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Global Domination | Class 6(66) | Anthrax: Sound of white noise

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Class 6(66)

Anthrax: Sound of white noise

22/12/11  ||  revenant

Introduction

It just so happens that when listening to the latest Anthrax record I had a massive wave of nostalgia sweep over me. For some reason I just had to go back and start listening to their older stuff all over again. I don’t know why, it just hit (maybe it was the need to remember why Anthrax was an important band in the first place, who knows?), and with it came the realization that I hadn’t listened to any Anthrax for a couple of years at least. Now I can’t say I was ever a big fan of their old old stuff (mainly due to Belladonna’s vocals, but more on that later), so for me “Sound of White Noise” has always been their classic. I’ll admit it has lain in a box discarded and forgotten by me for a while now, but in wiping the dust off this old disc and putting it on again for the first time in a long time, a fresh appreciation of this great record swept over me. For the first half of the album I kept asking myself: how did I forget this was so fucken good? The only logical next step, then, was this here induction into GD’s Class6(66) section.

Songwriting

“Sound of White Noise” was a departure from Anthrax’s traditional thrash sound which, let’s face it thrash diehards, would have sounded extremely dated when this was released. The transition Anthrax made from their old sound to the more rocky grungey style shown here is seamless, with songs constructed so well you’d think this was their style all along. OK, it’s not a complete stretch of their talents, we’re not talking a move from thrash to neo-classical or something ridiculous like that, but I’m sure you catch my drift. All the songs here have a great drive and build nicely to a crescendo in the chorus sections. Intros, verses, pre-choruses and finally the choruses themselves all contain different riffs and tempo, all bouncing along with intent. The songs are catchy, and at times irresistible to sing along to. “Only” ranks as my favourite song to sing along to. Of all time. Ever. Damn that chorus rules. Plus Anthrax show ability in writing ballady stuff with “Black Lodge”, another that ranks amongst the best here. So yeah, they were on song with this one. 8.5

Production

Put bluntly, this record sounds fucking great. The sound is very modern, with the guitar sound in particular a lot heavier than their previous works. The move away from the thin 80s guitars sound was very much underway by the time this record appeared, and the sound on here is nigh on perfect. The drums are punchy, the guitars are meaty just the right amount of crunch, John’s voice soaring magnificently over the top and… oh yeah, the bass. It’s deep and thick but, as with a lot of records, gets buried in the mix quite often. That is only a small gripe, because this really is an ace sounding record. 9

Guitars

While this record doesn’t contain a grandstand performance of guitar playing speed and prowess, it does contain some well executed riffage from start to finish. Typical Scott Ian stomping riffs are here in full force, as it the groove that infected the thrash scene in the 90’s. There are riffs aplenty here, and the shift from one to the other is tightly executed. Plus they sound fucking heavy. Yep, tonally they are right on. As I write this, I find it hard to even think of any decent solos on this record, so I guess points off for that, but I’m past listening to albums for solos so that’s a minor quibble really. 8.5

Vocals

I love John Bush. Not in a gay way or anything (not that there’s anything wrong with that, he is a devilishly handsome man after all), but his voice is pure awesome and the man can sing. He’s one of those rare talents that is so good at what he does that he makes it sound easy. Sure he’s a little grungey and rough around the edges, but that’s all part of his charm. The songs are well structured around his style as well, creating great sing-along choruses (none better than “Only”, oh wait, I mentioned that already). Now I mentioned Belladonna above, so I’ll state my opinion here: Bush destroys Belladonna. Where Belladonna annoys, Bush rules. I have no idea why they went back to Belladonna over Bush for the new record, maybe there was more cash in having the original lineup or whatever, but if I had any say in it, Bush would have been the man (Belladonga can sing “I am the Man” all he wants, doesn’t make it so). In hindsight it’s a great shame that Anthrax really only had one great record with Bush (this one) before they started fucking around with their style (“Stomp 442” and it’s nu-metal leaning and so on), because they never did get the best use from him. But for his performance on this record, I can think of no better score than… 9

