It’s been a banner year for pioneering thrashers Anthrax. In the fall of 2011, the New York-based pioneering metal band released its first album in eight years, the critically acclaimed “Worship Music,” played Yankee Stadium and were given a Key to the Bronx. “Worship Music,” which has sold more than 100,000 copies, hit No. 12 on the Billboard Charts.
The band has spent 2012 on the road, playing to enthusiastic audiences – Anthrax performs on Saturday, Oct. 6, at the House of Blues in Atlantic City. Anthrax, which celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2011, last week released an open letter to its fans expressing their gratitude for the support they’ve received over the past 12 months.
“We've been so lucky as a band, and we know we’re able to do what we do because of you, our fans, and all of our supporters in the press, at radio and retail, online, on the road, everywhere,” read the letter from guitarists Scott Ian and Rob Caggiano, singer Joey Belladonna, drummer Charlie Benante and bassist Frank Bello.
“We've had one of the best years of our career,” the band wrote, “and we share it all with you. So thank you for making the year of “Worship Music” the best! More to come!”
In addition to touring, Anthrax recently laid down several cover tunes for possible release next year, including songs by AC/DC, Boston, Journey, Black Sabbath and Rush. Recording Rush’s “Anthem” was particularly special for Benante. Rush drum god Neil Peart is one of his biggest influences.
“That was awesome,” Benante said by phone. “One of my favorite things to do to is challenge myself to go back and do something that you loved growing up and actually have a chance to record it.”
“Worship Music” is Anthrax’s first studio album in two decades with Belladdonna, the band’s classic-era singer. Anthrax, which formed in 1981, is one of the Big Four Bands of Thrash, which also includes fellow luminaries Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer.
Benante praised Belladonna’s vocal work as a critical element to a record that many fans and critics hailed as the best metal album of 2011.
“The best part about recording it was the versatility with which Joey approached each song, how he embraced them,” Benante said. “Each song has its own character, which I think is really great. I love this record and how it represents our whole career in Anthrax.”
Standout tracks include the infectious, zombie-apocalypse-themed “Fight ‘Em Till You Can’t,” “Judas Priest,” which pays tribute to one of Anthrax’s major musical influences, and “In the End,” an emotional homage to former Pantera and Damageplan guitarist Dimebag Darrell and legendary singer Ronnie James Dio.
Darrell was fatally shot on stage in 2004 and Dio succumbed to cancer in 2010. Both were good friends of the band.
Benante said that fans who saw Anthrax when they played New Jersey last year can expect some surprises on Saturday in the set list, in terms of both new and classic tracks.
“It’s going to be a chance to go out and play some vintage songs that we haven’t played in a while and to do other songs from “Worship Music” that we didn’t play last time around,” Benante said. “That’s basically what it’s all about, having a good vibe out there and giving people a really good tour to come and see, good value and good bands with legendary type of status.”
Opening for Anthrax are California’s Testament and Death Angel. Testament is supporting their new album, “Dark Roots of Earth,” which was released in July. Testament also supported Anthrax in 1987, when the latter was touring for its seminal release, “Among the Living.”
Benante said the band isn’t looking to take a breather after the tour ends, and definitely won’t be resting on its recent laurels. Eschewing the rearview mirror has been key to Anthrax’s success, he said.
“Things are exactly the same as they’ve always been: we’re working toward the next thing,” Benante said. “That’s the way we’ve always been able to move forward, always looking forward and never stopping.”
IF YOU GO: Anthrax, Testament and Death Angel, 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 6. Atlantic City House of Blues, 801 Boardwalk. Tickets are $28.50 and $37.50 and available at www.ticketmaster.com or the House of Blues box office. Call 609-236-2583 or visit www.houseofblues.com/venues/clubvenues/atlanticcity.