It's pretty hard to surprise Anthrax guitarist/mouthpiece Scott Ian. The man has seen it all: ugly record-label disputes, money-draining management conflicts, debilitating label contracts. In the past year alone, Anthrax lost two singers and were denied guest vocals from a third, Slipknot's Corey Taylor. Adding to the misery is the fact that the band is currently without a U.S. label (Anthrax are signed to Nuclear Blast overseas).
So, while he wasn't exactly shocked, Ian was a bit bemused when he found out about the late-August release of Rise of the Infidels, a raw, partially live short album by his old metal-spoof side project, S.O.D. "I only knew about it when I saw it online — I had no idea this was coming out, and I actually had to e-mail the record company and ask, 'What is Rise of the Infidels?' " Ian said. "Apparently, I had been a part of a conversation months ago where it was discussed — which is quite possible — but I had completely forgotten about it."
The disc was recorded in 1999, when S.O.D. (Ian, Anthrax drummer Charlie Benante, singer Billy Milano and Nuclear Assault bassist Dan Lilker) launched a tour in Seattle between Anthrax albums. Most of the songs are from S.O.D.'s classic 1985 crossover disc, Speak English or Die, and there are four previously unreleased studio tracks. Despite the imperfect sound quality, Ian is pleased with the results.
"I'm happy with anything concerning S.O.D. ... There is stuff sitting around that was never released that we obviously felt good enough about at the time to record and deem worthy of S.O.D.," he said. "I love it because it's probably something we're never going to do again, as far as a studio record goes. So, for the real fans out there who have to have everything, I think it's great."
Of far more concern to Ian at the moment is the future of his main baby, Anthrax. He, Benante and bassist Frank Bello have spent the last eight months writing and fine-tuning a batch of new songs, which Ian said are along the lines of the band's unsung 2003 album, We've Come for You All. At the moment, however, Anthrax are still without a singer, making it difficult to move forward. It's a strange situation, since, toward the end of the band's 2005-'06 reunion tour with '80s singer Joey Belladonna, Anthrax seemed all set to record a new studio album with Belladonna.
"We tried," Ian insisted. "Halfway through the tour, everything had totally gelled, and we started talking about doing a new record. [Guitarist] Danny [Spitz] was gung-ho about it and Joey seemed to be as well. I thought that nothing would have made him happier. But when the tour ended, we started having conversations about making a record and moving forward, and we spent three or four months where we just couldn't get an answer from Joey to the simple question, 'Do you want to make a record, yes or no?' Not that he wouldn't call back, but he wouldn't answer the question. Our question was always answered with a million other questions. For some reason, Joey thought things were weird on the reunion tour financially. He had his own guy look at the books. Everything was good. But after three or four months of asking this guy and feeling like we were starting to become a doormat, we gave him an ultimatum, and we still didn't get an answer. So we concluded we're not making a record. It's impossible because there's no communication."
With Belladonna out of the picture, Anthrax decided to work with the We've Come for You All lineup, which featured Rob Caggiano on lead guitar (which meant bidding farewell again to Spitz). Problem was, singer John Bush wouldn't commit either.
"That was obviously broached, and it's just not able to happen in this time and place," Ian said. "But if John would have been able to commit to this right now, he would be back in less than a second. From the discussions that we've had, he's just not ready to step back into it and be able to commit to it, and we all completely respect that. We went away and did the reunion thing for 18 months, and his life completely changed in that time. His priorities are in a completely different place right now."
After the band did some contemplating, Slipknot and Stone Sour singer Corey Taylor came forward and said he'd like to sing for them. At first, Anthrax were skeptical, since Taylor was already overextending himself with Slipknot and Stone Sour. But Taylor was determined. "He said, 'No, dude, you have no idea what this means to me and what an honor it would be, so let me figure this out.' "
At the time, it looked like there would be a large enough window between the end of the Stone Sour cycle and the beginning of Slipknot's sessions for Taylor to record the album and launch at least one full tour with Anthrax.
"We were all stoked and sent him all the music we had, and he had already started writing to it," Ian recalled. "Then, the powers that be made an executive decision and basically just didn't let it happen. It physically couldn't happen because our window kept getting smaller and smaller. They moved the Slipknot thing up and pushed the Stone Sour thing this way, and they just made it impossible for all of us. We might have still been able to make a record, but then we wouldn't have been able to tour, and what would have been the sense of that? We just would have been shooting ourselves in the foot."
At this point, Anthrax have a pile of songs, and they're just waiting for the right guy to fill the frontman position so they can proceed. While they've got a short list of singers with whom they're in discussions, there's no word regarding who will fill Bush, Belladonna and Taylor's shoes.
