Thursday, November 10, 2011

Anthrax - Among the Living (1987)

After spending several weeks exploring Fistful of Metal, Among the Living was my next acquisition from Anthrax's back-catalogue. My first impression was that this was a horrible album. The vocals absolutely killed it, as well as ridiculous lyrics such as, "I'm the walking dude", which just made matters worse. Belladonna's performance in "Imitation of Life" is about as wretched as it gets and left a bad taste in my mouth. This L.P. was returned within a couple days, as it seemed unbearable. After a month or so, I ended up giving it another chance and putting forth effort to appreciate it for what it was.

Released in March 1987, Anthrax's third L.P. was dedicated to the memory of Cliff Burton, who had died about six months earlier. Among the Living was the band's second release on Island Records and would go on to become their defining opus. One way or another, this is the sound that people identified with Anthrax and the record became somewhat iconic as their definitive statement.

Musically, this record does not live up to its potential. It contains several dark riffs, such as the intro section to the title track, yet fails to capitalize. The atmosphere is lightened by the vocals, which do not seem to fit the music too well. Too many times, it sounds as if Joey is just talking really fast, instead of actually singing. It does not help, either, that the lyrics are less serious and, oftentimes. The themes are quite stupid, at times, such as "Caught in a Mosh" and "Indians". Thrash fans do not care about the plight of Native Americans and, if they do, they need to be rounded up and exterminated as well. There are not enough high-speed songs, as most are centered on the idiotic 'mosh riffs'. A few mid-paced parts are alright, but there was no need to focus on those instead of the faster sections, during which the band sounds much more impressive. That said, Among the Living is filled with memorable riffs and vocal lines as well. While none of the songs reach the level that they could have, songs like "Efilnukifesin (N.F.L.)" and "A.D.I./Horror of It All" are not bad at all.

One of the primary weaknesses of this album would have to be the production. The drums and bass are too high in the mix and, for that matter, so are the vocals. The guitars should always be the main focus when it comes to any kind of Metal, and they just do not possess the saw force as on Spreading the Disease. Had the guitars been higher and the other elements been lowered a bit, the character of this record would have been significantly altered for the better.

Among the Living is a pretty decent Thrash Metal album, though not Anthrax's best effort, by any means. By this point, all traces of NWOBHM influence are long gone. While it may be the one that most people think of when the band is brought up, it pales in comparison to Fistful of Metal and is just below Spreading the Disease in terms of quality and sound. It is certainly worth listening to and not bad at all. Give it a listen and decide for yourself.