1990-1994: Anthrax’s setbacks

As for the infamous fire in 1990 (which happened during the making of Anthrax’s fifth album), it turns out that it was due to sharing loft space with another band. The other band were building their own sixteen track room at one end, while Anthrax were at the other. The wiring couldn’t handle all the circuitry. It’s a sign of Karma that the other band suffered the most because all of their stuff was vanquished. Anthrax were still annoyed because they had almost completed their album. There was as much water damage as fire damage. Charlie was dismayed that the drums were abolished.

He was particularly disgruntled because he was hoping to give away his State of Euphoria drum-kit as a prize for a magazine contest. The overall band were dispirited by all of their speakers being ruined, with the exception of Scott’s recording speaker (which he keeps at home). They were also disheartened by the destruction of tour-bound videos and their treasured guitar straps. The only consolation for Anthrax was that they were able to salvage the guitars and their most personal items. However, a friend allowed them to have a free studio.

The outcome of the music videos was a case of dark clouds with silver lining. Charlie didn’t like the videos for In My World and Got the Time. He thought the former’s spoof of The Lost Boys was epic fail, whereas the latter’s pace didn’t match the song. He wished for the video to be the band playing in front of nutty fans. He wished that Anthrax had control over videos. The only consolation was that he liked the video for Belly of the BeastThe footage was from the band’s European tour with Iron Maiden. This is what Charlie to say: It just came out good, especially the way that it ends. It was directed by the Mayhew brothers – one of whom is a member of Cro-Mags. Paris is a good guy with a good eye. He also worked on the video for Who Cares Wins.”

Anthrax, like Ratt, would’ve immensely benefited from being directed by Wayne Isham (who directed the most iconic videos of Mötley Crüe and Metallica). Anthrax and Ratt could also have benefited from being directed by David Mallet (who directed videos for AC/DC, Billy Idol, David Bowie, Def Leppard, Joan Jett, Kiss, Scorpions and Queen). Anthrax and Ratt are two sides of the same coin. Each quintet contained a member who wanted to be a professional sportsman. Robbin Crosby wanted to play baseball. Joey wanted to play hockey. What also cements the connection between the bands is that their fifth albums were released on the same day in 1990 – Tuesday, August 21.

Another album that was released on that day was Facelift (which was recorded by Alice in Chains). It was the most symbolic day of the `90s because grunge would outrank thrash and pop metal in terms of popularity as well as critical acclaim. Regardless, all three albums obtained Gold status (selling ½ a million copies) by the end of 1990. Anthrax’s success was the most impressive because it went Gold after one month of release because of their appearance in Married with Children.

The accomplishment was impressive considering that MTV stopped showing the video for Got the Time outside of Headbangers Ball because it was too heavy (despite countless requests). For Charlie, the real victory was that Rip magazine had an issue entirely devoted to them. For Scott, the real victory was that Anthrax were described as the metal equivalent to Public Enemy. As positive as that sounds, Charlie disagreed because: We got this Christmas card with a Christmas song. At the end, it said – Here’s wishing for a WHITE Christmas. It was from some white organization.”

Despite touring with Iron Maiden, Anthrax’s fifth album didn’t reach platinum status (neither did Iron Maiden’s album of the time). A year later, Anthrax’s fortunes were increased by touring with Public Enemy. For a while, it seemed like Anthrax were going to be more relevant than the other metal bands when you consider just how popular that rap was in the early nineties. However, the Bring the Noise cover was released in the same month as Metallica’s Enter Sandman (i.e. July).

A year earlier, touring with Iron Maiden highlighted that Anthrax were the American equivalent. Part of the attraction of working with Joey was that he was the American equivalent to Bruce Dickinson. However, by 1991, people were tiring of the old style. Due to the financial state of America, people wanted negative music which suited their mood. As Scott noted, many people were tiring of singers who were as melodic as birds. It was singers as hoarse as lions which were the in-thing. Iron Maiden were seen as old hat when compared to the streetwise style of Pantera and Alice in Chains.

