For All Kings


ANTHRAX is one of those high-caliber bands that can get one person's expectation for new […]
By JF "Thrashing Assault" Briard
February 1, 2016
Anthrax - For All Kings album cover

ANTHRAX is one of those high-caliber bands that can get one person's expectation for new material to go up through the roof. The legendary thrashers from the East Coast have surprisingly a lot less Thrash in this release than you'd expect, especially since the genre is making quite the comeback in recent years... This new album is hit-or-miss, really; while some songs are excellent and very inspired, others leave much to be desired and feel like filler...

The good points for starters... The first song, "You Gotta Believe" begins with a solemn instrumental section but as it progresses, we slowly hear it fade away, as the volume of people shouting increases... Sounds of guitar distortion then transition into great Thrash riffs. The chorus is very stirring and catchy, but there is something more dark and heavy than usual ANTHRAX. The mid part is slower in tempo but it's more progressive, the solos in particular. This part has a more mysterious and "exotic" sound. I really like it, a very strong opener. The title track "For all Kings" sounds very power-y, complete with glorious high-pitched vocals and the appropriated lyrics; the chorus is extremely catchy and melodic, and this is for sure, another stellar song! "Breathing Lightning" is the main single of the album... and rightfully so! Trying to go for a more mass-friendly sound can be daunting when trying to remain authentic and original equally. This one really nails it: with an impeccable, extremely catchy chorus and solid riffs. The verses have thrashy riffs, but the chorus is curiously very melodic and ballad-like; some parts of it makes me think strongly about old school 60's 70's rock bands. This is particularly true for the end of the song, with the wonderful clean group vocals. Another single, "Evil Twin" is one of the more aggressive sounding tracks of the album. The relentless thrash riffs and some parts of the vocals in particular sounds convincingly evil and twisted, with Joey Belladonna putting a lot of emotion and vibrato into his voice. "Blood Eagle Wins" is a slower paced heavy metal ballad. It's seemingly rather simple at first, but the pace and the complexity catch on a bit later, halfway-through. I wasn't sure about this one at first, but after a few listen, it started growing on me. The very melancholic and haunting clean guitar section for the last minute is very well done, complete with a lot of reverb. "This Battle Chose Us" has a bass-heavy start and some groovy hard rock and heavy metal riffs. It's a rather simple mid-paced song, but it's the good kind of simple; the kind of track (especially during the chorus) that gets stuck in your head after a few listen, so it does work really well. The tempo increases towards the end, adding to the intensity. "Zero Tolerance" is one of the more Thrashy and aggressive pieces here, and one of my favorite too. The relentless riffs and the energy of ANTHRAX is immediately present and you will sing along to this one too, if you read the lyrics. The sense of danger looming in the chorus is immersive and intriguing. I think they should have closed the album in force with this one...

Now, the bad points: "Monster at the End" has a weird feel/rhythm and I'm not sure if I can get into it. The chorus here is a bit off the wall and cheesy as well. "Suzerain" has a distinct contrast between the more heavy verse and extremely vapid chorus, almost as if there is a transition missing. The chorus ruins the whole song by failing to catch my interest completely. The intro to "Defend Avenge" consist of about one minute of guitar distortion, before it truly starts... and then it's pretty bland, with sub-standards riffs and vocal lines. Very little variety and odd chorus sections. Even the mid and end solos are extremely short and disappointing... "All of Them Thieves" has the least catchy chorus of this release, repeating the title track annoyingly over and over, in a weird pitch that I can't quite explain. "Fight 'em 'til You Can't" is an almost acceptable thrash track, but the second part of the chorus is horrible; I swear, some of the vocals and the general melody of the instruments don't match at all. It actually sounds extremely dissonant and absolutely ruins the song. The worst offender however is "A.I.R.", as it sounds like a bad LED ZEPPELIN rip-off. The vocal melodies used by Belladonna combined with the heavy guitar riffs makes it very clear it was inspired by the iconic song "Black Dog", only far less memorable. I actually listened to both of them, back to back (multiple times) just to be sure I was not crazy, but there is no doubt on this.

The other two songs at the very end are live renditions of their classics "Madhouse" and "Caught in a Mosh". Standard, decent live quality, no problems here. Just nothing extraordinary, and an odd choice for finishing an album of this scope. While not bad tracks by themselves, they aren't necessary to the experience and should've probably been kept for a future live album.

Scott Ian said in a recent interview it was their most metal stuff they did in a while, and I wouldn't necesarily disagree; some of those tracks (especially the singles) are absolutely fantastic! However, his statement somewhat belies the quality of the album, as it appears to lack direction, shifting between too many styles. There are a few semi-bland tracks with some tiny hooks into them. They seem to be either heading for a 'commercial metal' sound, trying to appeal to a wider audience than usual, but catering no one in particular in the process, or they've accidentally released something verging on mediocre. I wanted to like the entire album after I heard the awesome intro song "You Gotta Believe" but the quality varies a lot thorough "For All Kings" (especially toward the end) and that's a shame, really. Nonetheless, I think the good outweights the bad and this remains an album worth listening! Just maybe not as much as you might have expected.

7 / 10


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"For All Kings" Track-listing:

1. You Gotta Believe
2. Monster at the End
3. For All Kings
4. Breathing Lightning
5. Suzerain
6. Evil Twin
7. Blood Eagle Wins
8. Defend Avenge
9. All of Them Thieves
10. This Battle Chose Us
11. Zero Tolerance
12. Fight 'em 'til You Can't
13. A.I.R.
14. Caugh in a Mosh
15. Madhouse

Anthrax Lineup:

Joey Belladonna - Singer
Scott Ian - Rhythm Guitar
Jon Donais - Lead Guitar
Frank Bello - Bass
Charlie Benante - Drums

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