Anthrax - Among The Living
Island Records
Thrash Metal
9 songs (50:22)
Release year: 1987
Reviewed by Goat

It's quite incredible, listening to Among The Living, to realise that it was released less than three years after Fistful Of Metal. Thrash Metal went into an accelerated evolutionary spurt towards the end of the eighties, without a doubt the time that the greatest offerings of the genre were birthed, and whilst Anthrax generally languish at the bottom of Big Four rankings (if not dropping out altogether as people nominate everyone from Sabbat to Sodom to take their place) the fact remains that they have more than a couple of classics to their names, and Among The Living might well be my favourite album from the band, something hard to decide for sure because when Anthrax are on top of their game, they're absolutely brilliant.

From Spreading The Disease to Persistence Of Time there's very little to criticise; Thrash of such quality that it threatens Metallica's hailed classics. Anthrax always had their own style, New York born-and-bred, with a slightly nerdier focus than Overkill's streetwise thug life or Nuclear Assault's uber-pessimism. No, for Scott Ian and co day-to-day life was the focus, whether it was comic books, going to see bands, or social justice that affected people on the lowest levels rather than the highest. This resulted in a variety of songs, as you might expect, but they're all tied together by what I believe (then at least) was a genuine love for the music and the people it was going out to. Thrash differs from Death and Black in that there's a real sense of unity amongst its fans, completely different from the indifference or outright suspicion between the denizens and devotees of its bastard offspring, and it's that which often gets forgotten when the genre is under fire from those who think that completely ripping another band off is not musical progression, or even worth listening to.

I agree with those people a lot of the time, as long-term readers will no doubt be sick and tired of hearing, but it's time to give credit where credit's due; Thrash in its early years was genuinely excellent, breaking down boundaries and lighting the fuse to create the explosion that created what we know and love today as Extreme Metal. Anthrax were often lost in the mix when facing up to others, but they've always had their loyal fans and listening to Among The Living it's not hard to hear why. The odd cover art alone suggests something that stands out from the crowd, and whilst it in many ways is, it's also the album that sums up what Anthrax are all about. Opening with the title track, mid-paced riffs storm their way into your brain and soon turn speedy - "Disease! Disease! Spreading the disease!" are the first words you hear from Joey Belladonna, linking this album with the last, and it goes on to stake its own territory out in a slightly more technical and varied approach.

Anthrax being Anthrax, technicality comes second to simple enjoyment, and so we get the likes of Caught In A Mosh, probably the best song the band have ever done. It may have dated slightly (telling people that talking to them is like "clapping with one hand" gets little but puzzled looks these days) but the sheer euphoria of that instrumental section touches on Prog territory and is unmatched by any Slayer dirge. Of course, there's very little filler present on the album as a whole, from the understated epicness of the aforementioned title track to the fantabulous I Am The Law, a mid-paced churner which pounds its way straight into your heart before speeding up terrifically towards the end with a killer solo. Efilnikufesin (N.F.L.) has always been a personal favourite, slightly more aggressive than other tracks with some of the best gang-shouted vocals on the album and interesting lyrics digging at John Belushi, whilst A Skeleton In A Closet is the sort of heads-down, intense thrashing song that Anthrax were so good at back in the day. They're all killer, though, including the frantic A.D.I - Horror Of It All and the no-it's-not-an-R.E.M.-cover Imitation Of Life.

I could go through the band, naming and praising each member, but there's little real point as Jeff did much the same thing in his review of Spreading The Disease. Whilst I can't also say that Among The Living takes me back to high school (too young) I can agree that, aside from the odd lyric, this album has barely aged at all. I'd go further; this destroys the majority of Thrash from nowadays, and is absolutely essential listening for all who consider themselves fans of the genre. I prefer other bands to Anthrax overall, but recognise a classic when I see one.

Killing Songs :
Goat quoted CLASSIC
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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