Book review – Fathers, Brothers, And Sons by Frank Bello with Joel McIver

I don’t usually post things on here if they’re not related to historical fiction, but I wrote this long review for Amazon about a book I read recently and thought more people might want to read it. So…This is a review of a book by Frank Bello, bass player in the metal band Anthrax. Check it out, or, if you hate metal, apologies, normal service will return soon! 😉

As a youngster trying to discover myself, and my musical tastes, I was listening to things like Dire Straits, Bon Jovi and even some Def Leppard. Edgy stuff, eh? And then I saw Anthrax covering, “Antisocial” on the UK Chart Show and that was it. I was a thrash metal fan from that moment on! It wasn’t just the music – melodic, skillfully played, fun yet HEAVY – it was also the guys playing the music. They were having so much fun, especially the bassist who never stood still for a second. He was the coolest guy on that stage and still is, to this day. The members of Anthrax might not like the album that song was taken from, State of Euphoria, but it will always be my favourite – my only regret is selling the picture disc in order to get bus fare to see Sepultura on the Arise tour. Worth it, but I still wish I had that record!
Anyway, Fathers, Brothers, and Sons, is all about the life of that manic bass player, Frank Bello. You probably know who he is, if you’re reading this, but you may not know his co-author, Joel McIver. Well, let me say Joel really knows how to write a book and I heartily recommend the recent one he did with metal royalty David Vincent. Trust me, this is a page-turner of a read and I have no doubt Joel played a massive part in that.

Joel was kind enough to sign my copy!

Of course, it helps when your subject is as interesting and downright likeable as Mr Bello! You’ve likely read some interviews with him, seen him talking on Youtube, and watched him own every stage he plays on with that huge grin, and that all comes across in this book.
Obviously he talks about his childhood, the struggles with his father leaving the family early (something lots of us can identify with), being bullied, finding his calling with his legendary uncle Charlie in Anthrax, and plenty more. All of it engrossing and entertaining.
I really enjoyed the parts where he talks about “stalking” Gene Simmons, sharing a beer with Ronnie Dio, or hanging out with Lemmy – Frank just comes across as a a massive fan of music. If you’re looking for lurid and probably made-up stories about groupies, or overdosing on drugs, or other “rock and roll” garbage, look for the dirt elsewhere, cos this, like McIver’s fantastic collaboration with David Vincent (my review HERE), is not that kind of book. This is about a musician who loves life and loves to make music. His favourite memories don’t include a red snapper and tossing a TV out a window, instead he comes over all giddy because he got to play Steve Harris’s bass rig! As a musician myself I really loved how much he enjoyed things like that, like a kid in a sweet shop.
Now, I must admit, I had hoped for some more detail on certain things – Frank’s feelings on Anthrax’s singers over the years for example. How did he feel when Joey was kicked out? What about John Bush leaving? And, of course, Dan Nelson who didn’t even manage to record an album with the band? None of that is covered, Frank just says Joey and John are great guys and that’s it (Nelson isn’t mentioned at all). But this is Frank’s story, told his way, and you have to respect him for avoiding creating any drama by possibly saying something people – either John or Joey – might get offended by, especially if certain metal websites were to report it in true clickbait fashion.
Still, there’s plenty here to keep you interested, and there’s more personal sections where Frank talks about being a father and how badly he wants to be a good one, and, of course, the murder of his brother, Anthony.

Frank Bello on stage

I distinctly remember listening to Anthrax’s new album, Vol. 8 – The Threat is Real, way back around 1998. I was 21 and and I’d had a few beers, feeling a bit depressed about things, but I’d enjoyed the metal Anthrax continued to serve up. And then the songs finished and…I don’t know why, maybe I was starting to fall asleep, but I didn’t get up to turn off or change the CD. It ran on, and then another song slowly faded in on a sustained guitar note. This wasn’t metal, an acoustic guitar was powering this hidden track! I listened, trying to figure out who was singing – it wasn’t John Bush’s powerful roar – and what was he saying? This was back in the days when we didn’t just look stuff up on our mobile phones, and there was no lyric sheet, and the vocals in the verses were saturated with reverb making it hard to hear what the singer was saying, but when the chorus kicked in, there was something there that immediately made me start to cry. I didn’t know what the song was about, but the emotion in that song – “Pieces” it’s called – was so powerful that it hit me much harder than any Anthrax song had since “Antisocial”. I later found out that was Frank singing a song he’d written about his beloved little brother Anthony, who’d been murdered. To this day that song makes me tear up, it’s incredibly beautiful, and now that I can read the lyrics online I identify with it even more.
That does bring me to one other little criticism I have with the book – there’s nothing really said about who writes the songs in Anthrax. It’s mentioned, but never made clear what Frank’s contributed over the years. It’s kinda accepted by fans that Charlie writes most of the music while Scott does the lyrics, but Frank often talks about writing in interviews and I’d have liked to know more about the process. He clearly CAN write an amazing tune, as “Pieces” proves.
But there we go. I HIGHLY recommend this book – Buy it, stick on one of Anthrax’s albums, turn up the bass, and just sit down and enjoy some cool stories from a guy who loves his family and loves music. That’s what life is all about.
Thank you, Frank, for inspiring us all.

Buy it at the links below!

Amazon UK link

Amazon USA link

“PIECES” by Anthrax*

I question my faith
I question everything
I need to know if this is all there is
So take me some place
Where I will always know
That you’re fine
That you’ve finally just
Found your way back home

Anthony, I know you’re home
Right beside me, all alone
Anthony, I have so much to say
In my heart, you will always remain
Anthony, my brother, my friend
I’ll be with you once again
Anthony, my heart owns your faith
It will always light your day

Songwriters: Charlie L. Benante / Frank Joseph Bello / John Robert Bush / Scott Ian Rosenfeld

* This is just a few of the lyrics, not the full song.

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