Anthrax is an American thrash metal band from New York City, New York, United States, formed in 1981. Founded by guitarists Scott Ian and Danny Lilker, the band has since released ten studio albums and 20 singles, and an EP featuring American hip hop group Public Enemy. The band was one of the most popular of the 1980s thrash metal scene. When thrash metal began to gain a major following in the mid-to-late 1980s, Anthrax were dubbed one of the "big four" of thrash metal alongside Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer.
They were also one of the early thrash metal bands to sign to a major label (Island Records, in 1985). As of 2004, Anthrax sold over 2.5 million records in the U.S since the beginning of the SoundScan era and as of 2012, they have sold over 15 million records worldwide.
The band line-up has been changed numerous times; following the departure of drummer Dave Weiss and bassist Kenny Kushner, several musicians replaced both band members' roles, though Paul Kahn and Greg Walls were the first to do so. In addition to this aspect, there were multiple vocalists involved in Anthrax, with Neil Turbin, Joey Belladonna and John Bush being among the frontmen of the band. Scott Ian, however, has been in the band since its formation.
Ian and Charlie Benante, who joined Anthrax in 1983, are the only constant members that appear on every album. Bassist Frank Bello has played on every album with exception of the band's debut. Classic singer Joey Belladonna has returned to the band and appears on Worship Music, which is his first studio album with the band since 1990's Persistence of Time.
Early days (1981)
Anthrax was formed in mid-1981 by guitarists Scott Ian and Danny Lilker. The band was named after the disease the two saw listed in a biology textbook, using it because it sounded "sufficiently evil". The initial line-up of Anthrax was rounded out by drummer Dave Weiss and bassist Kenny Kushner. Kushner was soon deemed inadequate for the band's needs and was replaced very early by bassist Paul Kahn, who also was quickly ousted. Lilker chose to take over on bass and Greg Walls joined as lead guitarist. Weiss was replaced by Greg D'Angelo early on as well. The vocalist position was auditioned for by the band's roadie John Connelly (who later went on to form the band Nuclear Assault with Lilker) and temporarily filled in by Scott Ian's younger brother Jason Rosenfeld within a very short period of time before vocalist Neil Turbin joined the band in late August 1982. A solid lineup was finally in place.
Neil Turbin era (1982–1984)
Turbin first performed with the band at Great Gildersleeves on September 12, 1982. This line-up made frequent live performances in the New York/New Jersey tri-state area. Greg Walls left in the summer of 1983, and Bob Berry, who was recommended to Turbin by Rhett Forrester of Riot, temporarily replaced him on guitar. Berry's stay was short and he was replaced by Dan Spitz who had previously been with New Jersey thrash band Overkill. With Spitz, a second demo was recorded.
In September, Charlie Benante replaced Greg D'Angelo on drums. This lineup recorded the "Soldiers of Metal" 7" single, produced by Ross the Boss of Manowar. The B-side of this single was "Howling Furies" from the previous demo recorded with Greg D'Angelo on drums, and is the only official Anthrax recording to feature his work. It was this single that won the band a recording deal with Megaforce Records. Anthrax recorded their debut album Fistful of Metal in late 1983 and released in January 1984, followed by a US tour.
The term "Thrash Metal" was first referred to by the music press was UK's Kerrang Magazine journalist Malcom Dome while making a reference to the Anthrax song "Metal Thrashing Mad" in Kerrang issue number 62, page 8 published on February 23, 1984. Prior to this Metallica James Hetfield referred to their sound as Speed Metal or Power Metal, while Anthrax then started to refer to their music as Thrash Metal. Tensions between Danny Lilker and the rest of the band arose due to Lilker's non-paying of rehearsal rent, lateness, sloppiness and unprofessional demeanor. Lilker was released from the band and he went on to form Nuclear Assault with former roadie John Connelly. He was replaced by Charlie Benante's nephew Frank Bello.
Initial Joey Belladonna era (1984–1992)
In late August 1984, vocalist Neil Turbin was released from the band. He later went on to form the band DeathRiders. Eddie Trunk admits in his book Eddie Trunk’s Essential Hard Rock and Heavy Metal to pressuring Johnny Zazula and Anthrax into firing Turbin. Matt Fallon (who later preceded Sebastian Bach as vocalist for Skid Row) was a temporary replacement. The band also appeared as a four-piece billed as "The Diseased", with Scott Ian on vocals. They performed a few hardcore punk covers.
