Thrashcore Metal Anthrax at Rockville

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In terms of metal revolutions, Anthrax is on its third or fourth trip around the sun. Back when they were just getting off the ground in 1981, metal bands ripped their guts out on stage to get to the glory. The thrashcore metal scene was a byproduct of the societal fringe hammered out in ripped jeans, middle fingers and thunderous chord progressions.

Anthrax came up in New York as part of the “big four” with Slayer, Metallica and Megadeth. Baptized after the disease of the same name, Anthrax fueled its meteoric rise with a hybrid of traditional heavy metal and punk influences to create an aggressive, genre bending sound that generated critical acclaim and legions of loyal fans.

Drummer Charlie Benante, who joined the group in 1983 and is responsible for writing and creating the majority of the band’s artwork, talked to EU about surviving the 90’s, job security and marching to the beat of his own drum.

Anthrax performs Sunday, May 1 on the Welcome to Rockville River Stage at Metropolitan Park. Benante says the band is excited to give the fans a dose of what they came for. “Our shows can be anything from insane, extreme crowd stuff. It’s a give and take. We give, they take. They give, we take. Those, to me, are the best shows when the audience feels it and we the audience. It’s that communication with the audience and having fucking fun. That’s what playing live is all about.”

anthrax_042311_12Since taking his seat behind the drum kit 33 years ago, Benante has remained a visible and viable part of the band’s machine. He never wanted to be the face of the band so he plugged into other creative outlets to keep the gears humming. “The problem I see with drummers is that sometimes they do take the backseat. I never wanted to do that, nor did I ever want to be at the front. That’s just not my thing. I never wanted to do that. I’ve always had a vision for the band, musically speaking, as far as concept and artwork. I’ve always had that thing that I’ve always done in the band and I enjoy it. Before I was in the band, I was going to art school. Art was my other passion. For me, I kind of handled both of my dreams in one thing. And that goes back to job security.”

Anthrax takes its place on the Welcome to Rockville bill among artists who were no doubt inspired by the band. It’s a fortunate and familiar position for Benante to see the living product of his band’s influence. On the heels of a South American tour with Iron Maiden, he gets why these young bands look up to Anthrax much in the same way his 80’s contemporaries hold Iron Maiden in the highest regard.

“I look at some of these bands nowadays and I can hear the influence, maybe I can see the influence which is a cool thing. We just came back from doing this tour with Iron Maiden and every day, I saw Iron Maiden and I saw the influence that they had on us. Iron Maiden is still, to me, one of the greatest bands ever,” he says. “I really think that a lot of us in this music business and this metal world really do owe Iron Maiden a lot of credit because a lot of us modeled our band after that band. They did what they wanted to, didn’t rely on any radio hits. They just did it the right way. I know for myself, Anthrax, the Metallica guys, the Slayer guys, we all look up to Iron Maiden to this day.”

AnthraxIn the early 90’s, Anthrax was caught between a mosh and a hard place. Grunge wore the sharp edges of metal down to nubby flannel and the subsequent flood of nu-metal sent aftershocks rippling through the hardcore community.

“I think there was a period in the 90’s where nu-metal started to hit and I think a lot of the metal bands prior to that were freaking out. That moment when grunge came and washed everything away, this kind of had the same effect. Bands were terrified of what was coming whereas myself, I kind of embraced it and just said this is a new thing that’s happening and like everything else, it goes in cycles and it will change. And it did. A lot of those bands are gone now,” says Benante.

“I would say the mid-90’s to early 2000’s, those were some difficult times. But like anything else, you have to stay the course because you can’t really try and change and be a chameleon and try to adapt to what is going on at the moment. At the end of the day, you’ll realize that’s not cool and your fans will realize that,” says Benante. “I think with any industry or any position in an industry, you’re always worried about job security. It seems as though you have some great years and then you’ll have a period of ‘shit, man. I need to keep my gig’ and then the cycle comes around and you feel like you’re on top again.”

Benante says Anthrax felt the sting from waning record sales and instead of imploding under the weight of the changing industry, the band fed off that fear and grew stronger than ever.

“We realized that we’re going to keep doing what we’re doing anyway. It’s all about the quality of your music and the quality of your show. That’s the most important thing. Back in the day when we would put a record out, you did your promo stuff, record signings and stuff like that. These days I feel like our days on tour is jam packed with stuff because that’s what you have to do nowadays to sell a record, you know what I mean? To get people to hear your record, you have to do everything in your power,” he says.

“Bands have to hustle nowadays in order to get their music heard. Everybody’s vying for that position. We’ve been doing this for quite a while and unlike other bands, I feel like the product that we’re putting out now is possibly better than the stuff than we did put out. We are so hungry and for me personally, I just feel that taking the time to put out a great record is so much more important than just putting out something that gets you back on the road. At the end of the day, people are going to remember that record more so than that show you did back in 2013. We’ve been around for this long and survived. I think that people appreciate the fact that when they buy an Anthrax record, they know exactly what they’re going to get.”

 

 

 

 

About Liza Mitchell

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