VERSUS: Spreading The Disease vs. Pleasure To Kill

VERSUS: Spreading The Disease vs. Pleasure To Kill

Welcome to Versus. The series where we look at two albums in metal history, compare them to each other, and see which one was the better record.

In this edition, we are diving back into thrash with two major bands in the thrash scene. One band, part of the "Big Four" of American thrash metal history. The other band, being a part of the "Big Four" of German thrash metal history. Both bands reaching bigger success with their second albums, cementing their names and legacy in thrash metal history with these releases. Let's bust out the battle vests and stretch our necks for this headbanging thrash matchup I'm calling "The International War of The Big Four"

Our first contender is Anthrax, with their second album, 1985's "Spreading The Disease". The follow up to the band's debut, Fistful of Steel, the album would feature new members by adding new vocalist Joey Belladonna and bassist Frank Bello. Reaching commercial success and critical acclaim, the record launched the band into major success, making the band become a huge name in the thrash metal scene. Let's see what makes this a classic record, and what it brings to the table in this matchup.

Opening the record is "A.I.R.", the song builds with opening, almost anthemic building guitars and booming drums, into d-beat style drumming with a thrashy opening riff with shredding leads. Belladonna's voice fits the song with his wailing vocals. The song continues that 80's thrash sound into the three quarters mark, slowing it down to an almost proto-crossover sounding feel to the song into the guitar solo. "Lone Justice" starts with the grimey sounding bass of Bello before seguing into the main riff. With a more Iron Maiden sounding feel to the song due to the bass more prominent in the song, the band pulls the sound off well and can be heard throughout the record.

The standout track, and lead single for the album, is "Madhouse". Featuring one of the most recognizable riffs in thrash metal, the building drums by drummer Charlie Benante adding to the opening riff. The siren-like wailing guitars kick in and we are off to the races with attitude and vigor with Belladonna belting his vocals and hitting those highs into the chorus. With the gang vocals, catchy chorus, and great guitar solo, this is an Anthrax classic. With "S.S.C./Stand or Fall" the band does the "ol' switcharoo". Opening with a nice acoustic section, then out of nowhere, an awesome shredtastic guitar solo and BAM, right into a classic sounding thrash riff. With a guitar and drum section similar to Motörhead, the song brings intensity and wailing highs in guitar and vocals during the chorus into another awesome guitar solo near the end of the track.

The opening of "The Enemy" has some heavy sounding drums, almost drenched in reverb and booming in sound. The riff slowly creeps in and builds with wailing vocals by Belladonna. The song leans more in the classic heavy metal realm, but it still a heavy track and a great performance by the whole band. With the vocal harmonies and gang vocals on the chorus, booming drums and a nice heavy riff. It is one of my personal favorites on the album. "Aftershock" starts with driving and pounding drums by Benante into a fast paced opening riff with a pulsing pace and the guitars just relentless in the playing. "Armed and Dangerous" opens with an 80's atmospheric feel to the song with a softer, slowed down tempo. Belladonna delivers an emotional performance in his delivery over the acoustic guitar passages before the electric guitar comes in and picks the pace up into the band's classic 80's thrash sound. The album's closer "Gung-Ho" starts off with incredibly fast playing on both guitars and drums and just hits the ground running sprinting to the finish line. With Belladonna trying to keep up with the band, the song is just aggressive, fast paced, and unforgiving. A strong closer to one of the band's defining albums.

Their opponents, Germany's Kreator, with their second album, 1986's "Pleasure To Kill". The record is cited as a major influence in the thrash metal scene, along with extreme metal. Bands like Cannibal Corpse citing this record as an influence. With darker subject matter and artwork, continued from the band's debut record "Endless Pain", the band would crank the anger and aggression to eleven with their follow up and delivered one of the heaviest records of 1986. Showing the world that Germany can play just as fast and heavy as their American thrash competitors.

