Saturday, December 7, 2013
By ALAN SCULLEY
When Scott Ian and Charlie Benante of Anthrax went to Cleveland in 2009 to help Metallica celebrate its induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, they didn't expect it to be a life-altering event.
Anthrax plays the State Theatre on Wednesday.
WHEN: 7:50 p.m. Wednesday (doors at 7 p.m.)
WHERE: State Theatre, 609 Congress St., Portland
HOW MUCH: $26 in advance; $30 day of show; all ages
WHAT ELSE: Testament and Death Angel open
But one could say that's how it's turned out.
The big moment came when guitarist Ian and drummer Benante were having drinks with Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich.
"We were just (talking) about stuff, and then Lars just said to us, 'You know, what do you think about doing the Big 4?' " Benante recalled in a recent phone interview. "We were just like, 'What?' It came out of left field. We just were like, 'That would be awesome.' "
"The Big 4" that Ulrich was proposing was a bill that would include the quartet of bands that ushered in modern metal in the 1980s -- Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax. And soon, what seemed like a casual idea started to turn into reality.
The only problem with the proposal at that point was that Anthrax was in disarray.
By this time, the band had seen two singers come and go, in John Bush and Dan Nelson. The band also had done a 2005 reunion tour with its original singer, Joey Belladonna, but that tour ended up being just a temporary reunion.
Anthrax turned to Nelson, and went into the studio to record a new CD that came to be called "Worship Music." According to Benante, Anthrax got well along in the process. "We were in the studio recording, so it got that far," he said. "We were on our way. So we were pretty deep into it."
But that project had to go on hold unexpectedly when shortly thereafter, Nelson quit Anthrax just as the band was set to fly to Europe for a tour. That's where things stood when Ian and Benante went to help celebrate Metallica's entrance into the rock hall and came home with the notion that a Big 4 tour might be in the wind.
The idea of approaching Belladonna again then came up. After all, he was the singer on the early Anthrax albums (such as "Spreading the Disease" and "Among the Living") that had established the group as one of the Big 4. Besides, after the failed 2005 tour, Benante had stayed in touch with Belladonna.
"I had, like, a bunch of songs that some of them just didn't fit the Anthrax mold," Benante said. "I really wanted to do something on the side with different vocalists. And Joey was one that I thought of for two songs that I thought he would sound really good on them.
"We started talking about stuff like that and just about music. That was how it was. Then one thing led to another, and we took the opportunity to ask him if he would be interested in possibly doing this (Anthrax) again."
Belladonna was ready to give a return to Anthrax another shot, and so was the group, which includes bassist Frank Bello and guitarist Rob Caggiano.
The renewed partnership clicked. The band did the Big 4 shows, which began in 2010 and most recently included a September 2011 show at Yankee Stadium in Anthrax's home borough of the Bronx. The shows helped reinvigorate the band, and the same lineup will play at the State Theatre in Portland on Wednesday.
"We were the band that had the most to prove and the most to win," Benante said. "I really think it helped us recapture what we had been missing. It has a huge effect on us personally as well ... I'm so grateful that we were given this opportunity."
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