25 March 2016

Anthrax - For All Kings



Anthrax – One of the original big four thrash bands, sold out many shows, sold many albums, vilified for their name when the substance named anthrax was being sent to hurt people through the post, sometimes seen as a comedy metal band, sometimes seen as incredibly serious; above all this they are a much loved band for this blog team and a source of many debates to say the least – mostly me trying to convince the guys that ‘Sound of White Noise’ (our review cleverly linked here) is their best work (sorry, I’m a John Bush guy) and the rest of them telling me I am wrong.  Their last album ‘Worship Music’ (our review is cleverly linked here) was not well received and it is the first time me & Chris Jermyn have agreed on an Anthrax album, it was not one for us and we could not see what the band were trying to do.  However, here is the nub of the matter when it comes to Anthrax; all of us here always get excited when there is the smallest possibility of a new Anthrax album, it is the eternal kids in us that want to hear a band from our youth making new noise and (hopefully) rejoicing in a sound that does not piss all over the legacy of the band.  ‘For All Kings’ is another album which has divided the bloggers, but I will get to that after the review.  Since ‘Worship Music’, guitarist Rob Caggiano has left the band, to be replaced by Jon Donais from Shadow Falls as a full time member of the band.  Rumblings that this album is has been on its way started in 2013, with the actual recording starting in late 2014 and it has been a long time coming if we are honest.  So what does this do for the band?  Is it a great addition to the legacy or does it sink the band further in the mire?

Starting off the album is “You Gotta Believe” which has a long introduction which is titled “Impaled”, steady military-esque drums, stirring strings, all building up to the opening riff and to build antici………pation for the live shows which are currently happening around the world before the band start to play this track.  From the opening riff, the band sound open fire and the song justifies that long into.  It is a classic thrash riff, mixing low bass and ferocious drumming, Joey Belladonna has adapted his vocal range in a way that was not present on ‘Worship Music’ for me and the whole song is one of the best Anthrax songs since anything from ‘Sound of White Noise’ which I hold as their best album, this consistence of vocal ability is present throughout the album as well.  It also does exactly what I want from an opening song on an Anthrax album, it sounds like they have brought their ‘A’ game and that they can take on the world with a gigantic riff wrapped in a bruising number.  “Monster at the End” slows the pace slightly, but it does not lessen in intensity from Anthrax on this number.  A song about the inner monster being unleashed, the band sound as if they are all snarling when they way through the song.  It is another number that sounds as if the confidence of the band is as high as it ever has been and that they are sure of their own abilities, all aspects of the song are perfectly synched, drums, bass, guitars, vocals – the whole package is spot on and it is already starting to become one of the best starts to an Anthrax album since SoWN.  The third track “For All Kings” begins in feedback with Joey Belladonna singing about kings and blood as you await the song to start, this happens soon with the drums and guitar smashing into sideways and the circle pit will already be forming in your mind (and at the live shows when the song starts).  The song is similar in pace to “Monster at the End”, it does have one of the strongest riffs of the album and it sticks in your mind for a lot longer than I would have expected to be honest; it is truly one of the shining moments on this album and should be one of the crowning pieces in their live shows.

“Breathing Lightning” is one of two tracks to have been released as a single from this album, together with “Evil Twin” which was released in October 2015.  It is said to be inspired by the writing of Stephen King and his Dark Tower series. Sadly, it is one of those songs which is obviously made for radio play, but it does not play to the strengths of the band that have been shown on this album so far.  Do not get me wrong, it is still played to the top of their ability and the solo delivered by Jon Donais is spot on, but the song feels a little safe compared to other moments on the record and that is not what is needed on a trash metal album, attached to it is “Breathing Out” which was overkill for me and I will move quickly onwards.  Things are soon put in the right order with “Suzerain” as the riff sounds fierce and frantic from the opening moment, also it would have been a better single than “Breathing Lightning” as it showcases a heavy side or the band which is mixed with a melodic edge that adds a brilliant presence to the song.  It is a slow, brooding number that takes a while to sink in, well at least it did for me.  It is one of those songs that gives more than one which is an instant hit, it has a lot of mileage to its sound with a slow building grind that rumbles throughout the song.  First single “Evil Twin” is next, this song is a fast paced thrash number based upon the shooting of the Charlie Hebdo offices in 2015, which harks back to earlier times for the band.  It could have been made around the ‘Persistence of Time’ era, with its crushing riff, smashing drums and pounding bass that is also given a fantastic solo as well which is always needed in a trash song.  It is a throwback, a reminder that this band are from an era that a lot of people still cling to and it also shows that you can be retro and still bang up to date.  “Blood Eagle Wings” is all about how large cities are built on the blood of the people who die to build and defend them.  The song is so old school that it should have an 80’s themed video made for it, it is a seven-minute epic that changes all the way through and will keep the faithful so happy that they will forgive and forget that era when they wanted to be the new groove kings.   What you have here is a classic metal anthem from the band, it covers all era that they have been making music and lynchpins them together into one of the best songs on the album.

