I thoroughly enjoyed hearing “Sound Of White Noise” and ANTHRAX’s new direction. It was fresh. It was inspired. It was new. It was a clever step with the evolution of the band. So what exactly happened to “Stomp 442”? I know there had been changes between the two albums (this will be mentioned later) but how could a band so quickly lose all the great ideas and direction with one album? After listening to “Stomp 442” it’s apparent that perhaps this new technique for the band’s songwriting was a one trick pony.
Where their first album with new singer John Bush was exciting and larger than life, “Stomp 442” is repetitive and boring. The album starts off with a bang. Easily the best two songs are the first two tracks, but after “King Size” the album quickly falls prey to the quicksand effect and with each track that struggles to pull itself out of the doldrums it only creates a worsening situation. By the time the album ended on the lackluster “Bare”, I was more than ready for it to be over.
Although I can’t blame John Bush for this one as many people tend to. His vocal performance is quite similar to “Sound Of White Noise” and it fits the style well. But he truly shines on songs that carry the energy from before (like the first two tracks or “American Pompeii”) and that’s when he almost is able to overcome the monotonous songwriting.
If I were to say there was one factor that led to this album’s truly dismal output, I would put my money on the loss of Dan Spitz at lead guitar. After he left to become a watch maker in Switzerland, it was a poor choice on ANTHRAX to not replace him with anyone for the album. Of course a few songs do feature Dimebag Darrell (of PANTERA fame) doing some soloing and leads but most of the songs desperately needed the dynamic of Spitz’s guitar work to break out of the rut that the album quickly falls into. Dimebag’s style, although quite unique, doesn’t really fit with the album and he is only featured a couple of times anyways. But even having him solo or lead on a few more songs couldn’t have hurt this album any worse.
But alas, there are a few things that this album does accomplish right. The energy of the album is nice and high and sometimes it makes the songs easier to endure and John Bush’s and Charlie Benante’s (drums) performances easily surpass any of the other members and make it worth at least one spin. But neither of these could over come the faults mentioned above.
“Stomp 442” is ANTHRAX drowning in a lost state. This album either tried too hard or didn’t try enough to be a great release, and despite a few good songs, the album suffers far too much from monotony and lackluster songwriting. Easily a skippable album from the band even if “Fueled” stays on my list of one of the best ANTHRAX songs.
Songs to check out: “Fueled”, “Random Acts Of Senseless Violence”, “King Size”.
(Online January 4, 2009)