Artist of the Week [3/16/13]: Anthrax

Beginning next Friday, renowned thrash metal band Anthrax will headline the monster lineup for this year’s installment of the Metal Alliance Tour. The rest of the tour’s bill includes old school thrashers Exodus along with Municipal Waste, High On Fire, Holy Grail, and Shadows Fall on select dates.

In addition to leading the Metal Alliance Tour to box office victories across North America, Anthrax will release their first covers EP, titled Anthems, this Tuesday, March 19th. The EP portrays Anthrax paying tribute on songs by AC/DC, Rush, Thin Lizzy, Boston, Journey, and Cheap Trick.

Acknowledged as one of the Big Four of thrash metal, Anthrax have been in the business since the early 1980s. There have been a handful of lineup changes throughout the band’s years of existence.  Rhythm guitarist Scott Ian and drummer Charlie Benante have been the only stable members since the band’s formation. It seems like that may change soon, though, with Benante sitting out for the past couple Anthrax tours, including this upcoming leg.

In terms of lead singers, Anthrax are not the most reliable employers. For instance, the most notable Anthrax frontmen include Neil Turbin, Joey Belladonna, and John Bush. Turbin was only featured on the band’s 1983 debut release, Fistful of Metal. Belladonna was hired shortly after Turbin was fired and held the lead singer position from 1984 until 1992. He performed on four very successful Anthrax albums before Bush succeeded him. With Bush handling vocal duties, Anthrax lost a lot of their credibility and had several box office flops.

In 2005, Belladonna returned for a short-lived reunion. At this point, an unfortunate youngster named Dan Nelson came in, performed live with the band, and even recorded an entire album (Worship Music) before getting the boot in 2009. Apparently, Anthrax didn’t want a voice reminiscent of Phil Anselmo’s commanding their music. So, Bush was brought back until Anthrax could retrieve Belladonna once again.

With Belladonna back, Anthrax re-recorded Worship Music to act as an acclaimed reunion album. Released on September 13, 2011, Worship Music was indeed well-acclaimed. This was the first Anthrax album featuring Belladonna since 1990’s Persistence of Time.

For the most part, Anthrax have maintained a solid lineup for the last couple years, minus the departure of lead guitarist Rob Caggiano. The current Anthrax lineup is comprised of lead singer Joey Belladonna, bassist Frank Bello, rhythm guitarist Scott Ian, and drummer Charlie Benante with Jon Donais of Shadows Fall temporarily filling on lead guitar. Also, drummer Jon Dette has been filling in on drum duties for both Anthrax and Slayer upon Benante’s personal issues and Dave Lombardo’s departure, respectively.

Five Anthrax songs to check out are “Caught In A Mosh,” “Indians,” “Medusa,” “In The End,” and “Only.” The first two tracks come off 1986’s Among the Living, considered by many as the strongest Anthrax effort. Both songs are set list staples and for good reason. The fans love them, especially when Ian calls for a “war dance” halfway through “Indians.” “Medusa,” from 1985’s Spreading the Disease, begins with an old school thrashy riff before Belladonna’s aesthetically-pleasing, operatic vocals break in. “In The End” is arguably one of the best tracks off of 2011’s Worship Music. It is heavy, somewhat catchy, and proves that Belladonna still has it. “Only” is one of the most tolerable and almost enjoyable songs from the John Bush era. The band actually played it at one of the “Big Four” shows in 2011.

For more information regarding the Metal Alliance Tour, check out the tour’s website here.

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