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Friday, May 28, 2010

Anthrax: State Of Euphoria


ANTHRAX: STATE OF EUPHORIA (1988)

1) Be All, End All; 2) Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind; 3) Make Me Laugh; 4) Antisocial; 5) Who Cares Wins; 6) Now It's Dark; 7) Schism; 8) Misery Loves Company; 9) 13; 10) Finale; 11*) I'm The Man.

This was preceded by what is today recognized as one of Anthrax's highest points — the EP I'm A Man, whose lead-off track can be found on some editions of State Of Euphoria as a bonus; it is one of the earliest examples of straightforward «rap metal», a crossover that, hard as it is to be­lieve today, was fairly jaw-dropping back in 1987. But it is still moderately funny, lashing out at idiot stereotypes and employing the barely discernible 'Hava Nagila' riff in the chorus.

Then something changed, a dark cloud rolled through the evening sky, and all of a sudden Anth­rax were not funny any more. State Of Euphoria was not only their heaviest, but also their blea­kest album up to that point — never mind the misleading title. Dropping the comic book aspect entirely or almost entirely, the boys concentrate on rebellion topics and social criticism, all taken very, very seriously. Even the riffs are blacker, although that may be just an intuitive impression triggered by the lyrical gloom.

The critics, who were secretly hoping for more popcorn and more Judge Dredd, responded by ha­ting the record. Obviously, since these guys do not have Metallica's chops — they're good old rock'n'rollers in thrashers' clothes, not some sort of reverend prophet-artists of the apocalypse — they should leave the darkness and the holy anger to those who can make good use of it. Here they had a terrific niche carved out for themselves, and then to go and lose it all of their own free will? Is that proverbially stupid or what?

Indeed, State Of Euphoria sounds much more «generic thrash» than their previous two albums. But it is more polite to compare it to the generic thrash of Fistful Of Metal — and see just how much these guys have grown since then. The riffage has improved a ton, with each song at least sporting one or two meticulously constructed melodies, even if far from all of them are heart-breaking; and the attitude has shifted from balls-to-the-wall, brains-against-the-wall exaggerated aggression to things that make much more sense. Not that I am deeply moved by their pre­aching, which, in lyrical terms, rarely moves beyond leftist propaganda for first-graders ('Schism'), but it is nowhere near as off-putting as the caricature image they began with four years earlier.

Technically, then, there is no problem with State Of Euphoria. It is respectable, intelligently (if the word is applicable to the genre at all) conceived thrash, with occasional original flourishes — like the surprise cello line that announces 'Be All, End All' and then mutates into its evil guitar riff — and, in places, a punkish spirit, e. g. on the Trust cover 'Antisocial'. The album may be for­mulaic and unoriginal, but the band definitely sounds inspired to me, quite sure of what they are doing and shifting their focus from cheesy pop culture to darker matters not because someone forced them to, but because they really felt like doing it.

Describing the songs is pointless — how many different words can one come up with to depict a thrash metal riff? — so I can only say, once more, that I think this to be a decent thrash offering, not exceptional, but well acceptable to any fan of the genre, which I am not, so the thumbs up thing comes from the brain side exclusively.

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