On November 20, three decades after its October 30, 1985 debut, Universal will release a special 30th anniversary edition of ANTHRAX’s classic “Spreading The Disease”, the band’s second studio album and the one that served as the then-budding thrash band’s breakthrough, and still considered one of the best thrash-metal records ever recorded.
“We wanted to do something special for our fans to celebrate the anniversary of ‘Spreading The Disease’,” said ANTHRAX’s Charlie Benante. “We took the idea to Universal a couple of years ago and have been very hands-on with them, creating this special, deluxe edition that we think our fans will really like.”
From the beginning, Benante has kept one of everything the band did — artwork, t-shirts, posters, and when the band was recording, he had the engineer run off a few tapes of the project’s basic tracks, alternate takes and alternate mixes, just to stockpile until the time came that they would be needed. Consequently, in addition to the original album’s nine tracks, the two-disc anniversary edition features previously unreleased bonus material including Joey Belladonna’s 1984 demo recording of the song “Medusa”, nine “rhythm tracks” from ANTHRAX recordings also done in 1984 — no vocals, no overdubs or “sweetening,” just drums, some guitar, a bit of bass, showing the songs in their naked, most basic form — and eight live songs from ANTHRAX’s 1987, first-ever concert in Japan, held at Tokyo’s Sun Plaza. “‘Spreading The Disease’ was our first real record on a major label,” said Benante. “We were on a roll with that album, and we wanted to perform those songs as close to the album versions as possible. I think the performances show the excitement of a young band that was on its way, so we wanted to have them on this reissue.”
Produced by ANTHRAX with Carl Canedy, the 44-minute “Spreading The Disease” marked the first ANTHRAX album to feature singer Belladonna and bassist Frank Bello (joining drummer Benante and guitarists Dan Spitz and Scott Ian), and set into motion the core elements that would become the essence of ANTHRAX. In addition, the album also introduced the ANTHRAX writing partnership of Benante and Ian (that eventually evolved into Benante, Ian and Bello).
For Bello, “Spreading The Disease” was his full-on album recording baptism. Only 18 at the time, he hadn’t yet fully realized his own style of playing, but over the course of the sessions, he developed it. “You can hear all of my influences on every song, Steve Harris, Geddy Lee, Geezer Butler, all of them.” Bello remembers that “Spreading The Disease” didn’t quite come of age until later on, but it was definitely “simmering.” “What we were doing was so fresh, so different – we had heavy songs with these great, melodic vocals — and eventually, people caught on and loved what we were doing. I think every song on ‘Spreading The Disease’ still stands up today.”
“Spreading The Disease” represented a turning point in rock. It came during a time when the landscape was transitioning from the “hair band scene” to a new composite of metal, punk and hardcore — thrash metal. The album was compelling and utterly fresh to the 1985 music fan with its speedy rhythms, savage riffs, blistering solos, punishing drum work and a killer melodic performance by Belladonna. Unlike the thrash bands sprouting up on the west coast that focused on speed, ANTHRAX’s focus was on catchiness, hooks, and a hot and sweaty, New York mosh sensibility. And it wasn’t just the music that was morphing, it was a whole new culture that was being birthed. And ANTHRAX, along with METALLICA, SLAYER and MEGADETH, was right at its nucleus.
“Spreading The Disease” contains several ANTHRAX standouts: “A.I.R.”, with its great riffs and abundance of melody, “Madhouse”, a testament to the band’s top-notch song-writing skills that showcased their grasp of melody, and “Armed And Dangerous”, a soulful ballad with its singalong chorus and spine-tingling performance by Belladonna. “Aftershock” is probably the album’s punkiest song with its blistering guitar solo, and the closer, “Gung-Ho”, with its out-and-out speed-kills blitzkrieg, is a superb piece of thrash metal.
“We didn’t know what we were doing, but we totally knew what we were doing,” said Ian. “I know that doesn’t make sense, but it’s where we were at, a bunch of 21 year-old kids making our major label debut on a shoestring budget with nothing but a dream and a bunch of songs that we thought killed. We were right and our dream came true. Thank you to all the fans that put this record and ANTHRAX on the map way back when and still support us today. Cheers my friends!”
“Spreading The Disease” 30th-anniversary edition track listing:
02. Lone Justice
04. S.S.D./Stand or Fall
05. The Enemy
07. Armed and Dangerous
10. Medusa (Joey Belladonna demo)
01. A.I.R. *
02. Metal Thrashing Mad *
03. The Enemy *
04. Madhouse *
05. Howling Furries *
06. Armed And Dangerous *
07. Gung-Ho *
08. Soldiers of Metal *
09. Lone Justice **
10. Gung-Ho **
11. Metal Thrashing Mad **
12. Raise Hell **
13. Stand Or Fall **
14. Aftershock **
15. Armed And Dangerous **
16. Madhouse **
17. The Enemy **
* Live at Sun Plaza (Tokyo) 1987
** Rhythm track tape, 1984
The live version of “Madhouse”, taken from Disc Two of the “Spreading The Disease” 30th-anniversary edition, can be streamed below.