Thinking evil, is that just your normal gig?0.
Fuelled by hatred, happy as a stuffed pig
I’m cheating outrageously here, breaking all the 1537 rules in one go. I’m reviewing an LP I’ve only owned for three days Anthrax Sound Of White Noise. Well, maybe. I’ve owned this album since it came out in 1993 and Lee, a kind guy I was working with at a warehouse in Leeds at the time* gave me a taped copy of it. We went to see them together too, my first ever thrash gig, at Leeds Town & Country Club in November 1993, it was a great great night too and pretty lively but not half as rough down the front as I thought it would be. Anthrax played all their classics, ‘Caught In A Mosh’ being my favourite along with ‘Bring The Noise’ and a cover of Beastie Boys ‘Looking Down The Barrel Of A Gun’. The real highlights though were the tracks from Sound Of White Noise, unsurprisingly really as they had all been built around the voice of John Bush.
This was where I boarded the train so I have no axe to bear on behalf of Joey Belladonna unlike quite a few committed fans who disliked this album reflexively. For my money I prefer John Bush’ vocals, they’re lower and on this LP they convey a genuine menace at times, his voice was always the best thing about his previous outfit Armoured Saint. People have said that this was Anthrax’s grunge album, that they’d kowtowed to the prevailing trends of the times and, yes they did tone down the metalosityness of their previous LP covers and draft in Dave Jerden to co-produce after his work with Alice In Chains and, my beloved, Jane’s Addiction, but I don’t think that the charge sticks.
One listen to the opening drum barrage of opener ‘Potter’s Field’ pretty much dispels that notion, this is metal. Charlie Benante is metal, what a drummer! His drums are the main thing that stands out instrumentally throughout Sound Of White Noise for me, they are never less than thunderous from the first ’til last minute. The drum sound is fabulous too and kudos to Jerden and the band for capturing that perfectly here as it really keeps this LP sounding current, (gulp) 21 years later. Not that any of the band are slouches.
This is one of those albums for me that I greet every track by saying ‘this is my favourite one on the album’. The next two, ‘Only’ and ‘Room For One More’ being cases in point. They both slow down the Anthrax sound in favour of great melodies and dynamics and I really love the almost stealthy guitar solo on the former; James Hetfield called ‘Only’ a perfect song. ‘Room …’ is simply my favourite Anthrax track by far, one of my favourite metal tracks period. I love the way it lopes into view driven by, you guessed it, Benante’s drums and a scorching, forceful vocal – the chorus is just piledriving. Hell, it even has slowed down moshy bits too; I’m pretty partial to those.
As always with Anthrax I hear more of a punk influence in their sound than the other big thrash guns** and you can really hear this in the structure and vocals of ‘Packaged Rebellion’, as well as the lyrics, which I like.
I saw your act, it came and went
As flaccid as an ex-president
Your ideas are out-of-place
It’s anarchy with a friendly face
Rebel, rebel, don’t regret
Screw ’em every chance you get
The quality of the album stays the pace, you gotta love a song called ‘1000 Points Of Hate’, surely? They even serve up a great change of pace too with ‘Black Lodge’, based on Twin Peaks and co-written with the awesome Angelo Badalamenti^, I like it a lot and there is still a slightly raw undertow beneath it. There’s even a remixed version as a bonus track at the end of the LP, it doesn’t add too much as far as I am concerned. Hey, ‘Hy Pro Glo’ even takes it’s title from a Purina dog food ad.
Another strong favourite of mine is ‘C11H17N202SNa (Sodium Pentathol)’, which just explodes from the speakers and stays exploded and along with ‘Burst’ is the heaviest, thrashiest track on offer here. The closing track ‘This Is Not An Exit’, as well as taking its title from American Psycho includes a sample from mawkish kiddie film My Girl – who’d have thought it? David Lynch, Brett Easton Ellis, Macauley Culkin and dog food; good overall mix for an album, that.
I’ve taken far too long getting hold of a copy of Sound Of White Noise, 21-ish years in fact, and the copy I bought wasn’t an original (too expensive), instead I plumped for a 2LP 2009 reissue on a Spanish label called Black Sleeves / Kankana. The sleeve is slightly different and whilst there are pictures on the inner sleeves there is absolutely no album information at all, no lyrics, no band members even. As I mentioned though it has the bonus version of ‘Black Lodge’ and apparently the original version of ‘Black Lodge’ was missed off the original vinyl version altogether for space reasons and the vinyl is so thick I can barely lift them despite my mighty thews, so I am pretty happy with it.
Like most metal heads I really like Among The Living, but I genuinely think this album is where they peaked. There are a few isolated gems to be had afterwards but this was their last truly cohesive album and it kicks like a mule, leaving me happy as a stuffed pig.
*loading and unloading lorries being what an English & History degree qualified me for. Lee had a mate who had ‘Suicideal Tendencies’ tattooed in big letters right across his back – guess you can’t spellcheck your skin!
**simplifying hugely here, a great deal of all that wonderful noise comes from Discharge Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing, one of the best noisy LPs ever. True story.
^as well as the Twin Peaks soundtrack, which I haven’t gotten around to getting, does anyone remember his collaboration with Tim Booth, Booth & The Bad Angel? probably just me. It was ace anyway.