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For All Kings
Release date: February 26, 2016
Anthrax has been a consistent force in the world of heavy music for over three decades. Their debut, Fistful of Metal, was unleashed in 1984, and the band has provided much of the impetus and influence behind the sound of many of today’s most successful metal outfits. In 2011, Anthrax released their tenth album, Worship Music, to critical acclaim and an overwhelmingly jubilant reception from fans, many of which saw a heavy metal dream come true when the band recorded another album with Joey Belladonna, the vocalist that was the frontman of the classic Anthrax lineup. The music created for this release was a new, fresh slab of kinetic rock. For All Kings picks up where Worship Music Left off and shows the band claiming their crown, not only as the monarchs of thrash but as one of rock’s most outstanding acts.
Opening with classical strings that soon give way to a heavy metal death march of sorts, Anthrax kicks off their new release in regal style. The intro soon gives way to the first proper song, “You Gotta Believe.” This song embodies the classic Anthrax formula. Charlie Benante’s pulverizing double bass drum locks in perfectly with Scott Ian’s lightning fast rhythm guitar work, and Frank Bello’s mobile, thick bass guitar (check out his work on the break about three minutes in). Joey Belladonna’s voice is as good as ever, and maybe stronger than it was in the band’s early days. Lead guitarist Jonathan Donais (ex-Shadows Fall) makes his debut as a full member of the band and mixes melody and nimble fretwork to fill in all the gaps. “Voice of the People” similarly brings to mind Anthrax at the top of their game, hearkening back to the days of the Persistence of Time release in 1990. Longtime Anthrax fans will feel right at home with these songs.
Much like the Van Halen Sammy Hagar/David Lee Roth conundrum, most fans prefer either the Joey Belladonna fronted era of Anthrax or the albums which featured John Bush on vocals. For All Kings does the impossible by pleasing fans of both eras. During the Belladonna years, Anthrax was on the forefront of inventing thrash and speed metal along with bands like Megadeth, Metallica, and Slayer. The Bush days saw the band develop a darker, heavier sound, then progress into rock territory on songs like “Cadillac Rock Box” and “Taking the Music Back,” both from 2003’s We’ve Come for You All. “The Battle Chose Us” opens with an old school Anthrax thrash riff, but leads into big, catchy, shout-along chorus that brings to mind the high-quality heavy rock the early 2000s. “Monster At the End” is a perfect example of the heaviness showcased on Bush albums like Stomp 442 (1995) with an infectious rock chorus and some classic thrash riffing during the guitar solo. Anthrax has matched two eras together into an extremely strong alloy that encompasses the best qualities of both.
There are myriad highlights on this release. “Zero Tolerance” opens with a great classic rock inspired riff before turning into a full-on thrash monster. “Blood Eagle Wings” is a dark, heavy rocker that plods along at the pace of a shambling monster while maintaining a threatening energy. “All of them Thieves” is a prime slab of metal that features impressive harmony vocals. “Breathing Lightning” is the best rock song I’ve heard in ages. This Stephen King inspired rocker should rule the radio on any station that plays current rock. The verse riff is classic, Belladonna era metal, but the execution is that of a high energy rock song, and the chorus is pure metal magic. Anthrax has created an album does what few do these days – flows from beginning to end without a dull moment. In a world that is dominated by singles and EPs, it’s rare to hear such a perfectly executed album. This is the record that will bring home the Grammy for them. Anthrax are still the kings of heavy metal, and For All Kings is not only a worthy addition to their catalog but possibly the brightest gem in their crown.
Reviewed by Jim 1340