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Anthrax

About Anthrax

Today known as one of the Big Four of thrash metal, along with Megadeth, Slayer and Metallica, Anthrax is an American heavy metal band from New York City that has persisted from the 80s onward and has become one of heavy metal’s most popular acts.

The band started out in 1981 with guitarist Scott Ian and bassist Dan Lilker as founding members. They picked the name Anthrax because Ian saw it in a biology textbook and thought it sounded evil enough. After two years of lineup changes (including vocalist Neil Turbin and longtime drummer Charlie Benante joining in), the band met Megaforce Records owner Jon Zazula. Megaforce Records had just released Metallica’s Kill ‘Em All, which sold many copies. Anthrax wanted to release an album as well, but the material they sent in was rejected multiple times. Eventually, they did make a record that Zazula wanted to release, which became Fistful of Metal.

After another number of lineup changes, the band finally found a stable group; Ian, Benante, Dan Spitz on guitar, Frank Bello on bass, and Joey Belladonna on vocals. This lineup then released Spreading the Disease, the first of the “classic Anthrax albums”. Unlike many thrash metal bands of their time, the band’s lyrics were pretty funny and not really that serious, which is apparent on this record and more records to come. With some time to spare, Ian and Benante also formed the side project Stormtroopers of Death, which was controversial because its deliberately racist and misogynist joke lyrics.

The next album Among the Living is their most famous record and a fan favorite. Benante has called it their “signature album”. Many songs on the record (Caught in a Mosh, I Am the Law, Indians) are played at almost every live Anthrax concert. The band also released I’m the Man, a parody song of the Beastie Boys that is considered one of the first songs in the ‘rap metal’ genre.

The band quickly followed up on Among with State of Euphoria. This album is generally viewed as the weakest in the band’s golden era. It boasts a couple of fan favorites (the Antisocial cover, Be All, End All), but is otherwise a bit more forgettable.

Persistence of Time was the first Anthrax release from the 90s and showed a shift in tone. The album is much darker and more technical, lyrically dealing with topics such as racism (Keep it in the Family), schizoid personal disorder (In My World), the holocaust (Belly of the Beast), and dying drug addicts (Discharge). The band’s abandonment of their silly tone was a sign of the band taking a more serious direction as well as rising tensions within the band. After teaming up with Public Enemy to release the hit song Bring Tha Noize, Joey Belladonna was fired over creative and stylistic differences.

Belladonna was replaced by John Bush, formerly of Armored Saint. Bush brought with him a change in sound for the band and greatly influenced the next couple of records. The first of these albums was Sound of White Noise, which showed that Anthrax wanted to stick with the more serious direction that Persistence of Time had begun. The record was still a hit, with the popular song Only as the early peak in the John Bush Era.

The success of Sound of White Noise did not last for long, however. The band released Stomp 442 just at the time (1994-1999) when heavy metal was considered to be going through the ‘dark ages’. The album was one of their most disliked releases yet and the record company did not even promote it. Boring song titles such as Nothing and Bare also did not help. On the next album, Volume 8: The Threat is Real, the situation was even worse for the band. Just after they had released the album, the record company went out of business, which greatly hurt the album’s distribution.

After this fiasco, the band decided to take some time off until 2000. They went back on tour and regained some of their former glory. After 9/11 and the subsequent anthrax scare, the band’s name became associated with terrorist attacks. Ian decided not to change their name after going to Ground Zero and being encouraged by someone from the National Guard at the site, who believed it would send the wrong message. The band performed for New York Steel 9/11 benefit concert while wearing boiler suits that read “We’re not changing our name”.

The next album We’ve Come For You All was their most successful album since Sound of White Noise. Like some previous records, Pantera’s Dimebag Darrel, a close friend of the band and often called “the sixth member of Anthrax”, helped Anthrax write some of the songs. Tragically, Dimebag was killed onstage only a year later, which left the band devastated.

The next couple of years were a bit of a mess for Anthrax. Bush left the band and Belladonna was brought back for a reunion tour. Belladonna then left again and Bush was asked back, which he declined. Then, Den Nelson was to sing on the next record, but he left due to illness. After a performance with Bush, the fans successfully started a “Bring Back Bush” campaign. Eventually, Bush permanently left the band though and Belladonna permanently rejoined, just in time for the Big Four tour with Megadeth, Slayer, and Metallica.

The band, now with Belladonna back, released Worship Music, a callback to their classic albums. It was one of their best-selling records and was praised by many fans. Their most recent album For All Kings sold even better, proving that the band still has a bright future ahead of them.

Below you can watch an episode of Behind The Music about Anthrax:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jxJIizDaXRY