Anthrax is an American heavy metal band from New York City, formed in 1981 by rhythm guitarist Scott Ian and bassist Dan Lilker. The group is considered one of the leaders of the thrash metal scene from the 1980s and is part of the “Big Four” of the genre, along with Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer. They were also one of the first thrash metal bands (along with Overkill and Nuclear Assault) to emerge from the East Coast. The band has released 11 studio albums, several other albums, and 26 singles, including collaborating on a single with American hip hop group Public Enemy. According to Nielsen SoundScan, Anthrax sold 2.5 million records in the United States from 1991 to 2004, with worldwide sales of 10 million. Four of the band’s studio albums have also achieved gold certifications by the RIAA, including their third full-length record Among the Living (1987), which cemented Anthrax’s reputation as one of the most successful thrash metal bands.
Anthrax’s lineup has changed numerous times over their career, leaving Ian as the only constant member of the band. The band has had a revolving cast of singers and lead guitarists, including Neil Turbin, John Bush, Dan Spitz and Rob Caggiano. Since 2013, the band has consisted of Ian, drummer Charlie Benante, bassist Frank Bello, vocalist Joey Belladonna and lead guitarist Jonathan Donais. Ian and Benante (who replaced one-time drummer Greg D’Angelo in 1983) are the only two members to appear on every album, while Bello has been a member of Anthrax since 1984, replacing original bassist Dan Lilker. After two stints in Anthrax, from 1984 to 1992 and again from 2005 to 2007, Belladonna returned to the band in 2010.
Anthrax was formed in Queens, New York City, on July 18, 1981, by guitarists Scott Ian and Dan Lilker, with Ian’s friend Dave Weiss on drums. The band was named after the disease of the same name which Ian saw in a biology textbook, chosen because it sounded “sufficiently evil”. Lilker originally intended for Scott Setari to play bass in the band, during their early phases as a cover band. Anthrax’s initial line-up was completed by singer John Connelly, and bassist Paul Kahn. Kahn was briefly replaced by bassist Kenny Kushner before Lilker took over on bass and the band brought in lead guitarist Greg Walls. Weiss was then replaced early on by drummer Greg D’Angelo, who was recommended to the band by Greg Walls. Scott Ian’s younger brother Jason Rosenfeld had been a temporary vocalist until Ian’s former schoolmate Neil Turbin joined the band in late August 1982. Turbin joined the band partly because of guitarist Greg Walls, who Turbin later said was “the best guitarist Anthrax ever had.” The band recorded its first demo tape during this time.
Neil Turbin era and debut album (1982–1984)
The band’s first performance with Neil Turbin was at Great Gildersleeves, a New York club, in September 1982. This line-up played regularly in the New York–New Jersey area over the next several months. Anthrax was also on the same bill as the up-and-coming Metallica for several shows in the spring of 1983. Guitarist Walls left Anthrax that summer because of friction with Ian, and drummer D’Angelo left a month later. Turbin said he was seriously considering leaving because of the loss of Walls and D’Angelo, but he stuck it out for another year. Walls was replaced by Bob Berry, who was recommended to Turbin by Rhett Forrester of Riot. Berry was in turn soon replaced by Dan Spitz, who was previously a member of the New Jersey thrash band Overkill.
Drummer Charlie Benante replaced D’Angelo on July 19 1983 after a several-month courtship by Ian. By this time, Ian and Lilker had befriended New Jersey record store owner Jon Zazula, to whom they had given their demo tapes to critique. Zazula’s new record label Megaforce Records had recently released Metallica’s debut album Kill ‘Em All to great success. In late 1983, Zazula agreed to sign Anthrax and the band recorded the “Soldiers of Metal” single, which was produced by Ross the Boss of Manowar. The B-side was the song “Howling Furies” which was taken from a previous demo with Greg D’Angelo on drums (his only Anthrax recording).
Anthrax released their debut album Fistful of Metal in January 1984. Former guitarist Walls said he was shocked that the album was released without giving credit to Walls as the primary songwriter on “Panic” and “Metal Thrashing Mad”, as well as smaller songwriting contributions throughout the album. Tensions were building between Lilker and the rest of the band for various reasons, eventually leading to the band firing Lilker. He would soon form the band Nuclear Assault with former Anthrax roadie / vocalist John Connelly. Lilker was replaced by Benante’s nephew and roadie Frank Bello. The band then went on a successful US tour opening for Raven and others to support Fistful of Metal.
