Anthrax - Fistful Of Metal
Megaforce Records
Speed Metal
10 songs (35:36)
Release year: 1984
Anthrax, Megaforce Records
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

Anthrax’s first full-length, Fistful Of Metal is a decent but not great album, nowhere near the quality of other debut gems like Show No Mercy or War And Pain. Come on, stop your whining and admit it: not just was the band’s line-up in a flux, but the production is pretty awful, the songs are generic and Neil Turbin is, well, Neil Turbin, a deranged shrieking harridan who would have done better for himself redubbing the screams of horror movie totty than his “singing” here. He means it, man, without a doubt, but however honest and raw his performance is it can’t help but remind you of the brutally bad caterwauling of that perpetual talent show entree whose talent is all in his own deluded mind. Fine, he can scream at a very high pitch – but where the Halfords and Dickinsons of this world can follow that up with clear talent in lower areas, Turbin remains facing the wall, screaming himself and the listener to distraction. Anthrax would go on to produce a string of classic Thrash albums that deserve all the praise that they get, but Fistful Of Metal is not Thrash – instead, it’s a Judas Priest-worshipping mess that walks an unsteady Speed Metal path with more enthusiasm than skill.

It’s aged dreadfully, although you can hear the roots of the band’s later sound; especially in the guitars and drums. Scott Ian’s manic rhythm riffs are quite restrained compared to what they would become, and Charlie Benante is simplistic if solid, but Dan Spitz is the best thing about the album, without a doubt one of the two reasons that trve and kvlt Thrashers love this album so much. Just listen to his wailing lead on Deathrider for evidence, the perfect final touch to an already great track. The second reason that this album is loved is, of course, that... amazing piece of cover art, summing the album up perfectly at the time of release and if fifteen years later it isn’t quite as intense and heavy as being punched in the mouth by a chainmail-wrapped fist, you can tell why the band chose it to represent their sound. Nowadays making sarcastic comments about Anthrax’s business dealings are de rigour for any hard-faced Thrasher, but they loved their music with a love that burns strong even all these years later. Just look at the song titles – Deathrider, Metal Thrashing Mad, Soldiers Of Metal, etc. The booklet even had an embarrassingly forthright message... “To the bangers of the world who are the pulse of this aggressive METAL movement that is taking the world by storm. This album is for YOU.”

To the Metal bands of the eighties, it must have seemed like they were caught up in some kind of musical revolution, even though the real progress came a decade earlier and they were basically playing heavier versions of older songs. This “METAL!” attitude comes and goes in popularity, depending on which substrata of the genre’s evolutionary progress or regress you fit into, but it does in many ways sum up a lot about why people love bands like Anthrax, that sell themselves with that appeal to the Metalhead soul. If I were using nothing but my steel soul, this would probably be a Classic review, but alas I must put my cynical critical hat on and state that Fistful Of Metal is very uneven. For one, what the hell inspired that godawful Alice Cooper cover in the third position on the tracklisting? Fine, Deathrider and Metal Thrashing Mad are classic ‘Thrax tunes, but I’m Eighteen is a disaster. Thankfully, Panic and Subjugator are next to make up for it, enjoyable Speed/Thrashers that have plenty of Spitzing to elevate them to ever greater heights, and with Soldiers Of Metal along soon after to keep the adrenaline high, it’s easy to see why people think this is deserving of a Classic award.

The sad truth, however, is that Fistful Of Metal lives up to its name. Where other Thrash bands were providing a veritable torrential downpour of Metal with their debuts, Anthrax can offer up only a handful. Is Priest rip-off Death From Above really so good that it deserves to catapult this album into the classic sphere? Does Anthrax honestly hold up to the band’s later, even better songs? Howling Furies may be a great way to close the album, but when looked at against the greater musical world of the time it’s distinctly average. That’s the final and hardest question to answer: whether Anthrax deserve as many Classic slots as their peers. For an album that claimed to be the aural equivalent to a punch in the mouth, other bands did far better in the same year, especially Slayer and Voivod who I mentioned in the first paragraph of this review. Compared to those albums, this is far, far below – a great ride, and the first shout from a band that would go on to be very good indeed, but when looked at with a cold eye Fistful Of Metal is barely above average. If the early days of Metal hold some sort of romantic allure for you and you haven’t got the sense to listen to better bands from the era, then by all means allow yourself to be punched in the face – don’t be surprised if the impact is disappointing, however.

Killing Songs :
Deathrider, Metal Thrashing Mad, Subjugator, Howling Furies
Goat quoted 74 / 100
Other albums by Anthrax that we have reviewed:
Anthrax - For All Kings reviewed by Goat and quoted 83 / 100
Anthrax - Anthems (EP) reviewed by Goat and quoted no quote
Anthrax - Worship Music reviewed by Goat and quoted 86 / 100
Anthrax - Volume 8 - The Threat Is Real reviewed by Goat and quoted 55 / 100
Anthrax - Persistence Of Time reviewed by Goat and quoted 91 / 100
To see all 19 reviews click here
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