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Sound of White Noise is a classic example of what happened to so many fantastic '80s metal bands by start of the '90s - they lost all of their identity and were swallowed into the corporate machinery of commercial rock. Some bands managed a weakened but still decent effort that signaled their entry into the decade, but others fell completely flat, and no band fell harder than Anthrax. Their work from the era was marked by the perpetual stench of mediocrity as they traded in any and all artistic principle in the name of monetary gain. While this particular album isn't quite as awful as what would follow it is still a weak effort, either when viewed as an individual piece or when compared to other albums of its type from the period.
By far the most baffling thing about this album is its sound; it is for all intents and purposes a grunge album. The biggest influence on the guitar work is Stone Temple Pilots, whose muddy guitar tone and hard rock tendencies have had a profound influence on this album's riffs, particularly the highly simplistic numbers such as 'Hy Pro Glo' or '1000 Points of Hate'. There are also a few nods to Alice in Chains, or at least some attempts to interpret grunge through a heavy metal lens, which leads to the slower, more doom-infused numbers such as 'This Is Not An Exit'. In spite of the overt grunge/alt rock tendencies of the album however it still carries a strong influence from Pantera and perhaps even Helmet, which takes the form of very simplistic and repetitious groove metal riffing that occasionally arises between the more rock influenced riffs.
In spite of the simplification from previous efforts the band were drawing from good influences - the problem is simply that the riffs are woefully uninspired. The music is very generic, and it isn't even a very remarkable or interesting take on the standard grunge template. It's what happens when a band suddenly changes style after developing a previous sound, where they don't do enough to put their own spin on an established set of tropes because the style wasn't their own to begin with. This shows, as virtually none of the riffing on this album is particularly memorable or inspiring. The more metallic moments see the band return to something a little more familiar and hence they pull it off better but for the most part the band don't really do a whole lot to develop the sounds or ideas they employ, being quite content to play a dull and unmemorable groove/grunge hybrid. Sure the drumming can be a bit overactive and the lead work can actually be quite impressive - but for every aggressive drum pattern or excellent bit of shredding there's a boring straight beat or a dry, short solo, and good drumming or lead guitar work can't make up for lazy riffs.
This era of Anthrax's output coincided with John Bush's stint with the band, and his performance borders on being terrible, as well as disappointing given his work with Armored Saint. He spends most of his time badly copying tortured croons of Layne Staley, and he's also taken on a substantial gravelly rock inflection akin to Eddie Vedder and Scott Weiland. While there are worse vocalists he could have copied the same problem as the music applies here - he's not putting his own memorable spin on the style and instead reverts to a weak take on genre tropes. He can't really carry a tune and several of the vocal lines and hooks are flat and unmemorable. He generally sounds bad in one way or another, especially when he tries yelling and ends up sounding like a weak Phil Anselmo.
The structuring of the songs is incredibly flat and redundant. None of the progressive writing from the last two albums is present, as the band elect to stick to very basic verse-hook structures that never excite or interest. Riffs are run into the ground, ruining the energy of potentially decent songs such as 'Potters Field' or 'Room for One More' with their surprisingly solid main riffs. Songs don't vary in terms of energy or tempo, though there are a few faster sections such as the ending of 'This Is Not an Exit' or the entirety of 'Burst' - these tend to be the exception rather than the rule though, with most songs sticking to an upper mid-tempo and not doing enough to keep the listener interested in general. Overlong songs such as 'Packaged Rebellion' are incredibly dull; as the band doesn’t have enough ideas to keep a 6 minute song interesting beyond a solo. As a result of these issues few winners emerge from this album - the main one is ‘Only’ with its simple but memorable melodies and catchy vocal lines, as well as its relatively aggressive verse riff. The laid back keyboard piece ‘Black Lodge’ is another highlight, largely due to the more inspired music and its flowing nature, as well as the fact that there is a discernible melody to John Bush’s singing. ‘Sodium Pentathol’ and ‘Burst’ represent more aggressive groove metal infused takes on the grunge sound, with both moving along at a reasonable pace and staying short and to the point.
However, 4 out of 11 is an incredibly poor hit rate regardless of the band, made even worse when you consider who is behind this. This is an incredibly uninspired, dull and in some cases downright bad effort from a band that were out of their depth. They didn’t try to make it interesting, instead choosing to ride on the coattails of much better artists from the time in order to push more albums. The production is botched as well – the drum sound could stand to be cleaned up substantially and the guitar tone is an overdistorted, muddy mess. The band would somehow get worse as they weathered the decade, and this is blatantly the start of that tragic decline. Needless to say, don't seek this out, its highlights aren't enough to make up for the rest of the album or what it represents for the band.
As a big fan of the legendary and unforgettable Twin Peaks series by David Lynch, there were two main reasons why I wanted to check this album out. My first contact with Anthrax was in fact the video clip for "Only" where I recognized the actor Frank Silva which gave me a big jolt and made me remember my childhood nightmares and appreciation of the best evil personality ever portrayed on television which was BOB from Twin Peaks. When I further checked out this album, I learned that the band collaborated with the composer of the series' brilliant soundtrack which is Angelo Badalamenti fr the song "Black Lodge" which had another Twin Peaks' influenced title and clip. That's when I decided to check the entire album out.