"It's getting to be a little bit of a problem with the material we're writing," Ian admitted. "Because the singer we use will obviously have some bearing on what kind of songs we write. But we know that we want to make a proper follow-up to We've Come for You All, which we all loved. But we want it to be even better: heavier, faster, hookier. As songwriters, you try to improve on your craft. And fortunately, we've got the time to make that happen. We have no deadline at all because we've got no label deal, so my attitude is, 'Let's make the most metal record we've ever made in our lives,' and I would have to say that's coming to fruition."
If all goes as scheduled, Anthrax hope to secure a new singer any day now and to finish writing early next year, so they can have the new album out by late spring or early summer.
"We would like nothing more than to have something out in time to play the European festivals next year," Ian said. "But in the meantime, we don't have a deadline, so we can take our time writing these songs and making them the best stuff that we possibly can."
The rest of the week's metal news:
Suicidal Tendencies will hit the road next month for a string of West Coast gigs. So far just six dates have been booked, with more to be announced in the coming weeks. You'll be able to catch the thrash-metallers starting November 17 in Tucson, Arizona. Shows are scheduled through November 24 in Ventura, California. Suicidal are wrapping up the recording of their forthcoming, yet-untitled studio LP, which they've been working on with producer Paul Northfield (Rush, Dream Theater). ... On December 11, Sevendust will issue Retrospective 2, a DualDisc pack featuring six live tracks and three new studio cuts. The DVD portion of the set will boast nearly two hours of video footage, including the videos for "Ugly" and "Driven." In order to get the word out on the LP, the band will embark on its Ladies Get Out of Jail Free Tour, starting October 19 in Minneapolis, with openers 10 Years, Black Light Burns and Neverset in tow. ...
Ex-At the Gates/ the Crown frontman Tomas Lindberg will be performing with Israeli "melodeath" outfit Nail Within during that band's upcoming reunion show, set for November 23 in Tel Aviv, Israel. Lindberg appeared on the band's 2003 self-titled debut. ... According to Children of Bodom bassist Henkka Blacksmith, the Finnish metallers are making some serious progress on their next studio offering. He claims the disc should be tracked within the next six weeks and that it will feature a guest appearance from Hypocrisy's Peter Tägtgren. ... The Sword plan to begin recording their yet-untitled sophomore effort soon and hope to be finished with the LP by December, when they'll head out on a 17-city U.S. headlining run with Valient Thorr and Black Cobra. The tour kicks off December 6 in New York and runs through December 8 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. More dates will be revealed in the coming weeks. ...
Every Time I Die will stop by "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" on Halloween for a scare or two as the show's musical guests. No word on what track they'll be playing, but it will most likely come from the band's latest CD, The Big Dirty, which came out last month. ... There are fans, and then there are super-fans. One of Unearth's followers brought new meaning to the latter term recently when he got guitarist Ken Susi's face tattooed on his rump. The agonizing footage can be found online over at Boston.tv. In the meantime, Unearth plan to shoot their Tuesday gig at the Glass House in Pomona, California, for an upcoming DVD release. The band is on tour at the moment with Darkest Hour, August Burns Red and Suicide Silence. ...
All Shall Perish, From a Second Story Window, Emmure and Nodes of Ranvier will join forces for a 16-date trek that's scheduled to launch on Halloween in Ferndale, Michigan. Dates run through November 18 in Tempe, Arizona. ... Belgian death-metal machine Aborted have begun writing material for their next record, which they're planning to track early next year. A summer 2008 release is being eyed for the disc, and while it hasn't been titled yet, the band promises to reveal that news soon. ... Don Dokken will open three upcoming Queensrÿche shows scheduled for early next year, according to Pollstar.com. He'll take the stage February 2 in Chicago, February 8 in New York and February 16 in Dallas. ...
The incomparable Glenn Danzig will be back on the road later this month for a handful of East and West Coast gigs. He'll be bringing Samhain bassist Steve Zing and Danzig guitarist Todd Youth along for the ride, as well as former Misfits guitarist Doyle Von Frankenstein and his new band, Gorgeous Frankenstein. Danzig worked with Doyle on his project's first effort, Gorgeous Frankenstein, which will be in stores October 16. The tour kicks off October 23 in Baltimore and runs through November 8 in Lawrence, Kansas. In related news, a variety of Danzig's older releases will be reissued by Columbia on November 13: Danzig II: Lucifuge (1990), Danzig III: How the Gods Kill (1992), the Thrall: DemonSweatLive EP (1993) and Danzig 4 (1994). ... Through the Eyes of the Dead have parted ways with guitarist Chris Anderson and in his place have enlisted a temporary fill-in — original bandmember Richard Turbeville. He'll be on hand for the metallers' upcoming trek with As I Lay Dying, All That Remains and Haste the Day. No explanation for Anderson's departure has been offered.