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Anthrax’s Joey Belladonna and Charlie Benante Talk About Belladonna’s Return

Anthrax announced earlier this week that Joey Belladonna, the singer on the group’s classic ’80s albums, will once again be their frontman. This came after months of speculation in the wake of the departure of Dan Nelson, who departed the group acrimoniously last year, about whether John Bush—the group’s previous vocalist—would return after playing a few festivals. As if that wasn’t enough soap opera, he had left the band in 2005 when Belladonna re-joined the band for a brief reunion tour. So what the heck is going on?

“For me, myself, I was looking for some stability in the band,” drummer Charlie Benante says. “John filled in to do some shows here and there, but he was never going to be anything else. Our manager, said, ‘We really need to get this thing back on track,’ and we turned to Joey.”

“I don’t want to say it was the right idea,” Belladonna says, “but I think they thought it was a wise idea. I wish we’d done it sooner.” As for why Belladonna’s return didn’t work out the first time, the singer says, “I don’t think the communication was thorough enough, and no one made the right steps to move forward. Maybe it happened too quickly. It would have been a nice segue.”

Looking back at it all, Benante says the reunion tour didn’t go the way they had planned. “The idea was to do something special for our anniversary and I wanted to have the two versions of Anthrax, the John version and the Joey version, onstage together. But some people didn’t like it, and suddenly it’s this full-blown reunion, and we were living it. There was a Band-Aid put on some wounds, but they were still there.” Reflecting on the drama that ensued with Nelson’s departure, Benante continues, “The band at this point has been on an emotional roller coaster, and it almost did us in. We had kind of a nervous breakdown over this stuff. We really needed some stability. So maybe all of these things led up to Joey Belladonna again.”

“John was a real stand up guy about the situation,” guitarist Scott Ian said in a statement. “He knew we wanted to move forward at full speed, that we needed a total commitment to Anthrax, and he knew that wasn't what he wanted. We certainly wish John well.”

By all accounts, Belladonna’s return is a positive one, and he’s ready to start working with the group on music. Referring to Worship Music, the album Anthrax recorded with Nelson but never released, Belladonna sees room to grow: “There’s definitely going to be some more aggression. The style of writing is gonna be a bit more dark. It rips. I’ve heard one tune, I’ve explored one song at this point, and it sounds very old school, more like Persistence in one way or another, a darker vibe mixed with some real old-school atmosphere. I think it will appeal to our old-school fans, but a lot of the newer ones will dig it, too.”

“We can’t wait to get back in the studio,” Benante says. “Joey did some work on one of the songs, and when I heard it, I got goosebumps. It sounds like something from Spreading the Disease. So maybe that’s what this is all about, maybe Belladonna was meant to be through all of this drama. Sometimes, you gotta work through a lot of shit to get to the prize at the bottom.”

The prize will definitely rise to the top this summer, as Anthrax participates in the “Big Four” tours with Metallica, Megadeth, and Slayer through Europe this summer. After those shows, the band will begin writing and recording new music for an early 2011 release. The best part is, they’re all on the same page and they can’t wait to get going. “There’s no animosity in the band,” Belladonna says. “We just want to move forward, let it flow.” CHRIS KROVATIN

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