Anthrax’s Sound of White Noise Was the Apex of the Bush Era.


This month marks 30 years since Sound of White Noise introduced us all to Anthrax‘s departure from their tried-and-true thrash mold. Though records like Among the Living and Persistence of Time allowed the band to carve themselves a clear space in the upper echelon of the genre, the 90’s came around and the masses started embracing the Seattle style that was being force fed to us by radio and Headbanger’s Ball. As a result, both Metallica and Megadeth would end up embracing a slower, groovier, and less heavy style that was more palatable to mainstream music outlets, leading both bands to a great deal of success.

Anthrax’s entry into the grunge era, Sound of White Noise, was welcomed with open arms because it was different from what Megadeth, Metallica, and their other contemporaries offered at the time. I’d been holding out hope that thrash wouldn’t fizzle out and this new direction for Anthrax didn’t yield your prototypical thrash record — rather, it was heavy, yet capable of maintaining a steady level of aggression and ferocity that could get fast when it needed to. At the same time, it was reflective and contemplative. A far cry from the playful (if not ridiculous) “I’m the Man.”

Sound of White Noise was then ex-Armored Saint vocalist John Bush’s entrance into the band as Joey Belladonna’s replacement on vocals. As a result, Sound of White Noise was a record with more melody and some hefty punch in terms of both lyrics and sonics. “Potter’s Field” as the record’s opener was the perfect introduction to the John Bush era. It was a pounding track that really was Anthrax making a statement about their new darker, more serious direction. I was worried about the Belladonna-less Anthrax, but this song immediately assuaged my fears.

One of the songs that really made it’s mark was the David Lynch inspired “Black Lodge.” Co-written by noted composer Angelo Badalamenti, who worked on Lynch’s Twin Peaks, it sounded like nothing the band had ever attempted before. Charlie Benante experimented with multiple layered guitars and tremolo when he composed the track giving it a completely unique dark and moody sound. The video, of course, made waves with both its originality and bleakly depressing storyline.

I still remember the premiere of the “Only” music video on Headbanger’s Ball. As a single, “Only” was a riff-heavy banger with groove and a touch of swagger. Danny Spitz, in what would be his last studio album with the band, trades speed for blues in the very memorable solo. While I loved “Only” as soon as I heard it, there were many who were a bit taken aback by the elements of the Seattle sound that seemed to permeate this newer, grimier Anthrax. Some called it “Anthrax in Chains,” but those folks, in hindsight, really missed the mark. While those of us who were heavily immersed in 80’s thrash would have loved to have had an Among the Living sequel-type record, there was no way that was going to happen in 1993.

Songs like “Hy Pro Glow” also brought out the Alice In Chains comparisons, and maybe they were justified in terms of the vocal harmonies you hear, but at the same time Anthrax was still profoundly heavier than any of the Seattle bands. And none of those outfits really had a shredder like Dan Spitz. Similarly, Frank Bello’s bass was substantially more technical than anything you heard from acts like Soundgarden as demonstrated in this rare clip from the band’s legendary live performance on the John Stewart show.

Looking back, Sound of White Noise continues to be one of my favorite records and I listen to it often. In fact, I listened to it so much that I wore out the original cassette version that I owned and had to upgrade to the CD in the early 2000’s. While folks can argue about whether the Joey era was/is better, many folks (myself included) are fans of both eras. With that, I can only hope that we get a combined John Bush/Joey Belladonna Anthrax tour at some point soon. There is room in Anthrax fandom for both.

Overall, while it’s difficult for me to listen to a lot of records that top thrash bands decided to put out in the 1990s (Diabolus in Musica – I’m looking right at you), The Sound of White Noise still sounds amazing and relevant today. It marks an important accomplishment in the world of heavy music and is the crown jewel of the John Bush Anthrax era.

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