On their forthcoming EP, Anthems, thrash metal kings Anthrax travel back to the late '70s, a time when FM radio ruled and what was to become classic rock blared from killer 8-track tape systems in bitchin' GTOs. "That was a great period for music," says drummer Charlie Benante. "The songs we do on Anthems are ones that we all appreciate; they might have helped shape the band in some ways."
Anthems sees Benante and his Anthrax mates (singer Joey Belladonna, guitarist Scott Ian, bassist Frank Bello and guitarist Rob Caggiano – the latter of whom recently announced his departure from the band) tackling songs popularized by the likes of Rush, Thin Lizzy, AC/DC, Boston, Cheap Trick and Journey with what the drummer calls a ratio of "75 percent the original and 25 percent our take on it. You can’t change things around too much or else you’re not really playing the song."
Anthrax are no strangers to the covers game – the band has released dozens of tribute tracks in the past. Benante recalls mixing in covers with originals with one of his earliest bands: "I was 16 and playing in bars," he says. "We had to do four sets a night, and that could make our song choices a little crazy. We’d go from Zeppelin, The Who and Pink Floyd into The Cars, Devo and a band called UK. But it was fun. To me, playing covers is a normal thing for a band to do."
According to Benante, Anthrax frequently, sometimes spontaneously, slip in the odd cover during soundchecks. "They a great way to loosen up," he says. "No pressure – you just play." But he also sees a more important artistic side benefit to performing songs from the canons of his heroes: "Covers can spark something inside of you as a musician; they make you think differently. You’ll incorporate something into one of your own songs that came from one of your all-time favorites. It’s always cool when you play a lick, and you go, ‘Now, where did that come from?’”
On the following pages, Benante discusses the songs and bands covered on Anthems (due out 22 March), as well as Anthrax's own cut, Crawl – the album version from Worship Music and a special remix are featured on the EP.