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Anthrax is one of thrash metal's "big 4", together with Metallica, Slayer and Megadeth. Anthrax was always most playful of them all already in 1980s, best known from their flirtation with (gasp!) rap music. In 1990 the band had released their most mature, and slower, thrash metal album, 'Persistence of Time'. And then Joey Belladonna left...
With new vocalist John Bush came another change: Anthrax took more and more steps towards more groovy presentation with fine 1993 album 'Sound of White Noise'. Then Dan Spitz left, who played most of the lead guitar parts. Maybe it means something, that Mr. Spitz didn't write anything for 'Sound...' album any more, even though he never was a main writer for the band. Maybe he didn't want the band to get too groovy, rocking?
So, welcome to the first Anthrax album, that can be said to contain groove metal, and nothing else. Back when it was released, it might have sounded heavy as the ball of metal junk (no pun intended) on the cover. On the other hand, it looks more like a rock album artwork. Guys were around 30 years old, and new winds were blowing. So many bands tried to survive the attack of grunge rock by making changes in their sound and songwriting in early 1990s. The album is rocking and at times, punky, and those nu-metal whiffs featured aren't so much of killjoy as they could have been! Anthrax, generally, still did things by their own book.
Scott Ian's guitar riffing is heavy-handed. He does hammering palm-muted stuff, plays a lot with open strings and generally keeps things pretty simple. Some are simple as heck, hence the punk vibe here and there around the album. Anyway, it can be heard, that Scott's fingers must have been mash after recording sessions... Surely you hear heavy metal here, and 'American Pompeii's Black Sabbath influenced riffing that starts just before 3-minute mark is one shining example of that! Then again, there's not much of memorable stuff happening in lead and solo guitar departments. Paul Crook was enlisted as the lead guitarist, but his work was to throw in some noisy leads and solos ('In a Zone' features one of the more memorable ones, and surely there are a few more). Dimebag Darrell of Pantera fame guested on two songs, but he didn't conjure anything that could be called as legendary here. The guitars sound live.
Melodies are brought in by vocals by John Bush (Armored Saint). His lines are memorable, but again, rather simplistic. I like his rough-ish voice; you can hear he has lived. And not too strictly. This can be sensed from the lyrics, too, which are very streetwise. Fighting, drinking, anxiety, fucking society. Mr. Bush also does more clean vocals on 'Nothing', which is one of the catchiest songs on offer. Also so on 'Bare', which is a bit surprising semi-acoustic closer, where Bush manages to sound somewhat similar to Kurt Cobain. Generally, his vocals are raw, without much, if any, effects and such. The vocals sound live.
The rhythm section in Anthrax have always been more or less vivid. No lack of ideas in bass and drums departments! Charlie Benante is one of my favourite drummers ever. He just lives the beat. His simpler stuff always contains some tasty small tricks to enjoy about, and dan he is a real octopus is he wants to be. And you can bet he does! All of the music was written by drummer him, so that probably explains why it is so very rhythm-based. Frank Bello's bass is one of the funkiest in metal without being any gay. The rhythm section is, n a word, versatile. The bass and drums sound live.
So, the album sounds live! It sounds raw. It's not a presentation of balanced and clean production job, but while it's full, it's not clogged by any means. No, even though a lot of musical elements stay on lower levels.
'Stomp 442' is definitely better than the next one, 'Volume 8 - The Threat Is Real!', which was released as late as 1998. Here, the variety isn't so big, but on the other hand it could have been better in general songwriting; this is quite unvaried. However, the songs have their own vibes mostly for sure. I've managed to find something good in each of them, and the years do not seem to corrode them. Still, 'Stomp 442' is a remnant of mid-90s. It feels it has some similarities with early Machine Head, The Almighty's 'Crank' (1994) and even Helmet, just to name a few. This is a party record or one I love to listen to while driving my automobile.
(Originally written for ArchaicMetallurgy.com)
Stomp 442 is Anthrax's most forgotten and derided album, and is what springs to mind whenever one thinks of the Bush era. This release is one constituent of that mountain of awful 90's garbage put out by formerly respectable metal bands, and is almost entirely devoid of passable rock, let alone passable metal, especially for a band like Anthrax.
