• Axl Rosenberg

Forget what the close-minded purists say: Anthrax have a unique distinction amongst their peers in the “Big Four.” Unlike their Bay Area counterparts, they never plateaued artistically (Slayer) or even started to suck outright (Megadeth). Around the time Metallica inexplicably became Alternica (still a decade before they were Soundslikeouralbumwasrecordedinabum’sassholica) and pretty much put an end to their relevance as anything but a merchandising money machine, the ‘Thrax were just getting warmed up- and the proof is in the work: of any of their peers (including Exodus and Testament), only Anthrax can proudly claim that their most recent work, We’ve Come For You All, is also their best. That’s why Vince and I wept when Anthrax blew off their singer of ten years, John Bush, and lead guitarist/producer Rob Caggiano, to reunite with their “classic” but inferior predecessors, Joey Belladonna and Dan “I Found Jesus and Quit One of the Greatest Metal Bands of All Time to Become a Frakkin’ Watchmaker” Spitz; why there’s an entire website devoted to bashing the reunion ; and why this announcement from Anthrax mastermind Scott Ian earlier today is cause for celebration amongst metal heads everywhere:

“My curiosity was piqued by the idea of what ANTHRAX would sound like now with Joey [Belladonna] singing. Over the last few months we’ve discussed this endlessly to no avail… My reality is I feel we have some unfinished business with the We’ve Come For You All lineup and I will do my best to finish it… Charlie [Benante, drums], Frankie [Bello] and I are excited about creating new music and for now we will focus on that and write another killer ANTHRAX record.”

Seriously: I don’t mean to make light of the contributions Belladonna and Spitz made to Anthrax in the old days- only to point out that, classic though it may be, the Belladonna-era Among the Living just plain old doesn’t rock as hard as the Bush-era Sound of White Noise, and that Belladonna, with his tinny, emasculated voice, white boy ‘fro, and Spinal Tap-worthy persona never had the powerful presence of Bush, who growls like Hetfield and stalks the stage like Halford. Spitz has criticized Bush in the past, saying he’s not as good a singer as Belladonna, but that’s bullshit propaganda slung to justify a reunion that came at a time when Ian and particularly Benante had been especially vocal about being underappreciated.

It’s not that these elder statesmen of thrash were wrong to feel underappreciated; hell, when you’re doing work that good and no one in America is buying your album and you can’t get on Ozzfest or any other decent tour, you’ve got every right to feel pissed. But taking a giant step backwards just wasn’t the answer. The Belladonna/Spitz reunion may have seen the boys playing bigger venues, but the show Vince and I saw, at the Nokia here in NYC, lacked spirit. When I saw the band with Bush (and an unknown opening act from Italy- Lacuna something or other) playing the smaller Irving Plaza just a couple of years prior, the crowd had been so vicious, so rabid, that I honestly feared for my life. No such luck with Belladonna at the helm. Hell, record sales for the band’s live reunion disc and umpteenth greatest hits package didn’t even go up. Like so many cash-in reunions, the Aughties Bellathrax just felt stagnant, boring.

The fact that the reunion came on the heels of The Greater of Two Evils, the completely awesome disc of Bush singing mostly Belladonna-era tunes and proving once and for all that he helps make this band the heaviest motherfuckers they can be, was even more insulting. Benante admitted as much when he told Metal Edge last year “I have a hard time accepting [the loss of Bush], because that’s the period of Anthrax that, for me personally… I get a better feeling inside about those songs with John than I do about those older songs… those albums with John show a total progression. The last album that we did, which wasWe’ve Come for You All, was by far, for me, the best ANTHRAX record that I’ve ever done.”

Now- Bush has not officially re-joined the band, and, for that matter, Ian just implies that Spitz is out of the picture… by completely failing to mention his name even once (I wonder if he went back to making watches?). But, surely, this is a step back in the right direction- a step back onto the path of metal greatness that Anthrax stumbled off of when they rejoined Belladonna. John Bush, if you’re reading: please, put the bad feelings aside, get back out there, and kick some ass.


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