What I quickly realized is that the two first songs I checked out are easily the best on the record. "Only" is described as the perfect song by Metallica's James Hetfield. I wouldn't go as far but it's a truly catchy track with great vocals, a dark grunge riff and a nice short and sweet guitar solo. "Black Lodge" is a smooth and experimental track that sounds very slow and lazy and needs some time to grow but it surely is an interesting experiment without having the magic of the composition that were made for Twin Peaks.
The rest of the record falls off the edge. Anthrax play mostly the same dark grunge riffs on the entire record and goes away from the thrash and heavy metal roots of the band. Tracks such as "Hy Pro Glo" or "Burst" remind of a weird mixture of influences such as White Zombie and Metallica with some Voivod, Alice In Chains Jam and Red Hot Chili Peppers sounds. The band even used the same producer as Alice In Chains did at the time. The final result is quite close to the grunge and crossover genre where only the dark vibes of some weird intros remind of a slightly progressive thrash style. As many big names of the metal industry, Anthrax also changed their style and tried out something new to go with the time and gather a certain popularity. Back in the years, Twin Peaks and grunge music were two important parts of a barnd new cultural phenomenon in the United States of America and Anthrax worked with them and used them. The band even went further. The bad single choice "Hy Pro Glo" is influenced by a television commercial and the experimental and slightly interesting album closer "This Is Not An Exit" is a tribute to the "American Psycho" novel that came out around the same time. That's maybe not extremely entertaining and courageous but it worked back then as the album got the highest American chart position ever for any Anthrax release.
The album didn’t age very well though and feels a little bit too nostalgic and assimilated to the trends of the early nineties today. Most of the songs sound worn out and closed minded today. I could only cite "Only" as a great song that still works well in the present time and one hit out of eleven tries is not a great average at all. Even if like Twin Peaks and crossover music, this album deserves a rather low rating from an objective point of view and is a popular and sad example for the downfall and the assimilation of the metal genre in the nineties.
One of the more visible and unfortunate shifts in mainstream music belongs squarely on the shoulders of the grunge movement. Grunge within itself is a wide assortment of musical styles ranging from the dark, Black Sabbath worship of bands Alice In Chains and Soundgarden to the muddy hard rock tendencies of Stone Temple Pilots. Although some of these bands were good, even exceptional in some cases, their rise to the limelight opened the floodgates for many respected 80's outfits to follow suit.
In the 1990's, just about all of America's more famous thrash acts began collapsing underneath their own weight of trying to keep up with modern times. Metallica is probably the most famous example of this, but even while that band was hell bent on destroying their credibility as a reliable metal outfit, Anthrax topped even them in this contest. Much of the crap this band released between the mid 90's to the end of the decade flirted dangerously with all out mallcore territory and bottom rung groove metal.
However, Anthrax's first conformity to mainstream trends wasn't quite as abominable, but I can't say it was delightfully good. "Sound of White Noise" was an album I picked up early on in my music purchasing days, and at the time I got immense enjoyment out of it. Needless to say, with age comes maturity and realization that conforming to trends in the name of survival as an artist is hardly a respectable reason for recording and promoting anything below what your band is capable of.
What we hear on "Sound of White Noise" is the sound of Anthrax abdicating their throne of 80's satrical thrash metal for darker pastures. The first recognizable new element to this group is John Bush, former Armored Saint frontman. Bush isn't a terrible vocalist for this style of music, coming out remarkably better than grunge's false icons like Eddie Vedder. Bush reminds me more of Scott Weiland off STP's earlier days, minus the horribly incoherent lyrics and with a more melodic tinge to his voice. Truth be told, I don't mind John Bush all that much on this release, but he's far from what he is capable of, as his pre-Anthrax contributions to music have proven.
Amongst this initiation into grunge discipleship, we have a one song that pass for decent. "Only" is probably the most notable song here, and honestly the only 90's Anthrax song I consider a keeper. It fuses what positive things Anthrax's new sound has going for it and creates a decent song. Beyond that, we have a collection of songs that try desperately to bring in some of the magic that Alice In Chains had going for them. This tends to fall flat, since Anthrax ends up emulating a variety of bands from the era particularly a muddier, heavier version of what was heard on "Core." If this weren't bad enough, Anthrax seems to have donned a Metallica attitude towards songwriting, in that they write songs that are far too long with ideas that are far too few to make those songs interesting. What you then end up with is a collection of grunge rock tributes with a halfway decent vocal job, but obviously nothing any 80's Anthrax fan should ever be caught with.
For what it is, a grunge rock record, "Sound of White Noise" comes out considerably well. Compared to previous material and heavy metal in general, this album succeeds on a few levels but misses out entirely on the more important ones. Ultimately, this album was the beginning of the slippery slope for Anthrax who, like Metallica, ended up ruining most of their credibility by the time the 90's ended. I can't really recommend this album to anyone except maybe grunge enthuaists, but for everyone else avoid it entirely or seek it out second hand.
