Anthrax is an American Thrash metal band from New York City, formed in 1981 by guitarist Scott Ian and bassist Dan Lilker. The group was considered one of the leaders of the thrash metal scene during the 1980s. Of the "Big Four" thrash metal bands (the others being Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer), Anthrax were the only band from the East Coast. Until 2016, the band has released eleven studio albums, a number of singles and a single with American hip hop group Public Enemy. According to Nielsen SoundScan, Anthrax sold 2.5 million records in the United States from 1991 to 2004, with worldwide sales of 10 million.
Noted for its live performances, Anthrax signed with the independent label Megaforce Records (which released the band's debut studio album in 1984). Lilker soon left the band to form Nuclear Assault, and was replaced by roadie Frank Bello. Vocalist Neil Turbin was replaced after two years by Matt Fallon who was then subsequently replaced in 1985 by Joey Belladonna. With a new lineup, the band recorded Spreading the Disease (distributed by Island Records) in 1985. Anthrax's third album, Among the Living, was released in 1987 to critical praise. The band experienced another lineup change in 1992, when John Bush replaced Belladonna as lead vocalist. Sound of White Noise was released the following year, peaking at number seven on the Billboard 200. Studio recordings during the 1990s saw the band, influenced by other genres, experimenting with its sound.
Anthrax's lineup has changed several times over their career. The band has had a number of vocalists including Neil Turbin, Joey Belladonna, Dan Nelson and John Bush. Founding member Scott Ian and early arrival Charlie Benante, who joined Anthrax in 1983, are the only band members to appear on every album. Bassist Frank Bello has played on every album except the band's debut Fistful of Metal, which featured Dan Lilker. In 2010, Joey Belladonna returned to Anthrax and has since recorded two more studio albums with the band, Worship Music, released in 2011, and For All Kings released in 2016.
Formation and debut album (1981–1984)
Anthrax was formed in Queens, New York City, on July 18, 1981 by guitarists Scott Ian and Dan Lilker. The band was named after the disease of the same name which Ian saw in a biology textbook. The name was chosen because it sounded "sufficiently evil". Anthrax's initial line-up was completed by singer John Connelly, drummer Dave Weiss and bassist Paul Kahn. Kahn was briefly replaced by bassist Kenny Kushner before Lilker took over on bass and Greg Walls joined as lead guitarist. Weiss was then replaced early on by Greg D'Angelo, who was recommended to the band by Greg Walls. Scott Ian's younger brother Jason Rosenfeld was a temporary vocalist until Ian's former schoolmate Neil Turbin joined the band in late August 1982. The band recorded its first demo tape during this time.
Neil Turbin era (1982–1984)
The band's first performance with Neil Turbin was at Great Gildersleeves, a New York club, in September 1982. This line-up played regularly in the New York-New Jersey area over the next several months. Anthrax were also on the same bill as the up-and-coming Metallica for several shows in the spring of 1983. Guitarist Greg Walls left Anthrax that summer and was replaced by Bob Berry, who was recommended to Turbin by Rhett Forrester of Riot. Berry was in turn soon replaced by Dan Spitz, who was previously a member of the New Jersey thrash band Overkill. A second demo was recorded soon after.
Drummer Charlie Benante replaced D'Angelo (later of White Lion) in September 1983 after a several month courtship by Ian. By this time, Ian and Lilker had befriended New Jersey record store owner Jon Zazula, to whom they had given their demo tapes to critique. Zazula's new record label Megaforce Records had recently released Metallica's debut album Kill 'Em All to great success. In late 1983, Zazula agreed to sign Anthrax and the band recorded the "Soldiers of Metal" single, which was produced by Ross the Boss of Manowar. The B-side was the song "Howling Furies" which was taken from a previous demo with Greg D'Angelo on drums (his only Anthrax recording).
Anthrax released their debut album Fistful of Metal in January 1984. However, tensions were building between Lilker and the rest of the band for various reasons and he was asked to leave before touring began. He would soon after form the band Nuclear Assault with former Anthrax roadie John Connelly. Lilker was replaced by Benante's nephew and roadie Frank Bello. The band then went on a successful US tour opening for Raven and others to support Fistful of Metal.
