Thursday, November 10, 2011

Anthrax - Spreading the Disease (1985)

The sophomore effort from Anthrax, Spreading the Disease, represents the moment when the band transitioned to Thrash Metal, with only one holdover from their Speed Metal days. It was also the first full-length to feature Joey Belladonna on vocals, which marked another change in their sound and was their major label debut, having signed to Island Records. The L.P. was released in October 1985.

This was the last of the old Anthrax albums that I obtained, as it was never in stock during my frequent visits to the local record stores. The time period was a little darker, and thus the music here took on a little darker tone for me, as opposed to Among the Living or State of Euphoria. Part of this may also be a result of the more serious approach, since the band had not yet become labeled as 'fun' Thrash Metal with the goofy lyrics and horrible sleeve photos.

The music still includes some faster riffs, but the mid-paced sections dominate many of the tracks. Nearly all of the riffs are very memorable and quite easy to headbang to. Joey's voice suits the material well and he sounds more natural here than he would on the following release. The guitars possess more of a crunch and this helps to accentuate the heaviness of the songs. Tracks like "A.I.R.", "Aftershock" and "Gung-Ho" retain the more aggressive spirit that was present on Fistful of Metal. "Madhouse" and "Medusa" are quite catchy, though not as intense. Still, they rank among the most memorable songs on the whole album. As for the rest of the tracks, they fit more into traditional Metal territory, or even edging too close to Hard Rock. "The Enemy" comes off almost as a ballad, as does the first part of "Armed and Dangerous". There is certainly a lot of variety on this record and it is enough to satisfy different tastes. However, Spreading the Disease would have only benefited from more songs like "Gung-Ho", one of the final tracks to have been written by Turbin, Ian and Lilker.

The overall production is really good, without sounding overdone. The guitars retain a sharp edge and seem to be the primary focus. Joey's vocals are mixed in well enough, high enough to be effective but not too prominent. On the following album, it would seem that his voice would become too disjointed from the rest of what was going on. The drumming is about the same as on the previous record, though a bit more relaxed in general. Benante's work is at the right place in the mix, never overpowering the drums and with the double-bass parts keeping to the background, where they belong.

Spreading the Disease may be the best of the Belladonna-era Anthrax albums, as it comes off as more natural and serious as well. Following this, the band would do a lot of things to tarnish their credibility, while expanding their fanbase despite everything. This album is highly recommended to anyone that is looking to explore this era of the band's discography, as it is very solid and really captures the spirit of the time period.