In a new interview with “THAT Rocks!”, the weekly YouTube series hosted by Eddie Trunk, Jim Florentine and Don Jamieson, ANTHRAX guitarist Scott Ian spoke about the progress of the songwriting and recording sessions for the band’s long-awaited follow-up to 2016’s “For All Kings” album. When Florentine noted that ANTHRAX has been working on the new LP for three or four years now, Scott clarified (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): “We’ve only really been working on it for a year-ish, I would say. I mean, we have demos. Charlie (Benante, drums) has demos that he sent pre-COVID. But then once lockdown and all that stuff happened, we just all walked away; nothing creative was happening at all with us through that whole period. And then, slowly but surely, when we started playing shows again in ’21 and going into ’22, that’s when we started working again, really. And then in the last year, we really started to put stuff together and Charlie and Frankie (Bello, bass) and I getting together and having writing sessions and arranging stuff, to the point where we finally went in the studio just recently and recorded nine songs that have drums, bass, and guitar done now. And (guitarist Jonathan) Donais‘s got a couple of lead breaks that are killer that he’s demoed and sent to us. He hasn’t actually officially recorded them yet, but I think he’s gonna get most of his stuff written and then he’ll go in and record all of it. And I’m pretty sure we’ve got dates on the books for Joey (Belladonna, vocals) to start working as well with (producer) Jay (Ruston) next month. So, yeah, everything’s officially moving along at a decent pace now.”
Last month, Belladonna told the Tulsa Music Stream that he wasn’t sure when he was going to enter the studio to begin laying down his vocals. “(I am) not sure (if it’s gonna be) in the next month,” he said. “Even as of today, we’re still kind of putting some timeframes together. It’s all scheduling, really, for everyone to put together. But in due time, I’ll get there. I just bang out what I gotta do and just go for the mountain — get the best stuff out that I can.”
Asked if he is typically presented with finished lyrics to sing or if he gets to contribute a lot lyrically to the content, Joey said: “I love doing lyrics, but there’s a lot of lyrics that Scott — he just loves to do it. It’s his thing. He just digs into such — these topics that he likes to go and get into, and we all kind of have our own little thoughts on the songs. But I get in there and I really kind of — I dig into the whole thing a lot further. There’s a lot of stuff that I have to… When you start singing on something, you really have to find the pockets of what you wanna do, what kind of tone I wanna throw on it and how I wanna go for a certain range for certain things and how I approach it is very important. There are lyrics, but at the end of the day, I have to go in there and still sing as good and catchy and appropriate as I can to make this stuff my thing, my style. Obviously, we’re not the hit-oriented type of thing, but I’m always going for something cool to catch you off guard and neat and different. I have my own style, so I just kind of do my thing.”
During an August 2 appearance on SiriusXM‘s “Trunk Nation With Eddie Trunk”, Ian said about a possible timetable for the rest of the recording sessions for ANTHRAX’s new LP: “There’s gonna be another recording session October, maybe November. Charlie‘s got these two windows to get in, ’cause we have another four or five (songs) we want to track. We’re hoping, if things just stay on the very loose schedule we have, I’d like to think by Christmas, New Year’s, we’ll have most of this wrapped up. Maybe not mixed, but certainly all recorded by then.”
Scott continued: “Joey, it doesn’t take him very long (to record his vocals). Once he kind of wraps his head around it and kind of runs it through his filter, he’s a fast worker. So once he starts, it doesn’t take long. It’s more, I think, the onus on me of being happy with the lyrics I’m writing. ‘Cause I actually had, like, three or four songs written months ago, and then I revisited them like a month ago and I threw ’em all in the garbage; I was, like, ‘This is crap.’ But I’m in a much better place with that now.”
Regarding the musical direction of the new ANTHRAX material. Scott said: “Certainly of the nine (songs) we’ve tracked so far, and, of course, the rough kind of demos we have of some of the stuff we haven’t tracked with drums yet, from a riff point of view, it’s definitely — I mean it’s riffs with all capital letters. Like if you were going to write, you would write ‘riffs’ in all capitals with an exclamation point. The riffs are killer. It’s very riff-centric. There’s a lot of faster uptempo material, certainly.”
Ian added: “I will say there is a song — I won’t say any titles yet, ’cause it’s still probably a working title — there’s definitely one song, it’s the fastest thing we’ve ever done. There’s another song that we haven’t recorded yet that’s also in the vein, more of a ‘Gung-Ho’ or a ‘Caught In A Mosh’. Because Charlie and I talk all the time. I said, ‘We still need something that’s like a three-and-a-half-minute just ripper. You know, something like that.’ And then we come up with something like that and I’m, like, ‘Hey, I forgot I’m 60 now, and now I have to play this song for the next three years.’ Just make my life harder.”
Earlier this year, Benante was asked by Robert Cavuoto of Metal Rules why it has taken so long for ANTHRAX to complete the writing process for a new LP. Charlie said: “If we didn’t get hit with this whole global pandemic thing, it would have been out probably two years ago, three years ago. But we all know what happened. But now, being that some of the songs were (written) before the pandemic hit, they’re old to me. So now there’s a bunch of new songs that kind of came in the mix. So that’s a good thing. You can never have enough… We’re still working on the older ones because we really like a lot of those.”
Last November, Bello told SiriusXM that the band is “not in a rush” to record the new album. “We wanna make sure it’s the right record,” he explained. “We can’t just throw out something that’s not ready. So we’re gonna really make sure it’s the right record and live with it for a little bit. We have some brutal stuff and some cool stuff coming up — very heavy — we’ve been working on. Everybody can say that when they’re working on a record. But the proof is in the pudding. I’m pretty proud of what we’ve come up with so far.”
ANTHRAX celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2021 with a number of special activities and events. Formed by Ian and bassist Dan Lilker in Queens, New York on July 18, 1981, ANTHRAX was one of the first thrash metal bands to emerge from the East Coast and quickly became regarded as a leader in the genre alongside METALLICA, SLAYER and MEGADETH.
Active over the past five decades, ANTHRAX has released 11 studio albums, been awarded multiple gold and platinum certifications, received six Grammy nominations, toured the world since 1984 playing thousands of shows, including headlining Madison Square Garden and playing Yankee Stadium with the “Big Four”.
“For All Kings” was called by some critics ANTHRAX‘s strongest album to date. Its arrival followed a five-year period during which the group experienced a rebirth of sorts, beginning with ANTHRAX‘s inclusion on the “Big Four” tour, and continuing with the release of comeback LP “Worship Music”.