WHY THE HATE?: Anthrax

WHY THE HATE?: Anthrax

New York thrash legends Anthrax have thrashed their way across the world for over forty years. Delivering heavy and fast thrash metal, while also giving off a fun vibe and attitude in the band's live set, humor, lyrical content and personalities on & off the stage. A band, that along with acts like Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer, would help create and influence countless of bands. Having them join the Mount Rushmore of Thrash and considered a member of "The Big 4 of Thrash".

Photo Credit: Anthony Frisketti

While researching more about the band's history and listening to the band's albums, I began to read reviews from critics and fans both in the press and online and what I found was not what I was expecting. Anthrax doesn't seem to get the same admiration, love and respect that their fellow Big 4 brothers get. With many people commenting that there are other American bands that should take the place in the pantheon of the Big 4 instead of Anthrax (many comments suggested either Exodus or Testament). But, why is Anthrax getting all of this animosity towards them? Why is the metal community so much against the band and taking away what the band has built their legacy on? Is it the band's sound? Today, I try to answer that question in another edition of Why The Hate? as I dive into the band's music, the band's legacy and what is the deal with the metal community's attitude towards Anthrax.


Anthrax would release their debut album in 1984 with the album Fistful of Metal. The only album to feature original vocalist Neil Turban and bassist Dan Lilker, Fistful of Metal did receive mixed reviews from critics, but it did peak interest in the band and following the departure of Turban, the band had to fill the holes in their lineup. The band would return in 1985 with a follow-up album that would skyrocket the band's popularity and establish that the east coast can also thrash just as good as the west coast.

With new bassist Frank Bello and vocalist Joey Belladonna, the band would return in 1985 with their second album Spreading The Disease. Lead by the single "Madhouse", the album would receive critical acclaim from the press and the band's popularity would hit huge new heights and establish the band as a rising star in the thrash metal genre. With the impressive vocal range of Belladonna and the aggressive guitar playing of Scott Ian and Dan Spitz, and drummer Charlie Benante's pounding and fast-paced playing, it became a thrash metal classic.

After extensive touring and growing the band's name, the band would follow up Spreading The Disease two years later with the band's third album Among The Living. The album would continue the band's upper trajectory of success and Among The Living would be known as the band's best work by fans and critics. Along with pushing the band's popularity, the themes of the album ranged from social and political issues to pop-culture tributes.

Following that album was State of Euphoria. Featuring one of the band's most popular tracks with their cover of Trust's song "Antisocial", the album would go gold in 1989. Though the album did receive some mixed reviews compared to the band's previous releases. With a lot of fans and critics stating that the band's success and inspiration from the previous records were "running out of steam" and this record showed that. Even Benante has stated in interviews that the band feels the album was not finished properly in their opinion and a lot of the songs off the album are not played in the band's current set.

The band would bunker down in the studio and would release their fifth album Persistence of Time in 1990. The album would receive a much better reception compared to Euphoria. It would even have the band earn a Grammy nomination for Best Metal Performance in 1991, but would lose to Metallica's cover of Queen's "Stone Cold Crazy".  The band would famously appear on the TV series Married...With Children, where they played the song "In My World" on the episode. A more mature album than their previous albums, with a bigger focus on more thought-provoking ideas like tolerance and peace. Compared to the band's more pop-culture themes of their earlier works. Persistence of Time would also be a huge shift and a major turning point for the band when Belladonna would leave the band after the album and tour.  

The band would recruit Armored Saint vocalist John Bush as their new vocalist. He would make his studio album debut with the band with 1993's Sound of White Noise. Considered a good record and a strong debut from Bush with the band, the album received mixed response from the fanbase regarding the direction musically. Elements of alternative metal, grunge and groove metal were infused into the album's sound, with a lot of fans calling it a step-down from the Belladonna-era of the band. Some even accused the band of "trend-riding" with this album. Trying to capitalize on the booming grunge sound of the 90's and the rising groove metal sound.

Following the mixed response from the previous album, the band would then follow that album up with Stomp 442 in 1995. This would also be the first album without guitarist Dan Spitz, who would leave the band to focus on a career in watchmaking. The album would feature Dimebag Darrell from Pantera guesting on songs like "King Size" and "Riding Shotgun". Unfortunately, this album was considered a further step back in the band's discography, receiving a lot of negative reviews from critics. Still continuing the alternative/grunge elements into their sound, the album was not well received by fans either. Many comments calling it a "hodgepodge of songs" and "a disappointment". With longtime fans of the band fearing that the Bush-era of Anthrax was heading in the wrong direction.

