Anthrax's covers EP, Anthems, won't be available until March 19th, but the New York hard-rock heroes have already gotten one very meaningful positive review.
"A friend of ours sent [Rush guitarist] Alex Lifeson the track ["Anthem"], and he sent an email back saying he thought we did an incredible job with it and the arrangement," guitarist Scott Ian tells Rolling Stone. "And his actual quote was, 'I don't know that we could've done better; we certainly could've done worse.' We couldn't believe it. We were flipping out that Alex Lifeson even knows who our band is."
That was extra-special for Anthrax bassist Frank Bello. "Rush was a big thing for me because I grew up as a diehard Rush fan. To play some Geddy [Lee] bass lines, pick them out and learn them meant a lot to me," Bello says.
The eight-song EP includes some obvious Anthrax choices, like AC/DC's "TNT" and Thin Lizzy's "Jailbreak," but also less expected songs such as Journey's "Keep on Runnin,'" "Boston's "Smokin,'" and Cheap Trick's "Big Eyes." The EP is rounded out by the album version and a remix of Anthrax's own "Crawl."
So far, the group has only gotten a response from Rush, but Ian fully expects to hear from Cheap Trick as well. "We did a cover of 'Auf Wiedersehen' a few years back and to this day, Rick [Nielsen] still busts my balls because we played one chord wrong in the song," Ian says. "I played a B instead of a B flat and every time we see them, he literally will say, 'You played a B instead of a B flat.'"
Among the harder songs to decide on was Thin Lizzy's "Jailbreak," if only because the band are such great admirers of the group fronted by the late, great Phil Lynott. "There are so many you can do, but you have to pick one, which is really hard," Bello says.
"We've done 'Cowboy Song' in the past, we've also done 'Hollywood' and we actually did 'Jailbreak' before as well and redid it, so we're big Lizzy fans," Ian adds.
Anthrax will have a chance to bust out some of these tunes live when they kick off the Middle Alliance tour on March 22nd in Anaheim, California. The group was reluctant to do the tour, which ends on April 22nd in New York.
"It's like our fourth time through, even fifth time in some of these markets, and we didn't want to do it because we just didn't want to overplay. It's been such a great year-and-a-half, the last thing we wanted to do was end it off not doing well. You're kind of pushing your luck coming through a fourth time," Ian says. "But everyone kept saying, 'It's gonna do great, it's gonna do great.' And tickets are doing great."
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This article originally appeared on Rolling Stone: Anthrax Get Seal of Approval From Rush