On the subject of Alice in Chains, they would end up participating in a tour which was called Clash of the Titans. The purpose of this tour was for Anthrax, Megadeth and Slayer to catch up to Metallica in terms of sales. Up to that point (i.e. before the black album), Metallica sold 2 and a ½ million copies. The other bands of the big 4 (in terms of sales) had only sold 1 million copies each. They all wondered where the other one and a ½ million customers were when their 1990 albums were released. When ½ of Alice in Chains (Layne Staley and Sean Kinney) saw the other bands pose for a group Titans photo (in Albuquerque), the most famous ½ of the ½ told Jerry Cantrell: It’s lame.”

Jerry remarked: “But it’s to be expected. This tour is a big deal to all of these bands playing together, except us.”

Layne responded in a way which indicated why Alice in Chains sold more copies with their second album than the other bands did with any one of their albums: “There’s definitely competition between them, but there’s none with us. We don’t really fit in with the name of the tour, but we don’t clash with any of them either.”

Alice in Chains still got along with Dave Mustaine, who got everyone in the band (except Sean) to go skydiving with him (after they performed in Phoenix but on the same day that they gigged in San Diego). Layne had to fess up that this was the high which he always tried to find with drugs. After the skydive, the usually indifferent band-mates of Alice in Chains were incredibly enthusiastic and were eager to do it again. On that day’s night, this put them in a better-than-usual mood when they performed darkly emotional music in San Diego. If Layne skydived more, he wouldn’t have needed heroin to gain the highest of highs.

As for Anthrax, their fortunes were ruined by (once again) Guns ‘n’ Roses. According to Scott: “They played at Hersheypark in Hershey, Pennsylvania. This was the week before the Titans tour was to play the same venue. They went on so late, past 11pm, to the extent that it put them into curfew overtime already. This meant that the venue lost their license, so our show was cancelled. As far as I see it, Axl Rose owes us $20,000.”

Anthrax’s Time sounds like it could’ve been recorded for the soundtrack of T2: Judgment Day (the same thing could be said about Whitesnake and Van Halen having songs which were titled Judgment Day). If the song was placed on the soundtrack, the debt would’ve been ignored.

It’s easy to think that Anthrax worked with Dave Jerden because they were listening to Alice in Chains while they were on tour together, but he was the producer of a 1991 album which John Bush had sung on. This was Armored Saint’s Symbol of Salvation. If Anthrax’s Sound of White Noise had been produced by Terry Date (Pantera’s producer), Anthrax wouldn’t have been compared to Alice in Chains.

On the subject of comparisons, Scott was so excited about the album that he claimed that it would propel Anthrax’s career in the same way that Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer propelled Michael Rooker’s career. To prove his point, Scott wore a T-shirt which advertised the film. In theory, his favourite song is the one inspired by American Psycho. In actuality, his favourite is Potter’s Field.

As ebullient that Scott was, this still didn’t stop the increasingly bad luck from permeating Anthrax. The band was recording vocal and guitar overdubs during a solid 14 days of rain in December, 1992. The key word is solid because the roof of the studio collapsed. The mixing board was crushed. When Jerden climbed on the roof to see what clogged the drain, he put his hand down the drain and pulled out a dog’s head.

This is reminiscent of an insidious Chinese saying: a dog goes on the roof – this is used to accuse something of behaving secretly (especially an extramarital affair). The studio owner forbade them from mentioning it to the press because of insurance reasons. This happened in the same year when Warrant released an album titled Dog Eat Dog. One has to wonder if there was any human DNA found on the head.

As for what was supposed to be Anthrax’s take on the black album, Elektra didn’t do a good job in marketing it (despite their interest in promoting Anthrax as the next Metallica). The company messed up by spreading the singles over the space of a year. It took way too long to get from Only to Hy Pro Glo (the fourth single). The first single was released one month before the album came out in May. Therefore, the last single should’ve been released in July because the U.S. arena tour was already over by the time that it was September. By the time that the last single was released in 1994, the damage had been done to the extent of being irrevocable.

Yes, that’s Kate Moss (advertising Gianni Versace’s designs while being photographed by Patrick Demarchelier for the September 1992 issue of Harper’s Bazaar). Anyway, I perceive Anthrax as the ultimate `90s rock band. Everything that they did reflected what was going on – prog metal, rap metal, groove metal, grunge, industrial metal, punk and indie (i.e. Pieces as written by Frank Bello). With everything said and done, this is my favourite article about the band.


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