They may call this collection No Hit Wonders, but any self-respecting classic metal fan knows there’s plenty of `hits’ here. One of the best parts is that the songs are chronological. That’s the best way to hear their progress and development as a band. Disc 1 covers Anthrax’s first two (complete) albums plus a couple of EP tracks. A traditional chugga-chugga riff accented by power chords defines “Madhouse”. Belladonna’s high-pitched vocal delivery fits right in. The drum beats drown out the monster riffage on “The Enemy”, while arpeggios help layer “Armed and Dangerous”; although we all know it takes a metal thrashing turn for the brutal.
I don’t know about you, but I miss the long instrumental introductions like the one on “Among the Living”. They just make the song sound so grand as it builds to a frenzy. “Caught in a Mosh” is the perennial “pit’ anthem. “I Am the Law” is about Judge Dredd (the comic book character, not the horrible Rob Schneider movie-I think Stallone was in that too). Of that particular time period, “Indians” was probably the signature song for the group. Not many people thought that metal heads had half a brain to even care. The song has a thought-provoking message as well as blistering riffs and tribal drum beats. It makes you want to lose control when Joey hits, “WAR DANCE!” “I’m the Man” was a gag at first, but seemed to take off, and established Anthrax as the first metal bands to incorporate rap music.
Disc 2 focuses on the last two Belladonna-era albums plus the Attack of the Killer B’s release and Penikufesin EP. Maybe it was because metal was becoming more mainstream at the time, or maybe it was because Anthrax’s recording budget was much larger, but songs like “Antisocial” and “Who Cares Wins” had great rock radio appeal and a polished sound. This is where the band was heading anyway, so I guess it was natural. “Belly of the Beast” has some great guitar work, as well as a catchy chorus section. It almost feels as if you’re falling into the fiery pits of hell.
Anthrax’s cover of Joe Jackson’s “Got the Time” is a perfect fit for the speed metal masters, although Scott Ian has admitted that Jackson does it faster. “Bring Tha Noise” (w/Public Enemy) is probably where most metal fans thought Anthrax had officially sold out. Even though they had already done “I’m the Man”, this particular track was done in all seriousness instead of in jest. If was a huge hit and spawned the whole rap/rock revolution, but may have cost the band a lot of their fans. I am impressed that they still perform this one live. I’m not really a liner notes kind of guy, but it would do you good to read them.
The DVD has its good points and bad points. You are getting 13 music videos, but most of them are live performances. “Metal Thrashing Mad” is from a rare performance in Germany when Anthrax opened for Overkill and Agent Steel. “Armed & Dangerous”, “Among the Living”, “Caught in a Mosh”, “I Am the Law”, and “I’m the Man” are all from a live performance in England. A couple of them were the actual videos on MTV.
“Mad House” was and probably still is the band’s best video (and first). MTV rejected the initial cut because they thought the group was making fun of the mentally disabled. You get both versions. “Who Cares Wins” is one of those `down on your luck’ videos shot in black and white. The video for “Got the Time” doesn’t really make much sense, and you know they couldn’t forget the video that was played ad-nauseam on MTV for weeks on end, “Bring Tha Noise”. Be sure to watch the video commentaries with the reunited group to get all the dirt and trivia behind the music and videos.
I guess this makes The Greater of Two Evils kind of pointless. Also, I’m a John Bush fan (but I won’t let that effect the review).
As far as the CD goes, this is the most complete set of Belladonna-era Anthrax material ever. Some might say this was their defining and most impactful years, so it may behoove you to pick this one up. If you want a history lesson in classic metal thrash, look no further than No Hit Wonders. Although the DVD only boasts 13 videos, the insightful commentaries make up for the lack of quantity. You’re still getting every video they made with Belladonna, and you’re getting a window into the evolution of a band; in music and appearance.