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Anthrax, "Spreading the Disease" Album Review

Ara is a journalism graduate from California State University, Northridge, who is always looking to explore his writing opportunities.

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This Album Was Released In a Great Year for the Thrash Metal Genre

After listening to the 3rd studio album by New York State thrash metal band Anthrax, we take a step back in time to review and analyze their 1985 studio album called Spreading the Disease. Here’s something rather interesting about this album as we start off analyzing it. The acronym in the song A.I.R. stands for “Adolescence in Red” and rhythm guitarist Scott Ian mentions that it was actually written as part of a wordplay on George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. Spreading the Disease is the first studio album to feature vocalist Joey Belladonna and bassist Frank Bello. 1985 was a solid year for thrash metal as a few of metal’s big names were establishing themselves. Metallica did it with Ride the Lightning and Exodus did it with Bonded by Blood. We might as well say that Anthrax did it with Spreading the Disease which is a very fine example of progressive metal meets speed and thrash. What Anthrax was spreading around with this album was their musical talents and or influence.

About the Production and Guitar Sound

The album was also a collaborative effort in terms of the production. It was produced by the band Anthrax, Carl Canedy and the late Jon Zazula. Stylistically, you will more than likely hear the progressive 1980s influence on this album as well as the faster more thrash metal parts. The riffing style is pretty similar to that of the album Alice in Hell by the band Annihilator as the sound is kind of that old, dirty, outdated 1980s sound if you know what I mean. Additionally, the guitar sound on this album was a sort of precursor for albums that would come out a few years later such as Alice in Hell and Never Neverland.

About the Style of the Vocals

Listening to this album in 2022 probably doesn’t have the feel that it did had I listened to it in the 1990s or earlier. But the style definitely fits the era of the thrash metal movement of the 1980s. The style of the vocals do also sound similar to what Whiplash, another American thrash metal band from the same surrounding area had used in their songs.

About the Songs

The first song is lyrically partially about opposition against the status quo of the period. Lyrically, it is about the fact that a person cannot be young and free and they are walking right into a nightmare kind of trap. The album’s title suggests that perhaps the band wanted to address some of the major social issues of the time such as homelessness and the epidemic of illicit drugs in the inner cities of the US. “Lone Justice” is a song that features some really good bass guitar play by Frank Bello in the beginning. Listening to this 1985 album for probably the 5th time, I’m starting to get convinced as to why there were so many American metal bands that came onto the scene and established themselves. It is almost like one came after the other and it wasn’t just thrash metal. This standard of excellence for American metal probably lasted until 1994 or so. Joey Belladonna’s vocals are high pitched, have the proper range and he does not overdo it or try to overextend himself which is really important. “S.S.C. / Stand or Fall” is a really good two-part song which starts out with some pretty good exotic guitars before transitioning into a thrash metal song. The song is about someone that is trying to reestablish his sanity and identity in a world that has been overrun with deception or dishonesty. “Aftershock” is a song that is lyrically about the effects that will result as a consequence of nuclear war. Panic will never cease in a situation like this as the song alludes to. Every single song on Spreading the Disease is good and it probably does not matter which song you choose to listen to first as they should all satisfy you. The last song “Gung-Ho” which is about a soldier that bravely goes into a battle is a sort of speed fest to end one of the best albums of 1985.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2022 Ara Vahanian

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