Where's the friggin' logo?!
Yet another longtime member splits the scene, as after eleven years Dan Spitz realized that the life of a born-again watch repairman would not only allow him to continue providing for his growing family, but would also allow him to spend more time with said family. Enter Spitz's tech Paul Crook on lead for most of the songs (although he would never be considered an official member of the band), and very special guest Dimebag Darrell on others. Quite the coup for Anthrax, as Pantera were shit-hot, having taken heavy music back to the top of the American charts with 1994's diamond-studded ball-buster Far Beyond Driven. Their success generated a flood of new bands who shamelessly aped their tight, hefty grooves without expectation of paying any real dues on their way to the top. That's to be expected. But to hear a member of the old guard behave so slavishly, well, it's disheartening. It's Stomp 442.
"Random Acts of Senseless Violence"--Inspired by the 1993 spree murder on the LIRR. The cheeky, lathered-up lick is just a tease. Also, a cock. Twenty seconds in, John Bush yells out either "fu-core!" or "poop-car!" I'm not sure what either Fu Schnickens or PT Cruisers have to do with such an intense subject, but remember: ours is not to wonder why. Ours is to appear erudite by quoting from a poem.
Despite the chorus being a poor attempt at Phil Anselmo's "deep whisper" technique, I like "Random Acts" okay. Paul's solo combines the best of Kerry King and Dan Spitz in one fifteen-second run.
"Fueled"--Helmet with John Bush singing! (Hey, you know who else once did a song that was Helmet with a different vocalist?)
"Bukowski's on my shoulder." Mine too. Telling me turn this crap off and start kicking the Dark Companion in his ass. Put my legs, hips and ass into it. No fire to be feared in these lines.
"King Size"--Blesses us with Dimebag and curses us with a "warn ya/California" scheme. Motherfuckers, that is the same crap that put the Red Hot Chili Peppers on my shitlist forever. Tread careful.
Does "King Size" rock? Eh, I think it just pebbles. The few flashes of light occur when I'm unable to discern individual sonic elements. (I love American goulash, especially with cheese.)
"Riding Shotgun"--The first four lines are a superb summation of the band's state at that time. Nothing innately wrong with fanboy-ing, especially not over Pantera. Pantera were one of the greats.
There is something screwy about, say, scarring up your own face just to reap the benefits of plastic surgery. Christ, this rips off not only "I'm Broken" but "Senseless Apprentice" as well.
Darrell provides soulful screeches and squeals, and I hope his passion and proficiency made the Anthrax guys feel like quitting.
(In 2006, Dan Spitz gave an interview wherein he claimed that tapes of his lead parts were copied by both Paul Crook and Dimebag Darrell for this album. I dunno about Paul, but Dime's contributions are too redolent of, y'know, his own style to convince me that he was just following a leader.)
"Perpetual Motion"--I would prefer to analyze canine flatulence than listen to this again.
"In a Zone"--The sound of off-white noise, chug-scrape chug-scrape. Bush does okay as the weary, belligerent antagonist, while his mates do equally okay with the old trinkets scattered around the apartment.
"Nothing"--The sun is out! What a great day to step outside and keep on going till you decide to head back home. I mean, if you have the free time, why the hell not? Refreshed mind, reinvigorated soul.
Then, no more than twenty feet from your doorstep, a bird shits on your shorts. And the colors completely clash.
"American Pompeii"--Five minutes of blither-blather, just bury me face-first in my own feces already. Let's attack the futility of nostalgia with generic-ass heavy rock! John Bush is such a goddamn try-hard. As of this song, I officially came down sick of his chest-first/hair-second "vocal style."
"Drop the Ball"--The recurring riff is two chalkboards fucking on a bed of nails. Those of you who know the breadths and depths of my musical tastes know that I intend that to be a complimentary remark.
"Tester"--Anthrax feel the sudden urge to grip their nuts and swagger 'round the new guys! They fancy themselves real fuckin' bad-ass, but in actuality they look buzzed on Schlitz and barbiturates. Pretty audacious regardless, considering these Big Apple vets have "re-invented" their sound by borrowing liberally from some Texas youngbloods.
"Bare"--The fellas take us out with a tender love ballad that does not end in vehicular tragedy. Unfortunately, the fact that it eventually ends is the only good thing about "Bare." An example in how to sound "effortless" in all the wrong ways.
Anthrax were very mad when their label, Elektra Records, did not promote Stomp 442 to their satisfaction, resulting in the album selling 400,000 fewer copies than Sound of White Noise. So they took their giant ball and naked guy and went to Ignition Records for their next effort.
Far be it from me to defend major labels, but in this case Elektra was just trying to preserve multiple legacies at once. After a great debut with John Bush at the mic, Anthrax are about to lose the entire plot.