Tuesday, August 4, 2009

I used to be an INTENSE headbanger

I mean a total heshian. (At least that was the term in my day, now, apparently, it's some sort of skateboarder.) Gave myself whiplash many times. Hair down to my ass, and the whole bit. Loved Metallica, Megadeth, etc...

Not saying I don't still like those bands, I do. A lot. I've just also really connected with a more, um...lyrical form of rock and roll. Springsteen is the king for me, as he plays as hard as any of those bands mentioned, but also writes true poetry. I've also gotten really into the "prog" area, Rush, King's X, etc...

In the old days I was very taken with an act you might have heard of, Anthrax. Specifically, when they picked up a new lead singer, a guy named John Bush, for their 1993 album The Sound of White Noise. LOVED that record.

I'd been a fan of John Bush with his original band, Armored Saint. Symbol of Salvation is, for my money, one of the best metal albums ever. The guy has a fantastic voice, and was even asked to join Metallica, at one point, early in their carreer. (James Hetfield just wanted to play guitar) Armored Saint was a great band, but they never really "made it." Plus, one of their founding members succumed to cancer, so I guess Bush was ready for a change when Anthrax came calling.

The pairing was fruitful. I consider every one of the Anthrax albums with Bush, Sound of White Noise, Stomp 442 (1995), Volume 8: The Threat is Real (1998), and We've Come For You All (2003), to be top-notch metal records. I also like them much better than any of the earlier albums with Neil Turbin (1 album) or Joey Belladonna (5 full-length albums).

However, Joey is considered their "classic" singer. Among the Living (1987) and Persistance of Time (1990) are probably the two best with Joey. Where the impression of "classic" exists, there's money to be made, and from 2005 to 2007 Anthrax toured with the "classic" lineup (also with original lead guitarist Dan Spitz). Apparently, the original idea was to tour with BOTH Belladonna and Bush singing.

They had tried this before, after releasing the Attack of the Killer A's Greatest hits package in 1999, covering both the Belladonna and Bush eras. They even recorded a cover of "Ball of Confusion" with Joey and John dueting on vocals. The idea was to put both signers on stage. Belladonna apparently balked at this, and opted out. The tour went on with just Bush.

This time, Bush went home. The reunion tour with Joey was pretty successful (saw it myself), but I always felt that Bush was the best singer for the band. The fan community felt that Bush had gotten the run-around. As Bush said later:
"No. Bitter is not the way I wanna be about anything. I'm not bitter at all. There was probably not a perfect way to do that, what they did. It was like, how are they gonna say...? I mean, they asked me to do it—the tour with Joey—and it just wasn't right for me, I couldn't do it. So, whatever...if they felt they had to do that, I understand. It wasn't like I was going, 'Yeah, do it. That's great.' But once it happened, I was like, 'okay.' It was like a book ended. It's okay. I mean, it's much better to look at it that way than to be angry or frustrated, 'cause I really don't feel that way."
But the tour went on, and was successful enough that the band started thinking, "hey, new album with Belladonna." Surely it would sell well.

It probably would've, but Joey ultimately opted out. Was this beacuse the band wanted to treat him like a hired gun, and pay much less, or because Joey was an egomaniac, and wanted more than his fair share? Who knows? The fact is, Joey left, again, and apparently, the band went back to John Bush, who also said, "no."

"I was asked to write, and it just wasn't right for me. I couldn't go back and say, 'Here I am...' It would be like coming in with my tail between my legs, and that's not right for me. I just couldn't do that. It just didn't feel right to do that. It was about soul, your gut. How does that feel? Does it feel right? Good enough. Sold. Answer."

So, now what does Anthrax do? As any good aging metal band, they go looking for a new singer. Who do they find? Some dude no one's heard of named Dan Nelson. The band starts working on a disk called Worship Music, and plays a few gigs. Introducing Nelson to the fans with a show at The Double Door here in Chicago, which was apparently well received.

So, all is well, right? Nelson's in, they're touring Europe, including a date at the Sonisphere Festival on August 1st, Worship Music is set for release in September, with a US tour supporting Slipknot. The band is on it's way back....

Then, SOMETHING happened.

On July 17th, 2009, via a press release, Anthrax cancelled all European dates, indicating it was because Dan Nelson was ill. On July 21st, again via press release, that Nelson was out of the band, the tours were cancelled, and Worship Music was pushed back. Also added; the Sonisphere date was NOT cancelled, and John Bush was returning for a "one-off" date with the band.

Nelson's reaction to all this?
"I was never seriously ill or sick at all, as reported in Anthrax’s 7/17/09 press release. This extremely inflammatory statement hurt me tremendously. This statement misled fans, friends and family members into believing that I was seriously ill when I was not. I was not aware such a statement was being issued and it came as a total shock to me, as I’m sure it did to all of you. It was the other band members’ decision to cancel the tour dates, not mine. I was ready, willing and able to do my job. After issuing the press release the other band members decided, on their own accord, that I had 'resigned' from the band. I never resigned from the band."
What the HELL is going on here? I mean, I'm happy as a clam that footage such as this:

Is available, even if this is Bush's last fling with Anthrax.

I can't even say I really care anymore. I was planning to buy Worship Music, give Nelson a shot, but in the back of my head, I knew it was all wrong. They sorta pushed John aside to tour with Joey in what was a naked cash grab. Then came back when they needed him, and Bush (Rightly!) told 'em to take a hike. They find some nobody, and they can't get along with him. (though the rumors of what exactly happened are NASTY, and paint Nelson in a very bad light.) This seems to be a whole mess of crap they brought on themselves.

I LOVE this band with John Bush, but even if this one-off leads to a full reunion (and Anthrax members have flat out stated this is "right at the front of their minds"), I don't know that I can follow them again. The well seems poisoned.

Bush had been working on some new music with a reunited Armored Saint, which I KNOW I'll buy. I think I'd rather he stuck with that.

What's really become clear here is that John Bush is a class act, in every way. The video makes it clear he came, he saw, and he kicked ass. He brought his A-Game, no matter what the backstage situation. These guys he'd spent a ton of time working with called and needed a solid, and he delivered.

That's the kind of person I strive to be.

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