Wednesday, February 12, 2014

It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad Band

AMONG THE LIVING
3/22/87

Considered by scores of fans to be the Anthrax album to get, if your cheap ass is only getting one.

"Among the Living"--No trailers preceding the main attraction.  This movie requires close attention.  The usual sugary barrage of overly-animated figures voiced by overpriced celebrities, the tachycardia-inducing orchestral swells and stabs, the remakes, the adaptations, all are mercifully absent.  Showtime is go time is here is now.

The first shot to feature dialogue references a preceding film--comforting reassurance of self-preservation, or chillingly corny insecurity?  Within seconds, the popcorn-flavored butter you've been shoveling into your gullet begins to taste so metallic it practically washes itself down.

Dystopian tales require blurbs a-poppin' to convince the jaded.  "Gripping!"--"An emotional barnstormer!"--"A look into a future which may be closer than we think."  It also helps if these fragments of a blowjob also have some motions of truth to them.

What helps also is adapting an acclaimed best-selling novel.  What writer has had more of their works mutilated than Stephen King?  (I'm pretty sure that's a rhetorical question!)  1978's The Stand is one of my personal King favorites, the saga of a flu-like epidemic nicknamed "Captain Trips" which boasts a .994 killing average (and a psychosomatic response rate of 85%).  No song can match the relative majesty of the original story, but Anthrax do much better than just a cursory book report.  Dan Spitz and Scott Ian prove themselves chugger-muggers par excellence, and the uncle/nephew rhythm section is undeterrable.

This leaves Joey Belladonna, a gifted singer who struggles in spots with the demands of thrash metal music.  He lacks the commanding presence of a Tom Araya or James Hetfield, and can't rely on sheer "my-nuts-your-mouth" attitude such as what kept the likes of Dave Mustaine afloat.  His third verse shriekery is a superfluous nipple.

"Caught In a Mosh"--For an album that gets so much hype as an "old-school classic," Among the Living sure does peak early.  Maybe the best-known (certainly the best) song on the record, "Mosh" is the actual toxic waltz, taking fools and their foolishness to the back of the school, which is sometimes the only logical response to an untenable situation.

"I Am the Law"--The beginning is redolent of a sewage milkshake.  Best is when you belch it back up while riding the merry-go-round.  Everything else is guy stuff that puts me in a somnolent state.
  
"Efilnikufesin (N.F.L.)"--Anthrax have always been the outliers of the Big 4.  More in thrall of comics than Crowley, more likely to get horrendously sick from pizza and beer than dope, and more concerned with making sure fans realize they are the stars of their own shows.  Better to be your own hero than misdirect your worship towards numbskull entertainers destined to die young and leave a sad-looking trail of people who knew and loved and rooted for them.

But I have floated in the despondent sea long enough.   Let us play a game.  That game is called, "The Big 4--Which NFL Teams Are They?"

Slayer are the Oakland Raiders.  Iconic image, bad-ass name.  A championship legacy that has earned them a legion of diehard supporters reviled and revered by observers for their collective passion.  Dependent for decades on a decaying demon.

Metallica are the Dallas Cowboys, the so-called "America's Team," the squadron weighed down by bandwagon-jumpers and arrogant day-oner's who insist on owning everything with their goddamn logo slapped on it, and it just so happens that nearly everything has had their logo slapped on it!  Everything Metallica does instantly garners a wider spotlight than their peers, along with increased pressure to perform.

Megadeth are the Washington Redskins, a team with multiple titles that still somehow don't get their just due in history.  Maybe it's because they're owned by a douchefuck who doesn't realize how offensive nearly everything about him truly is.  In a rivalry with a team that hasn't really cared about them much in about twenty years.

And Anthrax?  Why, they're the Atlanta Falcons, a fun-loving bunch of birds who have managed a few magical seasons while still falling short of the pinnacle.  I mean as much as Among the Living is revered, it's pretty much Dave Hampton's last game of the 1972 season to me.

"A Skeleton in the Closet"--Another Stephen King-inspired tune (the novella Apt Pupil, which I have yet to read.  Though thanks to this song, I kinda got the gist of the plot...).  Jesus, this one has bones all over the house.  That verse riff is fierce, no sashay. 

"Indians"--Dated as a calendar.  The title is the most egregious example; the Iron Maiden rip-off intro is another.  Fucking hell, the hook actually says, "Cry for the Indians!" I remember hearing this for the first time with my brother and he laughed out loud at that chorus.  Meanwhile I'm silent in the passenger seat, thinking to myself, Wow, it's like his diaphragm can read my mind.

My dislike of "Indians" is really nothing to do with white dudes using their privileged position to speak up for an oppressed minority--though there are certain matters of taste to be considered--and more that the song is just hideous proof that some people will mosh to anything.  (That breakdown is throw-up compared to the likes of "Dead Embryonic Cells.")

"One World"--"Welcome to it," indeed.  Though I fear Anthrax's cries were for naught.  Unsubtle pleas for peace and understanding buoyed by a wicked gallop not even Joey Belladonna can undermine with his insistence on sacrificing clarity for histrionics. 

"A.D.I./Horror of It All"--The so-called "Arabian Douche Intro" is a gorgeous acoustic piece; makes this eight-minute tune a tenner easily because of it.  Male tactic of torpedoing sentimentality with crudity be damned!

What a gutwrencher.  How can you tell someone to keep on, keep on livin' when life as they know it ain't life as you know it, and may in fact no longer be bearable?  How can you talk about the future, and options, yet just stand there gaping when challenged to present some right there right then?

Every person is born to die.  Some people are born to die sooner than the accepted norm--"gone before their time," the saying goes, except maybe there's no such thing.  Interactions beyond human ken create (mostly) undetectable pathways that must be followed to the end.  The length, width and intersections of these roads all vary from journey to journey.  They are inalterable, and they are all the travel terrain we will know while in this particular vehicle.

"Imitation of Life"--Have you ever seen the movie this song is based on?  You haven't, because it wasn't.

A welcome shift to the fast(er) lane, all the better to bowl over those scummy suits.  Oh man, this song is about how lame the business side of music is?  Well, Anthrax still sound quite hungry.  And that's the thing for me.  How can this be their artistic peak when I hear a group still gaining momentum?  

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