I have heard so much about Anthrax but somehow never heard them until today. I still remember reading about their debut in my Billboard book when I was a kid (or a tween), about how it was the fastest metal album ever (supposedly…according to Billboard) and not even knowing what metal was, just sort of being in awe that fast metal was a thing.
In the intervening 25-30 years I’ve become a Metallica fan and I’ve heard some Slayer and Megadeth, enough to know which of those bands I prefer. But still, never any Anthrax. And I am fully aware that it’s ridiculous to listen to this record as my first Anthrax album. Some think it’s their best but most do not. Moreover, there’s the rather crucial fact that this record was released in 1990.
It’s pretty clear the songs are catchier than the other Big 4 songs (excepting post-Justice Metallica of course). Though Belladonna shouts a lot of the time, there’s a fair amount of singalong stuff, certainly much more than I was expecting. At least vocally, the punk roots often feel stronger, both in terms of his vocals and in terms of the relative accessibility of these songs.
The music is mostly pretty straight-ahead thrash metal: it’s fash, it’s pummeling, it’s perhaps a little more precise than I was expecting but it still very much fits within the trash nice. Occasionally there are some deviations, such as when Belladonna sounds like he’s almost rapping (almost) on one track. But, for the most part, it’s pretty typical trash.
And that’s where I’m sort of lost here: this is a well-executed, catchy thrash metal album, more on the punk side of things in terms of songs and singing, but entirely on the metal side of things in terms of the guitars and drums. But it’s just a well-executed thrash metal album in 1990. These guys don’t have the musical ambition of pre-Black Album Metallica nor the outright force and weight of Slayer, nor the hooks of Black Album Metallica. They’re just pretty good at what they do.