From the very first seconds, things look bleak. Chugging and grooving that is of a similar nature to the previous release, yet is far more forced and primitive. Though a listener would believe the opener to be the only track in this vein, this is not the case. 9 out of the 11 tracks follow the same 'groove rock' style, and that is the main flaw with this album: a sheer lack of variety and interesting ideas. Every song just passes by, each moving along at nearly the same pace, all endlessly chugging with only 2 or 3 'riffs' to be heard. The opener 'Random Acts of Senseless Violence', 'King Size', 'Riding Shotgun' and 'Drop the Ball', are completely interchangeable, and only vary by lyrics and a slightly changed up 3 notes in the few 'riffs' that occupy said songs. There are also these really annoying sound effects, like the guitar screeching at the beginning of 'Riding Shotgun' or the opener. This serves as some variation, I suppose.
To put this into perspective, imagine every song on here sounding like 'Hy Pro Glo' off of the previous album, subtract the dated 90's charm of said release, and stick in an inferior, rapped vocal performance from Bush. He really hammers home how radio-friendly this album was for the time, along with the previously stated 'riffing', Charlie's disappointingly bland drumming, and the fact that only 2 songs ever really break the 5 minute mark. Though radio friendly is not necessarily bad, it still can be, especially when executed as blandly as this.
Admittedly, it’s not all terrible. 'Fueled' is annoyingly good, despite the style it’s played in, and is a straight rocker. The grooving is at least tolerable, and Bush's vocals are not nearly as annoying and grating as on other tracks. 'In A Zone' is the obvious highlight here, moving far closer to the sound heard on Sound of White Noise and metal in general. The solos are not brilliant, as they are performed by Paul Crook, not Dan Spitz. However, they are competent enough, and are a welcome break to the monotony. 'Riding Shotgun' and 'King Size' feature famed axeman 'Dimebag' Darrell on leads, and really manage to serve as glimmers of inspiration on an otherwise bland album. And I guess the bass can actually be heard at times, even if it does almost nothing of interest.
But really, the only other things that stand out (but not for good reasons) are the remaining 2 tracks- failed radio single 'Nothing' and closer 'Bare'. The former is a 'heavy' alt radio rock song, albeit with a lead slot. It is irritatingly catchy, owing to some meaningless and simple lyrics, as well as being completely dumb and primitive musically. The latter is a ballad, and should serve as a little break from the endless grooving of the album. However, towards the end it just turns into another one of these songs. Nowhere near the greatness of 'Black Lodge', or even 'Pieces', it manages to sound far to cheesy, as opposed to the former two.
The production is notably less in line with grunge. While this means that the drums and guitars are heavier now, it’s all wasted as there are no parts to this album that have any fierce drumming or aggressive riffing (or even aggressive grooving) due to a mid-paced tempo throughout. Because of this, a grungy production would make more sense, so at least it would sound dated in a good way.
As stated at the beginning of this review, this is the most hated and forgotten Anthrax album, and with good reason too. This is generic 'groove rock' with a complete lack of ideas, or conviction. The band deserved to be kicked from Elektra after this release, and deserved to fade into obscurity too. If you can really stomach this sort of music, download 'Fueled' and 'In A Zone' and just pretend that this album doesn't exist, perhaps tracking down Sound of White Noise instead.
At least we know what the cover art is supposed to be of - very fitting for this album, I feel.
Like the image of the album is showing, we are treated with real garbage music here. I am the first to accept or like change, but this is just painful to listen to. The sarcastic album cover is showing us a man who’s watching a big garbage ball passing by. I can imagine seeing Anthrax looking at the result of this album and even thinking themselves that the quality is similar to what we dispose of. So Anthrax is the man looking to his own "creative" trash ball. I will explain in all the means necessary why this album is the worst thing Anthrax has ever done.
