ANTHRAX's CHARLIE BENANTE: 'For Us, The Music Always Came First'

August 13, 2022

In a recent interview with the "Talk Toomey" podcast, ANTHRAX drummer Charlie Benante spoke about how he and his bandmates managed to weather the peaks and valleys of a four-decade career that included several singer changes and a fluctuation of heavy metal's popularity. He said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "There were hard times, but you always have to remember it's probably just a moment and then it'll pass and good things are still to come. But I would say those latter '90s, those were some of the hardest times, when metal was such a dirty word.

"It was so strange to us, because you had all this kind of alternative stuff happening but there was that one band, and that was PANTERA, that was still doing amazing," Charlie recalled. "So there was still a whole metal audience, but it was just weird how the media wanted you to think that metal's dead. And I think, about the hair [metal] bands, NIRVANA came and it was like a tidal wave, just washed it all away, and whoever stood, well, then that meant something. But for us, it was never about an image or it lacked musicality, 'cause the music always came first — or at least in our heads we told ourselves that the music came first."

After firing singer Joey Belladonna for the first time in 1992, ANTHRAX recruited ARMORED SAINT singer John Bush and released an album called "Sound Of White Noise", widely considered to be one of the band's finest, and possibly most misunderstood, releases.

"Nowadays, when people talk about 'Sound Of White Noise', they talk about it in the sense that it was our 'grunge' album, but it really wasn't our grunge album," Benante said during a 2016 appearance on "The Jasta Show". "The only thing that was grunge about it was Dave Jerden, who produced it, he did ALICE IN CHAINS as well, and JANE'S ADDICTION. But… I don't know. That was a weird time, I think, for metal; it was in a very weird place. And the oddest thing, to me, is when we had… 'Heavy metal' was such a bad word to say, especially in America, because you had alternative, remember? But the band that was the biggest at that time was PANTERA, who was probably the heaviest to come out."

ANTHRAX split with Belladonna for the second time in January 2007, less than two years after reuniting with him and other members of the band's "classic" lineup of the '80s and early '90s. ANTHRAX eventually reunited with Belladonna in May 2010 and recorded two more albums with the singer: 2011's "Worship Music" and 2016's "For All Kings".

Earlier this week, ANTHRAX canceled two shows on the band's North American tour with BLACK LABEL SOCIETY and HATEBREED "due to a medical concern."

ANTHRAX kicked off its tour with BLACK LABEL SOCIETY on July 26 at Van Buren in Phoenix, Arizona.

ANTHRAX's setlist on the trek includes the addition of the John Bush-era track "Only", which hadn't been performed live since 2011.

"Only" originally appeared on "Sound Of White Noise", one of four albums Bush recorded with ANTHRAX during his 13-year tenure with the band.

ANTHRAX's tour with BLACK LABEL SOCIETY will wrap up in Philadelphia at the Fillmore on Sunday, August 28. Both bands are playing headline sets. HATEBREED, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the "Perseverance" album, is the special guest.

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".

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