Overall, by 1987, Hard Rock and Heavy Metal had positioned itself more towards the commercial radio market. This resulted in increasing popularity for a newer, more aggressive breed of bands; one of the more popular bands coming from New York by the name of Anthrax. By their third album, Among The Living, they were ready for bigger exposure. The first step involved hiring famous producer Eddie Kramer, known for working with acts such as KISS, Led Zeppelin, and Jimi Hendrix. Recorded in Florida and mixed at Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas, Among The Living saw the band firing on all cylinders, churning out their most aggressive work to that date, whilst maturing as lyricists as well as musicians. The opening of the epic-like title track is majestic as well as eerie, leading into excellent riffage. The lyrics were inspired by Horror writer Stephen King´s novel The Stand. The actual meanings aside, the opening chants of “Disease! Disease! Spreading the Disease!” also served as a clever touch, seeing as the band’s second album was entitled Spreading The Disease. That album was the first with vocalist Joey Belladonna and bassist Frank Bello, joining drummer Charlie Benante, lead guitarist Dan Spitz, and guitarist/founding member Scott Ian. Now the line-up was cemented, and it shows.
The melodic lead vocals of Belladonna set Anthrax apart from a lot of other bands in their genre, and the backing vocal chants of Ian & Bello served as great contrast. This is especially apparent on the second track, “Caught In A Mosh,” where the guitars follow a distinctive, flowing bass riff. ”I Am The Law,” the first single from the album, revealed yet another odd choice of inspiration -- a comic character called Judge Dredd, featured in British newspapers. This was probably the main reason for the single’s success in England, even finding its way into the British charts, which at the time was practically unheard of for a Thrash Metal band.
Displaying the band’s humor, the curiously titled “Efilnikufesin (N.F.L.),” dealt with drug abuse and would become one of several crowd pleasers from this album. “A Skeleton In The Closet,” a tale of an old, secluded Nazi, was also built on a Stephen King character. Said track is an aggressive feast of guitars and double bass pounding drums, and perhaps the heaviest track on the entire album. Spitz serves quite memorable lead guitars all over it, relying more on actual melody rather than pure shredding.
The second single, “Indians,” best shows off the band’s talent for catchiness, opening with harmonic guitars and displaying a great anthemic sing-along chorus. Despite the lyrics’ tragic dealings, musically the track offers positive feelings, a frequent combination for Anthrax. In the live setting, Belladonna, of Native American heritage himself, used to don a headdress while doing a war dance of sorts.
“One World” follows, with the sole acoustic guitar instrumental “A.D.I.,” leading into “Horror Of It All,” the darkest track on offer here, which includes lyrics dealing with overcoming loss and the horrific feelings of helplessness in such situations. The album closer, “Imitation Of Life,” shifts between a massively crunching guitar riff and speed, ending the album in a most effective way.
Released just a year after Metallica´s Master Of Puppets opus, Among The Living helped Anthrax and Thrash Metal reach mainstream attention. Musically, it was equally as important, combining elements of Hardcore with vocal melodies and hook-laden choruses along with impressive guitar work and riffage galore, it was to become a crucial album for the genre. For Anthrax, it was a definitive breakthrough, with a string of albums to follow that showcased a band never afraid to stretch its trademark style.
Official band site: www.Anthrax.com