Anthrax drummer Charlie Benante is a heavy hitter, but he knows a thing or two about putting things delicately.
"It took a long time to finish," he says about Worship Music, the first Anthrax album since 2003's We've Come for You All, and the first to feature vocalist Joey Belladona since 1990's Persistence of Time.
"There were a few minor obstacles," he says, laughing.
Anthrax is scheduled to perform Saturday, September 10, at Firebird International Raceway in Chandler.
Originally slated for release in 2009, Worship Music, due to hit stores and download sites on Tuesday, September 13, was plagued by difficulties. First, new Anthrax singer Dan Nelson's vocal takes were scrapped when he left the band. Rumors abounded that John Bush of Armored Saint would take the mic for the record, but those rumors proved false. Finally, the band locked down a singer, and it turned out to be one fans of the band are intimately familiar with: Joey Belladona, who sang for the band during what many consider to be the band's peak period.
"When Joey came in, a lot of it was musically ready to go," Benante says. "Some lyrics, too, of course, were done. [But] when Joey came in, things started to change a bit. Last year, we were on tour — it was us, Slayer, and Megadeth — and every day on that tour we would set up a studio in the dressing room [or] in the back of the bus, and really work on the material. Musically, lyrically, vocally . . . that's when it really started to shape. It started to sound like Anthrax at that point. That's when I think we all got excited about it."
The results are the sound of a rejuvenated band. Straightforward, heavy, and intense, Worship Music pays tribute to the band's heroes Judas Priest, Dimebag Darrell, and Ronnie James Dio (both lyrically and sonically) but stands out as a uniquely modern record in the band's catalog. No strangers to odd pairings (listen to their cover of Joe Jackson's "Got the Time" or the band's 1991 collaboration with Public Enemy, "Bring the Noise"), the band placed a bonus track on Worship Music, a cover of Swedish hardcore band (and touchstone for plenty of screamo bands) Refused's "New Noise."
"I remember when that record [Refused's The Shape of Punk to Come] first came out in 1998; it was immediately one of my favorite records," Benante says. "I never stopped playing it. Sometimes at sound-check we would joke around playing that song. I said we should cover that song when it comes time to make a record."
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"I wasn't familiar with the song at all," singer Joey Belladona says. "I was, like, if you want [intense vocal screaming], it's not me. So I had to do my own thing."
The group is scheduled to show off the new material at KUPD's Red, White and UFest on Saturday, September 10. The event promises heavy music, but it also has devoted special care to remembering the events of September 11, 2001, by offering free advance tickets to military, police, and firefighting personnel. For Anthrax, a band whose name was under heavy scrutiny following the September 11 attacks, the chance to take part in something that honors the heroes of that day is an honor.
"The weird thing about that [is] that whole anthrax scare that happened right after 9-11," Benante says. "You know, we watched that pretty closely. Thank God it didn't go on to hurt or kill [anyone]. When that happened, it brought some ugliness to it and fear, and I remember all of us saying, 'Man, if this thing does what we hope it doesn't do, our name is done."
Lucky for the band — and for fans attending UFest — the worries of chemical attacks subsided, and Anthrax can keep bringing the noise for fans of thrash metal, without having to change their name to Basket of Puppies, as they joked following the scares.