Anthrax – Fistful of Metal
So, do yinz* like Anthrax? I hope so because apparently, I fucking love Anthrax, otherwise, why would I have 17 records and CDs from them? So yeah, we’re going to be hanging with this band for a minute here. Fair warning.
When I sat down and started listening to this record, I planned on covering the band’s first two releases, ‘Fistful of Metal’ and the ‘Armed and Dangerous’ EP. The two records have been packaged together for over a decade now and it seemed to make sense to review them together. But I quickly found the write up for the first title was already getting too long and I didn’t want to gloss over ‘Armed and Dangerous’. So, I split the two reviews up.
My story of discovering Anthrax is best told while talking about ‘Among the Living’, so I’m not going to go too far into that right now. The song ‘Madhouse’ from Spreading the disease’ was the first song I heard by them, and ‘Among the Living’ was the first full album I was exposed to. Those titles sort of set the bar for me as far what I expect from Anthrax. Because of that I never bothered with ‘Fistful of Metal’ until nearly two decades after first hearing the band.
Back when I was a little pre-teen country bumpkin, thinking he was a metal head, I had a prejudice when it came with bands that had different singers throughout their career. Usually, it went that if I discovered a band during one vocalist era, I would have no interest in exploring any of that band’s work with any other singer. I’m not sure why that was so, it just was. I discovered AC/DC with Brian Johnson singing, so I didn’t care about the Bon Scott era. Same with Iron Maidens Di’Anno era, or even Black Sabbath’s Dio and Ian Gillian records. For better or worse that’s just how I was. In many cases, I deprived myself of some great records throughout my childhood and teenage years. Oh well, what are gonna do?
So, like I said, because of that silly rule of mine, I would just pass over ‘Fistful of Metal’ anytime I saw it at the record stores. Joey Belladonna was my Anthrax vocalist, so I had no interest in Neil Turbin’s songs. Didn’t even want to hear them.
In fact, I didn’t hear Turbin’s voice until I bought the ‘Armed and Dangerous’ EP a few years later. The label had just re-issued that EP and included the ‘Soldiers of Metal/Howling Furies/’ demo’s the band recorded prior to ‘Fistful of Metal’. I must say I wasn’t impressed with what I heard.
It wasn’t until 2006 or 2007 that I finally heard ‘Fistful of Metal’ when I bought the most recent reissue that included the ‘Armed and Dangerous’ EP. It was around this time that I was buying up as much of the records I grew up with as I could. After seeing Anthrax live in 2003 and picking up the live record from that tour, my love of Anthrax was rekindled and I was snatching up everything from them I could find. It was during this time that the lion share of the 17 titles I own now was purchased. So, to be honest I think I bought the CD just because I wanted to complete the discography and get the Armed and Dangerous songs. More so than a genuine interest in finally listening to ‘Fistful of Metal’.
After finally hearing this record I can say I thought it was a decent record, but I wasn’t blown away by it. If I were to compare it to another debut release by another ‘Big Four Thrash Band’ I’d say it’s closest to Slayer’s ‘Show No Mercy’. A solid record by a young band exploring a new form of music, but not too incredibly original. At this point, Anthrax was still wearing their influences on their sleeves and hadn’t quite found their own sound yet. But you can hear that they had tons of potential, it would take a couple of lineup changes and a shift within the politics of the band before they realized that potential. The success and longevity of the band speak for itself.
So, what does any of this mean? I honestly don’t know. I’ll admit I sort of stumbled around this write-up and I’m not sure if it makes any sense at all. But to conclude this thing I’ll just say if you’re looking to check out some good ole fashion early 80’s thrash metal, ‘Fistful of Metal’ is a fun listen. Though the band went on to write and record much stronger records through the 80’s and 90’s, their debut record is still worth checking out.
(For those readers outside of Pittsburgh and have no idea what Yinz means, it’s Pittsburgh dialect for ‘you’. The equivalent of ‘Y’all’.)