First of all, I liked Sound of White Noise. I think this album had a certain charm with its own atmosphere and with enough variety to rival the first two albums of the band. This variety is exactly what is missing on Stomp 442. The drums seem to repeat indefinitely the same exact rhythm that sounds way too generic for the style in use. The style is way more generic than on the last album. This time, we don't have any external influence in hard rock or their metal roots. What we get is an exclusively grunge rock album with little variety. The guitars are just there but don't really add any substantial melodies or riffs that can keep the attention of the listener. All the songs are written in the same mould with little passages that really stand out. Only one song named "Bare" sounds different and is actually more interesting than the rest here. It's in fact a little rock ballad at the end of the album, but even then, the last part of this song is returning to the general sound of the album and is overall not even good.
The production is also another disappointing aspect of this release. The guitar is at the forefront without letting us hearing anything else. The different solos on the album seem forced into each song. The band seemed to try desperately to add some much needed variety but it still sounds forced upon the listener because the solos just don't fit at all the style they are put in. The bass is tuned down way too much. The drums have a quite unimpressive sound and the general mix seems to miss guts. The vocals on this release also sound different from the last release as they don't keep that little groove present in general over the course of Sound of White Noise.
On an emotional level, this album just doesn't seem to get anything straight either. It sounds again quite generic and way too unoriginal to evoke any feeling on the listener. The singer is not really at fault here because the lackluster production doesn't help him expressing his emotions.
About this grunge album, there are much better albums of this same style that were already out at this moment that sound way less generic and give us many more memorable moments than on this release. Even past and future albums of the same band included more positive moments in the genre forecast on Stomp 442. So this is another reason to skip this release entirely.
Finally, I just don't understand this missed opportunity. After a very good effort in creating something similar to this in form of Sounds of White Noise, I was stunned to see this band sounding so uninspiring this time around. With only half a good song there with the rest being a complete letdown, what we have left is only a garbage ball that stinks to an unimaginable degree.
I'm never sure why this album is constantly labeled as Anthrax's worst album. In my opinion, it is John Bush's best album with Anthrax, next to Sound of White Noise. True, this album, and John Bush, did take a while to grow on me. I thought Among the Living was Anthrax's last excellent album. State of Euphoria was dull, Persistence of Time was tl;dl (too long; don't listen), Sound of White Noise was okay, and Stomp 442 was just shit.
After a while of only cycling through three Anthrax albums, curiosity got the best of me and I decided to listen to the other ones. Except, once again, Stomp 442. And for a while, I thought Sound of White Noise was John Bush's only great album with Anthrax. I had no intention of ever listening to Stomp 442 in its entirety.
Until one day, "Riding Shotgun" came on while I was asleep. I woke up right when it started and listened thoroughly. I was impressed by Scott Ian and Dimebag Darrell's guitar playing, and was even more impressed at Frank Bello and Charlie Benante. And then came John Bush, who I was still warming up to. And this album broke, or should I say, fucking destroyed the ice.
While not as "friendly" as Sound of White Noise, Stomp 442 is just as heavy, if not heavier. Stomp 442 is much more experimental than "Sound O' " and seems to be a logical step forward for Anthrax, with Dan Spitz having left the band after Sound O'.
To wrap up, I thought this album is Anthrax's most underrated album to date. It proves Anthrax can do just fine without their traditional sound, Joey, and Dan Spitz. It starts off strong with the five tracks, but really falls short after "In a Zone". Recommended tracks include "Random Acts of Senseless Violence", "Fueled", "King Size", and "Riding Shotgun". Although I wouldn't hang it as high as I would Sound O', it's definitely a fun one to listen to and a nice album to own.
It can be plainly stated that although Anthrax lost most of their viability when Joey Belladonna was out of the picture, that the band didn’t completely die until they lost Dan Spitz and the subsequent release of this utter travesty. At this point basically anything that even resembles the good aspects of grunge and hard rock were ejected from their sound and what is left is probably the blandest and most redundant pile of groove feces possible while still just barely missing all out Mallcore territory. The Limp Bizkit tendencies are definitely here, but it still retains just enough elements of the early 90s Pantera sound to qualify as Metal in some respects.
