They signed with Megaforce records and released their debut album, Fistful of Metal in 1984. Liker left and went on to form Nuclear Assault and was replaced by Frank Bello who was previously a roadie for the band. After two years vocalist, Neil Turbin was replaced by Matt Fallon who was then replaced by Joey Belladonna. This lineup recorded Spreading the Disease which was released in 1985. This was followed by Among The Living in 1987. This line-up lasted until 1992 when Belladonna left and was replaced by John Bush who was previously the vocalist in Armoured Saint. This line-up released Sound of White Noise which charted on the Billboard at number 7. Throughout the 90’s the band, like several other thrash bands, moved away from their initial sound and experimented with a more grunge/alternative influenced sound.
They have had a number of line-up changes during their career. Dan Nelson has also served as a vocalist as well as Dan Spitz on lead guitar. The only members to have recorded on all of the band’s albums are Ian and drummer Charlie Benante. Bello has played on every album since the second one. Belladonna re-joined in 2005, left in 2007 then re-joined again in 2010 and has since recorded two more albums with Anthrax, 2011’s Worship Music and For All Kings in 2016.
# 10 – Only
We begin our Anthrax songs list with a John Bush era song from the sixth album 1993’s Sound of White Noise, which was notable for essentially not being a thrash album and was clearly influenced by the grunge movement which was in its heyday at the time. This song was the popular song off the album with Metallica frontman James Hetfield apparently describing it as a “perfect song.” Not everyone would go that far, but it is definitely a highlight of the John Bush era. Despite not being thrash, it is definitely heavy being somewhat reminiscent of bands such as Faith No More and Helmet, with Bush’s voice having a very similar style to that of Layne Staley from Alice in Chains. Benette’s drums are particularly impressive as he pounds the hell out of them. acting as a good accompaniment to the down tuned style of guitar playing.
# 9 – Fight Em Till You Can’t
A song of Belladonna’s reunion album 2011’s Worship Music, with the title being taken from the TV series “Battlestar Galactica”. With Belladonna’s return it is something of a return to the early sound, although it should be noted that he re-joined during the later stages of recording the album. Nelson was originally going to be the vocalist, then John Bush was assumed to be following his reunion with the band. However, they both decided that they no longer wanted to commit, leading to Belladonna’s return. Kicking off with a classic and very much THRASH riff, helped to sound good with modern production, Belladonna’s vocals then kick in and he has not lost any of his edge, with his voice sounding rather guttural on the verses before changing to a cleaner style on the chorus. The best thing about this track is that it contains a good genuine sense of anger which is needed for this kind of music, as there is nothing worse than hearing an old thrash band sound tired with age.
# 8 – The Devil You Know
Another song off Worship Music which is also very impressive. Proving that old-school thrash is what Anthrax do best, it was a pleasure to see them back to their roots after the hit and miss ’90s period. It might not be the most adventurous thing that they have done, but it absolutely works. The song has a nice steady build up before kicking off into a fast-paced- but at the same time rather melodic number. With this song, you get a sense of reflection with Anthrax may be looking back on their time together and what relevance they hold in today’s climate. With some brilliant solos, a solid riff, and strong vocals from Belladonna, the answer is very much: a lot!
# 7 – Antisocial
One of the more classic Anthrax songs from the 80’s period, namely 1988’s State of Euphoria. Actually, a cover of the French band Trust, Anthrax’s version is the more famous (probably because they are a more famous band) and has become one of their biggest hits. In fact, there’s probably quite a lot of people who don’t know its a cover! Starting off with a melodic intro, the main riff then kicks in and the song, being a cover, is rather accessible by thrash standards, resembling more mainstream metal. The riff itself is not a massively heavy one and when you compare to later works, the production maybe sounds a little 80’s. Nevertheless, it is a good performance and the end where the band chants “ANTI SOCIAL”! is a particular highlight which no doubt gets the crowd going at shows.
# 6 – Bring the Noise
Obviously not actually an Anthrax song, but rather a Public Enemy one, this collaboration between the groups which is a thrash/rap crossover version of the track is nonetheless one of the band’s classics. It is an important track because it is one of the key cuts which saw the two genres mixing together making it culturally relevant. It never appeared on an actual album, with it being included on the compilation Attack of the Killer B’s. Musically, it adds a new layer to the song with the band’s riffing style giving it a more powerful feel which easily makes it a more definitive version than the original. With it being a hip hop song it works within those confines, with the riff being somewhat repetitive but allowing Chuck D’s vocals to run smoothly over it without sounding ridiculous.
# 5 – Got the Time
Another cover, this time with the original version being by British New Wave musician Joe Jackson off 1990’s Persistence of Time. Jackson was notably rather unimpressed with this version of his song, reportedly calling it “clumsy” but also stating “Thanks for the royalties guys.” Surprisingly, it is not a thrashed-up version and is actually slower than the original. Nevertheless, it was released as a single and is regarded as a standout track off the album. With that said, it does add its own shred style and is an example of what a cross between new wave and thrash metal sounds like for anyone who might be wondering. The bass is a particular highlight.
# 4 – Caught in a Mosh
One of the true Anthrax classics, off what is generally considered to be their greatest work, 1987’s Among The Living. With the title speaking for itself, it is an all-time thrash masterpiece and positively one that fans go crazy for live! With a truly thrashing riff, it is pure classic 80s metal. Belladonna shows an impressive high range with his vocals and the song has a very cool breakdown mid-way through before speeding up again, followed by a solo accompanied by some blasting drum beats before finally picking up pace and rocking out at the very end.
# 3 – Indians
Another one off Among The Living, this track captures the band paying tribute to the Native Americans who suffered mistreatment during Colonial America. The song’s lyrical inspiration comes from Belladonna’s own Native American heritage. It is one of Anthrax’s most famous songs and one of their best. Among was the album that cemented Anthrax’s place in the big four of thrash and today still stands as a powerful and creatively relevant record. Being somewhat reminiscent of Iron Maiden’s “Run To The Hills” with its lyrical content, the beginning starts with an Iron Maiden-esque sounding riff before going into more familiar Anthrax territory.
The song is generally more mid paced, speeding up during the pre-chorus and the chorus itself being more melodic. It is one of Anthrax’s more technically accomplished numbers, particularly towards the end where there is some impressive guitar work going on, not just with the solos but the main riff also.
# 2 – I Am The Law
Yet another Among track, “I Am The Law” is about the comic book character Judge Dredd from 2000 ad comics, which the band is known to be big fans of. In many ways the perfect Anthrax song, and the lyrical content about the juggernaut vigilante in a dystopian future suit the thrashing tune very well. It is also another staple of the band’s live shows. Another great riff from the band, the song also has a good atmosphere that sets the scene for its lyrical subject matter. The song descent changes pace much throughout the first half, stopping for a breakdown mid-way through and then exploding at the end.
# 1 – Madhouse
At number one is “Madhouse” off Spreading The Disease, another one of the band’s best known singles. Belladonna’s first album, it was their arguably first step on the road to becoming thrash metal gods. There are many songs off it that could be considered for the number one spot with some honorable mentions being “Medusa”, “Gung-Ho” and “A.I.R” but “Madhouse is a true example of classic cult 80’s thrash which also shows their penchant for comedy with its somewhat politically incorrect video. An interesting song lyrically, it deals with someone locked inside a mental home and not knowing what to make of their surroundings. Musically it’s a pretty straightforward song, sticking to the traditional verse/chorus structure with a brief solo before the final verse. A classic metal song and deserving of the number one spot.
Top 10 Anthrax Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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