Danny Lilker and Scott Ian had been the original founders of the band, but singer Neil Turbin fired Lilker shortly after the release of the album, and without Scott Ian's permission.
As his replacement, the band hired drummer Charlie Benante's nephew, Frank Bello, who has played on every Anthrax album since. Vocalist Neil Turbin had contributed song ideas, lyrics, titles and arrangements to the majority of songs on the debut album, i.e. "Metal Thrashing Mad", "Deathrider", "Panic", "Subjugator, "Death from Above", "Soldiers of Metal", "Anthrax", as well as Spreading the Disease songs "Armed and Dangerous", "Gung Ho" and "Raise Hell", but both Scott Ian and Charlie Benante, who played guitar in addition to drums, felt they needed tighter control on the songwriting. Due to a songwriting partnership between Ian and Benante, with Ian writing all the lyrics and Benante writing the music, Turbin was released from the band.Eddie Trunk admits in his book Eddie Trunk's Essential Hard Rock and Heavy Metal: "Early on, I told Johnny Z that what I didn't like about Anthrax was singer Neil Turbin's vocals." He admits in his writing to pressuring Johnny Zazula and Anthrax into firing Turbin from the band.
The term "thrash metal" was used for the first time in the music press by UK's Kerrang! journalist Malcolm Dome, while making a reference to the song "Metal Thrashing Mad".
Fistful of Metal was released as a double album by Music for Nations in the UK, featuring extra mixes of the tracks "Soldiers of Metal" and "Howling Furies", which were not included on the US edition. In 2000, Megaforce repackaged and re-released Fistful of Metal along with the band's 1985 EP Armed and Dangerous which featured some liner notes, but excluded any new mixes and bonus tracks and features a different artwork instead of the controversial "Metal-wrapped fist" artwork.
Two covers of this album exist. The original had gained controversy due to its artwork, which features a man's mouth exploding as a metal-wrapped fist, emerges from his throat. When the album was re-released along with the Armed and Dangerous EP in 2000 by Megaforce, a different image was used, which combines the Fistful of Metal artwork (with less blood shown) and the Armed and Dangerous artwork.