In August 1984, Neil Turbin and Anthrax went their separate ways after long standing personal issues. In his book Eddie Trunk’s Essential Hard Rock and Heavy Metal, music journalist Eddie Trunk admits pressuring Jon Zazula, Scott Ian and Anthrax into firing Turbin because of his personal taste in vocals. Singer Matt Fallon was briefly hired in late 1984, but he and the band soon parted ways. The remaining members decided to play live shows as a four-piece billed as "The Diseased" with Scott Ian on vocals, performing hardcore punk covers until a permanent singer could be found.
Initial Joey Belladonna era (1984–1992)
In 1985, Joey Belladonna was chosen as the new vocalist.
The Armed and Dangerous EP marked Belladonnas recording debut even though it featured two live tracks from 1984 and the two songs from the "Soldiers of Metal" single that all had Neil Turbin performing on them.
Anthrax's second album Spreading the Disease was released in October 1985. With left over studio time from the sessions for the album Ian, Benante and former bandmate Dan Lilker collaborated with vocalist Billy Milano and formed the side project Stormtroopers of Death and recorded the album Speak English or Die in three days, which was released in December 1985.
The US tour to support Spreading the Disease opening for Black Sabbath was cancelled after four dates due to Sabbath singer Glenn Hughes' voice problems. In April 1986 Anthrax attempted its first tour of Europe beginning in Bochum Germany, supported by Overkill and Agent Steel. The tour included a show near Chernobyl, Ukraine immediately after the Chernobyl disaster. Later that year, Anthrax toured Europe with Metallica. The tour began on September 10 at St David's Hall and ended on September 26 in Solnahallen, Sweden. The Swedish show was Anthrax's last performance before the bus accident the following day which killed Metallica bassist Cliff Burton.
The band's third studio album, Among the Living, was released in March 1987. It showcased the band's humorous, experimental side and began a lyrical trend focusing on movies, comic books and Stephen King novels. The album was dedicated to Cliff Burton's memory. "I Am the Law" was issued as a single backed with "I'm the Man", a Rap-metal hybrid. Anthrax further indulged its appreciation for rap by appearing on the title track of U.T.F.O.'s album, Lethal. The band toured Europe with Metallica and Metal Church, and the United States and Europe with Testament to promote Among the Living.
Anthrax returned in 1988 with their fourth album State of Euphoria. The single "Antisocial", originally by French heavy-metal band Trust, became an MTV staple as part of the rotation on Headbangers Ball. The band expanded its horizons by touring the US with the funk metal band Living Colour and embarking on the Headbangers Ball Tour with Exodus and Helloween. In 1989, MTV sponsored a contest in which the winner had her home trashed by the band. This would later inspire Anthrax's 1992 appearance on the television series Married... with Children, in which the Bundys win a similar TV contest.
In 1990 Anthrax released the more serious Persistence of Time, which surpassed State of Euphoria's success. The album was darker, more technical and more progressive than the band's previous work, striking a chord with metal fans wary of Anthrax's "silly" side. The most successful single from the album was a cover of Joe Jackson's "Got the Time", which Jackson said he enjoyed. In 1991, Anthrax collaborated with Public Enemy on a version of "Bring the Noise". This was a hit, and a successful tour with Public Enemy followed. The compilation Attack of the Killer B's was released in 1991, and featured three tracks from their 1989 EP Penikufesin, a new version of "I'm the Man" and a cover of "Bring the Noise" on which Ian did some vocals. In late 1992, singer Joey Belladonna was fired from Anthrax over creative and stylistic differences.
Initial John Bush era (1992–2005)
Former Armored Saint vocalist John Bush joined Anthrax shortly after Belladonna's dismissal. The band left Island Records to sign with Elektra, releasing Sound of White Noise in 1993. A change from Anthrax's earlier work, with a dark sound influenced by alternative rock, Sound of White Noise received mostly-positive reviews. Critic Dave Connolley of Allmusic.com would write that Bush "has a lower-register voice than Belladonna, and the result is menacing, premeditated, and sinister." The single "Only" was a hit; in the liner notes for Return of the Killer A's, Ian said that James Hetfield told him it was a "perfect song". In keeping with the band's eye for unlikely collaborations, classical composer Angelo Badalamenti provided music for "Black Lodge" (a nod to Twin Peaks). This album demonstrated that Anthrax had fully shed its cartoonish persona in favor of mature, thoughtful songwriting, which began with Persistence of Time.
