From the mid-1990s to the early 2000s, it could be tough to be an Anthrax fan.
It wasn’t because they were making bad music. In my opinion, they haven’t made better music since that time period, which had John Bush on vocals.
No, the problem was that you were never sure Anthrax would still be in existence the next day. That uncertainty made it difficult to become emotionally invested in them as a favorite band. This uncertainty was for three different reasons.
The first is that they went almost a decade without an official lead guitarist. If you’re a thrash metal band like Anthrax, the lead guitar is as essential to defining your sound as much as your vocalist. Throughout the 1990s, Anthrax had some trouble really defining their sound. Luckily, the music remained good.
Why were they in this situation though?
Well, right after their massively successful 1993 album, The Sound of White Noise, the band lost their lead guitarist Dan Spitz. They’d go without a full-time lead guitarist for almost a decade before bringing on Robert Caggiano, who would stay with the band for the next decade. During that period between Spitz and Caggiano, the lead guitarist position was filled by the band’s drummer, Charlie Benante; guest guitarist, Pantera’s Dimebag Darrell; and Paul Crook, who played on the albums and on tour but never became and official member of the band.
Second, there was a lot of label changes.
Right after their underrated 1995 album Stomp 442, the band was dropped from their label, Elektra Records. The label decided it didn’t want to support a tour for an album that they felt had underwhelming sells. The follow up release, Volume 8, came out on Ignition Records, an indie label, in 1998. Then, aside from a “best of” album, Anthrax remained largely silent until Sept. 11, 2001.
Then, came the third possible deathblow to the band: Their name got associated with terrorism.
Following the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, anthrax was used in biological terrorism with the actual disease anthrax mailed to people, who got sick and died, in September and October 2001. This led to questions on whether the band would change its name due to the sensitivity of having the disease itself used as a weapon that actually killed people.
But, instead of seeing the band retreat, Anthrax embraced their name in sort of a defiance of terrorism changing everyone’s lives. Anthrax would soon appear on stage in white jumpsuits that simply stated “We’re not changing our name.”
From that point, they would go on to record what many consider either their strongest or second-strongest album with John Bush on vocals: We’ve Come for You All.
We’ve Come for You All makes a statement. It’s essentially “we’ve never gone away and we’re here to stay.”
Driving that point home are the performances by Bush and Caggiano. Bush’s voice has a wide range which is marked by its rasp. He goes from soft to roaring on We’ve Come For You All, putting in what could be his most diverse performance on a single Anthrax album. Caggiano, on the other hand, finally nails down a guitar sound that brings the rest of the band together behind his musical leadership.
By the way, I’ll note that neither Bush or Caggiano are with Anthrax anymore. If it’s one thing that Anthrax seems to have trouble with, it’s the two most important parts of the metal band: The vocalist and the lead guitar.
Two years after the release of We’ve Come for You All, Bush would leave the band as they chose to take the financially shrewd nostalgia path with former singer Joey Belladonna. Since then, the band has gone back to writing unambitious songs and releasing cover albums once again.
Aside from Bush, Caggiano and Benante, We’ve Come for You All’s lineup consists of Benante’s nephew, Frank Bello, on bass and Scott Ian, probably the band’s most recognizable and most outspoken figure, on rhythm guitar.
With that in mind, let’s check out We’ve Come for You All.
Unlike its predecessor, Volume 8, We’ve Come for You All is a pretty consistent album. It’s not that Volume 8 was bad, it was just all over the place and many of the songs didn’t sound like they belonged together. We’ve Come for You All feels like it’s songs belong together, each flowing into the other seamlessly. That’s an important part to keeping the listener in their seat with their headphones.
The album sounds great, with the instruments and vocals coming in clear. Benante’s drums sound better than they have since Sound of White Noise. I don’t know what the deal is, but to me, when he put the pedal to the bass drum in most prior albums, it sounds like he’s hitting cardboard. It just feels like the band really cared about this album and it shows.
After the short intro, the album kicks off in high gear with “What Doesn’t Die.” It introduces Caggiano in the best possible way, which is just letting him shred it. Bush also rips into it with his vocals, leaving you wondering if he has anything left after doing this song live.
“Safe Home” sees Anthrax do what they do best in the Bush era, experiment. It’s not the fastest or heaviest song. It relies on a melody, the drums and Bush’s voice. It’s a successful song and very memorable. I’d suggest that even nonmetal fans give this one a try. It may not have the wide appeal of “Only” but it’s a very accessible song.
From there, we go to what’s probably the best song on the album, “Strap it On.” The band is at their best on here and the late Dimebag Darrell shows up to play guitar. Bush shows quite a bit of range here and it just makes the song that much better. Probably the best song they’ve wrote since “Random Acts of Senseless Violence” on Stomp 442.
“Strap it On” kicks off the strongest stretch of songs on the album. It’s followed up by “Black Dahlia” which is fierce and fast. Sections of this song show speed that are up there with grindcore blast beats.
“Cadillac Rock Box” is a groovy tune which also features Dimebag Darrell as a guest. And when I say “groovy” I mean it. It’s a little Southern Rock and seems fit for a hot summer night when you’re out on your porch sipping a cool Natural Light.
Next is the catchy “Taking the Music Back.” It’s toward the rock-edge of the metal spectrum and pretty easy to digest. It’s enjoyable and that’s ultimately what matters.
The album officially ends with the title song “We’ve Come for you All.” Caggiano does an awesome job on this song and Bush does much of it with a menacing semi-whisper. It’s pretty good, but I honestly would’ve made “Safe Home” or “Strap it On” the title song. Those two just grabbed me more.
Some versions of the album come with an acoustic version of “Safe Home” and a Ramones cover song. But, honestly, I don’t really find them worth reviewing because they just feel kind of tacked on. And honestly, I think the sheer number of cover songs they record has been Anthrax’s biggest weakness throughout their existence.
Well, if you’re a fan of the John Bush Era of Anthrax, I’d assume you already have it, but if you don’t, I’d definitely recommend We’ve Come for You All.
I’d also recommend it to metal fans that like a more nuanced approach. With John Bush as their singer, Anthrax pushed themselves musically like they never had before and since. The songs are simply good and largely stand out as individuals, unlike their pre-Persistence of Time material and post-Bush stuff.
Good album by a band that used to push its boundaries.