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Belladonna - 1998 Spells Of Fear



ARTIST: Belladonna
ALBUM: Spells Fear
LABEL: De Rock Records
SERIAL: DERCD-9015
YEAR: 1998
CD REISSUE: 1999, USG Records (Germany), USG 1029-2

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:

LINEUP: Joey Belladonna - vocals * Peter Scheithauer - guitar * Flesich - bass * Stet Howland - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Face You * 02 Lost Control * 03 Long Way Down * 04 Bad Memories * 05 Jokin' * 06 Phony * 07 I Don't Need * 08 How Would You Know * 09 Ultimate Threat * 10 Don't Pin Me Down * 11 Cover Me * 12 Out Of Gas * 13 Stress Your Mind


Background
After an eight year stint providing vocals for Anthrax (1984-92) Joey Belladonna was dismissed by his bandmates for supposedly no longer fitting their image. The singer's more high pitched style was considered inappropriate for a band trying to move into the 90's, desperately trying to erase the memories of their media criticised 'cartoonish' 80's years. Belladonna was silent for a few years but finally emerged in 1995 with his self titled debut, produced by Alex Perialas, who handled early Anthrax material. The album was lost to obscurity, the traditional metal sounds hardly in mainstream favour at the time. In 1998 Belladonna tried again, with another powerful record, downtuned but convincingly aggressive. Produced by Belladonna and Scheithauer, the album featured W.A.S.P's Stet Howland on drums, but again was largely ignored.


The Songs
'Spells Of Fear' contains thirteen tracks, and on first listen seemed hardly accessible, due to the single guitar tone, tuned down, and dour lyrical content. Given time it turned out to be one those recordings which took several listens to gain effect, these listenings revealing an abundance of melody and overpowering shredding from Scheithauer. 'Face You' sees Joey bringing his usual high pitch to a lower register, mainly in the verses, but things pick up in the chorus, as he hits a higher key, to a backdrop of thrash type riffing. 'Lost Control' features a hook not easily forgotten, a track that could have been a crossover radio success, heavy but still accessible for radio. 'Bad Memories' brings to mind 'Persistence Of Time' era Anthrax (1990), a mixture of darker melodies but with upbeat instances of chord changes all the same. The guitar solo here is enough to knock you off your feet. 'I Don't Need' adopts a vague thrash rhythm, but isn't quite fast enough to earn the tag, realistically melodic heavy metal. The lyrics of 'Phony' and 'How Would You Know' are as bitter as they sound, reading like an outburst to Belladonna's former band, 'I don't know you, you never really knew me' a sample of his rage. Belladonna speeds things up properly on end cut 'Stress Your Mind', a nice reminder of what kind of vocal power the man possesses, not to mention the blazing instrumental passage, highlighted by another mighty Scheithauer solo.


In Summary
An impressive outing with nary a poor track on offer. Belladonna proved himself to be Anthrax's equal with this albums consistency, and it's something Anthrax's own 1998, the poorly conceived, stylistically confused 'Volume 8' couldn't do, retain a constant sound throughout. Amazingly in 1999 Belladonna reunited with Anthrax for a cover of The Temptations 'Ball Of Confusion' for a greatest hits set, and was set to share dual vocals with John Bush on a major tour. At the last second Joey backed out, due to financial concerns and the gulf between the two was widened further. Belladonna has kept a low profile since, but judging by the potential displayed on 'Spells Of Fear', he still has much to offer.


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