Anthrax is a thrash metal band formed in 1981 hailing from New York City. Anthrax is known as being one of the pioneers of the thrash metal movement along with fellow Big 4 members Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer. The band’s current lineup consists of Joey Belladonna (vocals), Scott Ian (guitar), Charlie Benante (drums), Frank Bello (bass) and Jon Donais (guitar). The band has seen a number of lineup changes over the years including back and forth lead singer changes with Joey Belladonna and John Bush (Armored Saint).
Scott Ian and guitarist Danny Lilker came together in 1981. After many quick personnel changes, the lineup soon filled out with Greg D’Angelo on drums, Greg Walls on lead guitar with Lilker moving to bass and Neil Turbin on vocals. The band played lots of live shows in the New York/New Jersey area and grew somewhat of a cult following. In 1983 Walls left the band and was eventually permanently replaced by Dan Spitz formerly of Overkill. Due to creative differences D’Angelo, who would move on to play with glam metal act White Lion, left the band and was replaced by current drummer Charlie Benante. The band soon signed with Megaforce Records and released their debut album Fistful of Metal in early 1984. Prior to the release of this album, bands of this style like Metallica and Exodus were referring to themselves as speed metal or power metal. The Anthrax song “Metal Thrashing Mad” was the impetus for the creation of the name thrash metal and Anthrax soon began referring to themselves as a thrash band.
Soon after the release of Fistful of Metal, the band began to grow tired of Lilker’s unprofessional behavior and fired him. He was replaced by current bassist Frank Bello who just happened to be drummer Charlie Benante’s nephew. Soon after, Neil Turbin was asked to leave and was eventually replaced by Joey Belladonna in 1985. The lineup was finally stable for the moment and the band got working on their second album. Spreading The Disease was released in 1985. The album finally brought the band some widespread notoriety resulting on Anthrax’s first tours of Europe. They even toured with Metallica and were unfortunately on the road with them in Sweden when a bus accident claimed the life of Metallica bassist Cliff Burton.
In 1987 Anthrax released arguably their most popular album with die hard fans called Among The Living. The album marked a change in style to one that was more representative of the members’ personalities. They dropped the typical metal leather and spikes for t-shirts and long shorts and the songs dealt more with things that they were personally interested in like comic books and movies. This is probably the main reason that so many of their fans really identify with this record.
Next came the album State of Euphoria in 1988 featuring the band’s first MTV success “Antisocial”. After releasing the more personal and somewhat sillier Among The Living and State of Euphoria, the band took a more serious turn with 1990’s Persistence of Time. The album dealt with darker and more serious subjects and the music was much more involved with progressive elements added in. This album helped to bring in a whole new group of fans that had seen the band as being too joky early on. This experimentation brought about the first collaboration of a heavy metal band and a rap group. Following in the footsteps of hard rockers Aerosmith and rappers RUN D.M.C., Anthrax collaborated with Public Enemy on a metal version of their song “Bring The Noise” on their 1991 EP Attack of the Killer Bees. This was a step up from the previous rap/rock collaboration as it brought together more extreme forms of rock and rap.
In 1992 with the popularity of thrash metal on a decline, Anthrax decided to move in a different direction. Much like Metallica had done with The Black Album and what Megadeth was about to do with Youthanasia, Anthrax decided they wanted to head in a more polished, traditional heavy metal direction. They even signed with the juggernaut that was Elektra Records. Soon Joey Belladonna was asked to leave the band and was replaced by John Bush of traditional metal band Armored Saint. The ending result was 1993’s Sound of White Noise. The riffs were notably slower and took on a much different scale giving the album much more of a blues metal feel. The album was the band’s most commercially successful album boasting the hits “Only”, “Black Lodge” and “Room for One More”.
Shortly after Sound of White Noise was released, Dan Spitz left the band. The band did not replace him for their next record Stomp 442. Much of the lead guitar on this album was played by drummer Charlie Benante and Dimebag Darrell of Pantera. In order to tour for the album, the band employed Paul Crook on lead guitar. Crook would remain the touring guitarist from 1995-2001.
In 1998 the band left Elektra over creative differences and released the album Volume 8: The Threat Is Real on independent label Ignition Records. Because the label quickly went bankrupt, the album went relatively unnoticed. They then signed with Beyond Records who then also went out of business. The band planned a dual vocalist tour with Belladonna and Bush, but Belladonna pulled out at the last minute.
After a few years of being relatively unnoticed, the band got back into the news in 2001 due to the Anthrax powder attacks that proceeded September 11th. In order to help out, the band reworked their website to give people information about the Anthrax substance as many were searching for the information by just typing in anthrax.com. Despite the scare, the band refused to change their name.
After six years of having a touring guitarist, Anthrax finally hired a permanent replacement for Spitz. Rob Caggiano joined the band and they signed with Sanctuary Records. Their next release was the acclaimed We’ve Come For You All as the band returned to the successful style of Sound of White Noise. In 2004 Frank Bello left the band to join Helmet and was replaced by bassist Joey Vera. However, Bello quickly rejoined the band when they announced a tour with the classic lineup of Ian, Bello, Benante, Spitz and Belladonna. Because Bush was unsure of whether he was going to continue with the band, rumors began to fly that Belladonna was replacing him. However after the tour Belladonna decided he did not want to move forward with the band. Bush was asked to return to begin writing for the next album, but felt slighted and uncomfortable and he decided to move on.
Dan Nelson of Devilsize became the lead vocalist for a short time, but only sang live with the band. No recorded material was ever released with Nelson. Rob Caggiano also returned after the failed classic lineup reunion. Nelson left in 2009 under some controversy. The band claimed he resigned due to illness, but Nelson is firm is his statement that he was never ill and that he did not resign. The band had to cancel all tour dates due to Nelson’s departure. They did however play the 2009 Sonisphere Festival with John Bush. The fan response was so positive that Anthrax played a few more shows with Bush and even discussed bringing him back to re-record Nelson’s vocals for their next release. Unfortunately things did not work out. Bush decided he could not commit to the band full time as he had just rejoined Armored Saint. The band then once again reunited with Belladonna in order to join Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer for the first ever Big 4 shows. Belladonna would officially rejoin the band soon after.
In 2011, Anthrax finally released their tenth album Worship Music with Dan Nelson’s vocals re-recorded with Belladonna. The album met with high praise as it was a return to the blistering thrash style that initially made the band famous. After touring heavily for the album, Rob Caggiano left in 2013 to join Volbeat. He was quickly replaced by Shadows Fall guitarist Jon Donais. Later on in 2013, the band began recording their eleventh album. However, once again issues surfaced with the band and Joey Belladonna with the singer stating that the band only invited him back for monetary reasons and that they are not friends. It remains to be seen if their next album will indeed be released in the summer of 2014 as the band initially stated.
- 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)
- The 25 Best Thrash Albums
- The 25 Best Traditional Metal Albums
- Dan Spitz Arrested For Domestic Abuse
- Essential 4th of July Metal Songs
- Essential Metal Christmas Songs