“Defend/Avenge” is the next song on the album, with a stomping riff, loud drums, larger than life lyrics and shredding guitars it is a fine song; it is also one of those songs which sadly does not stand out on the record as much as other songs.  Not that the song is poor, quite far from it as it is a great song; it is just a little too run of the mill for this album and even if you like a song, sometimes it can sadly also be the track on the album that you do not like as much as other songs.  “All of Them Thieves” is a groove/thrash anthem for the future from the opening bar of the song.  That opening riff reminds me of the sound that Dimebag Darrell had on ‘The Great Southern Treadkill’ and it could slice through solid steel with that tone.  The rumbling bass & drum combo is so low it can be felt in other rooms of a house when it is one full volume (I have tested this one) and it brings out the best of the band.  The speed solo and ending send shivers down my spine in a way that I have not felt for such a long time with Anthrax and it makes the years fall away – one of the true highlights of the album.  The penultimate song is called “This Battle Chose Us” which is a mid-paced thrash song that does not totally rely on speed to gain your attention (at least until that kill-ass solo towards the end when everything goes all frantic), its hooks are much subtler on this number.  On the first listen it is just an average song that make a decent impression with a good riff, another fine solo and a great performance from the band; it is on subsequent spins when it improves further, adding layers that you might not have noticed at the beginning of the song appear and it never get old.  Ending the album is “Zero Tolerance” which is a flat out throwback to their early years with a fire and mania that should make their older fans throw their horns in the air, try to get back in the pit and probably slowdown when their fitness level does not keep up with the kids jumping around.  It is a great way to end the album, old school thrash to end the album and make everyone swirl they heads in unison.  On the deluxe version of the album also have four live recordings of “Madhouse”, “Fight ‘em ‘til You Can’t”, “A.I.R.” and “Caught in The Mosh” which are all fantastic as well.

Now that is a great album, from beginning to end and I have not been so impressed by Anthrax since my beloved ‘Sound of White Noise’, there is a fire and belief behind this record that I have not heard for such a long time that I am very bemused by reviews from places like Consequences of Sound & Record Collector who say this band are repeating themselves and it is akin to some of the other recent releases from Slayer & Megadeth where they are basically treading water.  Basically it feels as if the reviewers had beef with the genre and took easy shots at a great record because they can, i.e. – they felt it was safe and dated.  They must be listening to a different album to me and the rest of the press who seemed to enjoy it as well.  The riffs, the sound, the fact Belladonna seems to be at ease with himself now, everything about this album just seems class to me and I am so happy with the results.  Now, I did mention that the album was a hot topic with us in the blog – for me it was an album that needed a high score, for the others not so much; but one thing we did all agree on, it is a good Anthrax album and for me personally it is now one of my favourite Anthrax albums!

8.5 out of ten – Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my time, money and heart

Top track – For All Kings

You can purchase the deluxe version of For All Kings from Amazon here.

You can visit the Anthrax website here.

You can follow the activities of Anthrax on Facebook here.

You can stream the deluxe version of For All Kings on Spotify here.

You can stream the deluxe version of For All Kings on Deezer here.

You can stream the deluxe version of For All Kings on Tidal here.

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