Anthrax was formed in July of 1981 by some high school friends who were into Heavy Metal, Hardcore, Punk and Comic Books. Scott Ian Connelly sang. Somebody named Kenny played bass. Scott Ian was a fan of bands such as Judas Priest, Black Sabbath and a huge fan of Kiss. Danny Lilker had previously played in his school's jazz band and was somewhat of a speed freak, musically speaking.

Scott recounts, "The first song ever that I wrote was with Danny Lilker. It was "Howling Furies" and also "Across The River" I guess. They were both on the Fistful Of Metal album. There were other songs from back then, but they never got used. I specifically remember a song called "245" but we never used it for anything. One day we may use that riff, but "Howling Furies" was probably the first one ever. My first gig ever with Anthrax was in a church basement, in Flushing, Queens. The guy that was playing bass with us at the time, Kenny, had some kind of hookup with the people at the church where they would give us the use of the place for free (they had a stage and everthing), and we printed up tickets and sold them. We brought in like this little PA and everything. The first time we did it there were only like 50 kids there, but then we booked another one for three weeks later, and 200 kids came down. So it was pretty cool. This was like in '81 I guess. We did a lot of cover songs, and all the originals that we had at that time, which was probably about 7 or 8 songs, I guess."

Kenny was replaced with Paul Kahn. Some other members changes occurred and Neil Turbin became the new lead singer. Gregg D'Angelo took Dave Weiss' seat behind the drum kit. Paul Kahn left. Greg Walls joined as the new guitarist, as Danny Lilker switched over to bass to fill Paul's spot. By February of 1983, many songs had been written and demoed including the aforementioned "Across the River" and "Howling Furies," "Panic," "Deathrider," "Hate," "Pestilence," "Satan's Wheels" (about drugs, not Satan), "Anthrax," and "Evil Dreams." At this time, Anthrax was now sharing living quarters in the Music Building in Yonkers with San Francisco's Metallica, who had recently relocated to New York in hopes of getting a record deal. Metallica basically had noting but the clothes on their back and their instruments upon moving to New York, so Anthrax helped them by scrounging a microwave and a refrigerator for them.

In mid 1983, Anthrax went to record another demo. This time with producer Ross the Boss, of Manowar, who had to taken interest to the young, rising band. Greg D'Angelo was soon replaced with Charlie Benante. Charlie had played drums in a few local bands before, including a cover band called Shire when he was about sixteen. Charlie also actually played guitar, which would prove useful later on down the road.

Meanwhile, the demo produced by Ross the Boss caught the attention of Jon Zazula (A.K.A. Johnny Z) , who owned the New Jersey record store Rock n' Roll Heaven. Z had recently formed his own record label, Megaforce Records, which released Metallica's debut Kill ‘em All. Z had also been important in bringing many metal bands to play shows in the New York area. "Anthrax were really the only band on the East Coast who were playing Thrash-type music around this time," says Z, "so [Anthrax and Metallica] took to one another straight away. Anthrax were a bunch of kids who were everywhere in those days, they'd show up at every gig, every party, every function... I mean I'd go to the bathroom to take a piss and they'd be right there behind me! But they were so keen they used to do everything they could to help both me and Metallica - and if that meant lending them equipment, buying them meals, doing anything they could, then so be it. We all kind of worked together."

Johnny Z signed Anthrax signed Anthrax to his Megaforce Label and his Crazed Management company as well. In September of 1983, Anthrax released the Soldiers of Metal 7" single. The A-Side contained "Soldiers of Metal," with Charlie Benante on drums. The B-Side contains "Howling Furies," taken from the demo with Ross the Boss. Only 3,000 of these were made, so they are quite rare now.

Former Overkill lead guitarist Danny Spitz would be the next member to join. He explains, "I was working on 48th Street [Manhattan's "Music Store"] selling guitars at "We Buy Guitars." And two of the guys that worked there kept saying "You got to meet this guy Scott. He's got 15 Marshall Cabinets. He's into the same music as you are." Scott just came by the store, but he'd just found a lead guitar player for the band. I was really cocky then, like I am now. So I said "Ah, the guy probably last for more than two or three weeks." So two or three weeks later Scott comes walking in and says "Think you want to come down and try out?" I put all my Marshalls in a van, played an audition and that was it. Charlie had just joined three months before that."

Touring with Metallica and Raven through 1983 built up the band's reputation. They recorded their debut album, Fistful of Metal in late 1983. By the time it came out in January 1983, a rift between Danny Lilker and Neil Turbin led to Danny's dismissal. "We took Danny Lilker out of the band soon after the album came out, ‘cos he thought it was an easy ride from then on." He was replaced by Charlie's nephew Frank Bello, who had previously been a roadie for the band. Fistful of Metal was very heavy, very fast and full of screaming vocals. It could definitely be placed under the category of speed metal, a new rising form of metal.

They carried on with their touring, but a big problem arose again. Danny explains, "Neil was great on the first album, but he just couldn't cut it live with the Raven dates we did. There was also a lot of personal differences, so we let him go." Plans to tour in Europe and record their second album there never materialized. He was replaced with Matt Fallon, but he only lasted for a short time because of personal differences. Scott explains, "In retrospect we never should have taken him, but we lost Neil in August ‘84, went straight into rehearsals and had all the new material written by September - without a singer! Matt was simply the first person we saw in a bar band who was reasonable. It only lasted a month-and-a-half because his personality didn't really fit in with ours. We were two-and-a-half weeks into recording but we canned him and sent him home anyway!"

Then Canedy suggested Joey Belladonna(A.K.A. Joseph Bellardini) of the Canadian band Bible Black. It all worked out for the best, and they were very enthusiastic about their new singer. "He's got a better voice than Neil, as well as a greater range," says Danny. "Joey sounds just like he does on the record live. He's the Steve Perry [Journey] of aggressive metal."