By John Benson
There’s a problem with reliving the past. Often, the memories don’t measure up to the reality.
That’s what Anthrax found out recently when the thrash-metal act decided to perform its classic album “Among the Living” in its entirety for the “Metal Alliance Tour,” which comes to the House of Blues in Cleveland on Tuesday.
Though the 1987 fan-favorite effort includes set-list staples “Caught In a Mosh,” “I Am The Law” and “Indians,” there are plenty of tracks being dusted off — some of which for the first time, such as “A.D.I./Horror of it All.”
“It’s terrible,” said drummer Charlie Benante, calling from Los Angeles. “That’s why it’s called ‘Horror of it All.’ It’s a horror. To be honest, we tried to play it when the album first came out and it never worked live. So it’s one that we’re saying we’ll play it just for this and probably never play it again.”
Benante admits that early on in the rehearsal process for the tour, that sentiment was common regarding a few of the “Among the Living” tracks. In fact, he said there were few times in the rehearsal studio that he was playing the early thrash material just, well, too fast. Benante quickly realized he needed to pull back the driving beat a bit to keep the finely tuned outfit from performing some songs as a blur.
As for the decision behind playing the 26-year-old album in its entirety, Benante said it wasn’t a calculated effort for Anthrax to sell more tickets living off it past. Instead, someone mentioned it, and the classic act agreed.
Still, Anthrax is experiencing a renaissance of sorts, which began when vocalist Joey Belladonna rejoined the band in 2010. Then a year later, the Scott Ian-led outfit was a part of the Big Four shows — with Metallica, Slayer and Megadeth — and released the critically acclaimed album “Worship Music” a year later.
The effort entered the Billboard charts at No. 12, the second-highest chart debut in the band’s history, and ceremoniously lost this year’s Hard Rock/Metal Performance Grammy Award to the decidedly nonmetal Hale-storm. The slight was no different than Metallica’s famous 1989 loss of the same award to Jethro Tull.
Such is the life for Anthrax, which despite being an influential thrash-metal act has never been accepted in the mainstream. From its 1985 breakthrough release “Spreading the Disease” to the 1991 landmark collaboration with rap-act Public Enemy on its single “Bring the Noise,” this New York City group remained at the forefront of the unlikely intersection of punk energy and heavy-metal vocals.
However, Anthrax recently digressed with the release of its long-awaited EP “Anthems,” featuring cover songs such as Rush’s “Anthem,” Thin Lizzy’s “Jailbreak,” AC/DC’s “TNT” and Boston’s “Smokin’.”
“We always do cover songs when we’re recording,” Benante said. “So we had some we never finished. Also, I was wearing a Boston shirt and said, ‘How about we do a Boston song?’ It just went on. We talked about Rush. We have moments on our first album that have a Rush ‘Anthem’ feel to it.”
Considering Rush recently was announced as a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, does Benante think Anthrax will ever be considered for entrance into the Hall located on the shores of Lake Erie?
“Boy, yeah, I hope so,” Benante said. “That would be an honor. Let’s hope we’re not the Pete Rose of the Hall of Fame. If they look at our past history of what we’ve done, maybe they take into consideration that we kind of branched out and created this sort of genre. Or maybe they’ll put Halestorm in there before they put us.” He quickly added: “That’s a Grammy joke.”