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scott adams
Scott Adams


1993s 'Sound Of White Noise' was something of a year Zero for NYC thrashers Anthrax; The importation of Armored Saint's John Bush into the line-up at the expense of the increasingly ludicrous Joey Belladonna, the more or less total shedding of their thrash skin in favour of an altogether more de jeur alt Metal sound and the easing out slowly of lead guitarist Dan Spitz all combined to throw the band into something of a state of flux, a flux which against the odds forced them into a white-hot creative maelstrom that left them in possession of something of an unexpected classic.

Perhaps not that unexpected; previous album 'Persistence Of Time' continued the darkening process in the band's sound that 1988s 'State Of Euphoria' had begun, leaving both Belladonna and Spitz increasingly out on a limb. By 1993 neither were needed, although Spitz is credited as lead guitarist on the album.

By the time the SoWN tour rolled through the UK's future Meat Loaf musical director Paul Crook was handling all the lead work.

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Gone too were the wacky shorts and Ramones-styled idiot boards, although thankfully the band didn't throw the baby out with the bathwater totally – they actually delivered the best set of tunes they had been associated with since 1986s 'Among The Living'.

The new, less melodious style suited Bush down to the ground, his leather-lunged bellow fitting right in with soon-to-be-classics like 'Only' and 'Sodium Pentathol'. Indeed 'Only' was so good it was pronounced a "perfect song" by none other than James Hetfield, and when your throw ambitious material like the cinematic Twin Peaks tribute 'Black Lodge' into the mix, you've actually got an album that's starting to look like a minor classic.

Producer Dave Jerden adds a modern flash to the dependably groovy Charlie Benante riffage, in the process streamlining the sound so that even slightly bloated fare like 'This Is Not An Exit' sound dynamic and crunchy. A top 10 placing in the Billboard Top 200 album listing was proof that the band had reaped the rewards their on-the-face-of–it risky career moves.

Fast forward two years and observe a band taking it's first steps down the slippery slope to oblivion. 'Stomp 442' is a graceless collection of faceless, empty rifferama, all bluster with nothing to back it up. The band complained about lack of support from label Elektra, but it's hard to see what the label could do with such a tiresome set of tracks.

Opener 'Random Acts Of Senseless' sets the tone, Bush doing a passable Steven Tyler impression over the top of the sort of directionless Pantera-lite guitarwork that's a trademark of the Anthrax wilderness years – Dimebag Darrell contributes lead to third track 'King Size' on this album without sprinkling the song with any great amount of stardust – and things don't really get any better from that inauspicious starting point.

Where 'SoWN''s lesser tracks like 'Invisible' and 'Burst' still packed a roaring punch, 'S442' repeatedly fails to reach even those low water marks. Bush is never less than fully committed – he's undoubtedly the star of this show – and the occasional riff does stick out from the morass ('American Pompei', featuring Powerman 500's Mike Tempesta, might just about crawl onto the end of side two of a best of release), but overall 'Stomp 442', alongside it's follow-up album, 'Volume 8 – The Threat Is Real' – marks the nadir of Anthrax's thirty five year career.

'Sound Of White Noise'

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'Stomp 442'

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