Anthrax was first formed by Scott Ian in 1981, but while they recorded one album with Neil Turbin on vocals, it was the arrival of Joey Belladonna that started their arrival to the big time. One of the “Big Four” of American Thrash Metal, Anthrax were the only band from the East Coast. After a four-album run that included the classic Spreading the Disease, Anthrax became known for comic book references (largely because of the song ‘I am the Law’) but also singing about social concerns in songs like ‘Who Cares Wins’ and ‘Indians.’ They also famously collaborated with Public Enemy on ‘I’m the Man’ and thus were an early influence on crossovers between rap and Metal. They were also known for eschewing the Heavy Metal “uniform” of jeans, preferring to wear shorts on stage because it was so hot. After Joey left, Armoured Saint singer, John Bush, took the reigns for a run of albums that became more Groove Metal than Thrash, Anthrax like so many moving with the times. Joey returned to Anthrax in 2005, and the line-up was in flux for a while, the band even recruiting Dan Nelson to sing for a time. Joey finally returned in 2010 with the album Worship Music, which was highly regarded, and another album, For All Kings, followed. Anthrax continue to tour and create new music.
Scott Ian has said that the first version of Anthrax basically wanted to be Judas Priest, but their covers album showed a far deeper appreciation of 70s heavy rock. Like all the bands who increased the speed and heaviness of Metal music, a punk influence is also obvious in their music, with the band even covering the Sex Pistols early on.
Classics (the albums even a casual fan owns)
Among the Living (1987)
This is ground zero for Anthrax. Their third album, at least four of these songs will be played at any Anthrax gig. Those are ‘Among the Living,’ ‘Caught in a Mosh,’ ‘I am the Law’ and ‘Indians.’ With other strong tracks like ‘N.F.L.’ and ‘A Skeleton in the Closet,’ this is the album that made their reputation. When they first got together with Joey again, the first thing they did was a tour playing this album in full.
Sound of White Noise (1992)
Their first album with John Bush was also the only one to benefit from a time when Heavy Metal was on top of the music world. It definitely marked a new direction, but fans at the time lapped it up, with even James Hetfield saying that the lead single, ‘Only,’ was “the perfect song.”
Worship Music (2011)
Hugely anticipated, this album did not disappoint, and many were left wondering why the band many thought at the bottom of the “Big Four” were releasing the strongest new music in the new century. Every track on this CD is strong, and after the ongoing circus of changing lead singers, this album cemented the relevance of Anthrax in the new century.
Fan Favourite (the album that didn’t make it big, but every fan loves)
We’ve Come for You All (2003)
The last “real” album John Bush did with Anthrax is also the best. Songs like ‘What Doesn’t Die’ and ‘Safe Home’ did exactly what people wanted from Bush-era Anthrax and tracks like ‘Cadillac Rock Box’ came from left field and won fans over with the strength and versatility of this line up.
Next Steps (One step below, but these albums still shine in the catalogue)
Spreading the Disease (1985)
Paving the way for the world-beating Among the Living, this album, the first with Joey on vocals, had lots of great tracks like ‘Medusa’ and ‘Madhouse.’ While not as good as the album that followed, it still is a strong album with some classic tracks.
Persistence of Time (1990)
The last album from the first run with Joey showed a continued move towards stronger, heavier tracks like ‘Time,’ ‘Keep it in the Family,’ ‘Belly of the Beast’ and ‘In my World.’ A cover of ‘Got the Time’ (Joe Jackson) was the single and remains in their set to this day.
State of Euphoria (1988)
State of Euphoria is not as strong as the album before or the album after. The band has said they were pressured into pushing this album out in a short time span, but it’s still a classic. ‘Who Cares Wins’ was a strong single, but the album is best remembered for the Trust cover, ‘Antisocial,’ a song that came to define Anthrax in the late 80s.
Controversial (The one fans disagree on)
Vol 8: The Threat is Real (1998)
While Anthrax don’t really have any albums that fans are divided on, as the Bush era drove on and they found themselves as a four-piece, and on smaller and smaller labels (this one went bust, disrupting the distribution of the album), this is probably their most reviled album and perhaps unfairly so. Bush-era Anthrax were just a different band, and while they were not travelling well at the time and listening with fresh ears won’t make anyone prefer this to Worship Music, or Sound of White Noise, it’s not as terrible as people like to say.
Buy this last (Not all bands have a ‘bad’ album, but this is their least good one)
The Greater of Two Evils (2004)
Coming off an amazing album, the last John Bush album is, improbably, an album of him performing the “greatest hits” picked from the albums first recorded with Joey. At the time it felt like a huge diss to their former singer, and while John does a fine enough job, the styles are very different and there’s really no reason to buy this album. There are greatest hits albums if you want one, and if you own all these songs, there’s really nothing new here to make you want to hear them again in this format. Disappointingly, after this was released, the band talked to Joey about a “two singers tour,” and John saw the writing on the wall and left, throwing the band into disarray for a number of years.
Playlist (A killer playlist for your phone)
‘Metal Thrashing Mad’ (Fistful of Metal)
‘Madhouse’ (Spreading the Disease)
‘Medusa’ (Spreading the Disease)
‘Among the Living’ (Among the Living)
‘Caught in a Mosh’ (Among the Living)
‘I am the Law’ (Among the Living)
‘N.F.L.’ (Among the Living)
‘Indians’ (Among the Living)
‘Antisocial’ (State of Euphoria)
‘Who Cares Wins’ (State of Euphoria)
‘Time’ (Persistence of Time)
‘In my World’ (Persistence of Time)
‘Belly of the Beast’ (Persistence of Time)
‘Got the Time’ (Persistence of Time)
‘Potters Field’ (Sound of White Noise)
‘Only’ (Sound of White Noise)
‘Room for One More’ (Sound of White Noise)
‘What Doesn’t Die’ (We’ve Come for You All)
‘Safe Home’ (We’ve Come for You All)
‘Strap it On’ (We’ve Come for You All)
‘Cadillac Rock Box’ (We’ve Come for You All)
‘Bring the Noise’ (Return of the Killer As)
‘The Devil you Know’ (Worship Music)
‘Evil Twin’ (For All Kings)