Register Forgot login?

© 2002-2019
Encyclopaedia Metallum

Best viewed
without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
or higher.

Privacy Policy

The sound of '90s commercial carnage - 38%

Napalm_Satan, April 21st, 2015

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 signalled their entry into the decade, but others fell completely flat, and few bands 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, while others are tuneless and grating. He generally sounds bad in one way or another, especially when he tries yelling and simply sounds weak.

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 overly distorted, 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.