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 a compilation of Fistful of Metal and the 1985 Anthrax 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.
The album caused controversy with its cover, which depicts a guy pulling his hair as a metal-wrapped fist emerges from his mouth. This type of controversy resulted in the album being banned from retail stores such as Walmart and Kmart. When the album was released as a double album with the Armed and Dangerous EP, the cover was replaced with a censored version.