After Sound of White Noise longtime guitarist Dan Spitz left the band to become a watchmaker, leaving Anthrax a quartet for two years. In 1995 Anthrax released Stomp 442, on which Charlie Benante played most of the lead-guitar parts. Benante was assisted by Paul Crook, later the band's touring lead guitarist for several years, and Dimebag Darrell of Pantera. Because Elektra did not promote the album it was less commercially successful than its predecessor, and Anthrax severed its ties with the label.
The band signed with independent label Ignition Records, releasing Volume 8: The Threat Is Real in 1998. As on Stomp 442, Benante played lead guitar with Crook and Darrell; Pantera vocalist Phil Anselmo also appeared. After the album's release the label went bankrupt, disrupting its distribution. Although Anthrax then signed with Beyond Records, releasing the greatest-hits album Return of the Killer A's, Beyond went out of business as well. During this period a two-vocalist tour with Belladonna and Bush was planned, but Belladonna quit at the last minute.
During the 2001 anthrax attacks in the United States the band changed its website, providing information about the disease after people began typing "anthrax.com" into search engines. Amid a potential PR nightmare, Anthrax issued a press release on October 10, 2001 joking that the band's name would be changed to "something more friendly, like 'Basket Full of Puppies'." Anthrax dispelled any name-change rumors derived from the press release at the November 2001 New York Steel 9/11 benefit concert, when they took the stage in boiler suits with a different word on each one (reading "We're not changing our name"). Bello has stated they did so after receiving support from members of the NYPD and NYFD, who believed that changing the name of the band would send the wrong message. A picture of the band in the suits is on the inner tray card of We've Come for You All.
Despite hardships and legal entanglements over album rights, Anthrax continued. In 2001 Rob Caggiano joined on lead guitar; two years later the band released We've Come for You All, praised by metal journalists as a return to form, on Sanctuary Records. In early 2004 Anthrax released The Greater of Two Evils, a "live in the studio" re-recording of the earlier work with the band's current lineup. Bassist Frank Bello announced shortly afterwards that he was leaving the band to join Helmet, and was replaced by Fates Warning and Armored Saint member Joey Vera.
Reunions with Belladonna and Bush (2005–2010)
In April 2005, Anthrax announced that the "classic" lineup of Scott Ian, Charlie Benante, Dan Spitz, Joey Belladonna and Frank Bello would reform. At some shows on the following tour, they played Among the Living in its entirety. Although the lineup was expected to record a new album after the tour, in January 2007 Ian said that Belladonna had not agreed to a reunion. After that announcement it was uncertain if John Bush would return, since Bush said he was unready to re-commit to Anthrax.
In May 2007 Ian said the decision of who would be singing for Anthrax would be made at the end of June, but the announcement was delayed until December. In June, Bush was asked by Rock Hard if he was bitter about the Anthrax reunion. He replied that he was asked to return to the band, but declined. Asked if he wanted to rejoin the band when Belladonna left, Bush said that he "just didn't feel right to do that."
In December 2007 it was announced that the band's new vocalist would be Dan Nelson, formerly of Devilsize, and Rob Caggiano (Volbeat)would return as lead guitarist. In May 2008, Anthrax played its first show in 19 months at Double Door in Chicago. Appearing before a sold-out audience with Nelson, the band played new material which was well received (despite equipment problems).
In his monthly Food Coma column posted on December 22, 2008, Scott Ian wrote that he had "been in the studio working on the new Anthrax album since November 4"; drums, bass and rhythm had been recorded on 19 tracks, and the addition of 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 May 2009 Food Coma column Ian wrote that the album was being mixed by Dave Fortman, who had worked with Evanescence and Slipknot. In a post on the Anthrax website, Charlie Benante said that Worship Music would probably be out in May.
In early 2009, Anthrax began a brief tour opening for Iron Maiden in South America. In July, band manager Izvor Zivkovic confirmed the departure of Dan Nelson due to illness. Nelson denied this, saying that he was fired. All subsequent performances were canceled except the August UK Sonisphere Festival, which featured John Bush on vocals. Due to fan response after his performance, a "Bring Back Bush" campaign began and was endorsed by Ian.
