Although die-hard fans stuck by Anthrax no matter who their singer was, it is widely agreed among metalheads that the band was at their peak – both artistically and commercially – when Joey Belladonna was fronting the line-up.
What set them apart from the pack in those days was, while other thrash metallists had front-men who screamed, Belladonna actually sang – in a melodic style akin to one of his hero’s, Steve Perry from Journey.
Belladonna helped take the band farther away from conventional metal clichés, and over the next five albums (with the exception of 1988’s State of Euphoria), Anthrax arguably became the leaders of speed metal.
As the 80s became the 90s, they also began to increase their experiments with hip-hop, culminating in a tour with Public Enemy in 1991 and a joint re-recording of Public Enemy’s classic Bring the Noise.
Anthrax kicked Belladonna out of the band in 1992 and replaced him with ex-Armored Saint vocalist John Bush – a singer who was gruffer and deeper, fitting most metal conventions perfectly.
Subsequently, their sound became less unique and their audience shrank slightly, and after signing to Elektra for 1993’s Sound of White Noise, the group left the label after just one more album, 1995’s Stomp 442.
At that point, Anthrax (now a four-piece consisting of Ian, Bush, Bello, and drummer Charlie Benante) built their own studio in Yonkers, New York, and after a three-year hiatus returned with their Ignition label debut, Volume 8: The Threat Is Real.
Anthrax’s very first “hits” collection was released in 1999; titled Return of the Killer A’s: The Best Of, it was also their first release for the Beyond label. The album included a cover of Ball of Confusion, which featured a duet between current frontman Bush and former vocalist Belladonna.
A proposed tour that was to include both vocalists was announced, but on the eve of its launch, Belladonna pulled out, reportedly for monetary reasons. The tour carried on, as Anthrax signed on to participate in a package tour during the summer of 2000 with Mötley Crüe and Megadeth, but left the tour after only playing a handful of dates.
Anthrax appeared on the Twisted Sister tribute album Twisted Forever in 2001 (covering the track Destroyer), and began recording their next album the same year.
In addition, guitarist Ian found time to regularly host the metal television program Rock Show on VH1, plus he appeared as part of the fictional metal band Titannica in the film Run, Ronnie, Run.
Anthrax made their Sanctuary debut in 2003 with We’ve Come for You All. The band’s dynamic hadn’t changed, and touring in support of that album was met with overwhelming success.
The CD/DVD set Music of Mass Destruction: Live in Chicago, which arrived in spring 2004, celebrated Anthrax’s two decades in the business. Then, in 2005, Anthrax’s entire original line-up of Ian, Spitz, Belladonna, Benante, and Bello reunited for a tour and the CD/DVD retrospective Anthrology: No Hit Wonders 1985-1991.
Anthrax also issued Alive 2, recorded during their summer 2005 reunion tour.
In 2007, Dan Nelson, formerly of the group Devilsize, took over vocal duties. The band announced the return of vocalist John Bush in 2009 though the stint was never deemed permanent.
The vocal pendulum shifted again the following year with an announcement that Belladonna was returning to the fold for future shows, as well as the beginning of work on a new Anthrax album.
The resulting Worship Music, the band’s tenth studio album, and the first to feature original material since 2003’s We’ve Come for You All was released on 13 September 2011.
Scott ‘Not’ Ian