Thrash metal is not known for the inventiveness of its bass players (a certain Cliff Burton aside), which made the rise of Anthrax all the more exciting in the mid-80s because of the instantly memorable style of four-stringer Frank Bello. An affable chap who leaped around the stage like a madman while playing his Fender at a spine-threateningly low height, Bello delivered incredibly melodic, twisty bass-lines that spiralled up, down and over the square-edged guitar riffs with a confidence and abandon that left most headbanging bassists in the dust.
On Anthrax’s landmark third album, Among The Living, the band played with a squeaky-clean but all-encompassing guitar sound that didn’t seem to leave much frequency space for bass parts, at least if Bello had played standard unison lines. Sure, most of the time he played a supportive role, but his playing was audible because of its prominent top end and because of his fingerstyle approach. The most obvious example of his slightly unusual tone, on this record at least, came with ‘Caught In A Mosh’, where he introduces the song’s main riff after the introduction.
The predominant feature of this genre of metal is its fearsome speed, of course, and there are at least half a dozen instances on ATL where the average bassist would fail to keep up with Bello. At the back end of the classic, Judge Dredd-invoking ‘I Am The Law’, the guitars trade off an insanely rapid alternate-picked riff that sounds impossible to replicate on a bass, even if you cheated and used a pick. Nonetheless, Bello pulls it off – and continues to do so night after night.
Elsewhere in the Anthrax catalogue, Frankie excels on a cover of Joe Jackson’s ‘Got The Time’, on which – as with ‘Caught In A Mosh’ – he introduces the song’s main riff, although here he uses a pick. Keep an ear out for ‘Gung-Ho’, too, a song from ’Thrax’s 1985 album Spreading The Disease: the picking is so ridiculously fast that you can’t help but wonder if the guy has eight fingers on his right hand.