In September 2009, it was announced that Bush would again sing with Anthrax at the October Loud Park '09 Festival in Japan. Soon afterwards, Benante said that Bush had rejoined the band. In February 2010, Anthrax performed five shows as part of Soundwave in Australia. After the Australian shows, Bush said the band intended to re-record the vocals of several tracks from the upcoming album.
Worship Music and For All Kings (2010 - 2017)
In late 2009, Anthrax confirmed their participation in several "Big Four" concerts with Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer as part of the 2010 Sonisphere Festival dates in Europe. John Bush decided that he did not want to commit to the band full-time, and left Anthrax for the second time. Joey Belladonna returned to the band in early 2010 for the Sonisphere dates as well as committing to record a new studio album with the band. In June 2010 Anthrax, Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer performed on the same bill for the first time ever at seven Sonisphere shows. The Sofia, Bulgaria show was broadcast in cinemas and later released on DVD and Blu-ray.
In April 2011, Anthrax headlined in the Philippines for the first time at the annual Pulp Summer Slam with Death Angel and Hellyeah. The band also headlined the Jägermeister side stage at Mayhem Festival 2012, co-headlined by Slayer and Slipknot, and toured with Testament and Death Angel. In June Anthrax released the single "Fight 'Em 'Til You Can't" from the then-upcoming new album on their website as a free download to thank fans for their patience in waiting several years for new material. Worship Music was released on September 13, 2011 and debuted at #12 on the Billboard Top 200 album charts, their highest chart position since Sound of White Noise in 1993.
In January 2013, Anthrax announced that lead guitarist Rob Caggiano had left the band to join Volbeat. It was announced shortly afterwards that Jonathan Donais of Shadows Fall had been hired as the band's touring lead guitarist. Donais was confirmed as an official member in August of that year. In March, Anthrax released the Anthems EP featuring cover versions of 1970s rock songs as well as two new versions of the song "Crawl" from Worship Music. According to Ian, the band began working on its next studio album in late 2013. They released a live DVD, Chile on Hell in 2014 which featured the band's 2013 performance at the Teatro Caupolican in Santiago, Chile. In early 2015 the band confirmed that they had recorded new material and embarked on a tour with Volbeat.
The band began 2016 with a short US tour with Lamb of God and released their eleventh studio album For All Kings on February 26, 2016. It debuted on the Billboard 200 charts at number 9, surpassing the number 12 debut of Worship Music. In March they opened for Iron Maiden on the Latin American leg of their The Book of Souls World Tour. Anthrax spent the summer playing festivals in Europe before embarking on a fall US and Canadian tour with Slayer and Death Angel.
The band continued to tour within the next two years, embarking on The Killthrax Tour with Killswitch Engage twice (in 2017 and 2018), and along with Lamb of God, Behemoth, Testament, Napalm Death and Obituary, they supported Slayer on their final world tour from May to December 2018.
On February 1, 2017, the band embarked on the 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise. They played two sets and became the first of the "Big Four" to attend the open seas festival. During the theater set, they played a cover of Stormtroopers of Death's "March of the S.O.D." and debuted the song "Blood Eagle Wings".
Upcoming twelfth studio album (2017–present)
Anthrax released the live album and DVD Kings Among Scotland in 2018 which was recorded during their Glasgow, Scotland show on the For All Kings tour.
In a March 2017 interview, drummer Charlie Benante hinted that Anthrax would begin working on their twelfth studio album that summer. He also revealed that there are a few unreleased tracks from the For All Kings sessions that could serve as a genesis for the follow-up album, stating, "I think there are two or three that we could dust off and use as a starting point." When asked in May 2018 if they were working on the album, guitarist Scott Ian stated, "Very, very, very preliminary stages. There's a couple of really great riffs. Charlie's sent around some really great ideas. But we haven't actually started working on anything. We've just been too busy touring." A month later, bassist Frank Bello claimed that Anthrax had intended to be back in the studio by mid-2018, but because they agreed to open for Slayer on their farewell tour, they were not expected to start writing their new album until at 2019 at the earliest.
Anthrax – alongside Testament, Corrosion of Conformity, Armored Saint, DevilDriver, John 5, Doro and Metal Church – participated in Megadeth's first-ever cruise called "Megacruise", which took place in October 2019.
