't buried or muddy and everything seems to fit into its own space sonically. Overall, it's probably one of the top 5 in terms of production and mixing, not just of the Big 4, but of '80s metal in general. For Anthrax, it's perfect.
I'd suggest everyone buy this record. It's great and well worth the money. While Anthrax may have slightly better [Among the Living] or more 'mature' [Persistence of Time] albums, this is definitely the "golden ticket" that got them a spot in the Big 4 of American thrash metal.
I used to always say Persistence of Time was my favorite Anthrax release, however over the years I've come to land on the side of Spreading the Disease as both my favorite Anthrax album, as well as feeling it is their finest offering.
This was 1985 and thrash was really starting to take off, Ride the Lightning and Bonded By Blood were out tearing their fair share of heads, doing their bit for the Bay Area scene. Anthrax along with Overkill and their awesome debut Feel The Fire proudly flew the flag for the New York scene. Whilst Anthrax would later come to blend crossover with their thrash Spreading the Disease was pure heavy/speed/thrash.
I can't stress how much of an asset Joey Belladonna was and is to Anthrax, as some people have of course mentioned he was given somewhat the short end of the stick as far as vocal lines went, I feel that on their debut and Spreading the Disease his vocal lines were really great, and he had plenty of room to do what he does best.
Rounding out the line up we had guitarists Scott Ian and Dan Spitz, the former delivering the kind of riffs he would be famed for, and the latter delivering some really cool and interesting leads, quite the underrated player when compared with some of the more flamboyant lead guitarists ala Megadeth, and bands such as Toxik or Heathen. The rhythm section was great, Frank Bello is as reliable as ever, and his bass is perfect in the mix, locked in with the drums provided by Charlie Benate who was at his best in the 80's.
Spreading the Disease is home to some of the very best Anthrax numbers, "Madhouse" is both catchy and heavy, a live favorite that never fails to get the blood pumping. "A.I.R." is the glorious album opener, reeking of 1985, an excellent exercise in thrashing brilliance. Other standouts would include the final double punch of "Medusa" and "Gung-Ho". The former is one of my very favorite Anthrax songs, with a certain degree of heavy/power metal to it.
Anthrax often get a fair bit of flack, especially due to them be considered part of the media machine that is the "big four". I never bought into the whole "big four" thing, but that isn't to detract from what Anthrax were doing in the 80's. Spreading the Disease is right up there with the finer releases from 1985, and is a no brainer for any thrash metal fan worth his kutte.
The sophomore effort from Anthrax, Spreading the Disease, represents the moment when the band transitioned to Thrash Metal, with only one holdover from their Speed Metal days. It was also the first full-length to feature Joey Belladonna on vocals, which marked another change in their sound and was their major label debut, having signed to Island Records. The L.P. was released in October 1985.
This was the last of the old Anthrax albums that I obtained, as it was never in stock during my frequent visits to the local record stores. The time period was a little darker, and thus the music here took on a little darker tone for me, as opposed to Among the Living or State of Euphoria. Part of this may also be a result of the more serious approach, since the band had not yet become labeled as 'fun' thrash ketal with the goofy lyrics and horrible sleeve photos.
The music still includes some faster riffs, but the mid-paced sections dominate many of the tracks. Nearly all of the riffs are very memorable and quite easy to headbang to. Joey's voice suits the material well and he sounds more natural here than he would on the following release. The guitars possess more of a crunch and this helps to accentuate the heaviness of the songs. Tracks like "A.I.R.", "Aftershock" and "Gung-Ho" retain the more aggressive spirit that was present on Fistful of Metal. "Madhouse" and "Medusa" are quite catchy, though not as intense. Still, they rank among the most memorable songs on the whole album. As for the rest of the tracks, they fit more into traditional metal territory, or even edging too close to hard rock. "The Enemy" comes off almost as a ballad, as does the first part of "Armed and Dangerous". There is certainly a lot of variety on this record and it is enough to satisfy different tastes. However, Spreading the Disease would have only benefited from more songs like "Gung-Ho", one of the final tracks to have been written by Turbin, Ian and Lilker.
The overall production is really good, without sounding overdone. The guitars retain a sharp edge and seem to be the primary focus. Joey's vocals are mixed in well enough, high enough to be effective but not too prominent. On the following album, it would seem that his voice would become too disjointed from the rest of what was going on. The drumming is about the same as on the previous record, though a bit more relaxed in general. Benante's work is at the right place in the mix, never overpowering the drums and with the double-bass parts keeping to the background, where they belong.
