Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Is Anthrax the Best of the Big 4 Right Now?

Honestly, throughout most of my history with metal, Anthrax has never really been one of my favorite bands.  They did not even make it into my 100 Favorite Bands series.  Even among the Big 4, Anthrax was rarely among my top two favorites.  They were my third favorite for awhile only because it took me a long time to start getting into Slayer.  A lot of this may have been due to the fact that when I started getting into metal, Anthrax had replaced singer Joey Belladonna with John Bush.  I do still think Sound of White Noise is a good album, but it simply does not hold a candle to the better works of Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, or even any of Anthrax's earlier albums. 

That has been changing over the last several years though.  First came their 2011 reunion album with Belladonna which is honestly probably the best Big 4 album of the last ten years, and only really in competition with a couple of Megadeth albums.  Then came their live show with Killswitch Engage last year.  I enjoyed Anthrax more than any of the other Big 4 bands.  I have seen Metallica twice, Megadeth three times, and Slayer once, but Anthrax blew them all away.  Their energy is infectious and they sound terrific on stage. 

So, in the last few months I have been making an effort to plug in some of the holes in my Anthrax collection.  Two of these holes have been State of Euphoria and Spreading the Disease.  I can honestly say that I should have checked these two out a long time ago because they are easily my two favorite Anthrax albums right now.  Previously, that spot was held by Among the Living, which is still a damn good album, but these are better.  "Medusa" is probably the band's best song and I heard it for the first time at the concert last year. 

That brings me to the title question.  Is Anthrax the best of the Big 4 right now?   I honestly believe that the answer to that question is yes.  Here is a look at each of the others:

Obviously, Slayer has recently announced that they will be retiring from touring, but even before that, they have not released a great album in a very long time.  I have enjoyed all of their albums to varying degrees over the last twenty or so years, but nothing has come close to the heights of Seasons in the Abyss, Reign in Blood, or even Divine Intervention.  That coupled with their somewhat lazy live performances (Kerry King notwithstanding), and Slayer has been in decline for a very long time. 

Inconsistency has been the name of the game for the venerable thrash titans in Metallica.  Their Black Album signaled the death knell of thrash metal as we knew it in the 1980's and tons of bands tried to follow suit.  Metallica themselves disappeared for a few years before re-emerging in the mid 1990's with haircuts and a completely different sound.  They released three very odd albums in a row, a covers album, and a collaboration with a symphony, before a return to form of sorts in Death Magnetic.  But after that they released a forgettable EP and the ridiculously awful Lulu collaboration with Lou Reed.  Their most recent album was decent, but bloated, and nowhere near as catchy as the Anthrax material.

Probably the closest competition among the rival bands is Megadeth who at least continues to put out some quality new material.  Their most recent release Dystopia is strongly rooted in their Rust in Peace sound.  But Megadeth has put out a couple of regrettable releases as well, most notably Super Collider.  They do still put on a great live performance, but they pale slightly when compared to Anthrax.

And so that brings us here.  Since reuniting with Belladonna, Anthrax has put out two great albums and has been absolutely on fire live.  Megadeth may be close, but Anthrax has definitely been the more impressive group over the last decade or so.  That is really all that matters at this point and makes them the band to beat among the Big 4.

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