I have both come to Anthrax backwards – having heard a later record before this one – and come to Anthrax last among the Big 4. That makes it harder to appreciate them. But worse, I’ve been listening to Seven Churches, a way more brutal, way more innovative metal record, released the same month as this one. It’s a recipe for underrating the hell out of this record and this band, but I’ll try not to.
At least at this strange, Anthrax are closer to power metal than any other of the Big 4. So much of this is Belladonna’s fault/responsibility but at least some of that is in the songs, too. It’s funny I’m having this reaction to this record because, when I heard a later Anthrax record, I sort of thought they were slightly punkier – musically not vocally – than the other Big 4. So clearly the sound evolved.
That’s not to say the sound of this record isn’t pummeling much of the time, it absolutely is. They’re a little less brutal than Slayer and they’re less ambitious than Metallica but they’ve got better songs than Megadeth (and a better singer) and I can see why this particular version of thrash is more appealing to some than the music of the rest of the Big 4.
For me, personally, I definitely like Anthrax more than Megadeth, based only two Anthrax records now. But I find them way less compelling than Metallica or Slayer, based on those records.
And this one – well it just feels a little too safe and traditional for me. And some of that is because Ride the Lightning already existed when this came out. And some of that is because Seven Churches and To Mega Therion were released the same month and were taking pretty big steps into new genres. And some of this, admittedly, is just that Belladonna, who is a better singer than anyone else in the Big 4, is just way too “power metal” for me – he sounds like he should be singing in a NWOBHM or European metal band, not a thrash band.
But obviously this record is way heavier (and faster) than your average ’80s European power metal record. And I see why people like the band. I just don’t love them and I don’t really feel that this record is that big a deal.
8/10 I guess