Opening the album with the instrumental "Choir of The Damned". The song builds ominously in the beginning with simple guitars and atmosphere, before switching to an almost medieval, heroic like sounding build to the end. Then we are starting off strong with "Ripping Corpse". You can hear the extreme metal influence in the opening of the song. With death metal influence in the opening, to the Venom like vocal delivery of guitarist Mille Petrozza, this song is just relentless and fast throughout the entire runtime of the track. "Death is Your Savior" continues the thrash intensity of the band. More leaning in the black metal sound, with the tremolo guitar playing and blast beats. The song is another angry, aggressive track. With vocals on this track done by drummer Ventor, the vocals sound more thrash metal sounding and drenched in reverb with more frantic guitar solos all over the track.

The album's title track continues the ferocity and speed the band delivers. Petrozza's vocals are more fitting of the thrash metal sound on this one compared to his previous track. The song does have a Slayer-like feel to it with the tone, speed and playing style. Drums are fast and driving with overwhelming force, punching through the mix before another strong guitar solo by Petrozza shows off his soloing skills. Pummeling blast beats near the end of the song with thunderous drum fills keeps the song fast and non-stop aggression.

"Riot of Violence" starts with a more slowed down thrash riff compared to the previous songs.  Ventor's vocals deliver more of the thrash metal/crossover sound the song calls for. The guitar riff is more intricate, leaning in the classic heavy metal sound, with bassist Rob Fioretti's bass popping and thumping at certain points. With "The Pestilence", the song opens with unique drum instrumentation and a simple chugging riff and wailing guitars. The speed comes back on this track, along with Petrozza's snarling vocals. Definitely sounding in the vein of Venom and early Bathory, the speed and sound is so gritty, dark and evil in the delivery, it fits perfectly on this record. "Carrion" opens with another thrashy, speed-laden riff with a fast-paced guitar solo over it. Continuing the speed and fury of the first couple tracks, the song is peak Kreator. Intensity, relentless speed in the guitar playing and drums, and snarling vocals, this is one of my favorite tracks off the album. "Command of The Blade" delivers that ringing and thumping bass over a tremolo like guitar riff before the pedal to the metal speed of the song and just doesn't stop. The album closes with "Under The Guillotine", with another relentless and fast track, this is a thrash and extreme metal classic.

This is actual a tough one for me to choose. Both records are thrash yes, but they are also both different styles of thrash. "Spreading The Disease" gives off a more thrash and punk style of thrash with the gang vocals, more NWOBHM sounding guitar sections on the verses, and classic shouting vocals or 80's high shrieks. With "Pleasure To Kill", the album is definitely on the extreme side, with elements of death metal, thrash and black metal. With vocals more snarling and aggressive that can be influential in the black metal and death metal genre. Influential to some blackened thrash bands like Midnight and Toxic Holocaust. I would have to go with Anthrax as the winner of this matchup. Anthrax fine tuned their thrash sound and nailed it perfectly. With the right vocalist, fitting the band's sound, and both working toghether beautifully, the record is consistently good and a solid record and a thrash classic. Kreator's record is strong and influential no doubt about it, but I think my one gripe with the record is I think they should have had one vocalist. I feel sometimes the singer juggling doesn't help every song or the other vocalist might have been better on a particular song. Still a banger of a record and is still my favorite Kreator record.

Anthrax would continue on making music. Belladonna would be fired from the band due to creative differences. The band would hire Armored Saint front man John Bush in 1992. Recording five studio albums with the band before leaving the band for Belladonna to return to the band in 2010. Belladonna returned to the band. Making his studio return with the band with 2011's "Worship Music" and is still with the band.

Kreator continued making their version of thrash and being a torchbearer for the German "Big Four". The band faced some musical experimentation in the 90's, with 1992's "Renewal" and 1995's "Cause for Conflict", with mixed results from fans and critics. In the 2000's, the band would return to it's original thrash roots, their most recent record was 2022's "Hate Über Alles" brought the aggression and fury the band had on their original releases.

Do you agree with my decision? Who do you think should have won this battle? Cast your vote on the poll below, leave your comments on our social media, and your suggestions who you think should step in the ring next. I’m Justin, your friendly neighborhood metalhead, for This Day in Metal and this has been Versus.

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