In August 1984, Turbin and Anthrax went their separate ways after long-standing personal issues. In his book Eddie Trunk’s Essential Hard Rock and Heavy Metal, music journalist Eddie Trunk admits pressuring Jon Zazula, Scott Ian and Anthrax into firing Turbin because of his personal taste in vocals. Singer Matt Fallon was briefly hired in late 1984, but he and the band soon parted ways. The remaining members decided to play live shows as a four-piece billed as “The Diseased” with Scott Ian on vocals, performing hardcore punk covers until a permanent singer could be found.
Initial Joey Belladonna era (1984–1992)
In 1985, Joey Belladonna was chosen as the new vocalist. The Armed and Dangerous EP marked Belladonna’s recording debut with Anthrax. The 1992 reissue of the EP included the two songs from the “Soldiers of Metal” single that had Neil Turbin performing on them.
Anthrax’s second album Spreading the Disease was released in October 1985. It was well-received as both a technical leap forward from Fistful of Metal and as a more original effort, and remains one of the band’s most highly regarded albums. With leftover studio time from these sessions, Ian, Benante and former bandmate Dan Lilker collaborated with vocalist Billy Milano to form the side project Stormtroopers of Death, and recorded the album Speak English or Die in three days. It was released in December 1985 and is now considered a pioneering crossover thrash release, featuring one of the earliest examples of a blast beat on record. Afterwards, the project was put on hold as Ian and Benante turned their focus back on Anthrax.
The US tour to support Spreading the Disease opening for Black Sabbath was cancelled after four dates due to Sabbath singer Glenn Hughes‘ voice problems. In April 1986 Anthrax attempted its first tour of Europe beginning in Bochum, Germany supported by Overkill and Agent Steel. The tour included a show near Chernobyl, Ukraine immediately after the Chernobyl disaster. Later that year, Anthrax toured Europe with Metallica. The tour began on September 10 at St David’s Hall and ended on September 26 in Solnahallen, Sweden. The Swedish show was Anthrax’s last performance before the bus accident the following day which killed Metallica bassist Cliff Burton.
The band’s third studio album Among the Living was released in March 1987. It showcased the band’s humorous, experimental side and began a lyrical trend focusing on movies, comic books and Stephen King novels. The album was dedicated to Cliff Burton’s memory. “I Am the Law” was issued as a single backed with “I’m the Man”, a rap-metal hybrid. Anthrax further indulged its appreciation for rap by appearing on the title track of U.T.F.O.‘s album, Lethal. The band toured Europe with Metallica and Metal Church, and the United States and Europe with Testament to promote Among the Living.
Anthrax returned in 1988 with their fourth album State of Euphoria. The single “Antisocial“, originally by French heavy-metal band Trust, became an MTV staple as part of the rotation on Headbangers Ball. The band expanded its horizons by touring the US with the funk metal band Living Colour and embarking on the Headbangers Ball Tour with Exodus and Helloween. In 1989, MTV sponsored a contest in which the winner had her home trashed by the band. This would later inspire Anthrax’s 1992 appearance on the television series Married… with Children, in which the Bundys win a similar TV contest.
In 1990, Anthrax released the more serious Persistence of Time, which surpassed State of Euphoria‘s success. The album was darker, more technical and more progressive than the band’s previous work, striking a chord with metal fans wary of Anthrax’s “silly” side. The most successful single from the album was a cover of Joe Jackson‘s “Got the Time”, which Jackson said he enjoyed. In 1991, Anthrax collaborated with Public Enemy on a version of “Bring the Noise“. This was a hit, and a successful tour with Public Enemy followed. “Bring the Noise” has been a live staple for Anthrax since they first played it in concert in 1989. The compilation Attack of the Killer B’s was released in 1991, and featured three tracks from their 1989 EP Penikufesin, a new version of “I’m the Man” and a cover of “Bring the Noise” on which Ian did some vocals. In late 1992, singer Joey Belladonna was fired from Anthrax over creative and stylistic differences.