Vocalist Joey Belladonna was chosen as the new singer and debuted live with the band on February 27, 1985. An EP titled "Armed and Dangerous" was recorded and included two live tracks from early 1984, and the two songs from the "Soldiers of Metal" 7" single. Later in 1985, Ian, Benante and Danny Lilker collaborated with vocalist Billy Milano to produce the satirical album Speak English or Die under the band name Stormtroopers of Death.
Anthrax's next album, Spreading the Disease, came out in the same year and was followed by US and European touring in 1986. Their first major tour was with Black Sabbath, but with only one original member in its line-up at the time (guitarist Tony Iommi), plus singer Glenn Hughes's voice problems, caused the tour to cancel after four dates. In April 1986, Anthrax attempted their first tour of Europe, but was immediately cancelled after the Chernobyl disaster. Later that year, they attempted to tour Europe again with Metallica, but after the bus accident that claimed Cliff Burton's life on September 27, 1986, the tour was quickly cancelled.
The follow-up album Among the Living, recorded during 1986 and released in March 1987, developed the band's humorous and more experimental side. Anthrax radically departed from the "traditional" heavy metal look in favour of brightly colored "surfer" jam shorts and began a lyrical trend that focused on movies, comic books and Stephen King novels. "I Am the Law" is a tribute to comic book hero Judge Dredd. "Efilnikufesin (N.F.L.)" ("nise fukin life" spelled backwards) is about comedian John Belushi's drug addiction and death. "Indians" and the mosh pit anthem "Caught in a Mosh" are still considered Anthrax classics today. The album was dedicated to the memory of Cliff Burton, the early Metallica bass player. "I Am the Law" was issued as a single, backed with "I'm the Man", a song that combined rap with metal. They further indulged their appreciation for rap by appearing on the title track of U.T.F.O.'s album Lethal. Anthrax toured Europe with Metallica and Metal Church to promote Among The Living.
Anthrax stuck to its thrash metal formula on the 1988 album State of Euphoria. The single "Antisocial", originally by French heavy metal band Trust, soon became a staple on MTV in regular rotation as well as on Headbangers Ball. The group continued to expand its horizons by touring the US with Funk/Metal band Living Colour.
In 1989, MTV held a contest in which the winner would get to have the band come to their home and trash it. The contest was won by a female fan, and the band subsequently came to her house and caused havoc. This was the inspiration for the band's 1992 appearance on Married... with Children, where the main characters of the show win a similar television contest.
In 1990, Anthrax released the more serious Persistence of Time to even greater success than State of Euphoria. The album was considerably darker, more technical and progressive than Anthrax's previous work. This struck a chord with metal fans who had been previously wary of embracing the band because of their "silly" side. The biggest single off the album was a cover of Joe Jackson's "Got the Time". Jackson himself even claimed that he enjoyed Anthrax's cover version of his song. "In My World" and "Belly of the Beast" were also successful.
During 1991 they collaborated with pioneering rap artists Public Enemy on a joint version of "Bring the Noise". This was a hit, and the band played a successful joint tour with Public Enemy. The EP "Attack of the Killer B's" was recorded during 1991, featuring a new version of "I'm the Man" and a cover of "Bring the Noise" on which Scott Ian did some of the vocals. A short time later during 1992, Joey Belladonna was fired from Anthrax.
Initial John Bush era (1992–2005)
Shortly after Belladonna was fired, he was replaced by John Bush, formerly of the then-recently disbanded Armored Saint. Ten years earlier, Bush had been approached by Metallica to sing for them. The band also left Island Records and signed with Elektra Records to release Sound of White Noise in 1993.
Though it was quite a change from their earlier work with a dark, rockier feel, Sound of White Noise received mostly positive reviews and "Only" was a major hit (in the liner notes for Return of the Killer A's, Ian says James Hetfield once told him it was a "perfect song"). In keeping with the band's eye for unlikely collaborations, classical composer Angelo Badalamenti provided music for the track "Black Lodge," a tribute to the TV show Twin Peaks. Importantly, the album demonstrated that Anthrax had at last shed its sometimes cartoonish outlook in favor of mature, thoughtful songwriting, a trend which had begun on the previous album Persistence of Time.
During the hiatus between Sound of White Noise and Stomp 442, longtime guitarist Dan Spitz left the band to quit music and become a watchmaker, leaving Anthrax officially a quartet for 2 years. In 1995, the band released Stomp 442,, on which Charlie Benante played much of the lead guitar parts, assisted by Paul Crook – who would become the band's touring lead guitarist for several years – and Dimebag Darrell from Pantera. Elektra refused to provide real promotion for the album and it quickly disappeared without a trace. Upset at what they felt was an attempt by the label to kill the album, Anthrax severed ties with Elektra.
