This thing didn’t really need revisiting: Forget their inclusion in the “Big 4” of thrash – for me Anthrax were one of the formative bands of my youth. In some ways I know these songs like I know my childhood, since they were such a large part of it. Anthrax was the first band to carry the aggression of the music I had been seeking, but coupled with the clean, rousing vocals I had also come to love. It may seem odd to kick off Anthrax with No Hit Wonders, a compilation of their (initial) period with Joey Belladonna, but at the time I still had all the cassettes and a compilation seemed like the most budget-friendly solution to hearing some of my favorite songs in higher fidelity.
Is it a perfect Anthrax compilation? Of course not; you can’t have a perfect compilation without at least acknowledging debut Fistful of Metal, but this is a Belladonna joint, so Neil Turbin fans are free to build their own greatest hits package (same goes for John Bush). So with that in mind kicking things off with “A.I.R” is an absolute fist-banging blast. Spreading the Disease keeps one foot firmly in classic heavy metal and is the one Anthrax album that keeps rising in my estimation. There’s a total of seven tracks from Spreading the Disease on No Hit Wonders…one more than Among the Living. I still find that kind of shocking. What’s not shocking is how good Among the Living is, and how the “stamp” of Anthrax is now in full effect, with the mosh running strong through all the songs, including (of course) “Caught In A Mosh,” “I Am The Law,” and the title track. The first Anthrax song I ever heard was “Indians” and sandwiched here between “A Skeleton in the Closet” and the Black Sabbath cover of “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” it doesn’t hit quite as hard as the first time I heard it, but that might due to it being part of so many other great tracks.
Folks give State of Euphoria a bit of a short shrift, but for my money “Be All, End All” might be the best track Anthrax ever recorded. That album and the massive Persistence of Time are both ably represented here, but what’s missing are the incredible covers the band has done over time. Sure, the aforementioned “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” and “Antisocial” are here since they’re on the proper albums. but I wish instead of the lacklustre “I’m the Man” we had some of the great B-sides the band has covered, like “Parasite” and “Pipeline.” But it’s a small price to pay when you can see how consistently great Anthrax has been over the course of their early career.