Anthrax: Heavy Metal Royalty
Riding a wave of momentum, veterans Anthrax unleash a new release worthy of heavy music royalty. Drummer Charlie Benante and Brendan Crabb go metal thrashing mad.
“It’s frustration and it’s disappointment, the way music is handled nowadays,” drummer Charlie Benante explains of the Anthrax camp’s reaction to discovering new platter For All Kings had leaked online well ahead of release date. “Especially what I call the devaluing of music. I don’t like when other artists put out music for free, I just don’t like it.”
The question is posed whether this sentiment extends to artists posting a song online as a teaser for a new release, for instance. “I don’t mind putting something out for free as a sampler or something like that, but at the end of the day it costs money to make a record, and why should our artform suffer? It’s like people go about doing their daily jobs, and what if McDonald’s was free? What if going to the movies was free? What if taking a trip was free? It’s all bullshit. Why should our thing be free for people? It’s just not fair. We had it appear about a month or so ago, and we’d been trying to keep it off the internet from people stealing it, which is crazy, but it’s this thing that we all have to deal with nowadays.”
Battling music piracy seems to be one of the few major hardships the long-standing New York metal act has experienced since issuing 2011’s watershed, widely praised Worship Music, an album far better than it had any real right to be considering its troubled, lengthy gestation. The songs were reworked following the acrimonious departure of short-lived singer Dan Nelson and eventual recalling of fan favourite Joey Belladonna. The LP was a creative triumph, and in conjunction with lauded Big Four shows, revived Anthrax’s flagging fortunes. The band is on tour in the US alongside heavyweights Lamb Of God at the time of this conversation, potentially introducing the metallic mainstays to a whole new crop of listeners.
“We’ve got to get this together, we’ve really gotta fucking put our shit together and really do this again.”
“I think there was some doubts,” the tub-thumper says of lingering feelings at the time that Worship Music may never eventuate. “When Metallica were inducted into the Hall of Fame, Scott [Ian, guitar] and I were invited to it. We were talking to Lars [Ulrich] afterwards and Lars said to us about doing the Big Four shows. And we were like, ‘Yeah, that’s fucking awesome, that would be so cool’. It was after that, that we really said, ‘We’ve got to get this together, we’ve really gotta fucking put our shit together and really do this again’. Believe me, that was really one of the reasons how this all happened. We didn’t look back after that, we just continued.”
If Worship…’s accompanying narrative became one of overcoming adversity, with the galvanised outfit ultimately not only surviving but thriving, BLUNT ponders whether they had to look elsewhere to derive similar levels of inspiration when crafting a follow-up.
“I think the best thing about going into this record was the momentum from how well Worship Music was received. Because before the Worship Music record came out we had no expectations, we really didn’t. All we were trying to do was to get our shit together, basically, and to really become a unit again,” he laughs. “And then we ended up doing over 300 shows, we really became a unit again, and really found that spark that ignited us making music in the first place.”
Lead axeman Jonathan Donais (Shadows Fall) makes his Anthrax studio album debut on For All Kings, which itself bristles with memorable tunes. “It’s still very similar [to the early years of the band], the way our songs are written. I don’t think that’ll change. We write songs the way we write songs. Usually I’ll come in with the basic framework for a song, Scott [Ian] writes lyrics to the song and it goes through a production line,” Benante laughs. “And it comes out smelling like Anthrax. It was so helpful to know who was singing these songs. It was such a blessing. It really helped me to really hone in on the sound and the style, and knowing that Joey was in the band from the last album. It was a great feeling, it really helped the songs grow.”
A major non-musical milestone has also apparently altered Ian’s lyrical outlook. “I think since he had a boy, I think his perspective in life and things have changed. And I think, like myself too after I had my daughter, I definitely changed a lot. I think the basic thing was, it’s hard to remember a life before you had children, because once it happens, it’s a completely different thing. It changes you so much for the better.”
“It’s frustration and it’s disappointment, the way music is handled nowadays. I don’t like when other artists put out music for free, I just don’t like it.”
For All Kings is a worthy addition to a vast catalogue and may further enhance Anthrax’s already sizeable legacy. Inevitably for a band with as extensive a history, there are unfairly overlooked releases though, or ones viewed as creative missteps at the time but which with the greater perspective (or is that persistence?) of time ultimately reveal themselves as under-appreciated gems. BLUNT considers much of their John Bush-fronted era deserving of a revisit, especially for those who hastily lambasted said albums the first time around. Which Anthrax record does the drummer believe to be underrated though?
“It’s hard to, like when I put things in perspective, I think people really love our Spreading The Disease album [from 1985]. Maybe that doesn’t get as much attention or as much credit as it deserves. I spent a lot of time doing the reissue of it, and I revisited that time and it was a lot of fun for me to do that. I revisited it and I got to relive it in a sense. I think collectively speaking, that’s a really good record.”
The quintet’s 1987 thrash classic Among The Living has already been afforded the reissue treatment, with 1988’s State Of Euphoria next in line. Although carpal tunnel syndrome has recently restricted his ability to regularly tour, Benante has further aspirations; namely, playing a show with his heroes, AC/DC. Anthrax covered “T.N.T” at Soundwave 2013, a tour the sticksman missed due to personal reasons.
“That’s a huge goal. They’re the greatest. I’ve seen AC/DC so many times, but on the Black Ice tour I even had a chance to see them in Australia, which was pretty awesome.”