Okay, so the album does have new vocalist, John Bush, and the album has some very 'soft' or over-melodic radio friendly sections, there is still plenty of material to be found here that is a logical follow up to "Persistence Of Time". Their last album with Joey Belladonna already was an album with not much fast or thrashing songs but still remakably excellent. And that line is proceeded right here.
If you listen to "Potters Field", "Room For One More" and "Burst" and try to image Joey Belladonna singing these songs it becomes obvious these songs are pretty much a continuation of the slower and dark style of their previous album "Persistence of Time". These songs would easily get 90-95 points from me. "Invisble" follows closely and is a pretty good song but is a further step away from their previous effort.
It's with songs like "HyProGlo", "1000 Points Of Hate" and especially "Packaged Rebellion" that the band starts to sound like a loud grunge collective playing along with John Bush instead of the mighty Anthrax with a new vocalist. Closing song "This Is Not An Exit" is simply extremely dull and has too much of a doomy Alice In Chains feeling surrounding it. Songs like these really damage the album. "Only" and "Sodium Pentathol" are better and build a bridge between the grungy songs and earlier Anthrax.
Then there is a personal favorite. Despite the fact that it didn't sound anything like Anthrax, the dark ballad "Black Lodge" simply is too good to be ignored here. As said it has the atmosphere of a ballad but the verses sound dark enough not to become cheesy. Furthermore the guitar harmony in the middle is beautiful.
So, apart from four bad songs and a production that should have been a lot heavier (especially guitarwise) there is still plenty quality stuff to be found here making it worth owning this album if you're an Anthrax fan.
This is the first Anthrax album I'd ever listened to, and it would have been the last if I hadn't been informed that their older material was purist thrash metal. Basically, this album delayed my love of Anthrax's old albums by like two years and for that I can never forgive it. It sucks ass and should be avoided.
The first song is "Potter's Field." Before you even get to hear new singer John Bush, you get a solid minute of static for an intro, and then a cool riff. Unfortunately, that's pretty much the only cool riff on the entire album. Most of the riffs are midpaced and generic, as are most of the leads. Worse still is the guitar sound. Shitty production combined with a grungy ass tone makes for fucking bad guitar sound. All this is evident before you even hear Bush sing. Bush himself isn't a bad singer necessarily, but his style of singing only reinforces the impression that this is album is just heavy grunge. He sounds quite reminiscent of the guy from Stone Temple Pilots, if that helps cast some light on his voice.
Grungy vocals, grungy lyrics, grungy riffs, grungy guitar tone....the album is pretty much grunge. The only thing that keeps this remotely metal is the powerful (but poorly mixed) drumming and the occasional too heavy for grunge riffs. Seriously, this is basically STP Vol. 4 if it was heavier and had only one ballad. Alice in Chains kicks the shit out of this nonsense.
Other demerits are deserved for the stupid song title of "Sodium Pentathol," spelled out in its chemical formula. Okay, you guys looked up a little chemistry. Here's a gold star, but nobody gives a shit.
This might be the worst thing Anthrax has ever done, but I haven't listened to the other John Bush albums to compare. It's hard to believe this is the same band that recorded Fistful of Metal. This album makes Load and Reload look like Ride the Lightning. Shitty sell-out grunge metal. If you really like grunge, fine, you'll love this, but don't dare confuse this with real metal, it's not even close.
This album kind of reminded me of Persistence of Time, not in the speed and intensity as much as in the melody. This album is filled with melodious tunes and I could swear that it also reminds me of Armored Saint’s Symbol of Salvation at times, especially the third track, “Room For One More.” This is a fine occurrence as I have enjoyed Armored Saint’s album very much. The characteristic, which is most similar to Armored Saint, is the vocals. They have almost a raspy sound in certain parts of the album. As opposed to some of the other albums by Anthrax where the music is heavy, while the vocals do not coincide very well with it, as they are sung in a very non-aggressive manner. The relatively aggressive sound of this album corresponds with the matching vocals very sufficiently.
The album offers some aggressive songs, with catchy and violent riffs, and some songs that are more melodic in nature. Some of the songs, such as the highlight, “Hy Pro Glo,” combine the two different styles to make one killer song. Going from more mellow vocals, to a full drum beat and vocal assault within a few seconds. I do not understand why people overlook this album, it offers such high-quality and head-banging songs, yet is an underrated album in the Anthrax discography.
Some of the tracks, such as “1000 Points of Hate” and “This is not an Exit,” do get a bit repetitive due to the non-changing riffs or bland choruses. These are the only songs that do not stand out on the album. Every other song stands out, since each one offers something new and exciting, such as “Black Lodge,” which is a softer song and uses a more melodic approach. Variety is almost excessive on this album, which is an excellent trait for an album to possess.
This album offers very memorable choruses and melodies, and is a sound addition in the Anthrax discography. Songs such as “C11 H17 N2 O2 S Na,” offer an aggressive drum and guitar solo approach, “Black Lodge.” offers a softer, more melodic approach, and “Hy Pro Glo,” mixes the two techniques to make this album well rounded. Sound of White Noise is a fine Traditional Melodic Thrash Metal album.