After the phenomenal success of their 2012 comeback Worship Music, thrash metal icons Anthrax return with their brand new record For All Kings. Their 12th studio album and second returning record with original singer Joey Belladonna, can the bay area boys recapture the thrash purity explored on the hit record released four years ago, or will they be unfortunate enough to join Megadeth in ultimate mediocrity?
For All Kings
- You Gotta Believe
- Monster At The End
- For All Kings
- Breathing Lightning
- Breathing Out
- Evil Twin
- Blood Eagle Wings
- Defend Avenge
- All Of Them Thieves
- This Battle Chose Us
- Zero Tolerance
Well, I’m glad to report that whilst For All Kings certainly won’t be bringing home the gold, Anthrax have delivered what can only be described as a standard, no frills thrash-metal record. Make no mistake, all the components are right here and the band have lost little pace over the course of their lengthy career, and nowhere is that more evident than in songs such as album closer Zero Tolerance. Technically, the band’s all here, but what the record lacks in spades is any form of real excitement or urgency. But before we get too deep into the album’s issues, let’s talk about some of the things I enjoyed about it.
One of the biggest and best, most prominent components of Anthrax as a whole (coming as no surprise to anybody familiar to the band) is of course the sharp, punchy work of lead guitarist Scott Iain, and this time around it’s business as usual, retaining the god-like riffwork of previous releases. Standing out on tracks such as Breathing Lightning & Defend Avenge, if you’re here to hear the maestro bang out a few memorable licks, you’re in luck. To not mention the performance put in by stickman Charlie Benante would be a crime, and it remains an absolute mystery as to how a man at his age is still able to pull off such intricate work so flawlessly. As a unit, Anthrax really are as strong as ever.
Song-wise, the band can still deliver on a select few fronts. Whilst the bulk of tracks on the record unfortunately outstay their welcome, some of the choruses on display here are nothing short of great, as evident in the title track, as well as the admittedly fairly uniform lead single Evil Twins. It’s refreshing to see at least one of the iconic Big Four still able to crank out material that at least resembles a small likeness to their former speed and ability, and Anthrax just might be the fastest of the old boys still going. However, a shining moment on the record comes from the slower, more methodically paced Blood Eagle Wings, taking the time to give us what could almost be described as a thrash-ballad, utilising interesting riff structures and an exceptional clean outro.
Sadly, this is where things have to get a little uglier. Whilst the majority of the band put in decent to strong performances, it’s rare that vocalist Joey Belladonna deserves praise throughout the record. It could be argued that Joey’s voice has never been the strongest, his performance here lacks any form of passion or real oomph, with most tracks merely presenting his vocals as a companion to some interesting riffs and backing work. A counter argument to this, however, could be presented in the poor, ever degrading form of peers such as Dave Mustaine. Placed next to Mustaine, Belladonna has lost little of his siganture sound, that much can be said. Lyrics here are poor at best, drawing comparison to some of the band’s poorest writing efforts, a shame after some of the content found back on Worship Music.
Speaking before, I accused the album of lacking any urgency of sense of excitement. I don’t enjoy ragging on a band with such a stellar back catalogue, but it must be said that in 2016 Anthrax are sounding like a tired imitation of their former selves. Don’t get me wrong, the pace is there and some of the tracks here and really great, but the entire record smacks of lazy complacent-ness. 90% of the content on offer here can only be described as standard Anthrax fare and nothing more, running the risk of becoming boring and incredibly generic.
While it certainly can’t be said that For All Kings is Anthrax’s strongest hour, or even a solid comeback, the record is a collection of decent-enough, standard 80’s inspired thrash metal we all know and may well be growing tired of. For fans of the band, this album will certainly tide you over until the next release, but for the rest of us we’re left with a middle of the road, okay to decent album that six months down the line won’t even register as existing. One thing I will say, however, is that it isn’t as bad as what Megadeth gave us.
For All Kings is released February 26th via Nuclear Blast Records