Anthrax Sound Of White Noise / Stomp 442

Central to the refinement of '80s thrash metal, these two Anthrax albums (now remastered with new liner notes and bonus tracks culled from elusive European singles) illustrate one of the band's most famous growth spurts. Upon separating from Elektra Records in 1995, Anthrax walked with the masters of these records, which nowadays "is about as rare as finding the one guy without a mullet and black T-shirt at Ozzfest," the liner notes declare. After long-time front-man Joey Belladonna left the band after their essential odds and ends collection, 1991's Attack Of The Killer B's, Anthrax hired former Armored Saint singer John Bush, and 1993's subsequent Sound Of White Noise effectively extended their sound to a more accessible alterna-rock arena, with new found aggression and the most exciting flair of the post-Belladonna years. Beginning with a few moments of static fuzz, those bee-buzz riffs surface as the band rips into the hard-hitting "Potters Field," maintaining this uncompromising level throughout "Room For One More," "Packaged Rebellion," "Hy Pro Glo," "Invisible" and "1000 Points Of Hate." Anthrax made a calculated effort at writing catchy singles and succeed in the contagious "Only" and the lush orchestration of "Black Lodge" (co-arranged by Angelo Badalamenti, of Twin Peaks fame). A kindler, gentler "Black Lodge" remix is included as a bonus track, as well as heavy covers of Cheap Trick's "Auf Wiedersehen," Thin Lizzy's "Cowboy Song" and the Smiths' "London." Regrettably, Elektra Records stopped paying attention to Anthrax two years later with Stomp 442, an average album and their label swan song. While Sound Of White Noise truly smoked, in terms of the juxtaposition of feverish tunes to broad pastiches of jam, the disappointing Stomp 442 hardly broke any new ground but still had a smattering of passable songs: again, a great single in "Fueled," the opening scorcher "Random Acts Of Senseless Violence," the neatly AOR-oriented "Nothing," the strangely Aerosmith-ian "American Pompeii," the Doors-ish prelude of "Riding Shotgun" and the acoustic, Alice In Chains/Pantera doing Sabbath of "Bare" (no surprise, since Pantera's Dimebag Darrell supplied much of the deft lead guitar work after founding member Dan Spitz split during the album's recording, sadly never to return). The first bonus track is spotty - the mid-tempo original "Grunt & Click" - but their bracing choices of covers (Celtic Frost's "Dethroned Emperor," Hüsker Dü's "Celebrated Summer" and their umpteenth Kiss chestnut, "Watchin' You") easily forgive that slight lapse. Though not their career best, these two durable vignettes ferried Anthrax safely through the '90s, capturing the maturity of a band unafraid to tweak their time-honoured musical formula, despite the musical climate or label interest of the time. And with a new studio album in the works for early 2002, Anthrax are poised to test that climate again. (Beyond)