10 Best Anthrax Songs
Other heavy metal bands may have enjoyed more stable lineups than New York thrash icons Anthrax, but few of these acts have been anywhere near as fascinating or productive. Astoundingly successful, too, if you consider the unrelenting sonic violence and unapologetic anti-establishment mindset that motivated the group’s ascension, out of the streets of New York’s outer boroughs and all the way to the global concert stage. But the members of Anthrax accomplished this while withstanding a challenging number of defections, disruptions and outright disasters that would have killed off lesser bands — yet they've taken simply in stride as dyed-in-the-wool New Yorkers. So, while it goes without saying that coalescing all that Anthrax has achieved into just a few tunes is no easy task, we will try to just the same with Loudwire’s list of the 10 Best Anthrax Songs.
We begin our list of 10 Best Anthrax Songs with this somber, cello-introduced opener from the band’s unfairly maligned fourth album, ’State of Euphoria,’ which, despite reprising most all the dark themes and violent sonics lapped up by fans in previous years, somehow didn’t come across as “serious” enough for some thrash fans (blame the bermudas). Well, excuuuuuse Anthrax for having a sense of humor!
Nevertheless, it was a distinctly pissed off Anthrax that delivered ‘Persistence of Time,’ a couple of years later: an album so instrumentally dense and lyrically dreary it proved hard to digest for many fans (you just can't please these people!). Luckily, occasional respites from the doldrums, like their frantic cover of Joe Jackson’s ‘Got the Time’ and this more fluid ‘Belly of the Beast,' tipped the balance somewhat - though not enough to spare Joey Belladonna’s scapegoating.
So it was back to drawing board, yet again, for Anthrax in 1993 — a year that saw the band armed with a new singer (erstwhile Armored Saint man, John Bush), new record deal (Elektra — home of Metallica), and, at least for a brief moment, a new lease of life in the fast-changing age of flannel. And, while we know this story didn’t end well for many metal bands, that year’s ‘Sound of White Noise’ was justly heralded as a mature return to form for the group and spawned several worthy tunes like ‘Room for One More.’
None of which forbade Anthrax from reuniting with Belladonna nearly 20 years after his exit, and making beautifully violent music together again in the shape of 2011’s very impressive ‘Worship Music.’ Proof positive that sometimes you can go back home again, stellar songs like ‘The Devil You Know’ neatly tapped into the moshing musical chemistry that first made the band tick, while simultaneously upgrading their metallic aesthetic for modern consumption. No mean feat under any circumstance, but it sure worked here.
Here’s something most everyone can agree on: 1987’s ‘Among the Living’ remains a high-water mark of Anthrax’s recording career and the key album responsible for gaining them access to that ultra-exclusive club known as the Big 4 (i.e. platinum-selling thrash bands, completed by Metallica, Slayer and Megadeth). And with good reason, as ‘Among’ has lost none of its intricate power nor creative relevance, as epitomized by the fan favorite 'Indians,' with its muscular riffs and meaningful lyrics.
Almost as perfect, and an obvious stepping stone on Anthrax’s inexorable road to that perfection, was 1985’s sophomore LP, ‘Spreading the Disease,’ which saw the New Yorkers coming into their own as a songwriting unit behind the recently recruited Belladonna. Too many songs here could easily qualify for our list of 10 Best Anthrax Songs (‘Medusa,’ ‘Gung-Ho,’ ’A.I.R.’), so we’ll take the easy way out via the album’s first single, ‘Madhouse,’ which remains an exemplary study in devastating, uncluttered ‘80s thrash, and introduced Anthrax’s penchant for comedy, to boot.
Many of the same qualities apply to the song many consider to be the first all-out classic in ‘thrax history: ‘Metal Thrashing Mad,’ which also proved the centerpiece of their rough and ready debut, ‘Fistful of Metal.’ As we recently pointed out whilst celebrating the landmark LP’s 30th (gulp!) anniversary, Anthrax were still struggling to solidify their lineup and overall musical direction during this, their first trip into a recording studio; so it’s no small wonder they came away with such a memorable, if occasionally uneven, piece of black wax, which obviously laid the foundation for grand achievements still to come.
Aside from all of that awesome music, another public service Anthrax selflessly provided for budding metal fans was to help explain some of the music’s all-important vernacular, inside their very songs! This helpful trend began with the aforementioned ‘Metal Thrashing Mad’ but arguably reached its best-known manifestation on what is perhaps the group’s greatest manic masterpiece, ‘Caught in a Mosh,’ which was of course a lynchpin of 1987’s unassailable ‘Among the Living’ album. As such, the song went on to set many standards for circle pit etiquette (or lack thereof), still carefully observed (or, well, NOT!) by every self-respecting metalhead.
Our next-to-final choice in our list of 10 Best Anthrax Songs is bound to spark some fan disagreement, but then so will virtually every song named here — never mind the countless classics we were forced to leave off for sheer lack of room. We are talking about the early band staple, ‘Armed and Dangerous, which, perhaps more than any other tune, clearly marked the band’s transition from original singer, Neil Turbin (who actually wrote these lyrics before he left) to his long-termed successor Joey Belladonna (whose soaring vocals positively slay them), and from traditional melodic metal to bona fide thrash. Consider it the best of both worlds, if you will…
And there’s likewise no fail-proof method for selecting the ultimate Anthrax song, but we feel pretty darn confident in stating that the band’s copious talents and impressive legacy never found a more next-to-perfect expression than with this towering thrash titan from 1987’s ‘Among the Living.’ Much like the comic book character that inspired it — the vigilante of a dystopian future reality named Judge Dredd — ‘I Am the Law’ possesses the final and unquestioned (musical) authority to arrest, sentence and execute your asses, right there in the mosh pit of every Anthrax show. No mercy, no exceptions, and certainly no refunds! Why? “Because in Mega City, I AM THE LAW!”