In the nine-minute video below, ANTHRAX drummer Charlie Benante breaks down the song "Gung-Ho" from the band's classic second studio album, 1985's "Spreading The Disease". The clip was originally produced for Modern Drummer magazine.
Produced by ANTHRAX with Carl Canedy, the 44-minute "Spreading The Disease" marked the first ANTHRAX album to feature singer Joey Belladonna and bassist Frank Bello (joining drummer Benante and guitarists Dan Spitz and Scott Ian), and set into motion the core elements that would become the essence of ANTHRAX. In addition, the album also introduced the ANTHRAX writing partnership of Benante and Ian (that eventually evolved into Benante, Ian and Bello).
For Bello, "Spreading The Disease" was his full-on album recording baptism. Only 18 at the time, he hadn't yet fully realized his own style of playing, but over the course of the sessions, he developed it. "You can hear all of my influences on every song, Steve Harris, Geddy Lee, Geezer Butler, all of them." Bello said. He remembered that "Spreading The Disease" didn't quite come of age until later on, but it was definitely "simmering." "What we were doing was so fresh, so different — we had heavy songs with these great, melodic vocals — and eventually, people caught on and loved what we were doing. I think every song on 'Spreading The Disease' still stands up today," he said.
"Spreading The Disease" represented a turning point in rock. It came during a time when the landscape was transitioning from the "hair band scene" to a new composite of metal, punk and hardcore — thrash metal. The album was compelling and utterly fresh to the 1985 music fan with its speedy rhythms, savage riffs, blistering solos, punishing drum work and a killer melodic performance by Belladonna. Unlike the thrash bands sprouting up on the west coast that focused on speed, ANTHRAX's focus was on catchiness, hooks, and a hot and sweaty, New York mosh sensibility. And it wasn't just the music that was morphing, it was a whole new culture that was being birthed. And ANTHRAX, along with METALLICA, SLAYER and MEGADETH, was right at its nucleus.
"Spreading The Disease" contains several ANTHRAX standouts: "A.I.R.", with its great riffs and abundance of melody, "Madhouse", a testament to the band's top-notch song-writing skills that showcased their grasp of melody, and "Armed And Dangerous", a soulful ballad with its singalong chorus and spine-tingling performance by Belladonna. "Aftershock" is probably the album's punkiest song with its blistering guitar solo, and the closer, "Gung-Ho", with its out-and-out speed-kills blitzkrieg, is a superb piece of thrash metal.
"We didn't know what we were doing, but we totally knew what we were doing," said Ian. "I know that doesn't make sense, but it's where we were at, a bunch of 21-year-old kids making our major label debut on a shoestring budget with nothing but a dream and a bunch of songs that we thought killed. We were right and our dream came true. Thank you to all the fans that put this record and ANTHRAX on the map way back when and still support us today."
The 30th-anniversary edition of "Spreading The Disease" was made available in November 2015 via Universal.