The band's next album unfortunately didn't help them turn it around with the album Volume 8: The Threat is Real. With the band focusing more on the groove metal/alternative sound, the album did not help improve expectations with the album. Scott Ian said in his 2014 autobiography I'm the Man: The Story of that Guy from Anthrax about the album:

"I'm still proud of the songs we wrote for Volume 8: The Threat is Real. They were really diverse and heavy, modern sounding with a crushing metal groove. 1998 is the year nu metal took over but we were definitely not a part of that scene. If anything we were old metal, so getting anyone to support us was proving difficult.

There were moments of old Anthrax returning on this album, with some of the humor and speed of their early records seeping through the overall record. Dimebag Darrell would perform two guest solos on "Inside Out" and "Born Again Idiot". His fellow Pantera bandmate Phil Anselmo would provide backing vocals on the song "Killing Box".

During the hiatus between this album and their next, the band would go through label issues as well as facing backlash from the band's name, relating to the 2001 Anthrax attacks in the United States. Causing the band to receive negative publicity due to the association with the attacks. Many even calling for the band to change their name due to the negativity and the timing of the incidents happening at the time. At a 9/11 benefit concert, the band gave the world their answer to that request. During the band's set, the band famously wore boiler suits with a different word on each member's suits that eventually spelled out "We're Not Changing Our Name". An image of the outfits would be included in the inner-sleeve of the band's next album.

The band would return in 2003 with the release of We've Come For You All. With the opening and driving single of "What Doesn't Die" to the almost hard rock/ballad feel of "Safe Home", the album would see the band's luck turn around with the album receiving positive reviews and fans calling it a "return to form" from the slump of records since the Bush-era began. It would mark the debut of new guitarist Rob Caggiano on the record. Featuring guest appearances by friend of the band Dimebag Darrell on "Strap It On" and "Cadillac Rock Box", the album would also feature legendary The Who front man Roger Daltrey on "Taking The Music Back". A strong album, which pleased the fans and with that success, would call this album the best of the Bush-era. Following the compilation album The Greater of Two Evils in 2004, which featured re-recordings of the band's classic era hits but with Bush on vocals, would be the last release with the band as Bush would leave the band, as well as bassist Frank Bello leaving to join Helmet.

In 2011, the band would return after a eight year hiatus with Worship Music. Belladonna would officially rejoin the band, along with Bello on this record. The writing of the album originally started in 2008, but delayed due to issues with the band's temporary vocalist Dan Nelson, along with Bush rejoining the band for live performances, but not for the studio album. It would also be the final album for Caggiano, who would leave the band two years later to join Volbeat. The album received praise from fans and critics as the "original lineup" was back and the sound returned to a more thrash heavy sound that the band was known for. While also including the fun spirit and pop-culture lyrical themes that the band showcased on their earlier records. The album would feature a tribute track "In The End" which was a tribute to Ronnie James Dio and Dimebag Darrell who both had passed away since the making of the album.

The band's most recent record, their eleventh, was 2016's For All Kings. A punishing and straight-forward thrash record, which Ian did promote as the band's heaviest in interviews during the writing of the record. Though featuring some popular references to Stephen King with "Breathing Lightning", the album did also feature serious lyrical themes like on "Evil Twin", related to a rise in mass shootings that were happening across the world at the time of writing. Another darker subject matter theme was "Blood Eagle Wings", which Ian considered the "centerpiece" of the album to him. Another well received album from fans and critics, continuing the success of the second wave of the Belladonna-era of the band. The band is currently beginning work on their twelfth studio album, with Ian stating in an interview on Trunk Nation that they hope to get the album done recording wise by Christmas of 2024. No album title or release date has been announced at time of writing.

