Worship Music was just about finished when singer Dan Nelson left. What was the game plan at that point?
Caggiano: We didn’t really know what to think or what to expect. The only thing that was inevitable was that we had to put the thing on ice for a while, until we figured out what we were going to do. We actually got pretty far with the album, all the way up to the mixing stage. I’d say it was about 85 percent done when all that stuff went down.
Benante: He quit the day we were going to Europe to finish up a festival. He quit that day.
That’s really screwed up.
Benante: Uh, yeah. Think about how we felt. That day I had all of these thoughts in my head, like “Now what?” But the thing is, I’ve been doing this for so long that I couldn’t let a little bump like that hurt me.
How did Joey Belladonna get back into the picture?
Benante: I had written some acoustic songs that didn’t really fit with Anthrax. I was looking for a vocalist to do a side project with so I had actually reached out to Joey awhile back. I sent him some songs, we started to talk, and our relationship started to become good again. Then Metallica dropped this Big 4 thing. That’s when we started taking the idea of Joey coming back into the band more seriously.
Ian: We literally just called him up. It was early 2010 and we all ended up getting together to meet. We just sat around and bullshitted for a little while and then made the decision to move forward with this being the band until there is no more band, hopefully.
You had most of the songs done by the time Joey came back in. Did you have to rework them to accommodate his style?
Ian: We had about 13 or 14 songs in some state of being finished or almost finished. And after not listening to them for about a year, we pretty much spent all of our time in the dressing room listening to the songs last fall when we were on tour with Slayer and Megadeth. We took a song per day and then made decisions. Does it still hold up? Are we still in love with it? Do we still think it’s awesome?
After that run, we narrowed it down to the 10 that we felt either completely held up or just needed some rewriting and re-recording. There were about three or four other songs that either got thrown in the trash or just got put on the shelf until we could spend more time on them.
Benante: Joey’s approach to it was way different, at least different than I imagined. He brought a different flavor to it and it was so apparent that we found what was missing. It sounds like Anthrax now.
Caggiano: Joey basically came in and did his own take on the songs, injecting his own sound on them. There were three songs that we actually went in and re-tracked. “Fight ’Em ’Till You Can’t” is one of them. That song didn’t really change—it’s just that we’d been playing it live, so we felt that we could play it better after doing it for a couple of years. “In the End,” which was originally called “Down Goes the Sun,” was also re-cut, re-tweaked, and rewritten.
Benante: I really fought for “In the End.” I felt it needed to be on the record because it was so different than anything else.
Charlie, what kind of resistance did you face with that song?
Benante: These guys just felt like it wasn’t ready yet. We had a problem with the chorus of the song and it went back and forth like, “Yeah I like it” to “Nah, I don’t like it.” It was that type of thing. And then the guys said to me, “Work on it some more.” I did, but the song turned out to be seven minutes long. But it was good because it didn’t feel like seven minutes, and who cares if it’s seven minutes long?
I sent everybody a demo version and that was it—everybody liked it. It has a melancholy feel, which is probably why I thought of Dimebag. If he were here, he’d probably be playing on this album. We would have asked him to.
I understand that this record is the first time you guys were not present at the vocal sessions. That’s a pretty big level of trust especially considering it’s been so long since you’ve recorded with Joey.
Benante: Joey has a pretty good relationship with Jay Ruston and Jay was pretty much producing the vocals, so we felt like we didn’t need to be there. Plus, I don't think we needed to be the jury in the room. Personally, I wanted to give Joey the room and the freedom to do whatever he wanted.
Ian: We got mp3s sent to us every night. We made notes and stuff but we weren’t sitting in the room with them all day long.