Anthrax signed with independent label Ignition Records for the 1998 release Volume 8: The Threat Is Real that once again saw Benante playing lead guitar alongside Crook and Dimebag. Pantera's Phil Anselmo also guested. Unfortunately, almost immediately after the album's release, the label went bankrupt and disappeared, making the album difficult to find. Regrouping, the band signed Beyond Records and released the greatest-hits album Return of the Killer A's, although Beyond soon went out of business as well. During this period, a two-vocalist tour featuring both Joey Belladonna and John Bush was proposed and set to go, until Belladonna decided to pull out at the last minute.
During the 2001 anthrax attacks in the United States, the band altered its website to provide information about the disease after people began simply typing anthrax.com into their browsers. Amid what could have become a PR nightmare for the band, Anthrax issued a press release on October 10, 2001, that jokingly mentioned that they were going to change the name of the band to "something more friendly, like 'Basket Full of Puppies'." They later sank all name-change rumors that erupted from the press release at the New York Steel 9/11 benefit concert in November 2001, when they took the stage wearing boiler suits with a different word on each one that spelled out the sentence "WE'RE NOT CHANGING OUR NAME". A picture of the band wearing the suits can be seen on the inner tray card of We've Come for You All.
Despite the hardships and various legal entanglements regarding who had the rights to certain albums, Anthrax managed to continue. In 2001, new lead guitarist Rob Caggiano joined, and two years later, the band released We've Come for You All, through Sanctuary Records—an album hailed by the metal press as a return to form. In early 2004, the band returned to the studio to record The Greater of Two Evils—a "live in the studio" re-recording of the band's early work with the then-current lineup. Shortly afterward, bassist Frank Bello announced he was leaving the band to join Helmet and was replaced for touring purposes by Fates Warning and Armored Saint member Joey Vera.
Among The Living reunion (2005–2007)
On April 1, 2005, the band announced that the "classic" lineup of Scott Ian, Charlie Benante, Dan Spitz, Joey Belladonna, and Frank Bello would be reforming. On some dates of the resultant tour, they performed Among the Living in its entirety for the first time. At the conclusion of the tour, it was expected the reformed line-up would begin a new album, but on January 24, 2007, Scott Ian posted a message to Blabbermouth.net,
Following that announcement, speculation was cast over whether John Bush would return. Bush had stated on February 7 that he was not ready to commit to Anthrax again. In May 2007, Scott Ian said that the announcement of who will be singing for Anthrax would be made at the end of June, though the actual announcement did not come until December.
In June 2007, Bush was interviewed by Rock Hard about being asked to return to Anthrax, and whether or not he was bitter about the reunion. He replied:
When asked if he was approached to rejoin the band once Belladonna left the group, Bush said,
Dan Nelson era (2007–2009)
On December 10, 2007, it was announced the band's new vocalist would be Dan Nelson, formerly of Devilsize. Around the same time, it was confirmed that Rob Caggiano would return as lead guitarist.
On May 28, 2008 Anthrax played their first show in 19 months at The Double Door in Chicago. Appearing for the first time with Nelson, the band played new material which was well received by the sold-out crowd despite some equipment problems. Anthrax then played in South Korea for the first time on August 17, 2008.
In his monthly Food Coma column, which was posted on December 22, 2008, Anthrax's Scott Ian revealed that he'd "been in the studio working on the new Anthrax album since November 4." Ian went on to say that drums, bass and rhythm had been laid down on a total of 19 tracks, and that the process of laying down vocals had begun. "We should be mixing at the end of January and soon after that giving birth to a really pissed off, loud, fast and heavy child." In a subsequent May 2009 Food Coma column, Scott announced that the album was being mixed by Dave Fortman whose previous credits include both of Evanescence's multi-platinum selling albums and Slipknot's album All Hope Is Gone. In a post to the Anthrax website, Charlie Benante stated that "Worship Music should be out in May".
On Saturday March 7, 2009 Anthrax played Bogota, Colombia for the first time in their career, opening for Iron Maiden. Then, on July 21, 2009 manager Izvor Zivkovic confirmed the departure of Dan Nelson, due to illness. Nelson has since denied this, saying:
Reunion with John Bush (2009–2010)
All following performances were canceled, except the UK Sonisphere Festival in August 2009, with John Bush performing vocals. Due to the overwhelming fan response following his performance, a 'Bring Back Bush' campaign was set up and subsequently endorsed by Scott Ian.
