Hey now, everybody! I haven’t written about music for a while and I thought I’d get back into the groove by talking about some of my favourite metal/hard rock albums from the ’90s. No, not that Nü Metal stuff. You know, METAL. I got back to listening to the soundtrack of my teen years when I started “Major Scores”. (Bonus points to anyone who remembers that series.) Now, that my nostalgia trip has carried over into the sounds of Summer 2020, I thought it is as good a time as any to share my thoughts on these albums. So, here we go…
I might be a complete nut for liking Anthrax’s Stomp 422 so much. The album flopped commercially. The band blamed the label, Electra, for its lack of promotion, and a few outlets like Walmart refused to carry it because of the bum on the cover. Most critics gave it a negative review too. Here is Stephen Thomas Erlewine in his allmusic.com review:
Anthrax continued their downward spiral with Stomp 442, a generic collection of speed metal bombast. Previously, the band had been able to save their weakest material by the sheer force of their personality, but by the time they recorded Stomp 442, they had lost a number of their key members. Instead of recharging the band, the new members make Anthrax seem somewhat unsure of where to go next — they pull out their old bag of tricks, but none of their blistering riffs, thundering drums, or hip-hop experiments carry any excitement any more. A handful of tracks suggest that the band could save itself, but Stomp 442 is a disheartening experience for the band’s dedicated followers.
Ouch. Fair enough if you don’t like the album. To each his own and all that metal, I guess. But we have a bit to unpack here because, with all due respect, I don’t know what this guy is talking about.
No hip hop experiments? Geez, Bring the Noise was some fun they had with Public Enemy in ’91, I’m the Man was ’87. It’s like complaining when The Beatles came out with Abbey Road that they don’t do songs like “Love Me Do” anymore.
While it is true, founding member and lead guitarist Dan Splitz… split, that was really the only line-up change. Drummer Charlie Benante played a majority of the guitar solos, Pantera’s Dimebag Darrell guested on one tune, and journeyman/session guitarist Paul Crook did the rest. So I’m not sure who these new members are who are going to recharge the band. He might be referring to John Bush who replaced lead vocalist Joey Belladonna on the previous album, Sound of White Noise. So he was relatively new, I guess.
Getting away from this guy though, one of the more consistent complaints about this album is how all of the songs sound the same. Well, since both AC/DC and Motorhead share space on my top three bands of all time, I guess that wouldn’t bother me very much. I actually enjoy how the album is stripped of the hip hop and novelty bits. This is straight-up working’s man’s metal for the ’90s. Tough, punchy, and crunchy. Anthrax’s very own Flick of the Switch if you will.
The first six tracks are a non-stop jackhammer of intensity. Even though Benante did most of the writing, every tune is anchored by rhythm guitarist Scott Ian’s groove. Throw this one into the anti-skip Discman when on the treadmill and you won’t want to leave. Random Acts of Senseless Violence and Fueled are a terrific one-two punch at the top. Then King Size (featuring Dimebag Darrell), Riding Shotgun, Perpetual Motion, and In A Zone do not let up.
The next three tunes are slightly weaker. Slight-ly. Bush seems to strain a bit during Nothing, American Pompeii is the best out of the three, and Drop The Ball ain’t bad. Heck, all three have their moments. Really good, just not great.
But then Tester comes next. My favourite track of the bunch. This is the tune that put the stomp into Stomp 422. Literally. The boys stomp on boards as part of the percussion. It is good times.
The final tune is Bare, an acoustic number that gets “acoustic heavy” before it is done. It is a good track but it doesn’t really fit with the rest of the album. So, I can see why it is placed at the end.
There is an extended version of the album that came out in 2003, but I wouldn’t recommend it. The extra tunes drag it out to 15 tracks and they’re not really worth owning, IMHO.
I know a lot of folks have a nostalgic tie with the Belladonna years from the ’80s, and I love that stuff too. Especially Among the Living which I can agree with most how it is their best album. But personally, I connect more with John Bush’s down to earth lyrics and style. Stomp 442 has never left my collection since I bought it in ’95. Not once have I ever considered giving it up. #MarsApproved