Monday, June 28, 2021

Top Ten Things: Anthrax Songs (40-31)

Welcome to another special multi-part Top Ten Things, here at!

If you're an Anthrax fan like I am, you're probably aware that the band is in the midst of a multi-episode YouTube documentary celebrating their 40-year history.  I've been enjoying this series quite a bit; the talking head segments were all recorded via webcam during COVID, with the band members and various friends and peers reminiscing about each phase of Anthrax's storied career.  Since I've had Anthrax on the brain I thought it would be fun to count down my 40 favorite tunes by the thrash legends.  Forty years, forty songs.  See what I did?  Anyway, here's Part 1, counting down #40-31.  Stay tuned for the other installments and you can also check out my ranking of Anthrax's albums HERE.

Click for Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4....

40. I'm the Man

This is more of an honorary inclusion, but the significance of Anthrax's crossover rap hit can't be overlooked.  A super-heavy thrash metal band releasing a comedic, Beastie Boys-influenced hip hop single was pretty unthinkable at the time, and it was one of the earliest tunes to start to break down the walls between the two genres (along with the Run DMC cover of Aerosmith's "Walk This Way").  Originally Anthrax intended for the Beastie Boys themselves to feature on the track, but scheduling didn't permit it, and Scott Ian, Charlie Benante and Frank Bello opted to perform the vocals themselves.  "I'm the Man" became an unexpected hit, prompting the band to throw together an EP with two edits, a Black Sabbath cover, and three live tracks (including "I'm the Man" itself).  The song now plays more like a fun nostalgia trip, but at the time I couldn't get enough of the I'm the Man EP.  I actually prefer the 1991 remake featured on Attack of the Killer B's, but the original is obviously a much more important track.

39. Zero Tolerance

The closing track of Anthrax's 2016 album For All Kings is a brutal, 200 bpm assault on the senses, taking to task all of humanity's crimes perpetrated in the name of religion.  The song pulls zero punches, asking its various targets the burning question "On the day you meet your god, what will he say?"  "Zero Tolerance" is a no-frills, machine-gun riff-laden closer designed to remind everyone that Anthrax can still hurl molten metal whenever they want.

38. Safe Home

Probably the closest thing in Anthrax's catalog to a love song, "Safe Home" tackles the idea of a mature, supportive relationship, over mainstream rock guitar strains.  Eschewing bubble gum romantic platitudes, "Safe Home" instead takes a more practical approach, John Bush espousing meaningful sentiments like "From out of nowhere you came, strong as stone/And now I'll never have to be alone" and "All my fears turn from black to white/And I'd stand and fight the whole for you."  It's rare for a song to explore grown-up romantic themes, especially in the metal genre, but "Safe Home" succeeds admirably.  It's a song that becomes more relatable with marriage and age.

37. Out of Sight, Out of Mind

This anthemic tune from State of Euphoria seems to take a swipe at studio-engineered pop music of the time, as the recording industry became more and more reliant on technology rather than raw talent.  By the late 1980s the radio featured lots of what Rush bassist Geddy Lee refers to as "empty calories" - saccharine, easily-digestible corporate product rather than music made to challenge the listener.  "Out of Sight, Out of Mind" calls out the so-called "artists" benefitting from the industry's focus on dumbed-down studio pop and recycled ideas.  "All you need is a face."

36. Madhouse

The first video Anthrax released was for this tongue-in-cheek ode to insanity, a clip that depicted the band ripping it up inside an asylum, with extras chewing the scenery as out-of-control inmates.  The video ran into distribution problems, as some channels took offense to the depiction of the patients, but the song remains a fun chugging rocker, and it helped introduce fans to Anthrax's golden lineup, Joey Belladonna's clean vibrato providing a stark contrast to the thundering, overdriven thrash riffs.

35. Make Me Laugh

Another track from State of Euphoria, "Make Me Laugh" is a full-on jab at the rampant sleaze and corruption of televangelists like Jimmy Swaggart and Jim & Tammy Faye Baker.  The song points out in detail the hypocrisy of these quasi-celebrities who bilked their followers for millions by preaching good Christian morality while indulging in decadent rock-star lifestyles.  "Jesus saves....but only after I've been paid."

34. You Gotta Believe

Anthrax's most recent album For All Kings kicks off with this blistering track which hurtles along at breakneck speed, propelled by Charlie's driving double-time beat and Scott's jackhammer riffing.  Lyrically the song is simply about wielding unchecked power, as Joey belts out "Impaled/You all shall hail/You're just a bag of blood and I'm holding the nail."  This could be interpreted as the words of a fascist dictator or perhaps more likely the rant of a vengeful God.  Either way, this song is an asskicker.

33. Crush

The opening track of the under-the-radar Volume 8 album, "Crush" is a fast-paced groover with a killer main riff, and lyrics that seem to be from the point of view of a stalker - "Now you see me, now you don't," "Get away with murder/What do I have to do/Do I have to give up me/To be loved by you."  This song sets the tone for Anthrax's most experimental album, falling somewhere between traditional metal and late 90s alt-metal.  

32. Indians

The band's first song tackling the issue of racism opens Side B of Among the Living.  "Indians" is very straightforward in its messaging, condemning the inhumane treatment and genocide of Native Americans by the government and society as a whole (Joey Belladonna is half-Native American).  Such openly political subject matter was fairly uncommon in the thrash metal scene up to this point, and it would be far from the last time Anthrax wrote lyrics about race.  "Indians" is one of their classic anthemic tunes.


John Bush's final hurrah with the band was the title track from We've Come For You All, another anthem that seems to be about Anthrax's take-no-prisoners approach to songwriting and visceral musical energy.  The guitar riffing is clever and aggressive, while the song's overall vibe feels like an epic album closer.  Lyrically the song smacks of metal nihilism, as Bush howls "The gates are open wide/The wrecking ball is here/Your chest contains no treasure/The prisoners are loose, 'cause we've come for you all."  It's a fitting finale on what I consider the best Bush-era Anthrax album.

Thus concludes Part 1 of our countdown - stay tuned for Parts 2-4!

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