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Hard Rock/Metal

Anthrax

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New York thrash pioneers and one quarter of metal's "Big Four"

There is a standardised, almost ritualistic introduction to metal, passed down from all self-respecting metalheads to new inductees. It is the hallowed “big four”, a quartet of unshakeable pillars that prop up the temple of speed and thrash metal. And while Metallica own the record-breaking album sales, Slayer the knee-trembling demonic force and Megadeth the relentless velocity, Anthrax stand apart as having a more grounded self-awareness and a willingness to test the genre’s boundaries.

Since their inception in 1981, Anthrax have been through more members than the other three combined, but it’s the core of Joey Belladonna (vocals), Frank Bello (bass), drummer Charlie Benante and dynamic guitarist extraordinaire Scott Ian that still commands hushed reverence. Ian founded the band with Benante and guitarist Dan Spitz joining soon after. The trio recorded the band’s 1984 debut Fistful Of Metal with bassist Dan Lilker and vocalist Neil Turbin.

Turbin and Lilker were replaced shortly after by Belladonna and Bello. Belladonna’s glass-shattering wail offered a different dynamic to the gruff growls that were starting to dominate metal, and Anthrax went on to land the resounding one-two of 1985’s Spreading The Disease and 1987’s acclaimed Among The Living. Ian’s oft-stated love of Public Enemy saw the band begin to embrace rap, bridging a long-standing divide between factions.

Anthrax had a minor dip with 1988’s State Of Euphoria but 1990’s Persistence Of Time catapulted the band forward, dropping many of their more cartoonish instincts in favour of a darker, more serious tone. A collaboration with Public Enemy on Bring The Noise ushered in a new era of rap metal.

In 1992, Belladonna and Anthrax parted ways, kicking off a search for a new frontman. The void was eventually filled by Armored Saint’s John Bush, whose deeper growl sat well on 1993’s brooding alt-rock influenced Sound Of White Noise. However, the departure of Dan Spitz and the commercial disappointment of 1995’s Stomp 442 and 1998’s Volume 8: The Threat Is Real found Anthrax floundering somewhat.

The rap metal boom seemed tailormade for the band that had pioneered the crossover way back when. But when Anthrax resurfaced in 2003 with We’ve Come For You All, it was not to cash in on any new fads. Instead, the quintet (now including new guitarist Rob Caggiano) stuck resolutely to their thrash metal origins, delivering their best album since 1990. The following year saw the release of The Greater Of Two Evils, made up of rerecorded songs from their first five albums.

A spate of departures followed, with Bush and Bello leaving the band. A live reunion with Bello, Spitz and Joey Belladonna followed but the return was brief and Dan Nelson took over as the new frontman. Despite recording the entirety of their new album with Nelson, his tenure proved short lived and Belladonna was officially back in the fold, re-recording all Nelson’s lead vocals for Worship Music, which hit No.12 in the Billboard album charts when it was finally released in 2011.

In 2013, Caggiano left to join Volbeat and was replaced by former Shadows Fall guitarist Jon Donais. His first album with the band was 2015’s For All Kings.

In 2021, Anthrax announced a UK tour as part of their 40th birthday celebrations, which also included a web series and a live stream. Anthrax UK dates were set for September and October 2022.