Bello, Frank-Fathers Brothers, And Sons (Book Review)

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Reviewed: February, 2022
Published: Rarebird, 2021
Rating: 4 /5
Reviewer: JP

My love, then ambivalence for Anthrax has been well documented over the years. I did have to eat some humble pie as the last two Anthrax albums were really very good.  However seven good albums (in my opinion) spread across a twelve album career that spans 40 years is only slightly above average.  However there is something about the band that is charismatic and keeps them at the forefront of Metal media attention.  Both of Scott Ian’s books were decent so I was quite curious what Frank Bello might have to say.

I was a bit surprised when this book was announced.  I had figured the next Anthrax related book would be some sort of official 40th anniversary biography, Benante’s autobiography or even another book by the prolific and attention seeking Ian.  The last person I expected from that camp to write a book was Bello.   Joel McIver, author extra-ordinaire and bass aficionado has his fingerprints all over this (in a good way)  so I suppose in hindsight it makes sense that the bassist of Anthrax was the next in line for a book.  Let’s be clear, this not a book about bass!  Bello does not talk about gear or playing or that much about technique.

The really wordy title doesn’t help.  FATHERS, BROTHERS AND SONS-SURVIVING ANGUISH, ABANDONMENT AND ANTHRAX doesn’t paint an initial picture of a positive, fun, easy-going autobiography. It’s a shame because this is actually a very readable and engaging.  In fact this is one of the more intimate and personal ‘rock-star’ autobiographies I’ve read.  Bello wears his heart on his sleeve.

The book itself is very streamlined, no photos or extra features but I am working off an advance readers paperback.  I’m sure the final product will have some photos and maybe a discography.  There is a very kind foreword by Gene Simmons who happened to know Bello from way back in the late 70’s and early 80’s as a kid in New York.  As a side note: many people talk thrash about Gene but they should perhaps read his intro and Bello comments about Gene, for a more accurate picture of the generous man. Gene lets his guard down on this one and it’s nice.

Bello on the other hand always seems to be a sensitive soul, you know what they say about delicate geniuses.  Abandoned by his father very early and losing his brother to a murder, Bello was raised by strong women who nurtured his artistic temperament. Bello admits he almost always lives in a fantasy world immersing himself in movies and pop culture.  I had no idea he was an aspiring actor who has been on television, movies and stage.

Bello talks at length about his family, his grandmother, mother, wife, kid and his strong Italian roots, his connection to New York and food!  Lots of talk about food!   If you are expecting a conventional autobiography you might be disappointed. The proverbial sex, drugs, rock and roll are kept to a bare minimum, he does not seem like that kind of guy.   He liked to have a good time but expect for a tour stint where he was brave (dumb?) enough to try to keep pace with Pantera, he was a pretty mellow guy.  His abandonment by his father meant that he remained faithful to his girlfriends and later wife while on the road because he did not want to treat those women they way he was treated.  I admire his convictions and choices as so many rockers boast of infidelity on the road, in a matter of fact type away.

His story sort of tapered off at the end.  That is a flaw of so many writers, rose-coloured glasses, heavy nostalgia and excessive description of the early/formative years then this sort of ‘world-weariness’ sets in and entire years are glossed over in a few sentences.  Admittedly, he says he just lives a quiet, comfortable life; nice house, nice wife, nice kid and Anthrax is not really a busy or productive band any more, so maybe there is not much more to tell.  He does talk a lot about movies and TV shows he likes which seems weird to me but again he is immersed on TV and movie culture, he says it makes him feels safe and warm.  Fair enough!

Bello has penned a rather intimate portrait of himself, no pretensions, no apologies, no overt machismo or bragging, he is who he is.  FATHERS, BROTHERS AND SONS might be a let down for those who wanted wild tales of the bassist of thrashing with Anthrax on the road, but it is refreshing perspective and style and that’s why this stands out a little bit from the pack.  Well worth your time.