Anthrax (1988-present): a Thrash Metal band from New York, New York, USA.
he American thrash metal band Anthrax came about from New York in 1982. Managed by 'Johnny Z.' founder of the indie 'Megaforce Records' label, they originally comprised of Scott Ian (ex-Stormtroopers of Death (S.O.D.); guitar), Neil Turbin (vocals), Dan Spitz (guitar), Dan Lilker (ex-Stormtroopers of Death (S.O.D.)/ex-Nuclear Assault/ex-The Ravenous/ex-Brutal Truth/ex-Holy Moses; bass) and Charlie Benante (ex-Stormtroopers of Death (S.O.D.); drums).
In 1984 Anthrax's debut, Fistful Of Metal was released, and despite a tasteless cover sleeve depicting a man's head being pummeled by a brass knuckled fist, the album received good reviews. The album struggled musically even if including the Alice Cooper cover I'm Eighteen. For a time Lilker and Benante were moonlighting as members of S.O.D. (Stormtroopers Of Death) and Lilker liked the direction of S.O.D. better, but it broke up so he left Anthrax to pursue direction with competitors Nuclear Assault. Turbin also left and was replaced by Matt Fallon and later Joe Belladonna with Frank Bello taking over bass. It was with this line-up that they squeezed out the Armed And Dangerous EP in 1985. Shortly later they got a contract with 'Island Records' resulting in the powerful thrash metal affair, Spreading The Disease in 1986. During this time legend has it they also became good friends of the members of Metallica, who housed them for a while during some tough tour times.
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I Am The Law, a tribute to Judge Dredd of sci-fi movie fame was the track of note on their follow-up album Among The Living (1987). Indians, a more serious affair, discussed the plight of North American Natives. Both tracks gave Anthrax minor charting positions in the UK. As interesting as the music might have been it was overshadowed by the band's changing image with bullet belts and denim taken out and replaced with skateboards and spandex. The year before, they did a lightening fast version of Sex Pistols' God Save The Queen, but by now they were more interested in proving how different they were. While donned in their surf shorts, they squeezed out I'm The Man (1987), but it was the flip side track Caught In The Mosh, a song about that infamous "dance" zone in front of the heavy metal stage that got the attention for them that year. Regardless, Anthrax was in the big leagues and hobnobbing with the likes of Metallica and Slayer, both on a personal level and in the charts.
Their State Of Euphoria (1988) release showed great promise on its release, but over time ended off being a let down. Although it came across as complete and dense, after repeated use it seemed to loose its entertainment value with the public. It further was hindered by the backlash against Anthrax's 'Day-Glo' appearance; skateboards tend to become less entertaining once you achieve age 16 and can drive motorcycles and cars! If it wasn't for Anthrax's live work, however, State Of Euphoria would have been a complete write off on it's own, as it failed to offer all that it promised which is strange as it's often seen as one of Anthrax's classic works; when one thinks of Anthraxthat album comes to mind. Most of its problems, however, were due to undeserved image bashing by the media. State Of Euphoria was also doomed because of its style: the "skater-Thrash" feel was unwelcome in the wider audience.
Persistence of Time (1990) was a better performance, but less well known than its predecessor. It received a minor hit with a remake of Joe Jackson's Got The Time done at a much faster speed. Overall it was darker and introspective, even if the lyrical content remained empty. Public Enemy's Bring The Noise, in collaboration with themselves and Chuck D. would be their first minor success in some time; the track was included on their next release, Attack Of The Killer B's (1991). It would prove to be another early attempt at merging the fast rising rap movement with heavy metal. Anthrax would also attempt to be innovators in the music industry by being the first metal band to stop the sales of their CDs in long cardboard boxes, following the environmental movement in demanding a reduction in disposable packaging. The CD was sold in its plastic jewel case only, a practice that is now standard.
