Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Anthrax’s ode to Judge Dredd became thrash metal’s missing link

Illustration for article titled Anthrax’s ode to Judge Dredd became thrash metal’s missing link

In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing. This week, we’re picking our favorite comics-related songs.

When it comes to thrash metal’s Big Four it’s no surprise that Anthrax has always been the lowest billed. The other three (Metallica, Slayer, and Megadeth, for those keeping score) always had a front-facing seriousness to their music, but Anthrax unabashedly let its love of comics shine through, making it an outlier in a genre that was all about speed and unchecked aggression. “I Am The Law,” the lead single from Anthrax’s breakthrough album Among The Living would see it doubling down on its goofiness, breaking many of the rules of metal and hardcore—the genres that formed the elemental core of thrash—in the process.


On “I Am The Law” Anthrax pays homage to Judge Dredd, a comic “hero” that, in essence, stood in opposition to the scene Anthrax was a part of. At the time, thrash was known as much for debauchery as for its anti-authoritarian leanings, so to see Anthrax come out with a song championing Dredd—and the police state in which he works—proved to be, if not more subversive than its peers, at least acknowledging its own skewed outlook. Where Slayer sang solely about Satan and Megadeth’s lyrics, at least at the time, could have been found on a peace-punk record, Anthrax showed itself taking everything a little less seriously without losing an ounce of proficiency in the process.

When thrash underwent a renaissance nearly 20 years later, the style’s practitioners (Municipal Waste, Toxic Holocaust, Cross Examination) would all appear with vivid, comic-inspired album covers, and the kind of smiling exuberance that Anthrax first injected. Even if the band’s riffs were a mixture of the Big Four, its comic-like covers and penchant for referencing pop-culture all felt linked to “I Am The Law,” even if Anthrax was still unfairly being ranked fourth in any thrash metal discussion.

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