When it comes to polarizing albums, this one right here ranks up there. There aren’t many fans of John Bush era Anthrax, although I am unapologetically one. Bush seemingly transformed Anthrax from a goofy metal band with grating Joey Belladonna vocals, into a lean hard rock machine with the versatile Bush on the microphone. His first album with the band, Sound Of White Noise, was a great album (try putting on the song Sodium Pentothal and NOT start headbanging) that actually garnered them a Grammy nomination for the single “Only”. His second album with Anthrax was the perennially hated Stomp 442. But why is it hated so much?
For starters, they took a decidedly more melodic (SELLOUT) approach to songwriting, and it shows. Anthrax is known as a thrash metal band, and there are no thrashy moments whatsoever on this album. There is, however, a lot of mid-tempo groove. Charlie Benante, the drummer, handled most of the songwriting on this one. Not only is he a badass drummer, he is an underrated songwriter. I guarantee, if this album had been released by some undiscovered hard rock band and would have had the proper record company push, people would be looking at this album in a whole new light.
Anthrax wasn’t the only band to do this. Metallica took a more hard rock approach on Load and Reload, and those albums haven’t held up as half as good as SOWN and S442. Even Slayer did somewhat on Diabolus In Musica, where they took a more nu-metally approach to songwriting (yes, I do think it is a decent album which has its moments!). In the 1990’s, straightforward rock music in general was out of vogue, unless you were Aerosmith. If you didn’t have a gimmick or an angle, nobody wanted anything to do with you. Which is ironic, since Anthrax is considered a metal band. Stomp 442 is more of a hard rock album, but I would certainly say it was one of the top hard rock albums of the 1990’s. Which is an easier statement to make than you would think, considering the dearth of good rock music in that decade (in my opinion, the Godsmack S/T was the only popular AND good hard rock album from the 1990’s).
From the groove of “Fueled”, the swagger of “King Size” (which has a guitar solo from the almighty Dimebag Darrell), the locked and loaded focus of “Riding Shotgun” (which ALSO has a guitar solo from the almighty Dimebag Darrell!)…to the power of the album opener “Random Acts Of Senseless Violence”, the industrial leanings of “Drop The Ball”, and the melodic ass-kicking-ness of “Nothing”, this is an album that should be cranked up in your 1992 Ford Mustang 5.0 droptop as you floor it onto the interstate. While there are some missteps on here, it is a solid album that can be played through from beginning to end, which is more than I can say about most albums period.
I remember buying this album the day it came out. It had me hooked then, and revisiting it as an adult made me remember why. 1995 was a great year for heavy music fans, which had highly influential releases such as At The Gates’ “Slaughter Of The Soul”, Death’s “Symbolic”, Fear Factory’s “Demanufacture”, Meshuggah’s “Destroy Erase Improve”, Morbid Angel’s “Domination”, and White Zombie’s “Astro Creep 2000”.
But sometimes you just want a good, solid, kickass rock album to listen to. Go check out Stomp 442 and see what you think. You may very well still hate it, but it deserves at least a grudging amount of respect.