I'm The Man


Island Records, 1987


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


It's ironic, but the bioterrorism attacks on the United States mail might be the best thing that happened to the heavy metal band Anthrax. Sure, the group - which has been around since the early '80s - is taking some flak for their name, but their website has literally been inundated with hits, possibly opening the group up for discovery by new listeners, as well as rediscovery by older fans who may pine for the glory days of the group.

Flash back to 1987. Scott Ian and company were enjoying the sweet tastes of stardom, thanks to their Among The Living disc, arguably one of the best metal albums ever released. Their legend was also secured by a song they threw on as a b-side to their "I Am The Law" 12-inch single in England - a little pseudo-rap ditty called "I'm The Man". Quite possibly, it would have gone unnoticed had it not been for metal radio stations like Z-Rock who played a censored version of the track on the air. I remember spending a frustrating few weeks trying to track down a copy of that record, which I finally found and paid my blood money for.

Partially to capitalize on the success the group was having, I'm The Man, a six-song EP, was released in 1987 to the rabid fans. Combining different versions of the title track (which quite possibly is the birth of the rap-metal genre), live tracks and a Black Sabbath cover pulled from yet another b-side, I'm The Man served several purposes. At a basic level, it filled the time until Anthrax was ready to bring out another studio album - and gave all fans access to what was possibly Anthrax's most in-demand song. More importantly, it opened the ears of the metalheads to a genre they might not have been willing to give the time of day to - namely, rap music. (Yes, I'm aware that Aerosmith and Run-DMC had collaborated on a cover of "Walk This Way" before this - but Aerosmith is hardly a speed-metal band.)my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Fourteen years after its release - Jesus Christ, I feel old saying that - some of the references are a bit dated, but I'm The Man still remains a fun disc to listen to. Yet this disc is a bit maudlin for me, because it represented the final flash of the klieg lights of superstardom for Anthrax. More on that in a minute.

Let's be honest here: you have to firmly plant your tongue in your cheek when you listen to "I'm The Man" - no matter whether it's the "Censored Radio Version" that many of us first heard, the "Def Uncensored Version" that graced the "I Am The Law" single, or the "Extremely Def Ill Uncensored Version" that is the live track. This is, after all, five white guys from New York goofing off in the studio and rapping. (Something tells me that, for all the frivolity, this one was hard to put together with all the clips and overdubs.) Take any of these versions with a grain of salt, and you'll actually find that this was a pretty hilarious song. If anything, it made light of Anthrax the band, not rap music, helping to bring an unfamiliar genre to the level of the listener. Even now, with hard rock/metal and rap firmly welded together, "I'm The Man" works.

If I had to level one criticism, listening to "I'm The Man - Live" now, it almost sounds like the band was a bit bored with the song by then. Maybe it's because I've seen the chaos thanks to Anthrax's now-deleted home video Oidivnikufesin (N.F.V.), and the sight of the band performing this song cements the power it had in my mind. This particular version - sorry, but sometimes it sounds like Charlie Benante's heart just isn't in it. (Can't say that about bassist Frank Bello or guitarist Ian, though.)

The cover of "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" doesn't strictly stick to the original from 1974, but Joey Belladonna does a good job tapping into the essence of the vocals, while the rhythm section - Ian, lead guitarist Dan Spitz, Bello and drummer Benante - create a thrash riff near the end that will have your neck snapping in every direction. (Nice to see that they left this exactly the way it was on the b-side of the "Indians" single - including the 10-second uncredited track "Taint".)

The remaining two live tracks, taken from a radio broadcast, capture the band performing two tracks off Among The Living and nailing down just what made this album so special for me in high school. The energy and power the studio versions had are both tapped into for these live tracks, and they remind me just what a good band Anthrax was - and, in many ways, still is.

Yet Anthrax proves with I'm The Man that trying to top the defining album of their career was going to be damned difficult, if not impossible. With I'm The Man, Anthrax was given the means to creatively stretch their legs and not worry about the sword of Damocles hanging over their head. No one would have expected this EP to be so cohesive, simply because its stop-gap nature implied that this release was simply "for the fans". Sadly, Anthrax would never hit this creative peak again - but that's another story for another review.

I'm The Man showcases two sides of Anthrax - the band who took rap seriously, and the band who wanted to show their goofy side. This Hatfield-McCoy marriage never should have worked, some say... but even today, the two styles as Anthrax presented them are happily cohabitating together.

Rating: TBD

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2001 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Island Records, and is used for informational purposes only.