Spreading the Disease may be the best of the Belladonna-era Anthrax albums, as it comes off as more natural and serious as well. Following this, the band would do a lot of things to tarnish their credibility, while expanding their fanbase despite everything. This album is highly recommended to anyone that is looking to explore this era of the band's discography, as it is very solid and really captures the spirit of the time period.
Written for http://ritesoftheblackmoon.tripod.com
This might be my personal favorite by Anthrax but it's still hard to say since all of their albums with Joey Belladonna are great. Anyway, I'm gonna try to get me feelings about this masterpiece into this review so you can get a clue about the greatness of this album... So here we go!
The first song I ever heard by Anthrax was "Madhouse" and I had a really hard time to accept Joey Belladonna's voice. Actually, it took me maybe 2-3 years but now I love it and even though "Madhouse" probably is their biggest hit and a real "headbanger's ball" classic, it's still not much of what this album's about. Actually, it doesn't have much at all to tell about this album. There are several tunes that could have been "headbanger's ball" classics. Take "Medusa" for example, it's a great and really catchy tune which happens to be a classic today. It could have been maybe just as big as "Madhouse" and it's not even like that one. Some other classics that also could have made it big are "A.I.R.", "Armed And Dangerous" and "Gung-Ho". "Armed And Dangerous" is maybe the best tune on this album. It has everything. Great acoustic opening with some whisteling before the vocals and drums comes in and it's so beautiful that I almost want to cry. It then explodes into a thrash metal masterpiece, just awesome and so are the most of the album.
The production is weird. I love the guitar sound but then somehow I feel like everything sounds like it was recorded from an old radio and put on vinyl. It's like I'm having a hate / love relationship to the production. I like it but at the same time I think it's sounds like I playing it through a bad radio. I still have to admit that the production is pretty cheap but still awesome. It's just the way it is. Another great thing here is that all the instruments are balanced unlike "Fistful Of Metal" where the drums and the bass was pretty much dominating through the whole album.
The cast is doing a great job. I thought Charlie Benante was fabulous on "Fistful Of Metal" but here he's even more experienced and better. Blowing fast and great as hell on the drums. Scott Ian and Dan Spitz are both doing a great job with the rhythm guitar parts and there are some really nice guitar solos by Dan aswell. Frank Bello don't really need any further description, he's one of the best bassists of all time, there's no doubt about that. Joey Belladonna is as usual fantastic and I can't understand why I didn't like his singing before...
So what's my final comments on this masterpiece. Well, it truly is a masterpiece. It might be Anthrax' best or at least it's splitting the 1st place with some of the other albums. Every track is a classic somehow and I recommend "Madhouse", "Medusa", "Armed And Dangerous" and "A.I.R.". It's probably the best tracks on here.
So right now I think you should check out this album if you haven't. Enjoy "Spreading The Decease".
Anthrax represents a sort of “road not taken” in the thrash metal genre, as they are considered the least influential of the founding fathers of the genre that made playing faster than one thought possible a staple of greatness. While Slayer was obsessed with evil and aggression, MegaDeth with writing songs too complex to be easily ripped off, and Metallica with wowing the masses with their slick production work; Anthrax elected to stick the closest to the NWOBHM side of the thrash coin and consequently came off as a bit more conservative.
One of the reasons why so many disown the 80s era of Anthrax is because it doesn’t conform to the stereotypical thrash sound of ugly as hell vocals, overbearing pentatonic shred solos that can not be recalled after hearing (MegaDeth is an exception in this department as well), and cramming 9 or 10 riffs into a song with long ass interludes and instrumental breaks. Charlie Banante can go an hour straight at the double bass pedal with the best of them, but is equally adept at playing a nice simple 4/4 rock beat, and makes that quasi-punk snare sound sing like few others can. Dan Spitz’s solos are well conceived and sing as well as shred; Kirk Hammet could definitely learn a thing or two from his approach.
The big minus in the eyes of most from the 80s era is Joey Belladonna, who’s voice is more indicative of early power metal vocalists like John Arch and Harry Conklin than the ugly barks of Tom Araya or James Hetfield. Say what you will about Belladonna’s quasi-glam 80s image, the guy sings his ass off and rivals many of the early 80s NWOBHM singers. I challenge Araya or any of the other so-called true thrash vocalists to hit the high note during the chorus of “Medusa” and have it sound remotely as somber and neurotic as it sounds on here. Although I’m a pretty avid fan of Neil Turbin as a singer, as far as Anthrax goes, I’d say Belladonna takes the lead for top vocalist in this outfit.