Shortly into the new year of 1992 news in the Anthrax camp was being made again when the reformation of S.O.D. was announced resulting in two more acclaimed albums by decade's end. But Attack Of The Killer B's was a compilation of all their "B" sides and, regardless of the pun filled title, ended off being a very popular work. It linked them with the growing rap scene by getting them a touring slot with the rap group Public Enemy. 'Elektra' picked them up soon after, and Belladona was promptly sacked with John Bush (ex-Armored Saint) taking his place. Bush's creative input would help create what many consider the band's pinnacle moment with the release of Sound Of White Noise (1993). This release gave new interest in Anthrax and their sound. In 1994 Bush would start an R&B outfit outside of Anthrax called Ho Cake. Stomp 442 (1995) would be equally as powerful, and saw them getting airplay like their past. Madhouse: The Very Best of Anthrax (2001) best of..., Volume 8 - The Threat Is Real (1998), We've Come For You All (2003), Music Of Mass Destruction (2004) and The Greater Of Two Evils (2004) would be their latest to date. In a surprising move, in early 2004, bassist Frank Bello left the band with Joey Vera drafted in as a temporary bassist.
In early 2009, Anthrax began a brief tour opening for Iron Maiden in South America. In July, band manager Izvor Zivkovic confirmed the departure of Dan Nelson due to illness. Nelson denied this, saying that he was fired! All subsequent performances were canceled except the August UK Sonisphere Festival, with John Bush on vocals. Due to fan response after his performance, a "Bring Back Bush" campaign began and was endorsed by Ian.
In September 2009, it was announced that Bush would again sing with Anthrax at the October Loud Park '09 Festival in Japan. Soon afterwards, Benante said that Bush had rejoined the band. In February 2010, Anthrax performed five shows as part of Soundwave in Australia. After the Australian shows, Bush said the band intended to re-record the vocals of several tracks from the upcoming album.
In late 2009, Anthrax confirmed a "Big Four" event (with Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer) as part of the 2010 Sonisphere Festival. Bush decided that he did not want to commit to the band full-time, and again left. Joey Belladonna returned in early 2010 for shows that summer, and committed to record the next studio album with the band. When the time the festival had arrived, Anthrax, Metallica, Slayer and Megadeth did, indeed, perform on same bill, the first time all members of the thrash-metal "Big Four" played together. The Sofia, Bulgaria show was broadcast in cinemas and later released on DVD and blu-ray. The follow up album, Worship Music followed in 2011.
In January 2013, Anthrax announced that lead guitarist Rob Caggiano had left the band and Jonathan Donais (ex-Shadows Fall) would be the band's touring lead guitarist, and on August 13 it was announced that Donais had joined the band permanently. In March 2013, Anthrax released its Anthems EP featuring covers of 1970s rock songs. In September, it was confirmed that drummer Charlie Benante and bassist Frank Bello were "coming over to start writing for the next record.".
After the compilation Sound of White Noise/Stomp 442 in 2016, that next album would be For All Kings (2016) and the Kings Among Scotland live effort in 2018.
During a time when the fad of the day was for bands to grow a goatee and deny they were "metal" in favor of something called "Grunge", Anthrax is given the credit of sticking to what they thought best to remain a beloved part of the metal world.
Footnote: S.O.D., featuring Dan Lilker (bass), Billy Milano (vocals), Charlie Benante (drums) and Scott Ian (guitar) produced 3 albums of acclaim, Speak English Or Die (1985) the original one-off attempt that eventually sold into the millions as a shining moment of the merging between thrash & hardcore punkrock rock. A reformation produced Live At Budokan (1992) and Bigger Than The Devil (1999) two albums continuing on where the long past original ended: with loud music and a sense of humor added for good measure. The act also engaged in the video and movie sectors in a big way until Billy Milano and ScottIan, Charlie Benante of Anthrax exchanged words concerning the "Behind The Music" VH-1 program on Anthrax where Milano felt that Danny Lilker was slighted, causing S.O.D. to break-up again.
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Anthrax live at Rockavaria 2016.
Photo by: pitpony.photography.
CC BY-SA 3.0
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