Initial John Bush era (1992–2005)
After firing Belladonna, the remaining members of Anthrax auditioned several vocalists including Mark Osegueda of Death Angel and Spike Xavier of Mind Over Four. However, Armored Saint vocalist John Bush was the standout favorite and had in fact been floated as a potential replacement for Belladonna a few years earlier due to questions about his reliability stemming from drug and alcohol abuse. The band left Island Records to sign with Elektra, releasing Sound of White Noise in 1993. A change from Anthrax’s earlier work, with a dark sound influenced by alternative rock, Sound of White Noise received mostly positive reviews. Critic Dave Connolley of Allmusic.com would write that Bush “has a lower-register voice than Belladonna, and the result is menacing, premeditated, and sinister.” The song “Only” was released as the album’s first single. In the liner notes for Return of the Killer A’s, Ian said that James Hetfield told him it was a “perfect song”. In keeping with the band’s eye for unlikely collaborations, classical composer Angelo Badalamenti provided music for “Black Lodge” (a nod to Twin Peaks). This album demonstrated that Anthrax had fully shed its cartoonish persona in favor of mature, thoughtful songwriting, which began with Persistence of Time.
After Sound of White Noise longtime guitarist Dan Spitz left the band to become a watchmaker, leaving Anthrax a quartet temporarily. In 1995 Anthrax released their seventh studio album Stomp 442, on which Charlie Benante played most of the lead-guitar parts. Benante was assisted by Paul Crook, who later became the band’s touring lead guitarist for several years, and Dimebag Darrell of Pantera. Because Elektra did not promote the album it was less commercially successful than its predecessor, and Anthrax severed its ties with the label.
The band signed with independent label Ignition Records, releasing Volume 8: The Threat Is Real in 1998. As on Stomp 442, Benante performed lead guitar parts along with Crook and Darrell. The album also features Pantera vocalist Phil Anselmo making a guest vocal appearance. After the album’s release the label went bankrupt, disrupting its distribution. Anthrax then signed with Beyond Records, who released the greatest-hits album Return of the Killer A’s (1999), after which Beyond went out of business as well. During this period a two-vocalist tour with Belladonna and Bush was planned, but Belladonna decided not to participate at the last minute; however, on the mentioned Return of the Killer A’s compilation, a cover of The Temptations song “Ball of Confusion” was recorded with the then-current lineup of the band (Ian/Benante/Bello/Bush/Crook), in addition to former vocalist Belladonna and former bassist Lilker. This is the only song to feature both Belladonna and Bush on co-vocals.
Despite hardships and legal entanglements over album rights, Anthrax continued. In 2001, Rob Caggiano joined the band on lead guitar. During the 2001 anthrax attacks in the United States the band changed its website, providing information about the disease after people began searching “anthrax.com” on internet search engines. Amid a potential PR nightmare, Anthrax issued a press release on October 10, 2001, joking that the band’s name would be changed to “something more friendly, like ‘Basket Full of Puppies’.” Anthrax dispelled any name-change rumors derived from the press release at the November 2001 New York Steel 9/11 benefit concert, when they took the stage in boiler suits with a different word on each one which ultimately read “We’re not changing our name”. Bello has stated they did so after receiving support from members of the NYPD and FDNY, who believed that changing the name of the band would send the wrong message. A picture of the band in the suits is on the inner tray card of We’ve Come for You All.
In 2003, the band signed to Sanctuary Records and released their ninth studio album We’ve Come for You All, praised by metal journalists as a return to form. The band then spent the summer of 2003 on tour with Motörhead.
In early 2004, Anthrax released The Greater of Two Evils, a “live in the studio” re-recording of the earlier work with the band’s then-current lineup. Bassist Frank Bello announced shortly afterwards that he was leaving the band to join Helmet, and was replaced by Fates Warning and Armored Saint member Joey Vera.
Reunions with Belladonna and Bush (2005–2010)
In April 2005, Anthrax announced that the “classic” lineup of Scott Ian, Charlie Benante, Dan Spitz, Joey Belladonna and Frank Bello would reform. At some shows on the following tour, they played Among the Living in its entirety. Although the lineup was expected to record a new album after the tour, in January 2007 Ian said that Belladonna had not agreed to a reunion. John Bush also said he wasn’t ready to re-commit to Anthrax and said he had been asked to return but had declined. Asked if he wanted to rejoin the band when Belladonna left, Bush said that he “just didn’t feel right to do that.”Anthrax with vocalist John Bush at Sonisphere Festival in Knebworth, 2009
In December 2007, it was announced that the band’s new vocalist would be Dan Nelson, formerly of Devilsize, and Rob Caggiano would return as lead guitarist. In May 2008, Anthrax played its first show in 19 months at Double Door in Chicago.
In his monthly Food Coma column posted in December 2008, Scott Ian wrote that he had “been in the studio working on the new Anthrax album”, promising to be “giving birth to a really pissed off, loud, fast and heavy child.” He later wrote that the album was being mixed by Dave Fortman, who had worked with Evanescence and Slipknot.
