Members include Frank Bello (born July 9, 1965; replaced Dan Lilker, 1984), bass; Charlie Benante (replaced Greg D'Angelo, early 1980s), drums; John Bush (replaced Joey Belladonna [born October 30, in Oswego, NY; replaced Neil Turbin, 1984], 1992), vocals; Scott Ian (born Scott Ian Rosenfeld), guitar; and Dan Spitz (replaced Greg Walls, early 1980s), guitar. Addresses: Record company-- Elektra Entertainment, 345 North Maple Dr., Ste. 123, Beverly Hills, CA 90210.
Cemented by their mutual interest in hardcore punk and heavy metal, comic books and skateboarding, guitarist Scott Ian, bassist Dan Lilker, singer Neil Turbin, guitarist Greg Walls, and drummer Greg D'Angelo in 1981 sparked a blaze that would set the heavy metal/thrash world on fire. Their first step beyond the musical framework of the genre combined the fast and furious pace of hardcore with the slightly more melodic sound of heavy metal. Such stylistic experimentation would later become a habit that would contribute to Anthrax's longevity.
Anthrax toured small-town clubs and rehearsed nonstop during its first two years. In that interim, guitarist Dan Spitz, whose brother David played in Black Sabbath, replaced Walls, and drummer Charlie Benante replaced D'Angelo. Benante became the band's primary songwriter, occasional guitarist, and art director. Then, in 1983, after getting managers Jon and Martha Zazula to listen to their demo, they signed with Megaforce Records and released the single "Soldiers of Metal." They continued to tour small venues, performing with fellow thrashers Metallica and Manowar.
Anthrax struggled with touring, recording, and promotion for three years before they released their first album, Fistful of Metal, in 1984 on Megaforce in the U.S. and Music for Nations in Europe. The album attracted a small following, who generally believed they had discovered the fastest metal music ever heard.
Benante and guitarist Ian also used those lean years to develop a concurrent splinter group, Stormtroopers of Death (SOD), an even faster hardcore outfit marked by a hearty sense of humor. SOD also released its debut, Speak English or Die, in 1984.
Also that year, bass player Lilker decided to part ways with Anthrax, later going on to join thrash combo Nuclear Assault. Roadie Frank Bello took over for Lilker. And in August, while the group was in the studio working on the follow-up to Fistful of Metal, Ian fired singer Neil Turbin. Joey Belladonna stepped into the vocal slot, giving a new range, style, and polish to Anthrax's sound.
With the new lineup in place, Anthrax finished recording the five-song EP Armed and Dangerous in 1985. The mini-album included a cover of punk heroes the Sex Pistols' "God Save the Queen." The set earned Anthrax the interest of Island Records, which signed the band and put them to work with producer Carl Canedy on their second full-length album, Spreading the Disease.
Reaching Number 113 on Billboard' s pop chart, Spreading the Disease, spurred on by the single "Madhouse," spread Anthrax's popularity across the world the following year; in 1986 the band played their first U.K. show at London's Hammersmith Palais. They went on to tour Europe and Scandinavia with up-and-coming headbangers Metallica.
The band left their New York City dwellings behind to record their next album in Miami and the Bahamas with producer Eddie Kramer. Anthrax released Among the Living in May of 1987. Lyrics included topics ranging from American Indians to comic-book character Judge Dredd. The disc hit the U.S. charts at Number 62 and the U.K. charts at 18, then earned the band their first gold album. Three singles nurtured Among the Living' s success--"I Am the Law," "Indians," and the heavy metal/rap hybrid "I'm the Man."
"I'm the Man" was a leap beyond the musical boundaries of heavy metal. Though Anthrax had enjoyed a glancing relationship with hip-hop for some time, the stylistic synthesis was a daring move. Soon the band's ascent in the rock world paralleled the revival of the comic-book heroes depicted in their lyrics.
Anthrax had finally hit the surface of worldwide visibility, but they refused to let go of their heavy metal designation in spite of the borders they continued to cross. "We're a heavy metal band, that's what we are," Ian told Melody Maker. "We just don't like people to think we're a heavy metal band like all those other bands. We want people to take notice of the fact that we're different."
Their identity firmly entrenched, Anthrax ventured further down the road toward mass success in 1988 with the release of another, three-song EP, I'm the Man. They recorded the set at a show in Dallas in 1987; it eventually went double platinum. Later in the year, the band released their next record, State of Euphoria. The title suggested the condition of fans as they left an Anthrax performance.
Euphoria included "Make Me Laugh," a tirade against television evangelism; a cover of the French rock band Trust's "Antisocial"; "Now It's Dark," inspired by the David Lynch film Blue Velvet; and "Misery Loves Company," penned in response to the Stephen King novel Misery.
Aside from the pantheon of popular culture, the band focused on social and political upheaval, while still managing to maintain the comic appeal they had begun to develop earlier. Ian outlined his personal agenda for social renewal to Melody Maker, venturing, "I think there should be a limited number of zombies in circulation, so that people could give vent to their frustrations by beating them up with bats. I think that could be socially useful."
In an effort to prevent exhaustion and their own frustrations, Anthrax took a three-month vacation from recording, touring, and each other to regain their creative energies--the first in three years. Then, just as they began their next project, a major setback hit the band: in January of 1990, Anthrax narrowly escaped injury in a serious fire at their studio. The bandmembers formed a human chain to try to save their equipment, but the conflagration ultimately caused more than $100,000 worth of damage to Anthrax's gear and destroyed the entire studio.
