I’ve been thinking really, really hard about heavy metal for about 30 years now, give or take, and I can say with total confidence a few things: Suicidal Tendencies are confusing (see our recent story on this), Frehley’s Comet were better than you remember (see our upcoming story on this), and John Bush goddamn rules.
Not only does Bush have a great voice for metal, the man’s pipes having the perfect amount of ragged, give-me-another-smoke hoarseness and uplifting, slay-the-dragon tones, but he has a knack for writing perfect vocal lines. I mean, perfect: the vocal lines he writes are exactly what I’m hoping the vocal lines will be for any particular song he’s singing on.
He sung on arguably the best Anthrax album, and later-era Armored Saint albums actually totally rule, in no small part due to Bush’s performance. Basically, everything he touches is gold. But here are five times he did really, really good, his voice elevating these songs beyond mere music to life anthems, motivational policies, pure blood and adrenaline.
Armored Saint – “Can U Deliver” (1984)
I’m still trying to come to terms with the “U” in the song title, but, regardless, this early performance in the Bush canon laid down the law right out of the gates, said law being that Bush can, indeed, deliver. His confidence here isn’t what it would become later, but it still separated Armored Saint apart from the pack and also did a great job at helping the man do what he does: delivering anthems that get our blood boiling, our fists pumping, and our morale to ridiculous heights.
Anthrax – “Only” (1993)
This one may seem obvious, but sometimes things are obvious for a reason: this song is incredible, Bush not only ushering Anthrax right into a new second life, but also taking mainstream metal to great places in 1993. This is one of Anthrax’s greatest songs ever—a hard argument could be made for it being in the top slot—and is also Bush on fire, the man using his pipes to exude both melody and aggression, a sort of resigned defeat and complete and utter victory coming through every raspy note. The whole damn song rules, but its climax is absolutely incredible, Bush’s performance from 4:19 to 4:39 a thing of perfection. When John Bush wins, we all win. We all won with “Only.”
Anthrax – “Catharsis” (1998)
Now here’s an underrated album, Anthrax’s Volume 8: The Threat Is Real basically being totally forgotten in metal history, even though it contains some insanely great songs through the weird production, weird record label stuff, weird album cover, etc. “Catharsis” is a simple and rowdy punk bash with a perfect melody line for Bush to sing over; the verses are incredible but the chorus just lifts things to another level, Bush doing what all great metal vocalists should do: making the listener feel fucking invincible.
Armored Saint – “Left Hook from Right Field” (2010)
Baseball, boxing, who knows what he’s on about here, but here’s what I do know: when the chorus hits, Bush’s voice takes us to places that we need to go to to face the day, to get through all obstacles facing us as we slog from breakfast to a final victory beer. Relationship woes? School getting you down? Boss troubles? You name it, man, Bush has you covered in this song, its excellent chorus, its great bridge and build, every damn second of it has you covered.
Armored Saint – “Win Hands Down” (2015)
Because this world ain’t a fair one, no one really talks about later-era Armored Saint albums, but they should, we all should, regularly, and here’s a perfect example why. Check out Bush’s vocal lines in the chorus (0:51 to 1:17), and you may as well just schedule in some time for the goosebumps to come take over, because this killer song—driven by Bush and that drum beat—finds the man doing exactly what he did on “Only” all these years ago, taking us all sky high with his motivation, his inspiration, and some of the damn best vocal chords in heavy music. He can still deliver.