On September 3, 2009, it was announced that John Bush would be yet again singing with Anthrax at the Loud Park '09 Festival in Japan on October 17.
Anthrax with John Bush also took part in the February 2010, 5-show touring Soundwave 2010 festival in Australia. Soon after, Benante said that the band is "in the process of regrouping with [Bush]. We played two shows with him, and we are looking forward to proceeding with this lineup."
In late 2009, Anthrax confirmed a "Big 4" event (with Metallica, Megadeth, and Slayer) as part of the 2010 Sonisphere festival. This was the first time that all four 'Big 4 of thrash metal' bands played together.
In an interview with metalsucks.com John Bush said,
When asked if he would be re-recording some of Dan Nelson’s vocals he stated
Bush ultimately decided that he did not want to commit to the band full-time, and was again out of Anthrax by early 2010.
Reunion with Joey Belladonna and Release of Worship Music (2010–2013)
In early 2010 Joey Belladonna returned to Anthrax for shows in the summer of 2010 as well as committing to the band for Worship Music. Anthrax, along with Metallica, Slayer, and Megadeth performed on the same bill for the first time on June 16, 2010 at Bemowo Airport in Warsaw, Poland. It was the first date of that summer's Sonisphere Festival series. The show in Sofia, Bulgaria on June 22, 2010, was sent via satellite in HD to cinemas and later released on DVD and Blu-ray. They also went on to play in Jonschwil, Switzerland (June 18, 2010), Milovice (Nymburk District), Czech Republic (June 19, 2010), Athens, Greece (June 24, 2010), Bucharest, Romania (June 26, 2010) and then in Istanbul, Turkey (June 27, 2010), Stockholm, Sweden (August 7, 2010), and last in Pori, Finland (August 8, 2010) also as part of the Sonisphere Festival.
On June 24, 2011 Anthrax released the song "Fight 'Em 'Til You Can't" from the upcoming album on their website. It was released as a free download as a way to thank their fans for their loyalty in waiting several years for Worship Music. The album was subsequently released on September 13. On April 30, 2011, Anthrax headlined in the Philippines for the first time in the annual Pulp Summer Slam along with Death Angel, Hellyeah and UAE's heavy metal band Nervecell. Anthrax was confirmed in January 2012 to be headlining the Jägermeister side stage at Mayhem Festival 2012, which is co-headlined by Slayer and Slipknot.
Departure of Rob Caggiano and Anthems (2013–present)
On January 4, 2013, Anthrax posted on their Facebook page that lead guitarist Rob Caggiano had left the band stating,
A week later, it was announced that Jonathan Donais of Shadows Fall would be filling in for the tour.
Scott Ian announced in January that the band will start working on their next studio album in late 2013. On March 19 in North America and March 22 in Europe, the band released the Anthems EP, featuring several covers of mainly 70s songs played by the band.
Musical style and influences
The band's first five albums displayed a thrash metal sound, although the band's 1993 album Sound of White Noise incorporated influences from grunge and alternative metal. Critics consider the band's four albums with singer John Bush to be alternative metal and groove metal. The band's latest album Worship Music has returned to the thrash metal sound they were known for in the 1980s. Anthrax have been credited as laying the groundwork for genres such as rap metal and nu metal, and are identified as one of the first bands to mix metal with hardcore and rap. Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic has praised the band for having a greater sense of humor than their thrash metal contemporaries.
Anthrax are influenced by classic rock artists, as suggested on their Anthems EP, which includes covers of 70s classic rock artists, including Cheap Trick, AC/DC, Thin Lizzy, Boston and Journey. Anthrax have also been influenced by punk bands such as Bad Brains, Sex Pistols and Discharge, as well as traditional heavy metal bands such as Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Anvil, Iron Maiden and Motörhead.
- Current members
- Scott Ian – rhythm guitars, backing vocals (1981–present), lead guitars (1981)
- Charlie Benante – drums, percussion (1983–present)
- Frank Bello – bass guitar, backing vocals (1984–2004, 2005–present)
- Joey Belladonna – lead vocals (1984–1992, 2005–2007, 2010–present)
- Touring members
- Jonathan Donais – lead and rhythm guitars (2013–present)
- Jon Dette - drums (2013–present)
- Fistful of Metal (1984)
- Spreading the Disease (1985)
- Among the Living (1987)
- State of Euphoria (1988)
- Persistence of Time (1990)
- Sound of White Noise (1993)
- Stomp 442 (1995)
- Volume 8: The Threat Is Real (1998)
- We've Come for You All (2003)
- Worship Music (2011)
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Image from Discogs