Among The Living


Island Records, 1987

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


It's amazing, sometimes, when I walk through the Pierce Memorial Archives and discover all these albums I once couldn't (or wouldn't) take off the turntable or out of the CD player - albums that have all collected a layer of dust, through no fault of their own.

I had the chance to re-discover one of these albums, Anthrax's 1987 classic Among The Living, while nervously awaiting a call from guitarist Scott Ian for an interview. (True story.) While I waited for the phone to ring, I popped this disc in the CD boombox for the first time in several years, and let the music take over me.

While this album was the one that turned Ian and crew into bonafide superstars of speed metal, there are portions that have not held up as well over time as one would hope they would have. And while Among The Living is still a marginally excellent album, it has developed a few wrinkles over the past 12 years.

The band - Ian, lead singer Joey Belladonna, lead guitarist Dan Spitz, bassist Frank Bello and drummer Charlie Benante, caused many a jaw to scrape the pavement when this album first came out. I still remember hearing the all-out power of the opening bridge to the title track, wondering how Benante could play as fast as he was, and happily slamming my head into my bedroom wall to the song. (My parents say there are still dents in the wall that no amount of spackle can fix.)my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Among The Living is best remembered for a number of things. First, with the song "I Am The Law," Anthrax brought to many people's attention the undergorund comic strip character Judge Dredd - though after Sylvester Stallone's portrayal, one might wonder if that was such a hot idea. Second, Belladonna and crew showed the beginning of their crusade for social justice with "Indians," a track that opened up the eyes of many metalheads to the plight of the original Americans. Third, they helped promote Steven King's works through the title track (based on The Stand's Randall Flagg) and "A Skeleton In The Closet" (from the short story Apt Pupil).

Most importantly, they became one of the most popular speed metal bands of their genre, ranking up there with Metallica, Slayer and Megadeth. While their previous album Spreading The Disease helped make people aware of the band, Among The Living made them superstars.

All of this is fine and dandy as a history lesson, but how does Among The Living hold up in 1999? Certain tracks, such as "Among The Living," "Indians," "I Am The Law" and, to an extent, "Imitation Of Life," all have retained the pure power that they had from day one - not an easy thing to do in a genre where it's very difficult to sound fresh even a year after the album comes out.

Unfortunately, some tracks do show signs of weakness. "Caught In A Mosh" is still a fun song to listen to, but it remains trapped in the '80s and the "moshing is fun" mindframe. (Never mind the fact it is still going on in concerts today.) "One World" and "A Skeleton In The Closet" are the weakest tracks of the bunch; the former doesn't have enough lyrical development, the latter not enough musical development.

Possibly the "diamond in the rough" on Among The Living is "A.D.I. / Horror Of It All," a track that starts out with an acoustic guitar build, and evolves into an intelligent, plodding track before finally exploding into a thrash attack to hammer its message home.

While Among The Living remains Anthrax's most popular album to date, and while I still think it's a very enjoyable album that belongs in any respectable metal CD collection, there is one other Anthrax album that is nearer and dearer to my heart... and we'll talk about that one at a later date.

Rating: B+

User Rating: B+



© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Island Records, and is used for informational purposes only.