“Spreading the Disease” is the best representation I’ve heard of the eclectic musical direction that the mid-80s exhibited. You get some pretty solid speed/thrash in the classic album opener “A.I.R”, which is still a favorite amongst fans, as well as the post-apocalyptic politically charged cooker “Aftershock”, a song that is as fast and intricate as anything Metallica did during their better days. “The Enemy” is a solid upper mid-tempo melodic rocker that has a slight Manowar tinge to it. Spitz’s lead work on this one, as well as the crazy ass intro to “Stand or Fall” (after the mid-east sounding stuff) are particularly exceptional. The NWOBHM inspired homage to Clint Eastwood “Lone Justice” is a nice lyrical change of pace from the politically charged stuff that dominates much of this release.
“Armed and Dangerous” has a beautifully serene acoustic intro, followed by a fast swinging riff fest and mostly listens like something Accept or Judas Priest might have come up with at around the same time. Likewise, “Madhouse” has some strong Iron Maiden influences at play, although it’s a little bit faster than the bulk of their work. “Medusa” gets my pick for the most memorable song on here as well as the best vocal performance out of Belladonna. I defy anyone to listen to this song once and then tell me that they haven’t got that catchy as hell main riff stuck in their head. The album’s closer “Gung Ho” was a co-write with Neil Turbin that is a better produced version of what the all speed no compromise sound heard on “Fistful of Metal”. That funny as hell ending with the military theme in the lead guitar cracks me up every time.
Despite being released in a year where such amazing releases as Slayer’s “Hell Awaits”, Maiden’s “Powerslave”, Dio’s “Sacred Heart” and Accept’s “Metal Heart”; I’d argue this is the best album of 1985. It embodies all of the best elements of power, thrash and NWOBHM in one compact 44 minute package. If you want a taste of the real Anthrax, the one before all the extra punk influences, grunge, and then rapped/groove metalcore crap started worming its way into their sound, this is definitely the first one to look for. Most would point to “Among the Living” as a better thrash release, and from a purely thrash point of view that opinion is correct, but there is more to life than thrash alone, and “Spreading the Disease” has it all.
As much as I love the carefree wailing of Neil Turbin, it was Anthrax’s decision to fire him and recruit Joey Belladonna that resulted in their best material. Spreading the Disease is one of the finest examples of melodic thrash metal in any book, and just because it’s not as heavy, fast, or as unrelenting as what would follow it (Among the Living, for instance), doesn’t mean it’s chump change either.
“A.I.R.” starts this album out fantastically and serves as an archetype for the remaining songs. The riffage is mighty, the drumming is fierce, and Belladonna has got to be heard to be believed. His melodic singing, along with Anthrax’s generally upbeat rhythm guitar, tends to get them written off as less thrash and more power metal, but a quick listen to this song quickly wipes away any such allegations. This album is all riffs all the time, up until the final seconds of the explosive “Gung-ho,” which would’ve fit on Among the Living quite nicely. The only breather here is “Armed and Dangerous,” which opens with a fantastic clean passage, with Joey interpreting the vocals as Halford might have done it, before transitioning into a much heavier norm. His finest moment, however, is the soaring lyrics over the mid-paced riffing of “Medusa,” another legendary tune from this album. Overall, not a single song that sucks or is out of place, with quite a few that would be requirements for making a greatest hits album. Sure, some of this is mid-paced and a bit too upbeat for fans of darker thrash metal, but what it lacks in brutality it makes up for in heaps of catchiness and classic riffing.
The band is also at their best as far as instrumental prowess is concerned. The Ian/Spitz rhythm tagteam produces nary a poor riff, expertly complemented by Charlie Benante’s increasingly powerful drumming. Danny Lilker is a good bass player, but Frank Bello kicks his ass here, interweaving some memorable lines amidst the guitar madness. Guitar solos are nice as well.
Hmm… there’s not much more to say about this one. It’s just a prime example of Anthrax’s powerhouse songwriting and catchy riffery. So get it, it’s great!
After hearing some of the later albums by Anthrax, I was a bit skeptical when it came to giving this album a listen. I was never a huge Anthrax fan, mostly because of the vocals on some of the albums that I have listened to. This album changed my whole view of the band, proving thus again, that when it comes to being introduced to a band it is usually wise to start towards the beginning of their careers.
The first three songs of the album are mediocre, as compared to the rest of the album, with “Madhouse” being the best. The next three are better, but “The Enemy” was practically a filler in my opinion. It could almost pass of as a Power Metal or Traditional Metal song in the vein of Armored Saint. “Aftershock” and “S.S.C./Stand Or Fall” are the thrashier songs on the album, the latter being the better track, both in composition and overall structure.
