Sunday, August 7, 2011

Worth the Effort: Stomp 442 - Anthrax - 1995

Stomp 442I've been immersed in Anthrax all summer and have accumulated and carefully worked my way through most of the catalogue by now. I am squarely seated in the middle of the bandwagon in that I certainly find the '85-'90 era the prime of their career. Joey Belladonna solo is one of the better shows I have seen in recent memory and I am truly excited for Worship Music and the upcoming tour. All that said, though, it was a John Bush-fronted album that was my first Anthrax purchase (Sound of White Noise in '93) and We've Come for You All has been a regular on my ipod for weeks now. It's Stomp 442 that I find really intriguing, though, as it killed the band's relationship with major label Elektra, was Dan Spitz-less, was released at the height of the anti-metal alternative wave and still managed to rock so fucking hard. 

Stomp 442 all but abandons Anthrax's speed-addled approach and opts instead for simple heavy, hard rock. John Bush provides a raw energetic, intense delivery. Scott Ian's riffs are rock-solid and, riding on Frank Bello's basslines, propel the proceedings at a healthy velocity. Dimebag Darrell drops in for welcome leads here and there to supplement new guitarist and Spitz replacement, Paul Crook, but the real star of the record is, as usual, Charlie Benante. Benante's percussion is always a highlight and he doesn't fail to deliver the goods on Stomp 442 - and even fills on on guitars (and provides a solo on "Nothing"):

On the downside, Stomp 442 largely under-delivers in the lyric department. There's nothing embarrassing but that Anthrax quirkiness is all but gone and one wonders where the balance tipped in the Bush/Ian writing partnership. Additionally, the album art, abandoning the trademark band logo, is atrocious. The cover shot by Storm Thorgerson looks like a leftover from his latter-day Pink Floyd work and comes across as a half-hearted attempt to sneak the album in among alternative rock, much of which was sporting similar soulless artwork at the time. And the title?  I don't know what it really means (assume from the junkyard cover that it's related to the Olds muscle car) but it sure as hell isn't memorable.

Stomp 442 is unique in that it can provide ample ammunition to either side of the post-Belladonna argument. It's a solid hard-rocker released in an era when the stuff was all but extinct and it still plays well today. On the other hand, it is nowhere near established classics from the band's canon and is difficult to even file alongside Persistence of Time of Among the Living. Still, findable for literally a penny online - and regularly dumped in the dollar bin at any used CD outlet - it's well worth picking up.

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