Anthrax-Stomp_442Every once in a while the metal scene collectively pisses on a band or record and someone needs to step up and defend why they like it. I normally don’t spend a lot of time defending shitty records, but sometimes genuinely interesting or good records get lampooned by an overly conservative heavy metal scene and that calls for a professional contrarian to defend it! If ever there was a professional contrarian, it would be me. So here I am to re-hash a record from my past that I still love that everyone else seems to have soured on (or never liked in the first place). 

It was recently brought to my attention by Mr. Fisting’s breakdown of Anthrax‘s Stomp 442, that everybody hates this freaking album but me. Imagine my surprise at being marooned on an island of metallic shame for something that didn’t involve Krokus! While I’m not going to argue this is the equal of classics like Spreading the Disease or Among the Living, I don’t consider it a bad Anthrax album at all. In fact, I see it as their last good album until 2011s Worship Music. How do I find merit in an album that’s apparently the reigning King of the Cutout Bin and the scourge of metal fans everywhere? Allow me to explain and enlighten.

Firstly, it’s impossible to view Stomp 442 in a vacuum and one must fully appreciate the musical environment that birthed it. After a decade plus of increasing mainstream acceptance, metal was riding high as the 90s began. There was serious radio and MTV airplay, album sales were brisk and it was a time of wine and roses for all in the biz. Then Seattle dropped the Nirvana bomb on an unsuspecting world and the grim nuclear winter of grunge and alternative rock soon began to drive metal back into the dark underworld to lurk, foment and mutter of conspiracies and grave injustices.

Every metal band dealt with this harsh musical dystopia in their own way. While Metallica folded up  metal shop, adopted rock and country and dropped a Load, Anthrax got righteously pissed, had an epic temper tantrum and released Stomp 442. Yes, it’s a reactionary record, as all metal albums were in those uncertain times, and yes, it represented a change in direction from Sound of White Noise. But, it was a shift born of pragmatism and a desire to stay metal.

Anthrax and DimebagYou see, only one metal band seemed immune to the flannel-clad plague and actually saw their popularity increase in the 90s. That band was Pantera, and after touring with them and seeing their metal stock continue to appreciate, Anthrax either consciously or unconsciously decided to mimic their oh-so-manly mojo. Even a cursory spin of Stomp shows a stark shift toward Pantera-esque riffing and their stripped-down, bare knuckle aesthetic. Hell, they even got Dimebag to lend solos to the damn album! You can knock them for the bandwagon jump, but at least the wagon they picked had metal wheels (yes, I’m looking at you, Mustaine!). At the same time, they didn’t abandon their old sound entirely, and the album is dotted with references back to Sound of White Noise and even Persistence of Time.

The songs themselves are completely serviceable with a few real gems. It’s hard to argue “Fueled” isn’t a ballbuster of a metal anthem, full of piss and vinegar and ready to rumble (it also shits all over the other song with roughly the same name by you-know-who). “Random Acts of Senseless Violence” teams angsty aggression and hard riffing with surprisingly catchy melodies and vocal patterns. “Tester” is a truly savage screed full to the brim with bitterness and enmity toward the whole alternative rock phenomenon and it’s worthwhile both as a badass metal song and historical primary source.

Even the “lesser” tracks like “King Sized,” “Riding Shotgun” and “In a Zone” have an odd, pissed off charm, and all are loaded up with big, punchy riffs and rough-hewed, angry everyman vocals from Bush. Most of the album plays like a street protest on the verge of turning ugly and they should have marketed it with Anthrax themed bricks or lead pipes.

anthrax_busheraThe thing that always stuck with me most was how after so much angry, edgy, power-driving music, things end with the uplifting energy of “Bare.” It’s such a raw, emotional ballad that reeks of sincerity and it’s the only place John Bush gets to showcase his emotive singing. After so much spleen venting hostility, it provides a truly refreshing closure and lets the listener walk away in relative peace.

The only song of the bunch I never fully bought into was “American Pompeii,” which is uninspiring with a chorus that wants to be memorable, but ends up annoying.

I was a dumb teenager when Anthrax were dumb thrash punks wearing high tops and jam shorts. I was a drunk college kid when they explored their darker edge on Persistence of Time and by the time John Bush came in, I was older and ready for something meaner and harder edged. Stomp 442 was the right shift at the right time, regardless of the reasons for said shift. If you approach it fully aware of the time and context in which it was written, you may appreciate the bile and venom the band unleashes. They had to get it out, and it’s as cathartic for the listener as it was for them. Did I mention it has Dimebag on it? Defense rests!

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    • I prefer to think of them as rushed vocal patterns.

  • Al Tatts

    Well said Mr Druhm. What next? Wrathchild America, Sacred Reich? Is nothing sacred anymore?

    • Wow, Wrathchild America. That’s a name from the deep dark past.

      • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

        The next Indefensible Positions shall be about Sacred Reich, specifically the track “31 Flavors.”

  • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

    Dude, that was awesome! I’m still not convinced, but you raise some good points. For metal bands on the decline, Pantera was definitely the “other” band to imitate (besides Nirvana).

    • Thanks, man! I didn’t expect to convince you though. It’s an indefensible position after all….

  • Mike Eckman

    LOL, this is the first album ever in the history of AMG.COM to get two reviews! :) I wonder if years from now, there will be an “Indefensible Position” for Amaranthe’s first album! :)

    • If it does, Happy Metal Guy will write it and the rest of us will be dead in a ditch somewhere.

    • Eryops

      “They stayed true to their Barbie-metal roots when the black-indie-melodic scene was blowing up around them!”

  • André Snyde Lopes

    Waiting for the article about Ilud Divinum Insanus =P

  • SuperBakaKing

    “Imagine my surprise to be marooned on an island of metallic shame for something that didn’t involve Krokus!”

    I thought the love you have shown Power Metal would have done that.

  • BaboonKing

    Good read, and kudos to you for standing by your opinions. Despite all our self professed non conformity, metalheads are all too amenable to peer pressure.

    I for one enjoy Maiden’s Blaze era, and am not ashamed to admit it!

  • LerxstKing

    I completely agree with you and was surprised to see the hatred for this album. I always thought they were trying a little too hard to do the Pantera thing but it was still a solid metal album. I never once got a grunge-sellout vibe from it. And WTF with the “rapping” comments? That’s not rapping – try listening to some of those Belladonna era b-sides if you want examples of that.

  • Nice points, I was about 20 at the time, and the way mainstream metal handled the whole Grunge/Nu-metal/Industrial craze of those years was something that made no sense to me at all. It was an ignore or engage option, and when they did engage, instead of going reactionary they seemed to concede the fight even before starting it.

    Even if Anthrax tried to sound reactionary (if that was really their intent) it came out forced and really cringe worthy. To me it was like they heard everything that was bad about Sound of White Noise and in one really poor decision moment they thought that it would be great to make a whole album of it. I also usually love Bush’s delivery but in Stomp it felt whiney instead of pissy and angry to me. It’s almost as if halfway through making the album they all saw it was not really a good idea but stubbornly decided to try to go all the way with it. That or label pressure to release the damn thing.

  • Joel

    I’ve always liked Stomp 442, and I also like Volume 8 a lot.