Anthrax just can’t resist recording songs from their favorite artists. As anyone who has seen the band live can attest, a healthy dose of covers also find their way into the set. After all, many of their biggest hits were originally recorded by other acts. What follows are ten memorable examples of Anthrax interpreting classic songs!
The history of Anthrax cover songs had a contentious start. Fistful of Metal contains a version of the Alice Cooper anthem, “I’m Eighteen.” It also has the distinction of being the ONLY Anthrax recording to NOT feature Scott Ian.
Original vocalist Neil Turbin and manager Jonny Z were convinced that the Cooper tune would improve record sales. Ian disagreed. He correctly observed that “I’m Eighteen” clashed with the original material. In protest, he refused to play on the track, relegating rhythm guitar duties to Dan Spitz. Ian’s misgivings aside, “I’m Eighteen” is an enjoyable listen, even if it is the odd song out.
SABBATH BLOODY SABBATH
“I’m the Man” often gets credit for being the first rap/metal hybrid. Released as an EP, three versions of the comic song offer endless laughs. It’s the sound of a young band having fun.
To reassure fans that the mighty Anthrax were still among the metal faithful, a lively Black Sabbath cover closes out side one. Aware that the world does not need another remake of “War Pigs,” Anthrax dig deep into the Sabbath canon to breathe new life into “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath.” It’s an early example of Anthrax’s good taste in choosing quality songs to record.
Anthrax scored their biggest hit after covering a little-known band from France. Despite Iron Maiden drummers Clive Burr and Nicko McBrain passing through their ranks, most Americans had never heard of Trust. Anthrax changed all that with their cover of “Antisocial.”
The Anthrax version was considerably different, most notably, performed in English! With a fun video starring the Not Man and a guest appearance by Ozzy Osbourne, the song enjoyed frequent rotation on MTV. “Antisocial” has remained a staple of Anthrax concerts ever since.
Anthrax take cover songs seriously. A French version of “Antisocial” was also recorded that remains faithful to the original song. First appearing on the Australian pressing of State of Euphoria, it later appeared on the EP Penikufesin. U.S. fans looking to score a copy were left to root through import bins at the local record store.
FRIGGIN’ IN THE RIGGIN’
No song captured the goofball mentality of Anthrax more than “Friggin’ In The Riggin’.” Whistling a tune while channeling their inner pirate, Anthrax has a laugh at the expense of their road crew. Although the lyrics have been altered to reflect the internal Anthrax world, the perverted spirit of the Sex Pistols original remains. Never has an ode to self-pleasure been so hilarious.
GOT THE TIME
State of Euphoria had yielded a hit with “Antisocial.” On the follow-up record, Anthrax struck gold again with yet another cover. “Got the Time” fits the overall theme of Persistence of Time. The promotional video was embraced by MTV, helping to keep Anthrax in the public eye. Over 25 years later, the Joe Jackson classic remains a fixture of Anthrax concerts.
Ace Frehley gets a nod in this Kiss cover. It’s easy to imagine Scott Ian as a 12-year-old kid playing air guitar to Kiss Alive. It’s that intimate connection to childhood that makes the Anthrax rendition of Parasite flow so free.
MILK (ODE TO BILLY)
Covering S.O.D. just made sense. After all, Anthrax was literally 50% of Stormtroopers of Death. It’s interesting to hear Frank Bello recreate Dan Lilker’s iconic bass line in “Milk.” The nod to Billy Milano in the title is also a nice touch!
When Attack of the Killer B’s was released, there had been no S.O.D. reunions. In the six years that passed since Speak English or Die, S.O.D. had made the leap from joke-band/side project to underground legends. It was exciting to hear Scott and Charlie resurrect the spirit of Sargent D. Making the most of the opportunity, a new version of “Chromatic Death” was also recorded.
Anthrax share a special kinship with Metallica. The thrash legends rehearsed in the same building during the creation of Kill ‘Em All. Their friendship only strengthened as both bands made the trajectory from starving musicians to elite members of the Big Four.
The unique connection between Anthrax and Metallica assumed a new layer of complexity with the arrival of vocalist John Bush. In Metallica’s formative years, Bush was personally asked by James Hetfield to join Metallica as lead vocalist. The singer respectfully declined, preferring to remain committed to Armored Saint. Anthrax’s cover of “Phantom Lord” offers a glimpse of what could have been.
“T.N.T.” was destined for a thrash makeover. The AC/DC classic lends itself to gang vocals and crowd participation. When Anthrax chose a track from the Anthems EP to perform live, “T.N.T.” was a no-brainer. Crowds reveled in the opportunity to sing along to the OI chant. Complete with the Not Man dressed as Angus, “T.N.T.” became an instant classic in the world of Anthrax covers.
Joey Belladonna’s golden pipes helped set Anthrax apart from other thrash bands. It also allowed them to pay homage to Ronnie James Dio with confidence and dignity. All the energy of the Black Sabbath classic remains in tact. “Neon Knights” was so well executed that it serves as the lead-off track on a recent Dio tribute album. It also has earned the top spot on our list!