When it came time to record a followup to White Noise, however, Ian admits that Anthrax had to face some unpleasant facts about longtime guitarist Danny Spitz. "Danny wasn't involved at all creatively," he says, "and he was almost invisible when we played, which I think is why he became an anchor around our necks on stage. We talked with him about it, and he disagreed, but the four of us truly believe that he had just lost his interest in the group. Other people noticed it, too. They were, like, `What's up with Dan? Is he pissed off or something?' So we had to make a change, for the record's sake."

With Spitz gone, Anthrax imported Pantera's Dimebag Darrell and longtime pal Paul Crook (currently touring with the band) to handle the guitar leads, and the production team known as the Butcher Brothers to get Stomp down on tape. The result is as strong a metal disc as has been released this year--a combination of the early Anthrax's pure adrenaline and the latter-day group's more varied tastes. As for its lyrical content, it's as craggy and singular as usual. Take the lead cut, "Random Acts of Senseless Violence," which offers an unexpected take on its subject matter.

"The bottom-line message behind the song is, if you're going to get into a fight, don't use a knife or a gun. Use your fists," Ian says. "It's kind of like missing the good old days, when people could actually get into a fistfight and not have to worry about getting shot afterwards.

"To me, the biggest coward in the world is someone who would pull a weapon on somebody else in any situation, whether it be a fight or a car accident or someone who's out to murder or rape somebody. That's the weakest and most cowardly act you could commit against another human being, but that's how it is with people these days. They have no self-respect or responsibility about anything. When I was growing up, you could get into fights and walk away from it without having to worry about three days later somebody coming to your house and trying to fucking shoot you through your window. Fuck, you can't even beep at somebody on the road without them wanting to take a shot at you. I have to live in the world with these people, and I find it to be completely unfair that my life or the lives of my friends and family are threatened by assholes."

The rest of Stomp is just as forthright. "There's a theme that pops up in three or four songs, like `Fueled' and `Perpetual Motion,'" Ian says. "It's a real Raging Bull, Jake LaMotta vibe. We've been through a lot of shit in fourteen years, but we're still doing what we do, and still loving it."

That's fortunate, because the present pox on the metal industry has turned out to be Anthrax's sternest test yet. "Obviously, if we come out and nobody is playing our type of music, it makes it tougher for us," Ian admits. "Album sales are different, ticket sales are different. It totally affects us. It's hard when you put a record out and there's no way for anybody to even know it."

Indeed, Stomp went into freefall shortly after entering the Billboard sales charts, plummeting from the list in only four weeks. Furthermore, the support Anthrax has grown accustomed to receiving on tours is nowhere to be found. According to Ian, "In some of the markets where we play, we can't even find a radio station that will advertise our shows. They say, `We don't play them on our station, so why would we advertise their tickets?' And yet they'll play bands like Soundgarden and Alice in Chains, which makes no sense to me. To me, those bands are just as metal as we are, but Alice in Chains is all over the radio and all over MTV. But even though MTV added our video, we get played at 3:30 in the morning."

In an effort to overcome these obstacles, Ian says, "we've been doing as much press as we can, and we've been finding that the shows are doing okay, because we end up doing these pretty big walk-ups the nights of the show. We just played one in Long Island, and a week before it, they'd sold about thirty tickets. But we ended up doing like a thousand people and filling up the club. Which was a really good feeling, because I would have been kind of bummed to play before thirty people."

Plenty of metal acts face this prospect, and as a result, they may go the way of the dodo; Ian acknowledges that the anti-metal mood will weed out a lot of his competitors. He's more confident that his bandmates in Anthrax will pull through, mainly because he feels they're too stubborn to throw in the towel.

"You have two choices. You can stand up and use it as something to fight against--to fuel yourself creatively--or you can give up. And we're certainly not going to give up," he declares. "We're not going to turn around and say, `Radio doesn't play us anymore, MTV doesn't like us anymore, nobody likes this music anymore, so we're going to quit.' Hell, there's never been a time when it was easy for us--a time that the media was saying, `This is the greatest band in the world, playing the greatest type of music.' Maybe someday we'll get that for about six months. Who knows? But there's one thing for sure. If we go, we're not going to go quietly."

Anthrax, with the Deftones and Life of Agony. 8 p.m. Tuesday, December 12, Ogden Theatre, 935 E. Colfax, $15, 830-2525 or 1-800-444-

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