Picking up the pieces, the band moved their recording sessions to Los Angeles in late February to finish the work they'd begun on the new album. Persistence of Time hit the street in 1990. The Salvador Dali painting "Persistence of Memory" had inspired Charlie Benante's cover design for the album. Persistence of Time would be nominated for a Grammy Award in the best heavy metal performance category in 1991. In the meantime, Anthrax hit the road supporting heavy metal giants Iron Maiden on their "No Prayer on the Road" tour.
Their next step beyond the heavy metal norm was taken a year later and gained the band recognition, admiration, and a whole lot of press; Anthrax released yet another, so-called EP--despite its ten-song length--of covers and B-sides called The Attack of The Killer B's. The disc included covers of Kiss's "Parasite," Trust's "Sects," and Discharge's "Protest and Survive." But the most notable offering was "Bring the Noise," by rebel rappers Public Enemy. Public Enemy's Chuck D joined Anthrax in the studio and later onstage, contributing his trademark commanding vocals. Billboard declared the union "a stroke of brilliance," and reported, "The combination of hip-hop grooves, turntable scratching and crunching guitar riffs and rolling drums is mind blowing."
Anthrax then left Island to sign a multimillion-dollar contract with the Elektra label. Almost before the ink on the deal was dry, the band canned singer Joey Belladonna, citing "creative differences," and a year later hired singer John Bush, formerly of the heavy metal band Armored Saint.
"It was frightening to replace a frontman," Benante told RIP magazine. "It was frightening to risk sitting there for a year, not being able to get anyone. It was frightening to have done it after signing this big contract with Elektra. But, that makes it all the more worth it. If we'd stayed in one place, I doubt I'd still be in this band. I doubt there'd even be a band! Then, again, we've never been afraid to try out different things, though we never seem to get credit. Like, we wore shorts and thermals in the past, and now that's accepted fashion. But when we did it, people hated us for it!"
Anthrax released Sound of White Noise, their first record with their new singer, in 1993. Their sound was markedly transformed by Bush's vocals and writing. "For us, it's a big deal to make a record where you don't know what you're getting," Ian said in a 1993 Elektra press biography. "These tracks are completely different from each other, yet it's all Anthrax. It shows the types of music and ideas that we're into."
The set included "Potter's Field," about abortion, "Only" and "A Thousand Points of Hate," about interpersonal relations, and "Black Lodge," inspired by another David Lynch work, the television series Twin Peaks. In fact, Twin Peaks composer Angelo Badalamenti made a guest appearance on the song. "It's just different enough to remind you that within the circumscribed parameters of thrash etiquette, Anthrax has always taken chances," Rolling Stone said of the album. "And, how many bands in any genre have successfully reinvented themselves a decade into their career? In that sense, Sound of White Noise is a powerful comeback from a group that never went away."
After more than ten grueling years of thrashing across the world, Anthrax insisted that their endurance comes from the faith of their fans. "We're following the Iron Maiden path," guitarist Spitz declared in Screamer. "We don't rely on radioplay or videos or album sales. We rely on touring and word-of-mouth. We play what we like to play and write what we like to write. We don't have to change for anybody. That's why the kids believe in us." Nonetheless, with a darkly compelling video of Black Lodge, by award-winning director Mark Pellington, dominating MTV's Headbanger's Ball in the fall of 1993, it seemed clear that Anthrax was poised to move well beyond their diehard core of believers.
by Sonya Shelton
Band formed in New York, NY, 1981; signed with Megaforce Records, 1983, and released debut album, Fistful of Metal, 1984; signed with Island Records, and released Spreading the Disease, 1986; signed with Elektra Entertainment, 1992, and released Sound of White Noise, 1993.
Sound of White Noise named best metal album in Guitar Player' s Readers Poll, 1994.
- Selective Works
- Fistful of Metal Megaforce, 1984.
- Armed and Dangerous (EP; includes "God Save the Queen"), Megaforce, 1985.
- Spreading the Disease (includes "Madhouse"), Island, 1986.
- Among the Living (includes "I Am the Law," "Indians," and "I'm the Man"), Island, 1987.
- I'm the Man (EP), Island, 1988.
- State of Euphoria (includes "Make Me Laugh," "Antisocial," "Now It's Dark," and "Misery Loves Company"), Island, 1988.
- Persistence of Time Island, 1990.
- Attack of the Killer B's (EP; includes "Parasite," "Sects," "Protest and Survive," and "Bring the Noise"), Island, 1991.
- Sound of White Noise (includes "Potter's Field," "Only," "A Thousand Points of Hate," and "Black Lodge"), Elektra, 1993.
- Rees, Dafydd, and Luke Crampton, Rock Movers & Shakers, ABC/CLIO, 1991.
- Periodicals Billboard, May 29, 1993.
- Circus, December 31, 1988.
- Guitar Player, July 1993.
- Hit Parader, September 1993.
- Melody Maker, November 28, 1987; September 17, 1988; February 11, 1989; February 10, 1990; August 18, 1990; August 25, 1990; June 22, 1991; December 21, 1991.
- Metro Times (Detroit), July 7, 1993.
- Modern Drummer, June 1993.
- Pulse!, July 1993; September 1993.
- RIP, August 1993.
- Rolling Stone, May 13, 1993; June 24, 1993.
- Screamer, November 1988; April 1990; September 1990.
- Spin, July 1993.
- Additional information for this profile was obtained from Elektra Records press materials, 1993.