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01.30.11: Persistence Of Time

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The views and opinions expressed herein are those solely of the author and may not necessarily reflect those of the rest of the human race.

Twist your minds with fear, I’m the man with power. Among the living – follow me or die. What’s up and thanks for coming back. Actually cut it down to seven days this time! I’m excited! Hopefully you are, too.

This week, the news that caught my attention is rather innocuous in the grand scheme of things. Although judging by the title and opening line, you might have a clue who’s involved here.

An interview with Joey Belladonna conducted by RockMusicStar.com made the rounds this week that had a couple interesting (but not revelatory) bits in it. We’ll cover them late in the piece, but first, a story. And a chance to admit I may have been wrong.

As far as Anthrax goes…and this may be considered blasphemous by some…but I was of a mind, at one point, that Joey Belladonna could have gone off to the New Mexico desert and become a hermit and it wouldn’t have made a difference. After Joey left, John Bush turned that band in to an absolute beast. The power level – in terms of subject matter, riffs, and just plain violence – had been upped to considerably. The longer they continued on, the more Joey became a distant memory.

They had locomotive momentum from the diabolical We’ve Come For You All the proceeding tour (chronicled in the Music Of Mass Destruction set) rolled right in to the Greater Of Two Evils set. And then, the band did the unthinkable and had John sing on a greatest hits album’s worth of all the old stuff that fans knew from the Joey era.

In some cosmic sense, that could have been the jinx that spelled the end. Because not too long after that, Joey was available again and the reunion bug hit Anthrax. Bush was asked to sit on the sidelines while the band went out with Joey again and, after doing that for too long, John didn’t want to wait around. So he left. Not with a bang, but with a whimper had my favorite era of Anthrax ended.

Since then, the band has been in a state of flux. Joey left again. Some kid named Dan Nelson was there for a cup of coffee (and based on what I learned from drummer Charlie Benante, there’s a story to be told there that I would love to discover – but that’s for another time). John sat in for a couple of shows to bury any bad feelings. And now, Joey’s back again.

Third time’s a charm? Going back to an abusive ex-lover? Whatever metaphor could be used for Anthrax having Joey back in the fold a third time, was used. I couldn’t fathom why – for the life of me – Anthrax would ditch their best singer in favor of the one that shot the whole thing to hell over money. Twice! What the hell were they thinking? Seriously?

Then came October 2, 2010. The night I had a couple questions that I was harboring not as a journalist, but as a fan, answered. Those answers make a whole lot of sense and help to set the record straight.

During the interview with Benante, I had the mystery of why they would toss John – who, to me, was the best they’d ever had – aside for what seemed like a false promise. The answer was, they didn’t.

MM: …[Y]ou did a couple shows – a couple one-offs – with John Bush back in the fold. Was there any talk of him coming back permanently, or was he just helping out for a minute?

CB: He was helping out for the moment. Basically, we were trying to figure out what we were going to do. What we wanted to do. John was very vocal in saying he did not want to do this anymore, music-wise. Which left us to kind of figuring out where we wanted to go and what we wanted to do.

Bush, for those who are curious and didn’t notice this last year, went back to his roots. Armored Saint released La Raza last year. The record was met with a resounding silence (since no one really knew about it), but it was critically praised near-universally. Great friggin’ record, I can vouch for that much. No tours, not a lot of dealing with the Music Industry Machine – just a whole lot of rock and a great time had by all. Bush is happy with where he’s at and making some damn good music. I can’t fault that at all.

Back to the band. They decided to give Joey another try – and now I’m glad they did. October 2 was also when I saw Anthrax with Belladonna for the first time. I’ll keep this brief – hell, down to just one word, even.

Amazing.

On a bill that also included Megadeth and Slayer – three out of the “Four Horsemen” present, all said and done – Anthrax wrecked the joint. Megadeth and Anthrax honestly had a hard time following the 45-minute explosion of joy and brutality that Anthrax brought with Joey in tow. I was convinced, once and for all, that the band is phenomenal no matter who’s singing in front of them.

With all that in mind comes the interview this week. Anthrax is working on a new–wait, that’s not entirely right. They’re working on an album, sure – but it’s the one they had finished with Dan Nelson that’s being re-worked and handed to Joey. Weird enough with the band’s history already, but working on leftovers? Joey thinks so, too:

Is all the material already written?

Yeah, the three or four that I’m talking about may have some changes. But, I’ve had my moments of looking at some of the tracks and thinking “How I’m I going to do this one,” and make it cool. It would be cool if we were starting from day one, but we are moving from ‘point A’ to ‘point C’ at this point.

It must be a bit of a challenge because of the fact that most of the material was written for a different vocalist.

I kind of hate that someone was already singing this stuff and now I have to kind of dance around it and do it all over. They (Anthrax) have in their mind already how they want it to sound, so it’s kind of hard to shake it away. They are not going to say to me “Go on and do something totally different and we will just dig it.” (Lol) It’s hard, but I’m not worried about it.

The new album…sure, I’m curious as all hell. I want to hear the band back together proper, especially after seeing them together again on stage. And if I didn’t before, another quote from this past week’s interview would have done it:

Anthrax had such an intense performance. You are the man when it comes to vocals for that band. There’s no Anthrax without you.

Well. Thank you. It really stinks that you have to be compared to someone. Maybe now there really isn’t too much of that. But, I don’t really pay attention to it too much because I have my own style and I have done what I’ve done. We work well together and this band really jells. Yes, those guys wanted to make a change at one time and bring in someone else and have a different vocal style. But I think it really works with me and I just hope everyone enjoys what I do. Even with the band, it’s at the point where I feel comfortable with what I do and how I do and not to worry if it’s going to be ok with them. At this point, I’m really not in the mood to worry if I fit in or not. I just want to be as good as I can and do what I do, instead of trying to be somebody else.

 

First off, Joey, thanks for making me feel so small that amoeba can bully me around. Secondly, he has a great point. One that I, admittedly, wish I had thought of. It’s not a matter of which is better or worse. If you really break down the styles, it’s apples and oranges. It’s almost two completely different outfits, really, just under the same name.

Point here is, at the end of the day, Anthrax has made great metal for 30 years (!!) now. In realizing that, I have to apologize. To Anthrax and to Joey. For thinking bringing back Joey was a big mistake. I’m looking to make amends. October 2 was a good start.

And I also have to thank you, friends. For indulging me this time and opportunity to discuss a subject near and dear to my musical heart. Thanks for reading and see you again soon.

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About Michael Melchor

  • Rob

    Nothing against Joey, but Bush is by far the better vocalist for Anthrax. When he was thrown out for a weak cash-in nostalgia attempt, I was officially done with this band.