Anthrax – For All Kings
Anthrax – For All Kings (2016)
Reviewed by Sebastian Kluth
For All Kings is Anthrax’s newest studio release, and it is very similar to predecessor Worship Music. This album is very diverse, melodic, and modern. Let me explain what that actually means. From melodic alternative rock anthems to mean thrash metal stompers with a solid dose of punk spirit both musically and lyrically, this album summarizes almost everything the band has tried out in its career, but also adds fresh enthusiasm and consistently high quality song writing. This may also be the band’s most accessible album to date. New guitarist Jonathan Donais really shines here, and adds a modern and catchy approach to the thrash metal legend. I must also point out Joey Belladonna’s energizing and surprisingly youthful-sounding vocal performance. He has always been my favourite singer of this band, and his gifted vocals distinguish Anthrax from other genre acts who have charismatic but ultimately less technically talented performers. The Native American frontman delivers what I think is his best career performance so far on this output. For All Kings can be called modern because the production is precise, but not polished. Some songs on this album have traditional heavy and thrash metal sounds that should please the more conservative fans of the band, but those who liked the band’s more experimental phase during the nineties might also find a few interesting passages here and there, though this is only a subcategory on this record. On the whole, this album offers a great deal of catchy, short, and conventional alternative rock and metal that I could see getting mainstream radio airplay if the band were considered more popular. For All Kings would actually be a very appropriate album for younger audiences to discover the world of metal music.
Though some band members described this album as a heavier output that goes back to the band’s earlier albums (don’t they always?), I would rather disagree. If you liked Worship Music, you will fall equally in love with For All Kings. If, however, you are expecting a youthful thrash metal revival, you should definitely look elsewhere. Since I admired the predecessor, I’m also satisfied with this album even though some of the new material needs a few more spins to open up when compared to the infectious previous strike. The most accessible songs can be found in the strong middle section of this album. “Breathing Lightning” is a very melodic and uplifting song with vocals that are refreshingly liberating. This track has both a proper introduction and an instrumental coda as a short separate track. The songs builds up a majestic yet honest atmosphere that is crowned by an efficient chorus. It’s one of the band’s mellowest, and yet one of its best songs ever.
That coda, entitled “Breathing Out”, leads to my personal favorite, “Suzerain”. This song starts with heavy guitar work and an energizing rhythm section. The song then gets a more mysterious and sinister tone, only to surprise you with a catchy and upbeat chorus which is simply unforgettable. The hypnotizing vocal performance is spot on, and I feel like singing along to this track all the time these days.
“Evil Twin” is one of the straightest tunes here, and mixes vivid heavy and thrash metal elements in equal parts. The lyrics are very interesting, and comment on the events that shook up France last year, including the Charlie Hebdo shooting. Since thrash metal is closely inspired by hardcore punk, which is a genre that regularly comments upon political and social events, the combination of meaningful lyrics and a meaner sound works perfectly. The chorus offers the lyrics: “You represent your discontent, slaughtering the innocent – Insolence, you’re no martyrs – The arrogance to reinvent – The holy words, their meanings bent – Evil twins, you’re no martyrs!”. These offer some food for thought, remembrance, and debate.
The album closer, “Zero Tolerance”, has a very similar tone, and is the band’s most vivid album closer since the unchained anti-conformist statement “Imitation of Life” featured twenty-nine years earlier on the legendary Among the Living. “Zero Tolerance” starts as a focused heavy metal tune before it turns into a fast thrash metal anthem. The band makes a very important statement in the middle part of this track: “Zero tolerance for extremism – in the name of religion – zero tolerance for racial hate – no police state – zero tolerance for politicians – on the left and the right – zero tolerance for killing children” before adding the pissed off question “What would your God say to that, motherfuckers?”. Usually, I don’t like profanity in lyrics, but in this case, the angry attitude is spot on and offers once again some food for thought.
In conclusion, Anthrax offers a timely album with its finger on the modern pulse. This logical sequel to Worship Music proves that Anthrax is back for good, and offers the most consistent present day efforts among their genre colleagues. This hour of positive power might reunite traditional heavy metal fans, thrash metal maniacs, and younger audiences alike with a weakness for modern metal. For All Kings might have a couple of average tracks, but its greatest are so good that this album is a serious candidate for album of the year. If the American quintet comes close to your town for a show with this new material, you know what you have to do.
4.25 // 5