The early-90s was a period of flux for thrash titans Anthrax. As John Bush replaced Joey Belladonna on vocals, their ferocious speed-metal assault began to mellow during the post-grunge alt.rock gold rush. Released in 1993, Sound Of White Noise drifted towards more mainstream melodic terrain, aided by Alice In Chains producer Dave Jerden.
Laying soaring vocals over crunchy riffs, Bush’s honeyed growl on Only and This Is Not An Exit certainly has a strong Seattle feel. The album’s stellar guest list includes Public Enemy DJ Terminator X, who adds turntable scratching to the pulverising nu metal prototype 1000 Points Of Hate. Elsewhere, Angelo Badalamenti co-writes and arranges strings on the brooding, David Lynch-inspired, Metallica-lite Black Lodge.
But if Sound Of White Noise captures Anthrax in creative confusion, its boorish 1994 sequel Stomp 442 finds them hitting rock bottom. Guest guitarist Dimebag Darrell adds some pleasingly unruly turbo-thrash solos, filling in for the departed Dan Spitz, but generic dummy-spitting tantrums like Fueled and American Pompeii sound woefully uninspired.
Worse still is Bare, an acoustic soft-rock ballad that exposes Bush’s vocal limitations. Hardly surprising that the band’s label dropped them following this career nadir.
For Anthrax novices and metal historians, Sound Of White Noise is a flawed but interesting effort worth rediscovering, but Stomp 442 can be safely forgotten. These perfunctory repackages hardly help their reputations, boasting only a single bonus remix between them while ditching the eclectic cover versions (Thin Lizzy, The Smiths, Kiss, Cheap Trick) that appeared on previous reissues. A pretty thin deal.