Photo Credit: Jaime Monzon

Musically, does Anthrax deserve the hate? In my opinion, no they do not, not at all. Anthrax's Belladonna-era has been consistently strong with their releases and musically have given us some of the band's best material, as well as some of the band's heaviest tracks. Yes, the Bush-era doesn't have an as strong of a track record, but We've Come For You All was a solid record and I do agree with it being the best of the Bush-era. You can say that those Bush-era records were the band's experimentation with new sounds and genres. Some hit, some miss, but every band has an era of experimentation and some of them were duds or didn't sell as expected. Megadeth had Risk, Metallica had St. Anger & Lulu, Slayer had Diabolus in Musica, all those were albums that experimentation didn't work out. Plus, Anthrax was different and had a distinction to their brand and identity. Similar to Megadeth that focused on politics and world events, Metallica with introspective and thought provoking subjects. Slayer had dark, evil and ominous lyrical themes and sound. Anthrax was a band that channeled the heaviness of thrash metal, but brought a fun and entertaining, while not taking themselves seriously compared to their big 4 brethren. Overall, Anthrax is a classic thrash metal band and their legacy cannot be topped with some of the albums they have released in the band's career. Musically, Anthrax doesn't deserve the hate.

SECOND TOPIC: The Critiques

One of the critiques I saw towards Anthrax was the band were stuck in the middle compared to their thrash metal peers. Some of the points was they were too punk to be metal and too metal to be punk. Which I don't get that argument. Listening to a lot of their songs, they were thrash metal, maybe even crossover at certain points. That just sounds like you are nitpicking or grasping at something that doesn't quite have enough weight to your argument. Some blame their collaboration with Public Enemy on "Bring The Noize" for popularizing and starting the whole nu-metal genre that ruled the late 90's into the 2000's. Which many die-hard metalheads scoff or turn their back on that genre. You can read about my dive into the genre on Why The Hate?: Nu Metal here. Again, they weren't the first band to do this, citing Aerosmith and Run DMC's version of "Walk This Way" predating their song by years. Lastly, the band is "too goofy and silly", "not taking their music seriously" compared to their peers. That's the one that I throw my hands in the air like "REALLY?!". It's ok to crack jokes and smile and have a good time in metal. Not everything has to be grimace faced, hating everything, flipping the bird and being ominous and evil. What's wrong with having a good time or joking in metal? Hell, one of the best crossover thrash bands of all time, and politically incorrect, Stormtroopers of Death (S.O.D.), was started BY ANTHRAX MEMBERS. Even bands like Municipal Waste, Alestorm, Steel Panther and Tenacious D show metal can be about having a good time and spirit when they perform live. So, I don't think the critiques towards the band is justified and I believe for those points brought up, the band doesn't deserve the hate, NOT AT ALL, and the arguments towards the hate is redundant and weak at best.


Anthrax has influenced countless of well known metal bands, spanning multiple genres. Pantera, Sepultura, Cannibal Corpse, Death Angel, Korn, Killswitch Engage, Terror and even Insane Clown Posse have all cited them as an influence to them. With some of those bands being heavy hitters and legacy acts in today's metal scene. They might not have sold the same amount of albums as their peers, but Anthrax did their own thing and had one hell of a time doing it. Also, all of the band members are talented musicians and are involved in multiple side projects that would release really good albums. S.O.D. was already mentioned earlier, but Ian is involved with reunited avant-garde act Mr. Bungle that features Mike Patton and Dave Lombardo, with the band's re-recording of The Raging Wrath of The Easter Bunny Demo in 2020 receiving huge acclaim. Benante is currently the drummer of the reformed Pantera and currently touring with the band. Bello is involved in Altitudes & Attitude with former Megadeth bassist David Ellefson. Belladonna has his own solo career, while the band's most recent new member Jonathan Donals has roots in metalcore with acts like Aftershock and Shadows Fall.

Anthrax deserves NONE of the hate that they get from the metal community. The band has paid their dues playing from small clubs to playing stadiums. Traveling the world and playing the music they wanted to play, not giving a crap about what people thought or how they compared to the other Big 4 of Thrash. They left their mark in heavy metal with their music, attitude, personality, respect and doing it as fast and heavy as they could play. They earned their spot in the Big 4 of thrash and deserve that title and their place in the Mount Rushmore of thrash. At the end of the day, Anthrax deserves nothing but praise and respect that should be as equal to ANY major act in thrash metal, let alone metal as a whole.

Do you agree with my viewpoints? Do you think Anthrax deserves the hate? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section on our social media. You can also suggest what band/artist/theme we should tackle next for this series. I'm Justin, Your Friendly Neighborhood Metalhead, and this has been another edition of Why The Hate?

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