Sound Of White Noise


Elektra Records, 1993

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


1993 was a period of highs and lows for the thrash metal group Anthrax. On the high end, the band was signed to one of the biggest record labels around, and was ready to let loose on the masses. (Yes, the band was signed to Island, which was by no means a small label, but being on Elektra, it was assumed that Anthrax would really have a promotional juggernaut behind them.) On the down side, the band had parted ways with second vocalist Joey Belladonna, the man behind the microphone who had led the group to the cusp of superstardom. You want to talk about travelling an unpaved road? Anthrax had thrown away their Howard Johnson's road map and was charting a new course for themselves.

Sound Of White Noise was the first album to feature (then) former Armored Saint vocalist John Bush, but it didn't radically deviate from what the group had started to do on Persistence Of Time. Fans wondered, though, how Bush would fit in with a well-established band.

When this tape first came out, I absolutely hated it - and probably ignored it for the last six years until one reader encouraged me to give it another listen. It took me about a year to finally build up the courage to give it one more try... and my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Sound Of White Noise did prove to have some great moments on it, but did show the signs of a band whose foundations had been weakened.

The first half of this one is almost indestructible. Never mind the fact that Bush's vocals occasionally seem to come in a shade too soon on "Potter's Field," the album's opening track. Bush might not have had the range that Belladonna did, but his overall power behind his vocals were what made the association with Anthrax work. Tracks like "Room For One More," "Packaged Rebellion" and "Hy Pro Glo" all suggested that Anthrax had creatively turned a corner. ("Only," the first single, actually wasn't the best choice for that honor - even though it, too, is a great track. Had I been in charge, "Room For One More" would have been saturating the airwaves.)

The problem with Sound Of White Noise is that the album feels like Anthrax spent their energy on the first five songs - leaving the rest of the disc to slide a bit. Tracks such as "Invisible" and "1000 Points Of Hate" feel like the band is re-treading old material, while "Black Lodge" just never feels comfortable in the band's playing. (For that matter, lead guitarist Dan Spitz often sounds like his heart isn't totally in his playing - no surprise, then, when he left Anthrax not long afterwards.) "Sodium Penathol" (sorry, but I can't get the chemical symbols to appear right in this text) seems like it would have the perfect edge for Anthrax, but the song is unable to live up to expectations.

The closing tracks, "Burst" and "This Is Not An Exit," both have the feeling that Anthrax was turning the corner and returning to the high quality that made up the first half of Sound Of White Noise... if only there were more songs to prove that. At least the album ends on a good note.

Granted, Anthrax will have a tough time topping works like Spreading The Disease and Among The Living in my mind. But Sound Of White Noise, while showing growing pains more often than not, was a sign that Anthrax was still alive and kicking. Maybe, had this one been promoted better (and the right songs had been released as singles), it could have been a commercial high-water mark for Anthrax. Instead, it's seen as a transitional album with some good material... and, while not totally inaccurate, is a shame.

Rating: B-

User Rating: B



© 2001 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Elektra Records, and is used for informational purposes only.