Anthrax PhotoFORMED: June 1981, New York, NY

Nearly as much as Metallica or Megadeth, Anthrax was responsible for the emergence of speed and thrash metal; combining the speed and fury of hardcore punk with the prominent guitars and vocals of heavy metal, they helped create a new subgenre of heavy metal on their early albums. Original guitarists Scott Ian and Dan Spitz were a formidable pair, spitting out lightning fast riffs and solos that never seemed masturbatory. Unlike Metallica or Megadeth, they had the good sense to temper their often serious music with a healthy dose of humor and realism.

After their first album, Fistful of Metal, singer Joey Belladonna and bassist Frank Bello joined the lineup. Belladonna helped take the band further away from conventional metal clichés, and over the next five albums (with the exception of 1988's State of Euphoria, where the band sounded like they were in a creative strait-jacket), Anthrax arguably became the leaders of speed metal. As the '80s became the '90s, they also began to increase their experiments with hip-hop, culminating in a tour with Public Enemy in 1991 and a joint re-recording of PE's classic "Bring the Noise."

After their peak period of the late '80s, Anthrax kicked Belladonna out of the band in 1992 and replaced him with ex-Armored Saint vocalist John Bush -- a singer that was gruffer and deeper, fitting most metal conventions perfectly. Subsequently, their sound became less unique and their audience shrank slightly as a consequence, and after signing to Elektra for 1993's Sound of White Noise, the group left the label after just one more album, 1995's Stomp 442. At that point Anthrax -- now a four-piece consisting of Ian, Bush, Bello and drummer Charlie Benante -- built their own studio in Yonkers, New York, and after a three-year hiatus returned with their Instinct label debut The Threat Is Real, Vol. 8.

1999 saw the release of Anthrax's very first "hits" collection, titled Return of the Killer A's: The Best Of, also their first release for the Beyond label. The album included a cover of "Ball of Confusion," which featured a duet between current frontman Bush and former vocalist Belladonna. A proposed tour that was to include both vocalists was announced, but on the eve of its launch, Belladonna pulled out for supposed monetary reasons. The tour carried on, as Anthrax signed on to participate in a package tour during the summer of 2000 with Mötley Crüe and Megadeth, but left the tour after only playing a handful of dates. Anthrax appeared on the Twisted Sister tribute album Twisted Forever in 2001 (covering the track "Destroyer"), and began recording their next album the same year. In addition, guitarist Ian found time to regularly host the metal television program Rock Show on VH1, plus appearing as part of the fictional metal band Titannica in the film Run, Ronnie, Run. VH-1 programming heads would eventually replace Ian with Sebastian Bach, but the band was ready to head back into the studio anyway. New guitarist Rob Caggiano joined in the spring of 2002, just in time for the recording. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide