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Here it is, the least liked of all albums Anthrax released during their 'classic' line-up. I can definately see why - that cover is a bit... trippy, the music seems simplified, isn't as fast and doesn't seem to have any real winners on it after 'Antisocial'. It didn't exactly split fans, hell, this went gold just like the last album and the next, but it will probably never be considered to be their best. Personally, I find this album is a blast once you adjust to the tweaks Anthrax made to their sound.
Straight off, the opener, 'Be All, End All', is introduced with a freaking cello! Who do they think they are? They call themselves thrash? (blah blah blah). It's a nice (if a little strange) addition to an already brilliant song, and when I first picked up this album, I honestly thought they'd be incorporating the cello into every song on the album. But don't expect anything else like that on 'State...'.
The music on this album is often called 'boring', but I think it's just the step down to simpler riffs & song structures that put a few people off. Here the band stripped down their sound to rely on pounding rhythms and percussion, whilst the guitars take a more conservative role in the overall makeup of the album. This means the production had to change too, to focus on the energy of the drums rather than the bite of the guitars. And there is TONS of energy here - the drums are masterfully produced, and could be my favourite of any 80's thrash. The dryness can make the album a little tiring at times, because there isn't as much brightness (the cymbals & hi-hats are less prominant) to counteract the low end (something I think they get right on their next effort, 'Persistence of Time'), but it's still an interesting listening experience. I sometimes feel Metallica could have learnt a few things from Anthrax at the time, and an album like '...And Justice For All' could've been much more listenable, but I'll cover that band's problems elsewhere.
The drumming is thrash heaven, up there with the best of Gary Samuelson & Nick Menza for Megadeth and Dave Lombardo of Slayer. I don't know who had most control over the album in the songwriting department (it just says 'Anthrax'), but it's so drum-centric that it almost totally overshadows the rest of the instruments. But I honestly don't know enough about drumming to comment further, although I still think this impressive stuff - it would keep most metal drummers captivated I'm sure.
Joey Belladonna actually sounds very comfortable providing the vocals here. He's forced to sing lower than on previous albums, but his voice doesn't become goofy or weak like you'd expect. In fact, he sings with a lot of heart, making musically unimpressive songs like 'Who Cares Wins' and 'Out of Sight, Out of Mind' truly kick ass. It's actually one of his strongest vocal performances, despite the pressure drumer Charlie and guitarist Scott were putting him under at the time (those guys were dicks, let's face it).
This album is let down by Anthrax's uncharacteristically bitter tone. I appreciate they integrated more 'Indians' like social commentary in to their lyrics - a true sign of their punk roots - but the darker subjects covered here seem to detract from their ability to create pleasing music. 'Indians' had that riff, those drums, those vocals, and seems to offer a simple solution to the issues raised in the lyrics: mosh. But 'Schism', for example, doesn't even have a chorus...?! Or is that what 'Schism!... Schism! Ska ska ska schism!' is supposed to be? There's virtually no climax before this faux-chorus, and it just seems like a different section of another verse. This problem isn't uncommon on this album. Thankfully they strike a better balance on their next album, 'Persistence...', in particular with winners like 'Keep It In The Family' and 'One Man Stands'.
The guitars are mere rhythmic support on 'State...', as the album is mostly a tug of war between bitter vocals and pumping drums. 'Be All, End All', 'Antisocial' (everyones heard this one) and 'Finale' stand tall as crowd favourites, the former two songs appearing in Anthrax's setlist more often than not, whilst hardcore fans will be pleased by darker songs like the Stephen King-inspired 'Misery Loves Company' and anti-televangelist 'Make Me Laugh'. In my personal opinion, whilst this album is a overloaded with its dry and gloomy songs, I feel this was a neccessary and interesting step from the lighthearted thrash of 'Among the Living' to the darker still (but musically superior) 'Persistence of Time'. In short: I enjoy the heck out of 'State of Euphoria', but only when I'm in the mood.