There are actually two aspects of this album that make it superior, in a relative sense, than “Sound Of White Noise”. The first is that the guitar tone has been cleaned up a bit so as not to sound like the mud butt soaked mess that was present before, resulting in a sound that is somewhat closer to what was heard on “Persistence Of Time”, though the boring as hell guitar grooves that are being used do not bring it anywhere near being enjoyable. The second being that Dimebag Darrel has been tapped to fill Spitz’s shoes, and being the crazed fret board blazer that he is, actually upstages his predecessor in the technical department.
Make no mistake though, what is heard on here is absolute garbage, albeit fairly well sugarcoated garbage when you account for the production quality and the improved guitar sound. Picture two nice big pieces of savory cheesecake floating in a toilet full of runny excrement and you’ll have what these positive elements amount to. Each one of these songs is an exercise in sheer droning, repetitive boredom with really annoying Scott Weiland meets Fred Durst vocals. Sometimes the grooves are semi-tolerable like in the case of “Fueled” and “In A Zone”, and at other times they throw in some really ear piercing high end dissonant guitar noise like in “Drop The Ball” and “Riding Shotgun” which grates in a way that makes some of the crap on “Through The Ashes Of Empires” sound pleasant by comparison.
One thing that can be said about this album which pretty well separates it from a lot of others by Anthrax’s half-thrash contemporaries is that it’s consistent. There isn’t really a whole lot that separates one song from the next in terms of quality, baring the incorporation or removal of certain annoying guitar and vocal effects. One exception is the famed radio oriented single “Nothing”, which drops the groove metal and hard core influences for an even duller and lamer brand of pseudo-heavy alternative rock. Picture something by Eve 6 or Sponge and then throw in a little lead guitar slot and you’ve got it. The other exception is “Bare”, which actually comes off as a joke considering that it’s a poorly sung rehash of what Gin Blossoms had been doing on their acoustic music for a couple years on an album populated with bad mallcore.
If you wanted to point to a single song on here that really stands out as being good in any respect, the winner would be “In A Zone”, which ventures the closest towards the “Sound Of White Noise” character of sound. The chorus riff actually sounds pretty similar to the interlude riff heard after the guitar solo on Guns N’ Roses “Welcome To The Jungle”, while the rest of it sounds like a fairly consistent worship session of Alice In Chains’ “Dirt”. Bush’s vocals are also free of most of that really grating quasi-rapped version of vocalizing that dominates this style of music.
No self-respecting thrash band would put out something like this at all, let alone put it out and then complain in interviews later on that your labels wanted nothing to do with you because you’re an old thrash metal band, because this is not thrash metal. In fact, most of it isn’t even heavy metal if you’re relying on standards of the genre aside from heaviness, which would qualify every single nu-metal band for the category. If you liked any of Anthrax’s previous works, including the lackluster “Sound Of White Noise”, avoid this like crazy. There are better things to do with your time, like analyzing the ass end of a cow with a really bad case of gas.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on February 28, 2009.
People love to hit a band while they're down. Sometimes they deserve the onslaught of criticisms, such as in the case of Metallica's infamous failure with St. Anger. Other times the critics are just opposed to change and judge the new style accordingly. This distinction is the reason that an album cannot be judged on bad press alone. One must actually hear the bullshit for themselves before they can be assured that they could not possibly grow to enjoy it. It is precisely for this reason that I obtained Anthrax's Stomp 442, even after immensely disliking their previous album Sound of White Noise. Stakes were high, but I might not hate it at best and I'd only be wasting a few minutes of my life at worst. And you know what, the critics were pretty damn right. This blows hard.
Whoever thinks that Anthrax was still a metal band at this point in their career has lost their ability to distinguish heavy metal from modern hard rock. Whereas Sound of White Noise maintained a pretty heavy grunge vibe, this exudes Foo Fighters and mainstream Soundgarden. There's also an occasional (but noticible) attempt at putting forth a Pantera-esque aggro sound, but it fails completely. This is limp-dicked late 90's radio rock covered in a thin, crunchy, tough-guy exterior and to suggest otherwise is absolutely preposterous.
