Among the Living
Released March 22, 1987
The third studio recording by Anthrax is without a doubt their signature release; spawning several blistering cuts and cementing their legacy as part of the ‘big 4’ of American thrash. Among the Living went certified gold in 1990 and is arguably the “breakthrough album” to be slotted up against other releases like Reign in Blood, Master of Puppets and Peace Sells…but Who’s Buying. You won’t find a better thrash album than this; considering the relentless aggression and shrieking vocals of lead singer Joey Belladonna pushed front and center throughout fifty plus minutes of running time.
Almost every song on this release has become permanent staples in their live set and for this reason there’s no doubt the band is the king of the mosh pits. Obviously coming from the NY area, the band were conscious of their hard-core roots; infusing their songs with intensity unlike what other bands of their ilk could produce. Their heaviness could not be contained; allowing every song to burst open wide with razor sharp riffs and assuaged by Belladonna’s incredible vocal range. You could feel the hair stand straight up on the back of your neck when Joey unleashes the scream of all screams on “I am the Law”. The song is about their favorite comic book character Judge Dredd and whenever I am reading a Dredd comic, this song will forever come to mind. As does horror author Stephen King; whose influences run through songs like “Among the Living” (The Stand) and “A Skeleton in the Closet” (Apt Pupil). The band also took inspiration from the late great comedian John Belushi for “Efilnikufesin (N.F.L.)” and ditto for “Imitation of Life” which was a reworked edition of S.O.D.’s “Aren’t You Hungry?”
The album was also dedicated to the memory of Metallica Bassist Cliff Burton, who perished in a bus accident while touring in Europe. It just so happens Anthrax was Metallica’s tour mates at the time of the incident; so this was a sour spot during the band’s most successful period.
In my mind, Among the Living is the top thrash album of all time. Of course, there will always be this argument for Slayer’s Reign in Blood or Metallica’s Master of Puppets as the top picks on anyone’s list, but ATL closely imbues the true spirit of what thrash metal is all about; the relentless aggression, and mosh worthy appeal on all the songs. Not to mention lyrics that is inspired from urban-city living and definitely taking their cues from horror films and comic books. As a teenager growing up in the 80’s, my existence was fueled solely by horror movies and comic books, so Anthrax was a band I could fully relate to on a personal level.
Without question I am giving this release a 10 out of 10, not because I consider myself the ultimate Anthrax fan, but more so for the sheer brilliance of the songs themselves. It’s hard to pick just a few as favorites for the purpose of this review, but tracks like: “Among the Living”, “Caught in a Mosh”, “I am the Law” and “Efilnikufesin (N.F.L.)” stand out the most. Then again so do “A Skeleton in the Closet”, “Indians” and “Imitation of Life”, so let’s just say every track on this release is a favorite.