When I was a teenager, Anthrax was my favorite metal band. I liked them because they dressed like surfer party guys, wrote songs about Stephen King characters and comic books and recorded a goofy rap song.
Aside from the rap thing, though, what I liked about them had very little to do with their music.
I bought the cassette of their EP “I am the Man,” and played the titular novelty metal rap song out, but the rest of the album I played grudgingly. I bought “Among the Living,” which I don’t remember a thing about except for the choruses of “Caught in a Mosh (because it had the word “Mosh” in it), “Indians” (because it sort of sounded like a native American chant) and “NFL” (swear word!). It’s a far less accomplished overall sound than Metallica’s Master of Puppets, which was released a year before it. It has all the sludge and none of the epic peaks.
Their only advantage over Metallica is that you can actually hear the bass guitar in Anthrax’s records. Otherwise, Anthrax’s music is off the shelf, generic metal, Iron Maiden minus the harmonized guitars and allusions to Samuel Coleridge.
They perform competently, aside from when their singer Joey Belladona strains for high notes. Their songs are just sort of boring. Every time they have a good riff, they play it longer than it should last (this is true even of “I Am the Man,” which stretches its “Hava Nagila” riff and Sam Kinison samples about three minutes beyond the point of being funny).
Their best songs are covers: “Antisocial,” “Got the Time” and “Bring the Noise.” Their biggest original hit, 1993’s “Only” came after they fired Belladona and hired a guy who sounded alarmingly similar to Eddie Vedder.
So, getting back to being a fan of everything about Anthrax except for their original music; their true talents really seems to be trend hopping and media presence. They were the friendly face of thrash metal, then the rap-friendly metal guys and then they sort of made a grunge album. Meanwhile, they had cameos on Married with Children, News Radio, the Mr. Show movie Run Ronnie Run, and Scott Ian even co-starred in a reality show (admittedly, MWC, NR and MS are all awesome and I would have appeared on any of them in a heartbeat. So, again, they like the things I like.).
Also, Ian trail-blazed the bald dude with goatee in shorts “metal” look, which is forever terrible. So I’m tempted to say they suck, except for how their three cover song hits are pretty awesome and that Ian and I both grew up in Bayside, Queens. Also, I think if we hung out and talked about ’80s comics and Mr. Show, we’d walk away best friends for life.