It was all change for ANTHRAX as they debuted on Island Records with their second album ‘’Spreading The Disease’’. Out was high pitched wailer Neil Turbin from the first album ‘’Fistful Of Metal’’ and in came the much better, composed vocalist Joey Belladonna and bassist Frank Bello.
Afforded the title as one of the four big Thrash bands – METALLICA, MEGADETH and SLAYER being the other tour de forces within – ANTHRAX honed and strengthened their early Thrash sounds into what I consider to be the bands finest achievement on vinyl. Sure the follow up ‘’Among The Living’’ brought a success the band would never again emulate but in 1985 this fledgling New York band were next to MAIDEN and MANOWAR the band that drove my Metal hunger.
Looking back it’s hard to attach the Thrash tag to this album conversely ‘’Ride The Lightning’’ could well be approached in a similar vein. Sure there’s rapid double bass drumming a plenty (Gung-Ho and A.I.R.), searing riffs (Madhouse)and much to snap that neck to but striping ‘’Spreading The Disease’’ to its bare bones reveals a very classic NWOBHM record tempered with New York Hardcore influences.
There’s an earthy, solid, feet on the ground sound to the record. Whereas METALLICA sought loftier, more technical Progressive Thrash Metal ANTHRAX was for all intents a street band who knew how to deliver, ironically, a massive fistful of Metal.
As with Dickinson joining MAIDEN it was the arrival of Belladonna that sealed the classic status of this album. His clean power house voice was perfectly suited for the rampant riffing of Scott Ian and Dan Spitz (who is possibly smaller than Ronnie James Dio) and in riffs did ANTHRAX commit.
Taking a leaf from MAIDEN’s book of escapist fantasy and a penchant for war and battle ANTHRAX conjured up the gunslinger out for revenge on the simply and much underrated classic ‘’Lone Justice; the anti-Nazi rant of ‘’The Enemy’’ and the horrors of nuclear conflict on ‘’Aftershock’’. Add in the explosive kerosene fuelled "S.S.C./ Stand Or Fall" and even a Power ballad of sorts in the excellent ‘’Armed And Dangerous’’ ANTHRAX concocted the almost perfect Metal album and one that has, not surprisingly, stood the test of time.
After this release it was down hill for them in my opinion. Of course ‘’Among The Living’’ broke them world wide but the silliness (mosh) and absurdity (not) seemed to over the shadow the music. Subsequent releases saw me drift further away as METALLICA and MEGADETH and even SLAYER, to a degree, went onto bigger things ANTHRAX just slowly retired into the background. Line up changes ensued. People came and went. The classic band reformed and before to long that has already bit the dust. However in their favour most bands don’t record one classic album never mind two.
(Online April 5, 2007)