In March, 1987, Anthrax released their third and easily best album Among The Living through the independent arm of Island Records – Megaforce.
The album benefits from its timing coming fast on the heels of Metallica’s ‘Master Of Puppets’ and Slayer’s – Reign In Blood. Although not quite up the the standard of those two albums – it really is not far behind and stands as one of the finest thrash albums ever released. It could be mused as a strong sidenote that all three of these very different thrash acts came into their own with their respective third albums.
Anthrax throw cartoon imagery with streetwise New York post punk / post New Wave Of British Heavy Metal into a unique mix and you can’t help but caught up in the mayhem, speed and fun of their heavy yet playful blasts.
Among The Living has a very heavy intro and tells a tale about Randall Flagg, the character from Stephen King’s finest novel ‘The Stand’. The heavy intro glides into a fast rattle that speeds by like the tube train suggested on the albums rear photo. What Anthrax can do so well is shift gears, be it up, or down with musical ease. The production is very clear and the album has a fantastic sound.
Caught In A Mosh was released when the dance was relatively new and hip. At the time it resonated and thousands of music fans getting tired with a (third?) wave of punk jumped ship and embraced this overall more ‘Metal’ sound. The rolling bass of Frank Bello really stands out before those gears shift into overdrive.
I Am The Law offers a solid chug throughout. An ode to Judge Dredd that saw the comic 2000AD leave the underground after years of bubbling under. It is a thrash anthem for many reasons.
Efilnikufesin (NFL) is ‘nice fukin life’ backwards and not an ode to American Football. Sharp snare blasts and strong vocals both from Joey Belladonna and the backing from Scott Ian and Frank Bello. It returns to a more formulaic thrash sound than the preceding track.
A Skeleton In The Closet again offers a rapid build. Rattle, punch, urgency raise the gear and we are away. The vocals echo older school metal but the instrumentation is / was very fresh back in 1987.
Indians was the 2nd single pulled from the album. I have always thought it sounds a bit like The Cult before, no surprises, the speed goes up, and up, and down, and up. I saw the band on the Among The Living tour and chaotic scenes accompanied this song on a very full dance floor at The Powerhouse in Birmingham. The band loved the venue so much that they just kept playing and playing and it is one of a few instances where I have rated a live band with a 10/10 score – it was all about the timing and the sound and vibe fitting that time just perfectly. Lyrically the song is thought provoking without really preaching at all to the listener.
One World is my favourite track on Among The Living. It, again, offers a superb, clean intro. The sound deviates, twists, rattles and the gears switch into overdrive. Lyrically the song has unifying qualities and keeps things charmingly simple. Never had a peace song caused so many bruises of joy on a dancefloor. ‘Ignorance is no excuse for violence, One World, welcome to it’.
ADI/Horror Of It All sees Anthrax veer near Metallica – until Joey Belladonna opens his mouth it could be Metallica and arguably Belladonna has the best singing voice from the thrash genre.
Imitation Of Life closes Among The Living with a low slung almost dirty riff which lingers before that gearbox it put to the test again. Near hip hop style breaks out as vocal duties shift and are blended with spoken / sung words. This points the way to Anthrax working with Public Enemy in their near future and blending two of the most unlikely genres with incredible unifying and feel good vibes. The band always retained a cartoon feel but, at times, should be taken very seriously for the shot in the arm they gave Metal and the whole music scene in the late 80’s…