Like their long-time friends and fellow ‘Big Four’ alumni Metallica, Anthrax have always been open about the musical influences that shaped their sound, and have recorded cover versions in tribute to artists as diverse as Public Enemy (with Bring The Noise) and The Smiths (on London), Hüsker Dü (with Celebrated Summer) and Metallica themselves (on Phantom Lord). Overwhelmingly though, thanks to guitarist Scott Ian and drummer Charlie Benante’s deep-rooted love of ‘70’s rock and metal, the most successful of the New York band’s numerous cover versions have paid homage to classic rock acts. Here are their ten finest classic rock covers…
Destroyer (originally recorded by Twisted Sister)
The heaviest anthem on Twisted Sister’s classic debut album Under The Blade, the lumbering, menacing Destroyer can be viewed as a bridge between Black Sabbath’s Iron Man and Anthrax’s Judge Dredd-inspired 1987 hit I Am The Law. The New York quintet’s reverential nod to their New Jersey brethren and their fearsome ‘silent sentinel’ can be found on the 2001 Twisted Sister tribute album Twisted Forever.
TNT (originally recorded by AC/DC)
One of six cover versions collated on the 2013 EP Anthems, Anthrax’s take on ‘DC’s High Voltage-era hooligan stomper stays faithful to the Young brothers’ original template, all lairy attitude, terrace vocals and thick-as-a-rhino guitar. “I have Angus and Malcolm tattooed on me,” said Scott Ian. “’Nuff said.” Independent of Anthrax, Ian has also recorded a version of ‘DC’s Walk All Over You with Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider.
Parasite (originally recorded by Kiss)
Kiss Alive! was the first album Scott Ian ever bought, and the guitarist admits that the larger-than-life rockers “owned his soul” for much of his adolescence. “As, at the time, an 11-year-old whose life revolved around music and comic books and horror movies, there it is all wrapped up in one fiery, bloody package… That was a needle right to the cortex,” he told Ultimate Classic Rock last year. Anthrax’s take on Ace Frehley’s contribution to Hotter Than Hell appears on their Attack Of The Killer B’s compilation.
Cowboy Song (originally recorded by Thin Lizzy)
Scott Ian has described Thin Lizzy as “arguably the most underrated, under-appreciated band of our time” and his band made an impressive job of covering Phil Lynott’s wistful, romanticised Wild West rocker from Jailbreak on the 2001 remaster of 1993’s The Sound Of White Noise. Anthrax have also covered the title track of Jailbreak on their Anthems EP: “I would do a whole record of Lizzy covers,” Scott Ian admitted in the sleeve notes.
Anthem (originally recorded by Rush)
It takes a certain amount of cojones to cover Rush, but Anthrax’s version of Fly By Night’s opening track (included on the Anthems EP) works thanks to Joey Belladonna’s commendable Geddy Lee impression and Charlie Benante’s dextrous stick-work. Benante discovered Rush via their 1976 live album All The World’s A Stage, and cites Neal Peart as one of his drumming heroes.
Antisocial (originally recorded by Trust)
A somewhat left-field choice, Anthrax’s take on Trust’s Antisocial (from the French band’s 1980 album Répression) was released as a single from the State Of Euphoria album, and has remained a staple of the band’s live set ever since. “People ask me all the time, ‘Why do you have to play Antisocial every show?’” said Scott Ian earlier this year, “and I’m like, ‘You know why, because everybody except for you and five other people want to hear Antisocial.” The New Yorkers also covered a second song from Répression, Sects, for the Attack of The Killer B’s album.
Keep On Runnin (originally recorded by Journey)
It’s hard to detect much influence from AOR legends Journey upon Anthrax’s catalogue, but in the liner notes to 2013’s Anthems EP, from which this excellent cover from 1981’s Escape album is taken, Scott Ian revealed that Joey Belladonna sang Steve Perry songs at his first audition for the band back in 1984. “He blew us away,” said the guitarist. “Twenty-eight years later and he’s still blowing us away.”
Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (originally recorded by Black Sabbath)
“The first three or four Black Sabbath records are kind of the blueprint for heavy metal,” said Scott Ian earlier this year. “Tony Iommi wrote every riff there was to write, and everything that came after was just a derivative of it in some way, shape or form.” Anthrax paid tribute with their cover of Sabbath Bloody Sabbath on 1987’s I’m The Man EP, Joey Belladonna stealing the show with a superb vocal performance.
Got The Time (originally recorded by Joe Jackson)
A curveball if ever there was one, Anthrax’s thrashed-out take on Joe Jackson’s 1979 pop song, recorded for 1990’s Persistence Of Time album, has proved immensely popular with fans, but markedly less so with the man who wrote it: in 1991 Jackson told Q magazine that the band’s take on his song was “clumsy” and “lumpen”, adding “The way I feel about it is, Thanks for the royalties, guys.” Ouch.
Neon Knights (originally recorded by Black Sabbath)
Recorded during the 2012 Anthems studio sessions, Anthrax’s striking version of this Black Sabbath classic originated from Wendy Dio’s request that the band contribute a track to the Ronnie James Dio tribute album This Is Your Life. “We’ve kind of been jamming on that song forever as it is,” said Scott Ian. “It’s just one of those ones that we probably would have recorded anyway at some point. So this just gave us the excuse to finally go do it.” Kudos again here to Joey Belladonna for absolutely nailing this.