Among The Living
Vital thrash competes with peers
Anthrax were considered to be a part of the "big four" of metal during the 80s as far as the metal press were concerned back then. Many will say that it was a "big five" that included Exodus, but that is another topic all together and I digress. These New Yorkers were signed for their debut album Fistful Of Metal to the same label that released Metallica's Kill 'Em All - Megaforce Records. With the thrash scene gaining momentum and definitive releases by their peers (Metallica's Master Of Puppets, Slayer's Reign In Blood and Megadeth's Peace Sells...But Who's Buying?), it was time for Anthrax to step up and do the same. 1987 saw the release of Among The Living which is considered by many to be the pinnacle of Anthrax's thrash career and the album that really lived up to the potential that was shown by it's predecessor Spreading The Disease.
The somewhat subtle, yet eerie sounding opening strains to the title track really don't give the listener any warning of the aural assault that follows. As the opening track kicks in, this rollercoaster ride of thrash never lets up as it twists and turns, throwing the listener from one side to the other. Anthrax never took themselves too seriously from a song standpoint and this album is no different. Lyrically, there are songs about Stephen King's The Stand (the title track), a comic book crime fighter which later became a bad Stallone movie (Judge Dredd in I Am The Law) and a socially aware commentary on the plight of the North American Indians (aptly titled Indians). The music behind it all is not a full on 200mph attack along the line's of Slayer's Reign In Blood. It doesn't need to be either. Anthrax have come up with an excellent balance of moshtacular riffs, some laced with groove, but all of which are balanced perfectly with tempos that the ebb and tide with the feel of the album.
Most importantly, there's no filler. Each track can stand on it's own but the whole is still greater than the sum of its parts. This album is as important as those of their peers during the flourishing years of thrash. It's a classic. It might sound dated by today's production standards, but there's little doubt that it's still timeless.