HEAVY ROOTS – ANTHRAX

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HEAVY ROOTS

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Focusing on seminal heavy bands: an in-depth look at where they rooted from and branch out to

WRITTEN By Matt Bolton

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With their roots based in Queens, New York City, Anthrax was formed by guitarists Scott Ian and Dan Lilker, and named after the evilest sounding word Ian came across in a biology text book. The band went through a number of vocalists in their early days, with Ian’s younger brother Jason Rosenfeld briefly stepping in before Ian’s school mate, Neil Turbin took over for their first demo in 1982. Anthrax were on the same bill as an up-and-coming Metallica in 1983 and went through a number of guitarists, with current guitarist Greg Walls replaced by Bob Berry who was in turn replaced by Dan Spitz of Overkill.

A second demo was recorded in 1983 and Charlie Benante replaced Greg D’Angelo on drums. Record store owner Jon Zazula was given both demos and after releasing Soldiers of Metal as a single and Howling Furies as its B-side on Megaforce Records (home of Metallica and the classic ‘Kill ‘Em All’ (1983) record), the band released their debut full-length ‘Fistful of Metal’ (1984).

After tensions rose between Lilker and the other band members, he departed before touring and went on to form Nuclear Assault. Lilker was replaced by Benante’s nephew and roadie Frank Bello. Following a successful US tour in 1984, Turbin left and Matt Fallon was recruited as his replacement soon after. Fallon didn’t last long and hardcore covers band The Diseased kept the remaining members busy for sometime until Joey Belladonna was chosen as the new vocalist. ‘The Armed and Dangerous EP’ (1985) was the first recording to feature Belladonna.

‘Spreading the Disease’ (1985) was the second full-length for Anthrax and the first for Belladonna and bassist Bello. The album featured Medusa, Gung-Ho, Armed and Dangerous and Madhouse, which a video was made for. 

Ian and Benante were joined by former bassist Lilker and vocalist Billy Milano branching off to form crossover thrash band Storm Troopers of Death, releasing ‘Speak English or Die’ (1985). The album features the infamous March of the S.O.D./ Sargent D and the S.O.D. and countless tongue-in cheek songs such as Pre-Menstrual Princess Blues, Fist Banging Mania, Fuck the Middle East and the aptly titled Diamonds and Rust (Extended Version) which clocks in at 2 seconds. The band went on hiatus for some time with Ian and Benante returning to Anthrax and Lilker returning to Nuclear Assault. Milano on the other hand, formed spin-off project Method of Destruction or M.O.D, as opposed to S.O.D, releasing “U.S.A. for M.O.D” (1987) also on the Megaforce Label.

Anthrax hit back with what Benante described as their ‘signature album’,Among the Living’ (1987). It featured classics such as Caught in a Mosh, I Am the Law, A Skeleton in the Closet and Indians. The album was dedicated to the memory of Metallica bassist Cliff Burton, who was to thrash what Chuck Schuldiner of Death was to death metal.

‘I’m the Man’ (1987) was the band’s second EP and was one of the first examples of rap metal. The Beastie Boys were a big influence, with Belladonna and Benante switching places. Benante would rap while Belladonna got behind the kit. Ian and Spitz, both Jewish like all members of The Beastie Boys, based the melody of the Jewish folk song Hava Nagila with the main riff used on title-track, I’m The Man.

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‘State of Euphoria’ (1988) was the fourth full-length from Anthrax and saw them tour the US with funk metal outfit Living Colour, as well as joining Exodus and Helloween on the Headbangers Ball Tour. The album was also promoted when Anthrax supported Ozzy Osbourne, Iron Maiden and Metallica on tours for their respective new albums. New songs such as Be All, End All, Who Cares Wins and Antisocial were instantly popular and went onto become staples of their live set.

The follow-up ‘Persistence of Time’ (1990) proved to be more successful than its predecessor, this time with Joe Jackson cover, Got the Time and Belly of The Beast. In My World was played on the aptly titled, My Dinner with Anthrax episode, on Married with Children.

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‘Attack of the Killer B’s’ (1991) saw a compilation of B-sides and live tracks from the band. It featured new versions of I’m The Man, Milk (An Ode to Billy), being an S.O.D. tune and the infamous Bring The Noise which led to a tour with Public Enemy. Arguably the most well-known rap-metal song to date, this would be the last studio recording involving Belladonna for quite some time as he was fired from the band due to creative and stylistic differences.

