Anthrax's Charlie Benante talks The Big 4, new album

When the Big 4 -- Anthrax, Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer -- played Indio, CA, on Saturday (4/23), things could not have gone more perfectly, as far as Anthrax drummer Charlie Benante was concerned. However, the desert heat weighed heavily on the quartet of thrash heroes.

When the Big 4 -- Anthrax, Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer -- played Indio, CA, on Saturday (4/23), things could not have gone more perfectly, as far as Anthrax drummer Charlie Benante was concerned. However, the desert heat weighed heavily on the quartet of thrash heroes.

"It was really good," said Benante, who was recently named one of metal's best drummers by VH1 Classic's "That Metal Show." "It was very hot. But I thought it was great. Just by the crowd response, I thought it was an awesome show."

Benante explained the bands were told there were 55,000-plus people in the audience at the Empire Polo Grounds for the first Big 4 show on U.S. soil. (He acknowledged that there are rumors of more U.S. shows.) He did add, however, that the vibe was a little "weird."

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"It felt like a European festival vibe, but it also felt like I was in Arizona or something," Benante said with a laugh. "It kind of looks like that over there. Weird vibe there, but a cool one nonetheless."

During its set, Anthrax played one new song from the band's 10th studio album, "Worship Music," due out this fall. Benante said the track -- "Fight 'Em 'Til You Can't" -- fit in perfectly with what it was trying to accomplish.

"We quite like that one," he said. "It went very well with our whole set. We decided to just play some fast shit. Really thrash it out and this one felt right in it.

"We felt that because this was the first show in America and this whole Big 4 thing was built around the whole thrash metal scene, the set list we came up with, we wanted to be more relentless, hit hard and fast. Kick up the dust, kick up a lot of dirt. It was perfect."

Benante said the new album, which features lead singer Joey Belladonna, is coming along very well. But it's definitely been a tough ride.

"This is years in the making," he said. "It's finally at the end stages of it all. I'm very happy. This record is like a labor of love in all the different ways that it took to get here -- a lot of blood, a lot of sweat, a lot of tears. It's very emotional to get to this point. Nothing's fabricated here. It's all based on truth.

"The Anthrax car was driving through peaks and valleys, peaks and valleys, peaks and valleys. Sometimes we just couldn't get out of the valleys. Finally, we went in for a tune-up, and now it's running really well. We're trying to stay up in the peaks. There were so many things that went into this record that made it special. There were so many other things going into it that were not special. We needed to make this record as special as possible. Certain personalities interfered. This record is probably the most emotional record that we've ever had to make."

Belladonna, he said, sounds better than he's ever sounded.

"That's a true statement," he said emphatically. "I don't want to talk to you and give you all these cliches. I don't want to do that. I want to be as real as possible. Joey sounds awesome and that's the truth. When he sang on the first song, it sounded like Anthrax again. I finally knew this is the way it should sound."

Benante added that the album will feature a tribute to Judas Priest called, tentatively, "Judas Priest": "Let's say that Judas Priest was one of the first true heavy metal bands that a lot of the Big 4 bands looked up to and almost modeled themselves and their music [after]. You can hear how Judas Priest influenced a lot of those bands."

 

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