Pandemonium. It’s defined as “a place of wild uproar and chaos” and “the abode of all demons,” yet is also an apt term that longtime Anthrax bass wizard Frank Bello uses to describe the scenes on the band’s recent stretch of shows. The thrash metal titans just wrapped up the Rockstar Mayhem Festival and will be continuing on with the third leg of the Thrash-Fest Extravaganza tour with Testament and Death Angel, a dream lineup for anyone who follows the speedy subgenre.
Bello – along with bandmates Charlie Benante (drums), Scott Ian (rhythm guitar), Rob Caggiano (guitar) and Joey Belladonna (vocals) – is looking forward to bringing his signature bass style and remarkable stage energy to Canadian stages, where the band will be playing a set focused on material from their wildly successful 10th studio album, Worship Music (2011).
“We played a lot of older material on [our last tour] and we couldn’t wait to play new songs to mix ‘em in a little bit and play longer,” says Bello.
Fans should be excited about this, as Worship Music has been hailed as the band’s most complete work. Taking the up-tempo and frantic palm muting of their classic material and mixing in some infectious hooks and harmonies, the band has seen an obvious growth and maturation in their song writing ability through their 31-year existence that has seen some well documented drama. Putting that drama behind them has resulted in an obvious step up from their prior album, 2003’s We’ve Come for You All.
“It took a long time to get there. You know Charlie’s sound, you know my sound, you know Scott’s sound. It is Anthrax,” explains Bello, whose contributions to the band have always been overshadowed. Between Scott Ian being the face of the band and a media darling in his own right, combined with the rough days the act has endured, the energetic bassist – who has been featured on every Anthrax album except their 1984 debut, Fistful of Metal – has gone criminally underrated. Drawing surprising inspiration from classic bands like U2 and The Beatles, he blends a unique use of melodies into his work while still playing the necessary low end.
“Paul McCartney’s a scale king and I love him for it. He puts melody into his bass playing, also. I always want to put a story called a melody into a bass part,” he explained, also noting that U2′s guitarist and keyboardist The Edge is also an avid Anthrax fan. The two talk frequently.
In addition to his musical abilities, Bello has also recently tried his hand in film after first appearing in 2004 on television series Law & Order. He landed the part of legendary punk innovator Richard Hell in Greetings from Tim Buckley, scheduled for screening at the Toronto Film Festival.
“To tell you the truth, I just love the art of acting. I don’t pretend. I just love doing it. It’s like writing a song, it’s really a lot of fun,” says Bello before rattling off Robert De Niro as the actor he would most like to work with. He’s also an avid fan of AMC’s Breaking Bad and plans to continue his forays into film and television.
Until then, he will soldier on with Anthrax. Given the success of Worship Music – their second most successful record, which in the post-Internet age sold 60,000 copies – the band now feels they have something to prove with the challenge of releasing a record that could top it, even if first they plan on releasing an expanded version of the disc (watch for it this fall). Good news for any loyalists who have already long since given up on some of their other Big Four brethren.
Watch the legendary titans of thrash when Anthrax plays Calgary with Testament and Death Angel on Friday, September 21 at MacEwan Hall Ballroom.
By Brandon McNeil
Photo: Andy Buchanan