Rob Caggiano has quit Anthrax after 12 years as lead guitarist and producer, it's been confirmed.
The lead guitarist says he's made the "emotional decision" because he feels it's the right thing to do. He wants to concentrate on his production work at first, but aims to return to the stage as a performer as soon as he can.
He leaves the thrash giants just after they celebrated the end of a difficult four-year period that brought them close to collapse, but resulted in a Grammy nomination for the Caggianio-produced track "I'm Alive", from acclaimed album "Worship Music".
He says in a statement: "I'm extremely proud of my time in Anthrax. We accomplished so many great things together. We also weathered quite a few storms along the way.
"It's been a wild ride to say the least and I wouldn't change one single thing about the last 12 years."
Caggiano says the move was ruled by his heart. "This is an extremely difficult and emotional decision, but my heart is just steering me in a different direction right now," he explains. "While this might be one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make, it feels like the right one for me at this time."
He says his first role as a former member of Anthrax will be as a producer. "Over the years, I've been blessed with the privilege of working with a wide range of great bands from Anthrax and Cradle Of Filth all the way to Bruce Springsteen," he reflects. "I look forward to a hopeful continuation of that side of my career while I figure out my next move as an artist.
"In case anyone was wondering after reading all of this, I do fully intend to get back out there on the road very soon in some way shape or form. It's in my blood."
Remaining band members Joey Belladonna, Charlie Benante, Scott Ian and Frank Bello confirm they've been considering a number of replacement options as they gear up for a US tour with Exodus, High On Fire, Municipal Waste and Holy Grail. They've promised an announcement in the near future.
They report: "Rob has been an integral part of Anthrax for so many years, as our lead guitarist, in a production capacity, but most of all as our close friend.
"While we are sad that he is leaving, we wish nothing but great success."
In 2011 Scott Ian was temporarily replaced by Sepultura's Andreas Kisser. Former Anthrax guitarist Dan Spitz, who left the band in 1995 but returned for two years in 2005, has been asked by fans whether he'd rejoin. While making no comment he's retweeted some of their queries.
Thanks for the report to ClassicRockMagazine.com.