We have written many times before on how hard were things about classic metal and thrash in the mid 90’s. Big masses or better saying the majority of the fans that already were into metal were leaning on black or death while grunge and nu metal were sucking the new blood; all those teenagers who wanted to feel rebellious and extreme through their music. Thrash was out of trend and probably quite different as Pantera were creating a new sound with their thick chugging guitars and the Sabbath on steroids riffs. Still we were many out there that could stand with one foot on the traditional way and the other on the new one. After all 90’s were the era of big changes and the experimental years of extreme sound.
Anthrax is a weird situation indeed. I’m a great fan personally speaking but I know many guys that hate why the considered to be in the Big 4 club or they hate the Bush years. Every man and woman has a free opinion as he/she has a big asshole and every right to express themselves. I can understand what is wrong -for them-with Anthrax and why they don’t like them but on the other hand I dig all those who are fans of the New Yorkers and their amazing albums.
But in 1995 things were a mess for Anthrax. A total mess. Bush was the perfect guy for Sound of White Noise but the band couldn’t capitalize the momentum or the excellent material they had in their hands. Stomp 442 made things even worst and Joey Belladona knew that this was the right time to act. Joey was a big fan of Journey or Rush and more melodic stuff and his potential were a bit hidden as he was forced to sing in a limited way that haven’t let space for his incredible voice range to shine or his ability to sing a lot of different music genres. Anyway now it was his time…and he did the reasonable move to record the logical successor to “Persistence of Time”.
Actually his self-titled debut is a mix of thrash heavy and power metal. Definitely not a record of its time with no Alice In Chains or Nirvana events or a brave dose of shredding guitars that Pantera were delivering either no rap or scratches too. Pure American metal hailing from the 80’s with solid production, that ok had all instruments probably left behind in order Belladonna’s voice to sound in front in the final result, tight performance, neat drumming, rough bass lines and some excellent compositions here and there in an album that could have two or three songs less but still its 55 minutes flow like water and very pleasant especially for fans of Among The Living or Persistence of Time.
The song writing formula reminds the Anthrax works as the chunky guitars follow sing along choruses and memorable catchy riffs. Even the artwork cover plays with Anthrax fans emotions as it features Joey as an Indian (well…Joey is Italian and his real name is Bellardini that fits for an Inter FC striker than an Native American name) bringing in mind the hit single Indians from 1987’s Among The Living bands best seller. Of course no one could predict that this album also will be a glance from the future as 2011’s reunion album Worship Music will be in the same veins as “Belladonna”. A couple of hit singles would work as they would lift the album still even though there a lack of the big anthem (“Fight ‘em till you Can’t” song plays that role for Worship Music for instance) that would make the album similar to 80’s releases from Anthrax still “Belladona” can look in the eyes all Anthrax releases from 1993 and beyond and why not even some before then.
Check: “Blunt Man”, “Power Trip”, “Two Faced”, “Down & Out”, “R.I.P.” and “Taken By Force”
Decent, strong, respectable and with memorable moments “Belladona” is criminally underrated and a hidden treasure for fans of Joeys blatantly incredible melodic voice.
The album was originally out via Mausoleum Records on 24th of January 1995.
Lineup: besides Joey, backing musicians include Darin Scott on guitar, John Hamilton on bass, and Scott Schroeter on drums. Joe Andrews was credited on bass guitar, but did not play on the recording.