By Joel Francis
The Kansas City Star
When Anthrax took the stage for 2010’s Big Four tour with thrash-metal peers Slayer, Megadeth and Metallica, it was the only band without any new material.
What they were doing was preparing new material with lead singer Joey Belladonna for the first time in more than 20 years. Belladonna, the singer from what is considered the band’s classic period, was with the group from 1985 to 1992, when he was replaced by John Bush. Belladonna performed with Anthrax for a tour in 2005 but decided not to permanently rejoin the band.
The ball got rolling again when Ian and drummer Charlie Benante attended Metallica’s induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April 2009, and the idea of a Big Four tour was introduced.
“I knew if they were serious about these shows, it would be amazing to have Joey back,” Ian said. “It just seemed like the right thing to do. In a way, the 18 months we spent together on tour before helped a lot this time around. We weren’t starting from scratch.”
So in early 2010, Belladonna rejoined the band. With both the band and its fans itching for a new release, the four instrumentalists and Belladonna set to work completing “Worship Music,” an album with a complicated gestation. It was released in September.
The album had originally been scheduled for release in 2009 with short-lived vocalist Dan Nelson. When Nelson and Anthrax parted ways, it was rumored that John Bush, Belladonna’s original replacement, would record new vocals. But Bush wasn’t comfortable proceeding with the band beyond a handful of concerts, and the tapes were handed to Belladonna.
“Joey had all the freedom in the world to change anything he wanted,” Ian said. “Joey worked with producer Rob Caggiano, and then they’d send us MP3s of what they were working on. There were hardly any notes or suggestions. It was an unbelievably smooth process.”
The band had never let the singer work independently done before, Ian said, but he thinks the album benefits from the approach.
“The music is always done first in our band,” Ian said. “In the past with Joey and John, the song would end and it was like the judge’s panel would sit there and nitpick. We now realized this was not a good way to work.”
Anthrax gave Kansas City a taste of its reconfigured lineup in October when it opened for Five Finger Death Punch at the Independence Events Center. Ian said fans can expect more of the same at tonight’s show at the Midland. Much more.
“Now that we’re headlining, that means a much longer set than what we delivered a few months ago,” Ian said.
Fans can expect to hear Belladonna deliver some of the best songs of the John Bush-era in concert, Ian said, but they shouldn’t be concerned about any more games of musical chairs with lead singers.
“Joey is the singer of Anthrax until there is no more Anthrax,” Ian said. “I think it’s been proven beyond doubt this is the band that is supposed to be Anthrax.”