The Anthrax/Horror Film Connection
Orginally published in the HMS column: Blood Is Not Enough
I had been planning this piece for another publication, but sometimes things don't go as planned. The idea was going to be an examination of an 80's horror film called Pledge Night – which had a small role for Anthrax vocalist Joey Belladonna.
Anthrax even had their music used in the soundtrack score, so along with Belladonna's brief cameo appearance (as Acid Sid) the film made for an interesting write-up. At least that's what I had thought.
I had tried (unsuccessfully) to reach out to Belladonna for an interview, so ultimately the piece got shelved when all my attempts failed. That didn't stop me though, since starting HMS I figured this was the chance to revisit the piece and come up with a fresh slant in the process. What you are now getting is a look back into the year 1987 when Anthrax released their third studio recording "Among the Living" to great acclaim.
The album is significant in many ways. It consistently gets lumped into top 10 lists for the best thrash albums of all time and it put Anthrax into the limelight as one of the "big four" of the thrash metal movement. The band really found their niche on this release and it showed in the complexity of the songs, plus the veracity of hardcore riffing and balls-out headbanging found on almost every track made it an instant classic with thrash fans.
For me though, Among the Living is not only my favorite thrash album of all time, but it's also an album that wasn't afraid to wear the influences of horror films and comic books with pride on it's sleeves. For instance, the title track "Among the Living" is based on the Stephen King novel The Stand. The lyrics make reference to "The Walkin Dude" and the virus "Captain Trips" that decimates the population in the book. Also the cover art done by the late Don Brautigam depicts Henry Kane from Poltergeist 2, done so at the request of the band because it was the one thing that scared them the most. Then of course Stephen King's horrific ideas are referenced again in "A Skeleton in the Closet" as the song sources the author's Apt Pupil short from the novella Different Seasons. Finally, the song "I am the Law" is about the band's favorite comic book character Judge Dredd and has since gone on to become a staple in the band's live set.
The most telling thing about the band's interests in horror films is revealed on the back cover of the CD booklet. It shows the band standing in the NY subway tunnel and you can see drummer Charlie Benante wearing a Day of the Dead t-shit from George Romero's famous zombie film trilogy. They were obviously horror fans and it goes to prove that horror films and heavy metal go hand in hand. It didn't stop there though, especially when you see photos of guitarist Scott Ian and drummer Charlie Benante posing with Freddy Krueger on a promo shoot with their side project S.O.D. for the song "Freddy Krueger" recorded in 1985.
"...the title track Among the Living is based on the Stephen King novel The Stand"
Facts like these are priceless and it just goes to show you how one genre can influence another genre, proving crossovers were all the rage in the 80's. In this decade kids actually read horror novels and comic books and you didn't have video game consoles, iPods, iPhones or e-Readers to fill up the majority of your free time. The decade seemed more tactile and the horror genre reached new levels of popularity mass producing paperbacks from authors like Stephen King, Clive Barker, Ann Rice, Ramsay Campbell and Dean R. Koontz just to name a few. It was a period I thoroughly enjoyed because I got into reading horror books and hearing my favorite metal bands get in on the act too. It went hand in hand at the time and Anthrax wasn't the only band to get in on the festivities, but they certainly got me started on loving both genres so much more.
Among the Living has become an all-time classic for thrash fans and the one thing I took away from it was how much they were fans of Stephen King. In some ways the album pays great homage to the prolific writer and these songs remain strong and vital to this very day. Therefore, if I had a hall fame to induct this great album into for HMS I would do so, but for now it remains engrained in my memory as a great record.
I am now done for this segment, but as always blood is definitely not enough, so there will be more to drink in future columns.
Kenneth Gallant, HMS
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