On Episode 2 of Anthrax's career retrospective web series, 40 for 40, past and present members of the band recollected the moments that led up to the recording of their Fistful of Metal debut, including Scott Ian's reaction to hearing Metallica's No Life 'Til Leather demo for the very first time.

At the time Metallica released that now legendary demo — the only Metallica studio recording to feature Dave Mustaine on guitar — Anthrax had formed just one year prior in 1981. In hot pursuit of landing a record deal, they grew close with Jon Zazula (aka Jonny Z), who co-founded Megaforce Records with his wife Marsha (R.I.P.) and operated the Rock and Roll Heaven record store out of Old Bridge, New Jersey.

The members of Anthrax consistently floated their own demo recordings over to Jonny Z in hopes of securing a deal, but no deal had materialized and the band continued to write and refine their chops.

Zazula was also working as a promoter and brought bands to New York from far away places — Venom came over from England and Metallica made the trek from San Francisco. Anthrax, in turn, were trying to keep pace with the burgeoning metal scene and had aspirations to be the opening band on any pertinent gigs.

Eager to show Anthrax the latest band he had discovered, Zazula played the No Life 'Til Leather demo for them.

"[Jonny] was like, ‘Scott, I got this thing, wait ’til you hear it, it’s going to blow your mind! I got this demo from this band, from San Francisco, they’re called Metallica’… and he puts this fucking tape in, and it’s just like... hearing the guitars, the song arrangements, the tightness of the band… I was blown away, and I fucking loved it, and at the same time I was crazy jealous," recalled Ian.

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Mesmerized by what he had heard, the Anthrax axeman further recollected, "'Who are these guys? How old are they?' He’s like, ‘They’re the same as you guys. Same age!’ Everything about it was better than where we were at as a band at that point and here’s Jonny, our guy, telling us, ‘I’m bringing them to New York from San Francisco, and we’re gonna put them in the studio and make an album and get them a record deal!’"

Wondering when Anthrax's opportunity would come, Ian wondered, "It was, like, 'What? What about us?'"

Determined to be able to pursue recording a full length album of their own, Anthrax sought out Manowar guitarist Ross the Boss to produce a couple demo songs, one of them being "Soldiers of Metal," which caught Jonny Z's ear.

After a drive to Rock and Roll Heaven, Ian learned Jonny Z was nearby at a local IHOP restaurant and went over there to bug him about signing the band.

"That 'Soldiers of Metal' single really knocked my socks off and showed a vast improvement in where the band was heading," recalled Zazula, who then signed Anthrax and put the band on the path to record what would become Fistful of Metal.

Watch the full episode in the video below. New episodes of Anthrax's 40 for 40 will be released each week, leading up to the 40th anniversary of the band's founding (July 18). Follow Anthrax's YouTube channel to keep up.

Anthrax, 40 for 40 Retrospective — Episode 2

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