We’ve all heard of success stories within the industry where the said band started from the underground, rose all the way to the top of their field and slowly fell from their pedestal into virtual obscurity once again through lack of innovation with a continual repeat of former glories.
While the same comparisons can easily paralleled to New York based thrash act Anthrax, it couldn’t be further from the truth.
From their early formation in 1981, Anthrax was one of the acts that spearheaded the thrash movement that flourished throughout the mid to late ‘80’s.
Although Anthrax’s 1984 debut album ‘Fistful Of Metal’ (With vocalist Neil Turbin) is hardly a classic of it’s time, it did pave the way for its follow up mini album ‘Armed And Dangerous’ (With new vocalist Joey Belladonna) in 1985. It signalled a changing growth in sound and strength from within the bands attack, and duly started their slow rising influence that is still felt today in metal.
The albums that followed (1986’s ‘Spreading The Disease’, 1987’s ‘Among The Living’, 1988’s ‘State Of Euphoria’ and 1990’s ‘Persistence Of Time’) continued the growth of Anthrax to a living legend status.
However, by 1992, Belladonna was out, and was replaced by ex-Armoured Saint vocalist John Bush. Although an accomplished vocalist in his own right, 1993’s ‘Sound Of White Noise’ seemed to confuse fans with the albums lack of humour, and Bush’s workman like growl (Rather than Belladonna’s operatic approach).
Rather than give up, Anthrax forged on with equally strong releases such as 1995’s ‘Stomp 442’ and 1998’s ‘Volume 8 – The Threat Is Real!’, while 1999’s best of collection ‘Return Of The Killer A’s’ allowed the band to reflect on their past achievements up to that point, and allow both Bush and Belladonna to pair up for cover of The Temptation’s hit ‘Ball Of Confusion’.
By while persistence was one of Anthrax’s strong points, record sales were not. Whether the problems could be pointed at a downturn in metal (Grunge’s emergence through the ‘90’s), lack of record company push or changing line up's (Maybe all of the above), Anthrax merely existed for the die-hard fans and little more.
2003 however was a huge turning point in the Anthrax history. After several label changes, Anthrax found a home with Germany’s Nuclear Blast Records, and delivered the highly acclaimed ‘We’ve Come For You All’. Needless to say, both press and fans alike have returned Anthrax back with welcome arms.
I managed to catch up with vocalist John Bush to grill him about the bands upcoming live D.V.D., the recent resignation of bassist Frank Bello, and the Anthrax career revival.
As mentioned before, there was a time when Anthrax’s new release meant a hive of public anticipation and press coverage. Times certainly changed, and by the release of 1995’s ‘Stomp 442’, even some fans were unaware of the albums release! However, ‘We’ve Come For You All’ seemed to generate a buzz not unlike their earlier albums, and all with good reason.
“I think ‘We’ve Come For You All’ is a great album. It’s also seen the rise in the profile of the band and has also been doing quite well sales wise. I think the reason for its success is both a change in the music scene, and the fact that the album is a strong one from us. It’s a combination of the two things. I think the climate is good right now. Metal has kind of had an upsurge again, and with it there are a lot of good new and upcoming groups, including the bands that we’re playing with on this upcoming Australian tour. I also believe that it was an amazing record. We really pushed ourselves the best that we could. ‘Volume 8 – The Threat Is Real!’ came out five years ago, so obviously we spent a lot of time in the process of writing and really scrutinising it. It’s a really great album, and I would put it up there with all the previous Anthrax albums released within the bands history. I’m very happy with it.”
Capitalising of the groups resurge in popularity, Anthrax will soon release their debut live D.V.D. in the coming months entitled ‘Music Of Mass Destruction’.
“That’s right. That was a live performance that we recorded in Chicago (Illinois, U.S.) in December last year. It’s always been one of our favourite places to play in the U.S. The crowd is always sick and really great for us. It was awesome, and it was a lot of fun. It looks really explosive because it’s shot on high definition film. It also sounds great and it’s entertaining. It also has some cool behind the scenes stuff, so I think people will dig it. If nobody has ever seen Anthrax play live, then this would have to be the next best thing that’s for sure.”
Even though the timing would seem perfect on Anthrax’s behalf, ‘Music Of Mass Destruction’ isn’t just a case of cashing in. In fact, it’s something fans have been apparently been asking for in the last couple of years.
“It really is something a lot of people have been asking us a long time from us to see. They not only want to see some of the new material from my time with the band, but also from the years before my time, but with me singing the songs. People have seen us live throughout the years, but they haven’t actually had a live album from us a lot of years. So instead of doing the traditional live record, we decided to do a D.V.D. I mean visually, you don’t want to miss out on that. Obviously sonically the live album is only half of the show. So we thought we would provide both the visual aspect of the band along with the sound, so that’s why we went with a D.V.D. rather than just an album. We’re really happy with the whole package, and I think it’s come out at just the right time for us as well.”
Tying in nicely with the cover artwork of ‘We’ve Come For You All’, Anthrax have once again used famed comic book artist Alex Ross for ‘Music Of Mass Destruction’.
“Yeah, that is cool. He did us another favour. He’s also a great guy. He knows his stuff, and you really can’t get any better than his artistic stuff than what he’s done for us on the last couple of releases. What he draws is simply unbelievable. I think we’ve made him an Anthrax fan too. I don’t think he was a huge fan before, but he’s been to a couple of shows since, and he’s now digging it! (Laughs) He really feels it, which is great. We feel really honoured that he’s done the last couple of releases for us. The great thing is that we mostly gave him free reign on the design. We gave him the title as an idea, and maybe a couple of suggestions here and there, but he’s obviously a man who has done a lot of drawing in his career, so he really didn’t need a lot of direction from us. We just made sure that he knew we were a band, and we wanted something that represents the band. It really didn’t take much more than that.”