Former Armored Saint vocalist John Bush joined the band and a label change was initiated, with Anthrax moving from Island to Elektra records and releasing ‘Sound of White Noise’ (1993). This album was also the last to feature guitarist Dan Spitz. Classics such as Potter’s Field, Only, Room for one More and the Twin Peaks-inspired Black Lodge featured on the album and the distinct vocal stylings of Bush were welcomed.

‘Stomp 442’ (1995) was the seventh release for the band and second with Bush. Although Benante played most of the lead guitar parts, the album also featured Paul Crook on guitar. Crook was also a touring guitarist for several years, as was Dimebag Darrell of Pantera. The album saw classics like Fueled, Random Acts of Senseless Violence and Nothing. Elektra did little to promote the album, which led to another label change.

Independent label, Ignition Records released Volume 8: The Threat is Real (1998), an underrated album in this writer’s humble opinion. The album featured Killing Box with guest vocals from Phil Anselmo and guitar solos on Inside Out and Natural Born Idiot by Dimebag Darrell, both members of Pantera. Opening track Crush was also one of the highlights along many others.

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S.O.D. returned after a string of reunion tours with Bigger Than The Devil (1999), released on Nuclear Blast records. Keeping the humour intact with Celtic Frosted Flakes referring to Swiss Extreme metal group Celtic Frost. The single Seasoning the Obese was a play on words of the title to Slayer record, Seasons in the Abyss.

After the impact of the 2001 US anthrax attacks which caused band name change rumours, the NYPD believed it would be the wrong thing to do so no changes were made. At a benefit gig for 9/11 the band dressed in boiler suits with the word’s Were. Not. Changing. Our. Name. on each member. Another label change was on the cards this time joining with Sanctuary Records who released the much anticipated, We’ve Come for You All (2003). This was the first to feature lead guitarist Rob Caggiano on lead guitar and the final studio album with Bush on vocals. The album featured surprise backing vocals by none other than Roger Daltrey of The Who and the guitar brilliance of Dimebag Darrell,  who joined the band once again, this time on, Cadillac Rock Box and Strap it on.

The Greater of Two Evils (2004) saw the final recordings of Bush on vocals, giving his renditions of Turbin and Belladonna tunes. S.O.D. also released their final album, Rise of the Infedels (2007) which was described as an extended EP with a running time of close to an hour. La Raza (2010) was the first album released by Armored Saint since the band went on hiatus eight years ago. Since then Win Hands Down (2015) was released via Metal Blade. Armored Saint is where Bush has his full concentration on now, and the stellar release shows that it has paid off.

Worship Music (2011) saw the return of Belladonna with stand out tracks The Devil You Know, Fight ‘Em ‘Til You Can’t and In The End, a song dedicated to the late Ronnie James Dio and Dimebag Darrel, with backdrops displayed on stage while on tour.

For All The Kings (2016) saw new guitarist Jon Donais of Shadows Fall on lead guitar, replacing Caggiano who left in 2013 to join Denmark group Volbeat. A video was made for Monster at the End and also features songs that dealing with the outside world. Evil Twin is relevant, focusing on issues such as the recent office shootings of the French satirical publication and other mass shootings that we hear of on a regular basis.

Anthrax is one of the thrash bands who continue to branch out today. Looking back Anthrax has brought on many groups who fall into the crossover thrash genre due to the influences  S.O.D. and rap metal owes a lot to both the I’m The Man EP and Bring The Noise single. There are no skeletons in the closet for Anthrax… maybe just the one…

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Fistful of metal (1984)

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Spreading the disease (1985)

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among the living (1987)

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state of euphoria (1988)

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persistence of time (1990)

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sound of white noise (1993)

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stomp 442 (1995)

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Volume 8: the threat is real (1998)

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we’ve come for you all (2003)

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Worship music (2011)

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for all kings (2016)

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Written by Dave Griffiths

Dave has worked as a music & film journalist for over 20 years now. Aside from Heavy he does radio and various podcasts as well. He is the proud owner of Metal Cat.

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