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Interview: Anthrax Give Update from the Studio

Interview: Anthrax Give Update from the Studio

by Jon Wiederhorn

Legendary New York City thrashers Anthrax are in a far better position today than they were when they first began working on their 2011 comeback album, 'Worship Music.' Most significantly, they’re no longer scrambling to find a singer. “That’s definitely a big plus this time around,” drummer Charlie Benante says, adding that frontman Joey Belladonna “isn’t going anywhere.”

For those who have only discovered Anthrax in the last few years, Belladonna, the band’s vocalist during their ’80s heyday, was long gone by the time they started recording 'Worship Music.' For years the frontman position in Anthrax had been something of a revolving door, with Belladonna having rejoined once before, in the mid-2000s. It was only after failed efforts with other singers—including Slipknot’s Corey Taylor—that Belladonna returned again. Now, following years of successful touring together, Anthrax are raring to go.

“We’re definitely firing on all cylinders instead of facing these unknowns and running into obstacles,” Benante. “I know what we have in our pockets as far as new material goes, and that gets me really excited.” In fact, Anthrax have been in full-swing writing mode for what will be their 11th studio album since before they even came off the road. This was partly due to the fact that Benante, recovering from hand surgery and dealing with personal issues, was forced to miss a batch of tour dates. So, while the band fulfilled commitments with fill-in drummer Jon Dette (ex-Slayer, Testament) Benante—who is also an accomplished guitarist—was home, feverishly writing new songs. “It was a great way to work,” he says. “Sometimes I would become so possessed with the guitar, these ideas would come out of me and I don’t even know where they came from. Before I knew what was going on I had this huge stack of riffs.”

Benante combined his new riffs with other pieces of music that Anthrax had worked on as far back as four years ago, but which never made it to an album. Then he sent rough demos to guitarist Scott Ian and bassist Frank Bello for their input. “Scott and I have this chemistry that works even when we don’t know it’s working,” Benante says. “I’ll be working on a song and then he’ll send me a riff idea and it will fit perfectly with my part. I love those happy accidents. When you’ve been together as long as we have you start to think alike and you start making the same moves.”

So far Anthrax, recording in Los Angeles with producer Jay Ruston, have cut the guitars, bass and drums for six songs. Benante says they have material for another 15 tracks; they’ll start on these after Belladonna, working in New York, completes his vocal parts for the first batch of music. The band may also record the remaining tunes in New York, and perhaps even Chicago. According to Benante, there’s a method to this recording- schedule madness. “We recorded 'Worship Music' in sections because we had to, but some good things came out of that,” he says. “So we decided to work in a similar way this time. Last time I did the drums for a lot of the songs and then moved on to other things, and when I listened back later to the original tracks, I felt like they weren’t fully realized. So I went back and redid a lot of them and it made the songs more exciting. We wanted the opportunity to work that way again, only this time on purpose.”

While the album is yet to be named, song titles include “The Battle Chose Us,” “You Gotta Believe” and “The Evil Twin.” As for the sound of the music, Benante assures that anyone who liked 'Worship Music' should love the new record. “We’re continuing on the same path we were on with that album,” he says. “Some of the songs are even more aggressive. Three or four are pretty thrashy, including one of the fastest songs we’ve recorded in years. When we did it, the mood was there and we were like, ‘Fuck this is awesome. Let’s go with it.’” Other new tunes are slower and more epic. One, Benante says, “will probably be six minutes long and take you on a musical journey” similar to the 'Worship Music' track “In The End.”

The new album will also be Anthrax’s first to feature lead guitarist Jon Donais (Shadows Fall), who began playing live with the band in January 2013, after Rob Caggiano left to join Volbeat. “I’ve been working really closely with Jon on the leads and they’re coming out great,” Benante says. “He’s such an amazing player and he’s spot-on with everything he does.”

Depending on how much progress they make with the lyrics and vocals in the coming months, Anthrax may record enough new songs for an album and an EP, Benante says. However, the priority now is to complete an album that lives up to 'Worship Music,' which was widely regarded as the band’s best disc since 1993’s Sound of White Noise. “We don’t want to put any pressure on ourselves so we’re not giving ourselves any deadline,” Benante says. “We’re taking our time with this, because we want to make sure we get it right.”

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