What are you listening to now? : The Pit Edition
Anthrax - "Among The Living" (1987)
The third full-length from New York thrash metal institution Anthrax was an absolutely HUUUGGGE record in my childhood. I got into the band through their underrated 1988 record "State Of Euphoria" in late '88/early '89 before meeting a new mate that had an older cousin that was obsessed with the band. I proceeded to investigate their entire back catalogue very quickly & was floored by both "Among The Living", its predecessor "Spreading The Disease" & the horribly overlooked "Armed & Dangerous" E.P. in particular. In truth "Spreading The Disease" will likely always remain my favourite Anthrax release however "Among The Living" is awfully close behind. It saw the band utilizing a heavier dose of hardcore punk & it resulted in an infectious energy that permeates every part of an exceptionally consistent tracklisting. The use of gang vocals is possibly the best example you'll find in all of metal &, even though this in not something that I usually go for, I can't help but admit that I shout along with every word as a united front with the band members here. Although there are tight-as-hell thrash riffs for days through the undeniable Scott Ian, Joey Belladonna & Charlie Benante are the key components on "Among the Living" as Joey manages to gives every track the sort of hooks that leave an indelible mark on your brain for life & Charlie's confident & powerful performance behind the kit is what drives this music to heights that similar US thrash outfits simply weren't capable of at the time. Interestingly (& quite tellingly), my favourite tracks aren't the big name classics like "Caught In A Mosh" & "Indians". It's the more thrashy & violent numbers like "A Skeleton In The Closet" & "Imitation Of Life" that float my boat with the most buoyancy & that's the strength of this album really as literally every track is essential listening for all fans of 80's thrash.
Overkill - "Taking Over" (1987)
The 1987 sophomore album from New Jersey thrash metal establishment Overkill represents my entry point for the band way back around 1989 when I was in my early teenage years & completely obsessed with extreme metal (kinda similar to now really). I have to admit that, whilst I've always found it to be relatively enjoyable, it's never really convinced me that the band were a tier one act & my feelings haven't changed in that respect. "Taking Over" certainly featured some improvements on their 1985 debut album "Feel The Fire" with more appealing production, performances & song-writing but some of the riffs & arrangements still seem so basic & generic that it sounded a little dated even back then in my opinion. It's not a total thrash-fest either as almost half of the album falls into speed metal or traditional heavy metal territory.
I think the reason that "Taking Over" has remained so popular over the years is due to the tight execution & its uncluttered accessibility. It's like the band understood their limitations a bit better than they did previously & worked within them to create an appealing & marketable product. The other reason is likely the melodic vocal approach of front man Bobby Blitz who hadn't opted for the grindier approach he'd take on later material just yet & contributes some much needed pizzazz to some otherwise fairly uneventful pieces of music. There's definitely a little bit of Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickinson about his performance here & if you listen closely you can hear that he was giving everything he had as far as charisma & effort go. It's certainly paid off as there's only really "Fatal If Swallowed" that fails to leave the desired impact as far as hooks go. In saying that, Bobby's performance still wasn't enough to make any of this material a genuine thrash classic in my opinion so I don't think I can justify the high regard that "Taking Over" is generally held in amongst thrash purists.
Voivod - "Killing Technology" (1987)
The third album from unusual Canadian thrash metallers Voivod is a significant release in their back catalogue in that it sees the band taking huge strides towards a much more ambitious & progressive sound. Voivod's first two albums certainly hinted at a prog rock influence but were predominantly driven by a blend of Venom/Motorhead & hardcore punk worship whereas "Killing Technology" categorically leaps straight off the platform into a progressive wilderness previously traversed by Syd Barret era Pink Floyd whilst never losing the fast-paced energy of the band's early works. For that reason, it very much represents the mid-point in Voivod's creative transition into a fully-fledged progressive outfit but is this really a thrash metal release? Well, in a word... no it isn't. There's undeniably more thrash here than on any of Voivod's other classic period releases (particularly in the drumming which seems to have taken influence from the likes of Slayer's Dave Lombardo) but thrash is still just one of many tools at the band's disposal & there's probably even more punk included in all honesty (see the urgent tempos, quirky vocals & open-string guitar work). To my ears the primary focus is always on making progressive music like none that we'd heard before or since & for that reason I've always struggled with Voivod's links to thrash. Still... "Killing Technology" is another genuinely fascinating musical excursion from one of metal's most unique entities. I think Voivod's best work would come the following year with their classic "Dimension Hatröss" album where they would take their new sound even further but "Killing Technology" isn't far behind in second place in my opinion & should be essential listening for fans of metal music that takes genuine risks & challenges the listener.
For fans of Vektor, Coroner & Watchtower.