This album is truly great, mainly due to a bit of a NWOBHM influence in the songwriting and sound of some of the songs. One instance of this is the song “Medusa”, which is also one of the highlights of the album. The first time I heard it, I could have swore I was listening to Grim Reaper. Sort of reminded me of “Night of the Vampire” for some reason. Although “Medusa” is thrashier, it does have a heavy metal sound to it. If Anthrax continued with this sound throughout their career they would have easily been one of my more listened bands. Along with “Armed and Dangerous” and “Gung-Ho,” the last three songs are what the album should have sounded like.
Although I have no actual problems with this album, I would have enjoyed it much more if it had more thrash. More songs like “Gung-Ho” would have been nice, along with a “Medusa” here and there. The overall mood of this album is satisfying, as it gets better the more you progress into the album. In the end I was satisfied, but if you are looking for thrash do not come here, but pick up a Kreator or Sodom album instead. If you are looking for a great metal album or if you want to introduce yourself or someone else to Anthrax this album will surely suffice.
Being the first Anthrax album I owned, I used to play this an awful lot, along with the next album "Among The Living" which I got a short while after. Both those albums were just gradually left to gather dust as many new and interesting bands started to come by me thick and fast. But looking back on them, at first this one and realising it's not an album destined for the title of "got bored by it", as it still very much kicks my ass! It's a good starting point for getting into the band, and a thrash newbie should make this one of his/her early pickups. It's a very fun and lively power flavoured thrash album with plenty of those "mosh" moments! We get treated to that Anthrax crunching rhythm guitar, squealing lead guitar, and the soaring vocals of then new frontman Joey Belladonna, with a perfect singing voice, he'll always be a rather unique figure in thrash. The catchy and energetic songs are a fullproof trap for a potential fan, and even for hardened thrashers as well (but then again it's quite likely they will already own this album!). The songs are pretty standard in the school of thrash songwriting, not meaning to indicate any averageness but as in they are the general standard! A complete defiance of mainstream structures and techniques, but never becoming oversaturated in complexity. Each song is written this way, aside from perhaps the slightly more adventurous "Armed And Dangerous", though each is its own distinct slice of the whole, and when it starts good, it stays good! The fantastic metal feast of "A.I.R." (with that unforgettable bridge riff that still makes me go crazy), the album's "hit" "Madhouse", "The Enemy" and "Armed And Dangerous" could each contend very strongly for my top 10 favourite thrash songs. (Though the start of "Armed And Dangerous" is just a little bit too loud... hehe).
The standard occassionally drops a notch from excellent to very good on "Aftershock", "Medusa" and the fast but slightly faltering "Gung-Ho", though there's nothing on this album that approaches the category of "skippable" or "filler". The songs jump between teenage and social themes, along with military satire with "Armed And Dangerous" and "Gung-Ho", it's kind of usual thrash fare, but in Anthrax's own way. Many claim "Among The Living" as the best example of the band's work, but "Spreading The Disease" for me is nonetheless an excellent album, and an essential addition to any thrash fan's collection. It won't be forgotten any time soon.
Forget all the rap-core, the big bermuda shorts, and the NOT-man. Before Anthrax started hanging their notoriety on those big hooks, they were a decent, fast power/thrash band who actually had long hair and leather jackets, and Spreading the Disease was probably their finest moment. It was their second album, but the first to feature (at the time) new vocalist Joey Belladonna, who turned in what was undoubtedly his best vocal performance with the band - melodic without getting annoying, and he didn't really overuse the high notes. The band themselves hit a high mark as well - I personally think that they never really achieved the heaviness they had on this album: the slow-groove 'mosh' parts in AIR, the blazing thrashing in Aftershock and Gung-Ho, that heavy-as-fuck opening crunch in Madhouse... This album has LOTS of great moments like that. Scott Ian's heavy-handed rhythm style was at its peak, and Frank Bello's agile bass lines really spiced things up. I've never thought Dan Spitz was that great a lead guitarist, but he was at his least annoying on this album.
Hot spots on the album are Armed and Dangerous (opening with some nice acoustic guitar work and melodic bass lines), Medusa (with it's infectious main riff and great lyrics and vocals), and my personal favorite, Lone Justice. Overall, though, this album is sort of like a snapshot of the state of 'just above underground' thrash metal of the time, and as such quite worth checking out.
(Originally published at LARM (c) 1999)