Bass

As I mentioned above, the bass does get lost in the mix a lot in this album. When it is heard clearly (such as on “1,000 points of hate”) it thrums with persistence (of time, Ha! geddit geddit?) without delivery anything special enough to stick in your mind. 7

Drums

Now here’s the heart of the album: Charlie Benante. While the guitars lay down their stomping riffs, the real drive behind this album comes from the man behind the kit. Not too reliant on the kicks, heavy on the beating, the pounding rhythms of Charlie Benante really is the heart of why this album rocks so much. Thinking back through the album, all the great intros have drumming at their core. Listen to the start of “Only”, “Room for one More”, “Hy Pro Glo” or “1000 Points of Hate” and you’ll see you see the foundations laid. Charlie is the backbone to this album, and a damn brilliant one at that. 9.5

Lyrics

“1,000 points of hate” isn’t just a song title, it’s a description of the lyric content you’ll find in this album. Looking over the lyrics, it seems each song it dedicated to a person or group of persons who piss the band off. From ex lovers to our self-appointed saviours to scenesters and hipsters, Anthrax take aim and score hits on most occasions. Thankfully the silly lyrics that were once a Anthrax trademark don’t make too much of an appearance here, though the occasional oddity does appear, such as “everything is perfect, everything is sick, and that’s it”. Does anyone use “sick” in that context anymore? GET OUT OF THE 90’S! Oh, and let’s not forget this gem: “I saw your act, it came and went, As flaccid as an ex-president”. Obviously lyrics written before Bill Clinton’s time. But apart from the odd silly moment and it’s narrow lyrical focus, what’s here is reasonable enough. 7

Cover art

Not really sure what exactly that is. A close up blurred photo of a TV screen? A part of the human anatomy? Vomit? Fuck, I have no idea, but it does stand out, pity it’s as ugly as sin. 6

Logo

Pretty typical thrash band logo, but they are a thrash band, are they not? I definitely like it, though it’s not so hot in white. Then again, this is the “Sound of white noise” so I guess it fits. Kinda small though. 7

Booklet

The usual suspects: lyrics, acknowledgments and band photos. The photos are kind of interesting though: in a cafĂ© somewhere, coffees and plates of greasy food in front of them, and John Bush looks asleep in the group shot. We’re probably looking at a typical Anthrax morning after a big night on the piss. Good work lads. 7

Overall and ending rant

“Sound of White Noise” was an album I listened to a lot back in the day, and listening to it again (particularly in light of their latest offering) has been a refreshing experience. While this album has it’s critics (mainly fans of the early Anthrax stuff), this is an album that stands tall amongst the sea of tripe that the once thrash bands produced in the 90’s. In terms of where this sits in the Anthrax catalogue, I rate it as their pinnacle. I never did get into their 80’s stuff, and Bush’s fantastic voice combined with some excellent riffing built on a solid drum backbone is a complete win for mine. This isn’t a perfect album by any means, album opener “Potter’s Field” is a bit weak, and the quality does fall away on the last three tracks, but in between these bookends are some of the best rockin’, groovin’ moments of any album in the 90’s which makes this, for mine, a worth addition to the Class6(66).

8,5

  • Information
  • Released: 1993
  • Label: Elektra
  • Website: www.anthrax.com
  • Band
  • John Bush: vocals
  • Scott Ian: guitars
  • Dan Spitz: guitars
  • Frank Bello: bass
  • Charlie Benante: drums
  • Tracklist
  • 01. Potters Field
  • 02. Only
  • 03. Room for One More
  • 04. Packaged Rebellion
  • 05. Hy Pro Glo
  • 06. Invisible
  • 07. 1000 Points of Hate
  • 08. Black Lodge
  • 09. C11 H17 N2 O2 S Na
  • 10. Burst
  • 11. This Is Not an Exit