With a studio album, For All Kings, having arrived last year, Anthrax is following up a fall tour opening for Slayer with a current run of dates with Killswitch Enagage, giving the group another chance to promote its newest material.
Anthrax, though, could have also used these shows to mark another milestone in the long-running band’s influential career. The band reached its 35th anniversary last year and could have justified continuing the celebration into 2017.
Many veteran bands these days are using anniversaries as themes for tours, building shows around celebrations of certain longevity milestones or the anniversary of the release of a key album. Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian, though, says linking the fall tour to the 35th anniversary of the band was never something he considered.
Instead, the group celebrated the anniversary date itself last July privately. Other than noting the milestone on social media, that was all the mileage Anthrax wanted from this milestone. And, Ian says, don’t expect that approach to change, even for a 50th anniversary, if Anthrax is still together then.
“We’ll do the same thing,” Ian says. “We’ll go out to dinner and have some drinks. I really don’t know it translates into playing live. It doesn’t really mean anything to me. If someone figures out a way, how to celebrate a band anniversary in a live show, then I’m open to ideas. But one doesn’t have anything to do with the other.”
Besides, Ian says, Anthrax always celebrates its history in a sense by playing songs from across its career at its concerts.
That will be the case on the tour with Killswitch Engage, even with a new album to promote.
“There will be at least three things off of For All Kings in the set and then the rest, whatever,” Ian says. “It may be a revolving door of so-called greatest hits.”
Anthrax has plenty of musical ground it can cover in its set.
Formed in 1981 in New York City, Anthrax has become known, alongside Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer, as one of the “Big Four” architects of modern thrashy metal. A series of stadium shows a few years ago featuring all four groups helped to reinforce Anthrax’s place in heavy metal.
And while Anthrax has not achieved the same levels of success of the other “Big Four” bands — the group’s total album sales are around 2.5 million — its catalog includes several albums, such as 1985’s Spreading The Disease, 1987’s Among The Living, The Sound Of White Noise and 2011’s Worship Music, that earned considerable acclaim.
Anthrax has continued to be a vital force on the metal scene despite having its share of disruptions over its 35-year history. There have been several periods of internal turmoil, and the group has cycled through several singers and lead guitarists. The current lineup includes long-standing members Ian, drummer Charlie Benante and bassist Frank Bello, vocalist Joey Belladonna (who is on his third stint with the band) and lead guitarist Jonathan Donais.
Belladonna’s return in 2010 seemed to reignite Anthrax. Considered by many as the definitive Anthrax vocalist, he came on board in time to do the “Big Four” concerts, and the renewed chemistry between Belladonna and the other band members was apparent on the acclaimed Worship Music album.
For All Kings is shaping up to be another one of Anthrax’s best records. Reviews for the album have been enthusiastic, and new songs like “Evil Twin,” “You Gotta Believe” and “Breathing Lightning” do a great job of merging the aggression one expects from Anthrax with a strong element of melody.
Ian says it was clear from the outset of the For All Kings project that the band had good creative momentum happening.
“We were just working the same way we always work and the songs just felt great. Of course, that in itself is inspiring,” Ian says. “There was just an energy with the material that just felt great and was a constant kick in the ass and a constant wind at our back, let’s say. We were pushing the ball downhill instead of uphill.”
The band was also very unified in its objectives for the new album, and an unselfish attitude was a hallmark of the album-making process this time around.
“I think everybody was on the same page knowing that it really came down to whatever serves the song best, that’s what needed to happen,” Ian says. “It didn’t matter who came up with what and whose idea was whose. All that matters is at the end of the day it’s going to say Anthrax on the album cover. Let’s make sure the 10 or 11 or however many songs end up on the record, that those make up the best record that we can [make] in the time we’ve been given to make this album. And we really kind of stayed focused on that.”