Live: The Island Years is a live album by the American Thrash Metal legends Anthrax, it was released in 1994 as a sort of finale or closure of the band’s successful and critically acclaimed Joey Belladonna era, as the band had recently started a new era with John Bush.
It is not one continuous concert all the way through but rather it is two sections; firstly the soundtrack to their Live Noize video, recorded in concert in California in 1991 and then there is a second section which was recorded for radio in New York, live in the studio, added on at the end. You can think of it as two shows cobbled together or you can think of it as them adding some extra value for money onto Live Noize… its up to you.
It is a bit jarring the change between one show and the next, and again the change in sound between the two recordings and productions and mixes, but this is still less jarring than one of those live albums where there’s a different show from a different city as every track, and you do get two well flowing shows in and of themselves.
In terms of track listing, there’s two tracks from their ‘Killer Bs album (A Kiss cover in ‘Parasite’ and the smash hit Public Enemy cover/collaboration ‘Bring The Noise’ fleshed out by Flava Flav who guests here singing part of his own ‘Too Much Posse.’). There’s also one Neil Turban era tune in the form of ‘Metal Thrashing Mad’. The rest of the material is drawn from their four Joey Belladonna era albums. There’s thirteen tracks in total, although annoyingly Spreading The Disease era gem ‘A.I.R.’ is for some reason randomly split across two tracks in an awkward way, which also makes the track order on the back wrong as it doesn’t take this split into account. There’s still thirteen songs however because ‘Too Much Posse’ is not on its own track by itself.
I guess you could complain that four of the tracks are covers (if you are counting ‘Too Much Posse’) or that maybe some of your favourite songs aren’t included but then that’s offset by having a lot of the big singles and concert favourites from Among The Living and Persistence Of Time such as ‘Caught In A Mosh,’ ‘Indians,’ ‘I Am The Law,’ ‘In My World’ and ‘Keep It In The Family’ and a few surprises too. (Hey, who’d have expected a deep cut off of State Of Euphoria? But the album closes with ‘Now Its Dark’).
That’s some great live Thrash Metal from such a classic band during their golden period. In terms of performance, things are accordingly entertaining. Its got a great live feel and isn’t slick or heavily overdubbed and squeaky clean. It feels fun and raw and realistically live (without sounding rough or ramshackle either by the way). The guitar solos have a real energy and aren’t exactly the same as on the albums, Joey singing Neil’s song is interesting, the band having fun geeking out to Kiss is interesting, its all got a sort of atmosphere of fun. I guess they were the band who were noted for always laughing and for example dressing up in beach shorts instead of making themselves grim and serious.
Yes it came out a bit too late and might’ve appeared either like a cash in or like a snub to the Bush era to some fans. Yes, the packaging may seem a bit rushed and cheap. Yes it is two shows mashed together and one of those is in a studio not a proper concert. Yes, 30% of the setlist wasn’t written by Anthrax. However if you like Anthrax and want to hear the band live back in their heyday its still an absolutely worthwhile addition to your collection. There’s some great tunes, some fiery performances, a fairly decent amount of content and a more than adequate live sound job. I feel it does a good job of sitting as a nice full-stop on the Belladonna era.
There are better Anthrax live albums available nowadays; Music Of Mass Destruction (with Bush circa We Have Come For You All) and Alive 2 (from the 2005 Belladonna reunion tour) are particularly recommended. If you only have a limited interest or amount of money then this wouldn’t be the main one I’d recommend, but if you do have an predisposition to check this out I’d definitely state ‘don’t be put off, give it a go!’