Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Review- Anthrax/ Aftershock: The Island Years 1985-1990

Anthrax/ Aftershock: The Island Years 1985-1990 (Island/Universal, compilation, 2013)

Poor Anthrax. Island has released a number of compilations and even two live albums in their never ending attempt to cash in on their back catalog. Now Island finally have the chance to reissue the band's catalog in a box set in a way that the fans actually want, and they flub that, too. The four discs that comprise this four hub, double-disc fat jewel case are all remastered, something that the material desperately needed. Island got that part right, because these classic Thrash Metal albums have never sounded better. They included many of the B-sides and assorted EP tracks, which I will go into more detail about below.

I will try to go light on my opinions of the material, suffice it to say that these albums were all huge to me as a teenager. I remember hearing Spreading The Disease.for the first time. I flipped! It was like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden on speed! I liked Anthrax more than Metallica for quite a stretch there, to be honest with you. Among The Living contains, in my scholarly metal opinion, the first blast beat ever on A Skeleton In The Closet. Don't believe me? Go to 3:44 and for three seconds Charlie does a one handed blast beat on the snare, which I believe to be the first one, predating Death Metal as a whole. State Of Euphoria was solid when it came out and I played it a lot. It helped make Anthrax more popular at the time thanks in no small part to it's slicker production. Persistence Of Time was the whole ball of wax. Super heavy while catchy and accessible, it was another Gold record for the band here in the States. I played the shit out of it when it came out and for a long time after.

I will list the pros and cons now. The most obvious pro is, of course, the superior sound. The original CD release of Spreading The Disease was embarrassing, so much so that Island should offer a trade-in for all of the victims who bought it. The cassette sounded worlds better than the CD. Another pro is how each disc is labeled Disc One, Two, etc. It reminds me of Kiss' 1976 3 LP set, The Originals, where instead of simply using existing labels they made new ones for the set.

While Fistful Of Metal and the Armed And Dangerous EPs were excluded for contractual reasons (different label), the omissions that I will list for each album are inexcusable. Rather than try and make this a great set Island made it just good enough to get diehards to buy it.

Spreading The Disease omits the following tracks from the Madhouse 12”, which have never been issued on cassette or CD: Madhouse (live in Belfast), A.I.R. (live in Manchester), and God Save The Queen (live in Manchester). These could have all easily fit onto Disc One.

Among The Living boasts the same remastering and bonus tracks found on the 2009 Deluxe Edition which I thankfully forgot about and never bought. Omitted are songs that could have helped fill out a bonus disc: Madhouse (live) and I'm The Man (live, both from 2/15/87 Manchester concert) from the I Am The Law limited edition 12”; Taint, the 14 second track from the Indians EP, which I never managed to get a copy of even back in the '80s...stupid pre-Internet world; the entire I'm The Man EP, which a quick search on Amazon reveals is out of print; and the 3 mixes from their 12” collaboration with UTFO: Lethal (Mondo Bass), Lethal (Stupid Bass), and Lethal (regular version).

State Of Euphoria contains the entire Penikufesin EP and Antisocial (Live At Hammersmith Odeon, London 1988) as bonus tracks. Persistence Of Time omits the following possible bonus tracks: Backwards Message Quiz, the 13 second bonus track from the initial Japanese pressing; Got The Time (edit) from the US/Japan promo single.

The entire Attack Of The Killer B's album is missing. While four of the songs would be rendered redundant by the inclusion of the Penikufesin EP on Disc Three, this could have been bolstered by including these tracks: Bring The Noise (1991 long version from the Public Enemy's Apocalypse '91...The Enemy Strikes Black album); Madhouse (live Japanese Killer B's bonus track); the censored version of Startin' Up A Posse with the buzzing bees in place of the curse words. Major thanks to my homeskillet Mike Hansen, curator over at All Day Comics, for doing the heavy lifting on the research. I only dug around on one or two things. Mike emailed me a list with the rest because I am lazy.

One of the other major cons is that the booklet is super skimpy. While it dedicates an entire page to each album cover, some of the album credits are missing, ditto all of the lyrics. It would have been nice to have an actual box set, with full jewel cases and a new, thick booklet with all singles artwork and other paraphernalia. Instead we get a skimpy page booklet with a four page introduction. I would have rather had the sleeve art and back cover from Spreading The Disease. I understand that this was probably a cost save done to keep this at a more reasonable MSRP, but let's face facts. No casual Anthrax fan is going to buy a 4 disc set. Island should have done an all the bells and whistles box set. I bet that they would have sold the exact same number of copies to the same diehards like me who bought this to upgrade from their previous substandard CD releases.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.5 out of 5.

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