Anthrax Powerhouse Gears Up for Clash
In 1986 thrash metal pioneers Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, and Anthrax provided the soundtrack for the lives of disenfranchised hard rock fans worldwide. Known as "The Big Four," these groundbreaking bands filled a musical void for a primarily teenaged audience that identified less with the goodtime hair band mantra and more with the angst and speed of punk, yet still craved the screaming vocals and shredding solos of traditional heavy metal. In the summer of 2010 the Big Four finally came together for the first time to embark on a series of European concert dates. Based on the success of this overseas package, Megadeth, Slayer, and Anthrax will hit the US concert trail together this fall for the recreation of their successful 1991 Clash of the Titans tour. I spoke to Anthrax drummer Charlie Benante recently about a myriad of topics, including the Big Four experience and the much-anticipated upcoming twenty-city Titans tour which kicks off in Dallas, Texas on September 24th.
"It's gonna be a great experience and I'm gonna enjoy every moment," Benante commented early in our conversation, clearly articulating his enthusiasm regarding the upcoming tour. "I'm just happy to be back playing music again."
Over the years Anthrax has attracted almost as much media attention for their Van Halen-like revolving lead singer status than for their influential music. In fact, in the last year alone they've gone from longtime frontman John Bush to new recruit Dan Nelson to '80s mainstay Joey Belladonna, back to Bush, then back to Belladonna -- or was it Nelson back to Belladonna, then back to Bush, or was it... oh it just gets SO confusing! However, in 2010, Belladonna will return to the front line along with founding guitarist Scott Ian, Benante, and longtime bassist Frank Bello. As for original lead guitarist Dan Spitz, Benante made clear that although Spitz has recovered from recent health issues, he has moved on to other interests. "Rob Caggiano is our guitarist," Benante assured me.
In addition to the upcoming tour, Anthrax has also been diligently working on a new record entitled Worship Music, a project they began last year with John Bush. Despite changing singers midway through, Benante maintains that little will change with Belladonna back in the lineup. "The title means a lot to us so we'll stick to that title," Benante added. "Some songs will be the same, but some will be changed up prior to the spring (2011) release." "People love him," Benante said of Belladonna, "and we're going to make the best record we can make."
As for the band's 2010 set list, Benante promises, "It will be a mixture of old and new -- from the Bush and Belladonna eras."
Regarding the recent Big Four European experience, the forty-eight-year-old, Bronx-born powerhouse added, "It was awesome -- like a high school reunion. European fans appreciate the music so much. They'll even camp out for tickets."
And after nearly thirty years, Anthrax now find themselves in 2010 graduating from the status of innovators to elder rock statesmen, having created a musical catalog that's become a powerful inspiration for a new generation of musicians -- particularly drummers. "I grew up on Led Zeppelin, Neil Peart, and Alex Van Halen," Benante said of his personal rock heroes. "I also have a bit of a punk rock back ground. I think that's where the speed came from... [Influencing young musicians] is one of the most rewarding things. You just have to smile."