This week’s pick is a notable album from 1993 that marked a major lineup change for a long-running group as well as a shift in sound from their standard thrash to a more fit for the times alternative metal approach.
Anthrax – Sound Of White Noise
Released May 25, 1993 via Elektra Records
My Favorite Tracks – Only, This Is Not An Exit, Black Lodge
Anthrax had parted ways with longtime singer Joey Belladonna and replaced him with renowned Armored Saint singer John Bush. Bush’s visceral style fit the new songs well and put the band in prime position to remain afloat as thrash metal was falling out of public attention.
Anthrax did not sacrifice heaviness on this record but they did set the standard thrash formula aside for a more straightforward attack. While “grunge” influence is often spoke of when discussing the album, it seems more like just a very heavy metal album to me. I don’t really hear grunge on this. It fit the times but there was a lot more going on in metal than just people aping grunge back then.
This set runs at just under an hour with 11 tracks, so let’s jump right in to this beefy offering.
The blistering opener presents the view of a person mad at his mother for having been born, the troubled guy would have rather been aborted than left to live his crappy life. The song is a harsh, straightforward pummeling through the angry rant towards the mother. John Bush’s raspy and powerful delivery enhances the sharp sting of the lyrical content.
The album’s lead single also serves as its most-known track and one of the highlights of the Bush Anthrax era. The song gets into dealing with someone who is clearly batshit crazy.
Only was a calling card for the new era of Anthrax right out of the gate. It saw consistent MTV play and has gone on to be widely considered the top track from this period of the band. It is also the only “Bushthrax” song that Joey Belladonna has performed after returning to the group.
Room For One More
This is something about a person seeking to use someone with a checkered past for something probably not good. The subject matter of these songs is far beyond the typical thrash offerings and suits the higher intellectual period of the early ’90’s very well.
A look at how the concept of rebellion was commercialized and put on display as a scene rather than an actual revolutionary movement. A very fitting song that strikes at the heart of music and culture of the time period. Rebellion was sold to the alternative crowd and was bought up just like food on a buffet line.
Hy Pro Glo
This is some kind of “callout” song that doesn’t specifically offer what or who it’s getting into. Many of the songs on the album have lyrical fare that keeps a certain distance and fits the music well yet doesn’t offer an open, literal interpretation that’s easy to digest.
Another sort of “you suck” song, this one deals with the friend who is never around in times of need. This one’s meaning is easier to pick up on than some of the others.
1000 Points Of Hate
A title twisted from the famous “1000 points of light” phrase that George Bush the Elder uttered as president. The album’s most aggressive track, this one spells its points out clearly and is a true beating of a song.
A dark, plodding “ballad” of sorts that was inspired by the Twin Peaks TV show, this was issued as a single and stands apart from the pounding that the rest of the album delivers. It deals with a person living with some kind of demons that aren’t spelled out – it could be mental illness, drug addiction, perhaps even terminal illness. The song is a well-crafted and creepy tune that uses John Bush’s voice to highlight the plight at hand.
The track listing spells out the actual chemical formula for this compound, I am not attempting to type that out or even copy and paste it into my document and declare war on my formatting. The drug has been used in lethal injection executions but also saw some limited use as a “truth serum,” and that is its application in the song.
Another pounding of a song that gets into how opinions are just that and really don’t hold much meaning when put up against each other. Sadly a lesson unlearned as the years have gone on.
This Is Not An Exit
The album closes with this extended number that gets back into the creepy vibe explored on Black Lodge. The song deals with the idea of immorality and the mental toll that living forever would actually have on a mortal being.
Sound Of White Noise would be a highlight album for Anthrax. It charted at 7 on Billboard, the band’s highest position. It went gold in the US and Canada and the singles Only and Black Lodge landed in the Top 40. The album received well among critics and it is often featured toward the top of lists of fan rankings.
It was a gamble to reinvent musically and also part with the groups signature singer in Joey Belladonna, but the gamble paid off as Anthrax entered the revamped ’90’s metal scene with a relevant sound and approach. Future albums with Bush would not see the same fanfare, though some highlights are around.
Anthrax would go through some silliness with vocalists for awhile before eventually reuniting with Belladonna and joining the Big 4 of Thrash tours. And while the signature Anthrax era will always be Joey and records like Spreading The Disease and Among The Living, there is no doubt that Sound Of White Noise and John Bush left a huge mark on the band’s career.