It'd be easy to jump on the bandwagon of blaming John Bush as the reason all the albums he's on suck ass, but he's only providing the vocals. Even if he was the worst vocalist/lyricist on the planet, there would have to be a horde of fundamental flaws in the instrumental performances to allow an album to be as piss poor as this album is. Who to blame? Probably Scott Ian. [UPDATE 11/20/07: It has come to my attention that it was actually beloved drummer Charlie Benante who wrote all of the horrendous riffing on this album, not Scott Ian (I had heard a rumor that such was true, but had no proof. Thanks to Durandal1717 for confirming it). So do I owe Scotty an apology? No, because he still agreed to record Charlie's shitty material rather than write his own.] As the only guitarist left in the band, the riffing is all on him. Rather than attempting to write anything remotely thrashy, he sticks to shitty groove riffs (the kind that were exhausted by Pantera and Prong years earlier) and generic chord progressions designed to highlight Bush's vocals, as tough and menacing as they are(n't). Seriously, John Bush sounds about as intimidating on here as Zakk Wylde is on his solo album. But it's made all the worse by a noticible lack of quality riffage and an abundance of shitty guitar effects. His lead work also fails, serving as a fine example of predictable textbook hard rock guitar solos. I can't hear Frank Bello anywhere on here, so I'm going to assume he's just following the guitar and allowing himself to be mixed out, the acceptable norm for bassists of the 90's. Charlie Benante is still pulling his weight, providing as much of a backbone to this garbage as he possibly can, but his efforts are in vain, as all the fantastic double-pedal stomping in the world couldn't make this palatable.
By the second song on here, you'll have a pretty good idea of how the album is going to sound from beginning to end. "Random Acts of Senseless Violence" with its poorly thought out title and "Fueled" with its lackluster rehashing of the former's structure. Most of the song on here stick to this format: predictable song formats, embarrasing downtuned riffage, angry (but unintimidating) lyrics and vocals, and a general lack of balls. John Bush provides a saving grace at points, because if you listen closely, you can hear him actually warning the listener of how much this fucking sucks.
"Two steps forward
one hundred steps back
we're going the wrong way.
It's backwards, it's backwards
Cuffed and branded
I can't stand it."
Holy shit! John Bush was forced to sing on an atrocious album that he figured would ruin his reputation, so he managed to squeeze this little acknowledgment into "Riding Shotgun" to wash his hands of the whole thing. At least that's how I look at it. "In a Zone" is the only song on here that is borderline metal, but it's Pantera worship at best. This is followed by more radio-friendly bullshit that the radio never bothered to play. "Nothing" is a perfect example of what is wrong with this band. They wanted to appeal to the masses, only to find that the masses are fickle, leaving only old-school fans to disappoint. "American Pompeii" is kind of heavy, but reeks of the same mainstreamisms. Then we get some half-groove half-numetal with "Drop the Ball" along with another admission of guilt by Bush. Yes, John, you guys dropped the ball with this one. "Tester" is another generic number and is entirely forgettable.
But all of these bullshit songs climax with the last song, "Bare." Hey Anthrax, nice fucking ballad, hypocrites. It picks up near the end with one of those rejected Zakk Wylde-esque groove riffs (with the acoustic and electric guitars doing the same thing), but that isn't really any better. Besides it's the principle of the whole thing that cements this as fecal matter.
Finally, for those of us unfortunate enough to have the rerelease, we get treated to some bonus songs. For a quick summary of the quality of these tracks, replace "treated to" with "assraped by" and you'll have a fairly appropriate idea of their merit. "Grunt and Click" is as dumb as it sounds, another filler that deserved not to make it onto the album (just as many of the songs that did make the album didn't deserve to be there). Then a hideous Celtic Frost cover that the Anthrax of the 90's should have just left alone. Not sure who did the original "Celebrated Summer," but this version is lame, so enough said. And of course, every shitty album cannot end without a Kiss cover. (Okay so Hammerfall's Crimson Thunder is the only other album I know that ends that way, that album sucks too.) "Watchin' You" sucks as hard as the original, Anthrax finally doing a song justice for once. Think Blue Oyster Cult had an annoying cowbell sound? Just listen to this track and be convinced otherwise.