In early 2009, Anthrax began a brief tour opening for Iron Maiden in South America. In July, band manager Izvor Zivkovic confirmed the departure of Dan Nelson due to illness. Nelson denied this, saying that he was fired. All subsequent performances were canceled except the August UK Sonisphere Festival, which featured John Bush on vocals. Fan response after his performance led to a “Bring Back Bush” campaign, which was endorsed by Ian.
Soon afterwards, Benante said that Bush had rejoined the band. In February 2010, Anthrax performed five shows as part of Soundwave in Australia. After the Australian shows, Bush said the band intended to re-record the vocals of several tracks from the upcoming album.
Worship Music and For All Kings (2010–2017)
In late 2009, Anthrax confirmed their participation in several “Big Four” concerts with Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer as part of the 2010 Sonisphere Festival dates in Europe. John Bush decided that he did not want to commit to the band full-time, and left Anthrax for the second time. Joey Belladonna returned to the band in early 2010 for the Sonisphere dates as well as committing to record a new studio album with the band. In June 2010 Anthrax, Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer performed on the same bill for the first time ever at seven Sonisphere shows. The Sofia, Bulgaria show was broadcast in cinemas and later released on DVD and Blu-ray. The bands would also play a few shows in the U.S. the following year, including a concert at Yankee Stadium in September 2011.
In April 2011, Anthrax headlined in the Philippines for the first time at the annual Pulp Summer Slam with Death Angel and Hellyeah. The band also headlined the Jägermeister side stage at the Mayhem Festival of 2012, co-headlined by Slayer and Slipknot, and toured with Testament and Death Angel. In June Anthrax released the single “Fight ‘Em ‘Til You Can’t” from the then-upcoming new album on their website as a free download to thank fans for their patience in waiting several years for new material. Worship Music was released on September 12, 2011 and debuted at #12 on the Billboard Top 200 album charts, their highest chart position since Sound of White Noise in 1993.
In January 2013, Anthrax announced that lead guitarist Rob Caggiano had left the band to join Volbeat. It was announced shortly afterwards that Jonathan Donais of Shadows Fall had been hired as the band’s touring lead guitarist. Donais was confirmed as an official member in August of that year. In March, Anthrax released the Anthems EP featuring cover versions of 1970s rock songs as well as two new versions of the song “Crawl” from Worship Music. According to Ian, the band began working on its next studio album in late 2013. They released a live DVD, Chile on Hell in 2014 which featured the band’s 2013 performance at the Teatro Caupolican in Santiago, Chile. In early 2015, the band confirmed that they had recorded new material and embarked on a tour with Volbeat.The band performing at Rockavaria in Germany, 2016
Since Belladonna’s return to Anthrax the band has been nominated for three Grammys, in 2012, 2013, and 2014.
The band began 2016 with a short US tour with Lamb of God and released their eleventh studio album For All Kings on February 26, 2016. The album debuted on the Billboard 200 charts at number 9, surpassing the number 12 debut of Worship Music. In March, they opened for Iron Maiden on the Latin American leg of their The Book of Souls World Tour. Anthrax spent the summer playing festivals in Europe before embarking on a fall US and Canadian tour with Slayer and Death Angel. The band continued to tour within the next two years, embarking on The Killthrax Tour with Killswitch Engage twice (in 2017 and 2018), and along with Lamb of God, Behemoth, Testament, Napalm Death and Obituary, they supported Slayer on their final world tour from May to December 2018.
On February 1, 2017, the band embarked on the 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise. They played two sets and became the first of the “Big Four” to attend the open seas festival. During the theater set, they played a cover of Stormtroopers of Death‘s “March of the S.O.D.” and debuted the song “Blood Eagle Wings”.
Upcoming twelfth studio album (2017–present)
Anthrax released the live album and DVD Kings Among Scotland in 2018 which was recorded during their Glasgow, Scotland show on the For All Kings tour.
In a March 2017 interview, drummer Charlie Benante hinted that Anthrax would begin working on their twelfth studio album that summer. He also revealed that there are a few unreleased tracks from the For All Kings sessions that could serve as a genesis for the follow-up album, stating, “I think there are two or three that we could dust off and use as a starting point.” When asked in May 2018 if they were working on the album, guitarist Scott Ian stated, “Very, very, very preliminary stages. There’s a couple of really great riffs. Charlie’s sent around some really great ideas. But we haven’t actually started working on anything. We’ve just been too busy touring.” A month later, bassist Frank Bello claimed that Anthrax had intended to be back in the studio by mid-2018, but because they agreed to open for Slayer on their farewell tour, they were not expected to start writing their new album until at 2019 at the earliest.
