I’ve been really enjoying the recent Anthrax 40 for 40 retrospective fortieth anniversary video series the band has been releasing for the past month or so. Naturally, I’ve been revisiting all of Anthrax’s albums as they tick them off the list… and now that they’ve reached the John Bush era of the band — which was really “my” era of Anthrax — well, I’ve got a case of the nostalgia, and I’ve got it bad.
To my surprise and appreciation, I’ve noticed that, at least in terms of traffic at MetalSucks, I’m not alone: a bunch more people than I would have expected are interested have been peeping the Bushthrax retrospective videos. I dunno if it’s that enough time has passed for the Bush-era albums to earn reconsideration outside of the sometime stifling historical context in which they were released (i.e., “BUTT WAREZ JOEY?!?!”… or if it’s that people like me who were kids when John Bush joined the band are now careening towards middle-age… or if it’s just that fans are still confused as to who the hell Paul Crook was… but for whatever reason, the MetalSucks community’s interest in these videos has been above-average.
This being the case, I decided to make a needless list of the fifteen best songs Anthrax ever wrote and recorded with John Bush on lead vocals. Then I realized I couldn’t make myself get the list below sixteen songs without having to make a real Sophie’s choice, so here we are.
Note to the nit-pickers: I only included original songs. No covers (sorry, “Ball of Confusion” duet with Joey Belladonna), nothing from The Greater of Two Evils semi-live album that collects Bush performances of Belladonna-era tracks, etc.
Peep my picks below, then head to the comments section to discuss/debate.
Short, fast, silly, and infectious, “604” is basically a Ramones song turned up to eleven.
15. “Perpetual Motion”
1995’s Stomp 442 is probably nobody’s favorite Anthrax record… but it does have real… heh heh… STOMP-ers (couldn’t resist). Like this song! As its title suggests, this is an excellent song for drivers looking to test local road traps. Wear your seatbelt.
Look — everything about this song, from the main riff to the brightly-lit music video to John Bush’s flannel shirt to Scott Ian dressing like an extra from Swingers — screams “’90s!!!” Which might be a problem… if the song wasn’t such a jammer.
13. “Taking the Music Back”
Not only is this song catchy as hell, but it has guest vocals from The Who’s Roger Daltrey. Like, yeah, good for Metallica for getting Marianne Faithful to be on “The Memory Remains.” Anthrax got ROGER FUCKING DALTREY. And they wrote a better song.
After the relative disappoint of Stomp 442 (spoiler: those two songs above are the only ones from that album that made this list), the opening track to 1998’s Vol. 8: The Threat is Real needed to re-announce the band in a big bad way. Mission accomplished: “Crush,” which could just as easily be called “Chug,” is a stellar mix of tribal drums, freight train guitars, and Bush’s characteristically-hooky melody lines. It’s kinda like a certain Megadeth song with a similar title, only not completely embarrassing and awful.
11. “1000 Points of Hate”
This song is a lot more fun than you’d expect from its title. I could live without the record scratch during the otherwise-spectacular groove-laden mid-section, but it’s a fairly minor complaint.
This anthem sounds like Pantera playing grunge, in the best possible way. I am incapable of hearing the phrase “Is that too much to ask?” without thinking of Bush.
9. “Inside Out”
Cons: “Inside Out” is basically a nu-metal song (I sometimes also wonder if it was an influence on St. Anger… no, seriously). Pros: “Inside Out” is one of the heaviest songs Anthrax have ever produced, and it’s catchy. Plus, it has one of the many guest solos Dimebag recorded for Bushthrax, and it’s capital-E Epic. As a bonus, the video is an homage to the classic Twilight Zone episode “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.”
8. “Safe Home”
This is maybe as close to a ballad/love song as Anthrax ever wrote? But it also feels totally authentic and I still find it oddly moving, and it has Rob Caggiano’s best guitar solo. Also, the video stars Keanu Reeves as “Dude Walking Alongside Highway,” which is pretty rad.
7. “Cadillac Rock Box”
Not only does this song have more excellent leads from Dimebag, but it opens with a voicemail the guitarist left for Charlie Benante… in which he a) makes a joke about songwriter Desmond Child (Aerosmith, Bon Jovi, Ricky Martin), and b) refers to his car as the “Cadillac Rock Box,” thus giving the track its title. Appropriately, it’s another great driving song — less for getting speeding tickets and more for just groovin’ on down the road.
6. “Potters Field”
Sound of White Noise‘s opening cut lets you know this ain’t your daddy’s Anthrax. If you can listen to this without headbanging you have more willpower than I do.
5. “Refuse to Be Denied”
John Bush was vocally anti-George Bush (to whom he’s not related, in case you’re wondering). This song came out just as the U.S. was invading Iraq (again). It remains one of my favorite metal protest anthems.
4. “Room for One More”
Scott Ian thinks if this had been the second single from Sound of White Noise instead of the super-gloomy “Black Lodge,” the band’s entire career trajectory might have been different. Dude has a point.
3. “Contact”/”What Doesn’t Die”
Okay so this is two songs, but “Contact” is really just an intro track. Regardless, this is how We’ve Come for You All opens, and is as good a soft-to-loud opening as there’s ever been. Like, I dunno how you could listen to this and somehow not feel pumped. “Inside Out” is probably Anthrax’s heaviest riff, but “What Doesn’t Die” is a close second.
This might be the most underrated song of Anthrax’s career. Yeah, I said it. This. Song. Fucking. RIPS. It’s as full of rage as Anthrax have ever been. It makes me wanna throw myself through the wall every time I hear it.
So, yeah, this is obvious choice… but to ignore it just because it’s obvious would be obnoxious and dumb. James Hetfield reportedly told Scott Ian that “Only” is a perfect song, and James Hetfield is right. Top to bottom — T TO B! — “Only” is just, mwah!, wonderful. As much as people love it, I still feel like Dan Spitz’s solo doesn’t get the praise it deserves — it’s an all-timer. I actively distrust anyone who claims to dislike this song.