Named after a lethal toxin, Anthrax rode a couple of great records to a reasonably long career. Formed in New York in '81 the group had founder/leader Scott Ian (guitar), Dan Spitz (guitar), Charles Benante (drums), Dan Lilker (bass) and Neil Turbin (vocals). Taking the most extreme elements of Alice Cooper, KISS and Black Sabbath as their starting point, Anthrax soon built a major local following with intense performances that caught the attention of the Megaforce label.
Their debut "Soldiers Of Fortune" managed to get them a tour spot with Metallica. But their next effort "Fistful Of Metal" in '84 had some of the fastest Speed Metal riffs ever committed to tape. But instead of being a liftoff, '84 turned out to be a rebuilding year. Lilker left for another group and was replaced by Anthrax roadie Frank Bello.
Later in the year, Ian fired Turbin and after a little trial and error landed the high-pitched signature vocalist Joey Belladonna. They also left Megaforce and signed with Island Records. "Spreading The Disease," with "Madhouse" hit in '85 but two years later they delivered their signature work, "Among The Living" with the banger classic "Caught In A Mosh." It featured songs based on Stephen King novels.
Anthrax was sampled by Public Enemy on "Bring Tha Noise" which led to an interesting joint tour. "Persistence Of Time," released in '90 garnered the group a Grammy nomination for Best Metal Performance - a sure sign the party was over.
In '92 Belladonna was replaced by the less dynamic/dramatic John Bush. Though the group was burned out they kept blasting away and remained commercially viable for a while.
"Music Of Mass Destruction," recorded live the previous year, came out in '04 and represented Anthrax's strident return as they roared through the crowd pleasing "Caught In The Mosh" and "Anti-Social."
Twenty-two years after its original release, Anthrax issued a deluxe version of "Among The Living." "For a while now, I've been wanting to remaster our back catalog, and that was one of the records that really needed it," said Benante.
Everybody needs a place to chill, especially in Vegas. With that in mind, Ian and Jerry Cantrell (Alice In Chains) opened a Vegas bar called Dead Man's Hand (which is a pair of aces and 8s in clubs and spades -so called because Wild Bill Hickok was holding that hand when he was murdered on 08/02/1876).
"We want this to be a place that we would want to hang out in," Ian explained.
Leaving the bar for the studio, "Worship Music" landed in '11 and marked the first time Belladonna contributed vocals since "Persistence Of Time." Between '85 and '90, Belladonna sang on four Anthrax albums, three of which were certified gold by the RIAA.
The '11 set contained "The Devil You Know." "It's got that thrashy Rock 'n' Roll vibe to it, which I love," commented guitarist Rob Caggiano. "(It's) kind of a cross between 'Caught In A Mosh' and an AC/DC song, like 'Whole Lotta Rosie'."
"Worship Music" moved just over 28,000 units in its opening week to put Anthrax at #12 on the Billboard 200 albums chart.
Caggiano, with Anthrax since '01, ended his run with the group in '13. He played on the albums "We've Come For You All" and "Worship Music."
"This is an extremely difficult and emotional decision for me to make but my heart is just steering me in a different direction right now," said Caggiano in a statement. "While this might be one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make, it feels like the right one for me at this time."
Meanwhile, Anthrax wished the guitarist "nothing but great success going forward."
"He was thinking about it for a while and just finally made the decision to move on," said Belladonna. "I don't think there's any hard feelings - in fact, we're all in touch and everything." Jon Donais was Caggiano's replacement. But that wasn't the end of the line-up changes.
A domestic altercation kept Benante from touring Europe in '12. He and his wife were arrested that summer and charged with domestic battery in front of a child. In a statement Benante claimed he "was assaulted several times during an altercation that sent him to the emergency room with a gash at the back of his head that required several staples to close." Former Testament drummer Jon Dette was recruited for the tour.
Months later, Dette was tapped again for an Australian tour. Benante is "dealing with some personal issues right now and can't leave the U.S.," explained Ian.
As that was going on, "Anthems," a covers album, dropped in '13. "It was a lot of fun, especially because a lot of those (songs) aren't, I guess, normal for us - although they are because they're songs we all knew," said Ian. The set included versions of "Jailbreak" (Thin Lizzy), Smokin'" (Boston) and "T.N.T." (AC/DC). Belladonna really wanted to do the latter. "He felt it was more in his style, and he knew the song backwards and forwards, so we recorded that," added Benante.
Anthrax premiered their '14 concert DVD, "Chile On Hell" at New York's Cinema Village with an L.A. screening a few hours later.
Additional video news came just weeks later. Ian, a horror fan, was transformed into a "walker" for 'The Walking Dead' in 11, but that appearance landed in a webisode rather than the actual TV show. But three years later, Ian actually had a cameo, as a zombie, on the show. Best part, he got his own close-up.
Ian found another diversion with the launch Motor Sister, a band that also included Ian's wife Pearl Aday, bassist Joey Vera (Armored Saint) and drummer John Tempesta (The Cult). The group's '15 debut set was titled "Ride."
But back to Anthrax. "For All Kings," a '16 set, marked the recording debut of Donais with Anthrax.
1984 Fistful Of Metal
1985 Spreading The Disease
1987 Among The Living
1988 State Of Euphoria
1990 Persistence Of Time
1993 Sound Of White Noise
1995 Stomp 442
1998 Volume 8: The Threat Is Real
2003 We've Come For You All
2011 Worship Music
2016 For All Kings
Anthrax had an extensive recording career. "Among The Living" ('87), "Fistful Of Metal ('84)" and "Spread The Disease" ('85) are the three best (in order) Anthrax albums. After "Among The Living" the group tails off significantly. "State of Euphoria" ('88) has little to recommend but "Persistence Of Time" ('90) makes a decent stab at reclaiming the power and the glory. Following Belladonna's departure in '92 the group is riding on name recognition alone.
With the exception of the synth opening ("Worship") and the interludes ("Hymn 1" and "2"), Anthrax is right on point with "Worship Music." As expected, the return of Belladonna raises everybody's game.
There are a couple of good Anthrax compilations: "Madhouse: The Very Best Of Anthrax" and "Return of the Killer A's: Best Of Anthrax." "The Attack Of The Killer Bs" EP features B-sides and previously unreleased material. It's actually a good set.