Anthrax – alongside Testament, Corrosion of Conformity, Armored Saint, DevilDriver, John 5, Doro and Metal Church – participated in Megadeth‘s first-ever cruise called “Megacruise”, which took place in October 2019.
In a November 2020 interview with Full Metal Jackie, Ian stated that Anthrax would “certainly be ready to make a record next year”, but added that its release date could be pushed back to 2022: “In my brain, I don’t wanna put a record out until I can play shows.”
|Paul Kahn||Bass (1981)|
|Kenny Kushner||Bass (1981-1982)|
|See also: ex-World Bang|
|Dave Weiss||Drums (1981-1982)|
|Dan Lilker||Guitars (lead) (1981-1982), Bass (1982-1984)|
|See also: Blurring, Evil Wrath, Nuclear Assault, ex-Brutal Truth, ex-Crucifist, ex-Extra Hot Sauce, ex-Hemlock, ex-Nokturnal Hellstorm, ex-Overlord Exterminator, ex-Redrum, ex-S.O.D., ex-The Ravenous, ex-NunFuckRitual, notS.O.D. Fist Banging Maniacs, Stormtroopers of Beer, United Forces, ex-Holy Moses, ex-Venomous Concept, ex-Autopsy (live), ex-Dark Angel (live), ex-Lock Up (live), ex-Soulfly (live), ex-Exit-13, ex-Crab Society, ex-Human Garbage, ex-Last Satanic Dance, ex-Malformed Earthborn, ex-Sick of It All, ex-White Heat|
|Jason Rosenfeld||Vocals (1981-1982)|
|See also: ex-Rug Rat, ex-Reverend, ex-Hunger|
|Dirk Kennedy||Vocals (1981)|
|See also: Hittman|
|John Connelly||Vocals (1981)|
|See also: Nuclear Assault, ex-John Connelly Theory, ex-Acid Reign (live), ex-C.I.A.|
|Greg D’Angelo||Drums (1982-1983)|
|See also: Greg Leon Invasion, Rough Riot, Stephen Pearcy, ex-Black Label Society, ex-Jack Starr’s Burning Starr, ex-Blackthorne, ex-Pride & Glory, ex-Cities, ex-AntiProduct, ex-Britny Fox, ex-Lynyrd Skynhead, ex-Pirates of Venus, ex-White Lion, ex-Ace Frehley (live)|
|Greg Walls||Guitars (1982-1983)|
|See also: Greg Walls, ex-Hittman, ex-Stephen Pearcy (live)|
|Neil Turbin||Vocals (1982-1984)|
|See also: ex-Neil Turbin, Bleed the Hunger, DeathRiders, Immortal Soul, ex-Onslaught (live), ex-Steel Prophet (live), ex-AMRA, ex-Bad Applz, ex-Claude Schnell, ex-Great Gildersleeves, ex-Kurt James Band, ex-New Race, ex-School Of Hard Knocks, ex-Turbin, ex-Voodoo Rhythm Devil’s Project, ex-Wrecking Crew|
|Bob Berry||Guitars (1983)|
|Dan Spitz||Guitars (lead), Vocals (backing) (1983-1995, 2005-2007)|
|See also: ex-Thrasher, ex-Red Lamb, ex-DeuxMonkey, Voices of Extreme, ex-Overkill|
|Matt Fallon||Vocals (1984)|
|See also: ex-Skid Row, ex-Steel Fortune|
|John Bush||Vocals (1992-2005, 2009-2010)|
|See also: Armored Saint, ex-Stone Soldier, ex-Royal Decree|
|Rob Caggiano||Guitars (lead), Vocals (backing) (2001-2005, 2007-2013)|
|See also: Volbeat, Jim Breuer and the Loud & Rowdy, ex-Boiler Room, ex-Temple of the Black Moon, ex-The Damned Things|
|Dan Nelson||Vocals (2007-2009)|
|See also: BlackGates, Lead Pipe Cruelty, Wolfpack Black, ex-Devilsize, ex-Discipline, ex-Farewell to Washington, ex-Godsize, ex-Inside Hollow, ex-Me, My Enemy|