After being kicked out of Anthrax (or did he quit? I've heard both stories) Joey Belladonna decided to go for a solo gig. Rumor has spread for years that Dan Spitz, also given the boot by Anthrax, may be doing something with Joey soon. Joey also has some writers credits on the Sun Red Sun album.
Belladonna (Mausoleum) 1995
After being ceremoniously kicked out of Anthrax, rumors flew around that Joey wanted to sound more like Journey, rather than the metal machine that Anthrax had been to that point. However, with the release of his first solo album, Joey showed the world that he was metal through and through. Belladonna has a similar speed/thrash/heavy metal formula as Anthrax, however, the chemistry that Joey had with his former bandmates on masterworks like "Spreading the Disease" and "Among the Living" just isn't present here. The music is certainly well produced; well known thrash metal producer Alex Perialas was brought in to turn the knobs. Certainly the musicianship isn't shabby and Joey's vocals sound as good as ever. It's the songwriting that lacks much personality here. With the possible exception of "Blunt Man" there really isn't much memorable here. The midtempo pace that runs through almost every song and the lack of any immediate musical or lyrical hooks holds this disc back. In my initial review of this CD some years ago I made the claim that, "while Belladonna was not Joey's best, it was still better than Anthrax's Stomp 442." I must rescind that statement because over the years I have grown to love "Stomp 442" while this disc still waxes cold. I don't know exactly why either. Every few months or so I see this disc sitting on the self and pull it out and give it another spin and still nothing sticks out.
Belladonna - Spells of Fear (D-Rock) 1998
I am a Belladonna die hard. I have been a fan since I first heard his voice on the "Armed & Dangerous" EP back in the early 80's. I have loved every Anthrax disc he sang on and quite enjoyed Joey's first solo album as well. So, of course, when I found out that 'ol Joey had a new album out, I rushed right out and plunked down my $16.99 to buy my brand new copy. Well all I can say is Belladonna's second album. . . SUCKS! I know that is a bit harsh, especially coming from someone who is as much a die-hard fan as I am, but I really can't believe that this is the same guy who sang on all those awesome Anthrax discs. It's not that Joey's vocals suck, but that the songwriting is just not what it should be. "Spells of Fear" is Joey attempting to do modern rock or something. I honestly tried to like this disc too. I gave it spin after spin when I first bought it in hopes that it might grow on me. It didn't. "Spells of Fear" is honestly one of the most disappointing CDs in my collection. Here's hoping the next CD will be better.
Belladonna - 03 (independent) 2003
It had been years since I had heard news from the Belladonna camp. There was the brief appearance of Joey on Anthrax's cover of "Ball of Confusion" as well as rumors of failed attempts with Anthrax to do a tour a few years ago with both Joey and John Bush. However, I was beginning to wonder if another Belladonna disc would ever show up. Finally there were rumors of a new disc which were confirmed by www.joeybelladonna.com. I must confess I was a bit apprehensive after being let down by "Spells of Fear". Well the spells of fear are over, because Joey is back! "03" is a solid metal platter offering a mixture of metallic agression and hooky melodies. Bucking all trends, Joey doesn't try for the more popular European power metal sound, nor is he going after the current American radio trends. "03" is heavy metal! "Never Safe" and "Rejecting You" are full throttle, bone-crushing, speed metal romps, "Movin' On", "Crimes Of Passion" and "Live Up to You" are slightly more melodic rockers, "One By One" is a ballad, while "Not Buyin'" has a slightly more modern groove. "03" is a solo album in the truest sense. Not only is this CD self produced and self released, but Joey co-wrote most of the material and plays the drums as well. He is assisted by Matt Zuber, who plays all the guitar and bass parts and is the other co-writer of the material. Because of being self released and most likely, self financed, the production is not super clean or ultra-thick, but the raw production certainly doesn't detract from the music either, and actually gives it a certain demo-like charm. Also of note, this CD was only sold to fans on Belladonna's web site. So, while I wouldn't say that this album is better than those classic discs of Joey's past, this is a solid, enjoyable disc. Welcome back Joey, we missed ya.
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