I love Fistful of Metal. I love Spreading the Disease. I fucking hate this. I definitely jumped the gun declaring Sound of White Noise as Anthrax's worst album, so I'm not going to do it again until I've listened to the ones that follow this. This is bad, but clearly Anthrax are capable of pushing their boundaries far below what anyone would expect of them. As long as Scott Ian is on his groove-core high, Anthrax is dead. The critics were right. Judge this accordingly.
As the majority of the main american Thrash acts slipped into the different style of 90's Thrashing, so did Anthrax, beginning with 1993's "Sound of White Noise." Stomp 442 isn't at all a bad album, it's just not up to par with their original material, as is usually the case.
Charlie's drumming didn't particularly blow me away on this one. It wasn't bad, pretty solid, but it was just a bunch of modern-rockish beats that any one of a million drummers could have done just as well.
Let's do the riffs and songs all in one swoop. As was to be expected, 'thrax ditched their fast-picking again and went deeper into the slowly, more groove-based, mainstream rifing of the 'Sound of...' record. That being said, the songs themselves were obviously geared more toward a 90's radio audience, with almost all of them coming in at a convenient 3:30-4:00 minutes.
There's not too much to say about this one. It's what you would expect from a 90's Thrasher. All in all, it's not bad, just kinda predictable and bland and makes you kinda wish they had stuck to their style. It's still a fun, mindless listen now and then, though
Anthrax certainly made an interesting step after the alarmingly brilliant "Sound of White Noise" release. This compact hardcore-meets-Anthrax mix certainly entertains but is lacking in much of the brilliance the predating album possessed. The production is about the same, (despite the bands protests to the opposite) the performances are also in line with the previous - the only weak link is the songwriting. Be it the label politics distracting them, or the unsure nature of a new line-up...the band dropped the ball in coming with a consistantly brilliant album in the same vibe of "Sound of White Noise".
Despite this drop in overall quality, the album still manages a few fun driving tunes that any fan of Bush-era Anthrax will want to own. The opening grind of "Random Acts of Senseless Violence" and the ultra-catchy "Nothing" stand out as great middle-of-the-road of modern metal tunes. "Riding Shotgun" and "Fueled" also have some classy Pantera-wannable riff-hooks as well. The rest goes from good to pointless, the band can claim they've stepped up lyrically but it matters little when the songs are only half-baked all around.
Anthrax burrow on with some great moments and some poor. Sadly, the band never recaptured the brilliance of "Sound of White Noise" and this record seems to function as the "lost child" of the Anthrax catalog.
Contrary to what many believe, I feel this is a very good effort from Anthrax that is a step above Sound of White Noise.
Their sound has definately changed a lot since the thrash days. Here they rely more on vocal melodies and commercial sounds, but the riffs are still important enough to keep things from faltering, unlike on their later efforts. The guitar uses drop D tuning that combines with a good production to give the guitars a somewhat modern, heavy effect, but that effect is not over the top.
Highlights of the album include the first 3 tracks ("Random Acts of Senseless Violence", "Fueled", and "King Size"), "Nothing", and "Bare". Unlike most albums in which the strongest material is centered at the beginning, this album never feels like it drops off too much, which is a testament to its strength. "Nothing" relies heavily on vocal melodies, but in this case it just fucking works. "Bare" is a very interesting track. It is a ballad, and I very rarely consider a ballad to be one of the better tracks on an album, but I really enjoy this song. It is quite different from a normal ballad and sounds nothing like Anthrax have ever done, before or after Stomp 442.
I wouldn't consider anything on this album to be bad. The worst song is probably "In a Zone", but it is just kind of boring, and there is nothing especially wrong with it. Another drop in quality can be found in the pseudo-thrash break/middle section of "American Pompeii". For some reason, the pseudo-thrash break in "Drop the Ball" is quite a bit better.
This is a consistent, original, and interesting album from Anthrax. It is not very similar to anything they (or any other bands for that matter) have ever done. The only thing keeping this album from receiving a very high rating is the lack of any truly amazing tracks.