In a November 2020 interview with Full Metal Jackie, Ian stated that Anthrax would "certainly be ready to make a record next year", but added that its release date could be pushed back to 2022: "In my brain, I don't wanna put a record out until I can play shows."
Style and influences
Anthrax is one of the bands responsible for the emergence of Speed metal and Thrash metal. It exhibited a typical thrash-metal sound on its early albums and was known for humor and comic-book references in the lyrics, distinguishing the band from its contemporaries. According to Rolling Stone, Anthrax was one of the few heavy-metal bands to receive critical praise and redefine the genre during the 1980s. Original guitarists Scott Ian and Dan Spitz' styles were described as "aggressive and head pounding",
with power chords and "chugging" pedal points providing the sonic drive. Author Thomas Harrison wrote that Anthrax played metal at a faster tempo because of its Punk influences. The band's sixth album, 1993's Sound of White Noise (its first with singer John Bush), incorporated Grunge and Alternative metal influences in a darker vein. Critics consider the band's studio releases from the Bush era as having a more alternative metal and Groove metal sound. The album Worship Music, marked a return to thrash metal and the return of singer Joey Belladonna. Although the songs are credited to the whole band, since Spreading the Disease the music has been written almost entirely by Charlie Benante and the lyrics by Scott Ian. Although John Bush made some lyrical contributions during his tenure in the band.
Anthrax was influenced by Classic rock artists on its Anthems EP, which includes covers of 1970s bands Rush, Cheap Trick, AC/DC, Thin Lizzy, Boston and Journey. The band has been influenced by Punk bands Bad Brains, the Sex Pistols and Discharge and traditional heavy metal bands Black Sabbath, Kiss, Judas Priest, Anvil, Iron Maiden and Motörhead. Anthrax is a member of the "big four" of thrash metal with Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer. The band has been credited for laying the groundwork for Rap metal and Nu metal. According to Nielsen SoundScan, Anthrax sold 2.5 million records in the United States from 1991 to 2004, and 10 million worldwide.
Anthrax has influenced multiple bands such as Cannibal Corpse, Pantera, Sepultura, Testament, Death Angel, Korn, Limp Bizkit, 311, Papa Roach, Killswitch Engage, Sevendust, Terror and Insane Clown Posse.
Anthrax has been known to reference or draw influences from numerous sources in popular culture. "I Am the Law" is about the comic book character Judge Dredd. The title track to the album Among the Living is based on the Stephen King novel The Stand, in particular the character of villain Randall Flagg, while "A Skeleton in the Closet" is based on King's novella Apt Pupil and "Efilnikufesin (N.F.L.)" pays tribute to actor and original Saturday Night Live cast member John Belushi. The song "The Constant" is based on an episode of Lost.
The band, for a period of time, used a caricature of a bald man's face as a mascot; he was colloquially christened the "Not Man". The face itself comes from a rubber kids toy called "Magic Monster".
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)
For All Kings (2016)
Scott Ian – rhythm guitar, occasional lead guitar, backing vocals, occasional lead vocals (1981–present)
Charlie Benante – drums, percussion, occasional lead guitar (1983–present)
Frank Bello – bass guitar, backing vocals (1984–2004, 2005–present)
Joey Belladonna – lead vocals (1984–1992, 2005–2007, 2010–present)
Jonathan Donais – lead guitar, backing vocals (2013–present)
Dan Lilker – guitar (1981-1982) and bass (1982-1984)
Paul Kahn – bass (1981)
Kenny Kushner – bass (1981)
Dave Weiss – drums (1981)
Greg D'Angelo – drums (1981-1983)
Greg Walls – guitar (1981-1983)
Dirk Kennedy – vocals (1981)
John Connelly – vocals (1981)
Jason Rosenfeld – vocals (1981-1982)
Neil Turbin – vocals (1982-1984)
Bob Berry – guitar (1983)
Dan Spitz – guitar (1983-1994, 2005-2007)
Matt Fallon – vocals (1984)
John Bush – vocals (1992-2005, 2009-2010)
Rob Caggiano – guitar (2001-2005, 2007-2013)
Dan Nelson – vocals (2007-2009)