With Belladonna back, Anthrax spreads fresh disease.

Bushwhacker 

With Belladonna back, Anthrax spreads fresh disease.

All the protests and petitions finally paid off: Bush is gone. John Bush, that is, the polarizing former frontman for the admirably persistent thrash outfit Anthrax. Bush's decade-plus reign (1992-2004) makes up the influential group's second chapter, marked by compositional maturity and decreasing commercial relevance. Operatic squealer Joey Belladonna presided over the Bronx band's arena-packing Monsters of Rock pre-Bush years. Both vocalists were competent, however, so this wasn't a David Lee Roth-Sammy Hagar situation, in which a singer change signaled a seismic shift from feisty classics to utter crap.

But with Belladonna back at the helm, it's time to compare Bush's legacy with that of his predecessor-turned-successor.

On the Record

Among the Living (1987), all speed riffs, galloping-steed drumbeats and passionate Belladonna bleats, makes the short list of the decade's metal milestones. Sound of White Noise (1993), the definitive Bush release, might be the only essential grunge-metal record ever recorded, mostly because it actually delivers on the second half of that equation. Belladonna's runners-up surpass Bush's, thanks to sheer shredding power.

Fun Factor

Though Belladonna wasn't in favor of the group's trailblazing rap experimentation (the spastic "I'm The Man," which led to the Public Enemy collaboration "Bring The Noise"), he didn't stand in its way. And he volunteered his vocal services for oddball B-sides such as a power-ballad parody and a profane anti-censorship country romp. Strait-laced Bush covered Radiohead's "The Bends" as a bonus track, which wasn't a joke but probably elicited derisive chuckles. The rest of the guys are still goofy: Goateed guitarist Scott Ian responded to post-9/11 biological warfare fears by declaring that the band was changing its name to Basketful of Puppies.

Live Evil

Bush proved a competent interpreter of Anthrax's classic material, and he even remade 15 of these tracks in the studio on 2004's presumptuously titled The Greatest of Two Evils. But in concert, he couldn't compare with unreconstructed longhair Belladonna, whose headbanging fits made the songs seem twice as speedy. Bush just didn't seem metal-thrashing mad, which made it hard to shake the impression that this wasn't really fuckin' Anthrax, dude.

Now, with Belladonna back and the group touring in support of concert compilations rather than fresh material, Anthrax guarantees aging metalheads another chance to get caught in the mosh.

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