I wasn’t even alive when Spreading the Disease was released onto the angst-ridden, bored youths and thirtysomethings that would evolve into the first wave of metal’s most dedicated fans. I still hadn’t made my entrance to Earth even when Among the Living sealed the deal for Anthrax, granting them a special place in the history of all things heavy.
But there I was, in a sea of dynamic grime and sloshing Bud Light, being bumped into by the older gentlemen that had been there, decades ago, to buy the first pressings of each, who were now stumbling and growling in the direction of the stage when Joey Belladonna howled through the verses of “Indians,” taking directions from Scott Ian when he smirked and demanded a better pit – the hair and waistlines had changed, but the ferric adoration for tremolo picked havoc and blast beat anthems was surely intact.
The faces were familiar – I’d seen nearly all of them before, when Cannibal Corpse or Kreator or Danzig came through Florida. The t-shirts looked about the same, too – the rabid pride and tribal sense of unity was hard to miss: “DEATH FUCKING METAL.” “20 YEARS OF FLORIDA METAL.” “REAL THRASH METAL.” “HOLY METAL FUCK.”
The former year was a raw return for Anthrax – Joey Belladonna was back to lending his signature vocals and serpentine showmanship to the album and shows. Past the dithering circle pit, the stage lights were coming down and a fog was creeping in for “In the End,” an epic from Worship Music penned in the perpetual memory of Dimebag Darrel and Ronnie James Dio. Fists were rising and horns followed, there were screams and cheers and cacophony.
Two guys were a few feet away, taking in longnecks and rooting on the storm of guitars and drum kicks. One said to the other, “we’ve been doing this for a long fucking time,” with a slight smile and half a mouthful of beer. I had a feeling he was right. Belladonna’s vocals thundered through the open air and they offered horns and howls in return – another pit opened up; nothing was quiet.