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Anthrax Front Man Thrashes Through ‘Imaginary Voyage’

Published: Thursday, January 19, 2012

Updated: Thursday, January 19, 2012 13:01

Anthrax

Andy Buchanan

Thrash metal was born in 1981 with the formation of Slayer, Metallica and Anthrax. Anthrax was one of the first East Coast thrash metal bands to come out of the ‘80s and pave the way for all the subgenres of heavy metal we've got today. Although it's had its ups and downs, concerning labels and band members, the group's influence has arguably survived just over 30 years of evolving tumbles.

Looking back, vocalist Joey Belladonna, who joined Anthrax in 1984, had never imagined himself fronting a heavy metal band.

"When I joined the band, I had no idea who they were," he said. "I had never even heard that style, so it was all new to me. It was exciting to see a band in a studio waiting to see someone else join what they're doing. […] I was a little hesitant."

The whole thing came naturally, according to Belladonna, although he left four albums later in 1992. Following Belladonna's departure, Anthrax hired vocalists John Bush and Dan Nelson. Though Belladonna wasn't the first front man, he's often considered to be a member of the original band line-up, so it seemed only natural that he reunited with the other members of Anthrax in 2010 for the Big Four concerts, featuring original line-ups of Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer.

At that point in time, Anthrax had been in the studio five years with tracks for its tenth album waiting for a vocalist to take control. Bush and Nelson had both already worked on the album, but it was Belladonna who ended up on the final mixes.

"Nothing held us back from going in," said Belladonna, who worked on the album over a span of a few months.

Despite writing minimally with band mates on tour, Belladonna didn't technically reunite with Anthrax in the studio.

"I didn't even talk with anybody at that time or was in the room with anyone," he said. "It was just me and [producer] Jay Ruston. […] It was cool to do it alone in a room without anybody chiming in until you finish what you're doing and then they assess it when you're done with everything. I wasn't nervous or anything. I was really confident that we were going to make something great out of it. […] It's kind of an imaginary voyage. You get to write something on the keyboard and I'll make up something to it."

The end result, Worship Music, is the highest charting Anthrax album since 1993's Sound of White Noise. For the most part, Belladonna is happy with it, but thinks he is capable of much more.

"It's great to be a part of a whole unit that makes a band cool to like," Belladonna said. "I never really cared about all the comparisons [to former vocalists] because I did what I did. […] I'm just doing what comes naturally to me. I'm not trying to force anything. It's really just whatever comes out of my mouth that comes out on those records."

During the time away from Anthrax, Belladonna stayed a musician and released solo work as the artist Belladonna. He also started a cover band called Chief Big Way that "can rough up a Pink Floyd song" and others by Journey, Cream, The Who, Rush, Deep Purple and Triumph. While his solo work received mixed reviews for the most part, he kept working solo and casually kept up with his old band's releases and tours.

"It never left me," he said. "I always felt that I was in the wings to maybe do this thing again if they were willing to open their hearts to the vocals I did versus something they were doing without me. […] Even early on, when I first joined them, I just walked in and things were ready to go. I had to make myself useful as a singer and really do what I do to make the music right."

And if you don't notice Belladonna's affinity for harmonies on Worship Music, then it might surprise you that Anthrax is really into The Beatles.

"I know [drummer] Charlie [Benante] would probably claim he's the biggest Beatle fan," Belladonna said. "But I've been into The Beatles since day one. I think I have every record, every single. I mean, I scratched the hell out of ‘em, I played them so much."

 

Anthrax w/Testament, Death Angel, Marquee Theatre, Tuesday, January 24, 6 p.m., $31

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