Straight off the mark, the opening of “For All Kings” commands the listener’s attention with a “Game of Thrones” like intro, before a frantic, riff-explosion comes galloping out of the traps. If there was any concern of Anthrax, easing into their old age with a more “age appropriate” approach, then opening track “You Gotta Believe” will abruptly settle this train of thought immediately. If their 2011 “Worship Music”, tickled your interest, then “For All Kings” will cement your love affair with the New York icons, as there is a strong continuation in sound, composition and approach here.
There is a definite sense of self-confidence and maturity with this album and as we wade through tracks such as “Monster at the End” and title track “For All Kings”, it is abundantly apparent that this is no ordinary Anthrax album. Having been a long time fan of the band, this is by far the most unpredictable and deeply interesting album the band have released since “Persistence of Time” (1990) and “The Sound of White Noise” (1993). There is a subtle sense of darkness throughout, combined with glorious and instantly catchy choruses, as found in “Breathing Lighting” which is just one example of the sheer brilliance of Joey Belladonna’s vocal range and strength on this album.
Slabs of chunky “classic Anthrax” riffs pave the way to the opening of “Suzerain”, which proves to be a solid example of the level of musicianship within the Anthrax camp. The dynamic between Scott Ian’s machine gun rhythm guitar and former Shadows Fall six stringer, Jonathan Donais is simply flawless. Any fears of the departure of Rob Caggiano to Volbeat, affecting the bands mojo, are put to rest here indefinitely as first single from the album “Evil Twin” makes an appearance and sounds even more punishing with it’s place in the album track listing.
The albums halfway mark, offers the longest track on the album and without a doubt the most epic in terms of composition. “Blood Eagle Wings” clocks in just under eight minutes and possesses layers of powerful melodies and atmospheric twists and turns, led by a truly outstanding performance from Joey. Where most bands fail to keep up the consistency of quality, Anthrax up the game and smash through the second half of the album with “Defend Avenge”, lifting the mood at a fantastic stomping pace and an infectious chorus that contains some classic “Thrax” gang vocals to boot!
The unpredictability of some tracks on the album might scare off the younger generation at first, with “All of Them Thieves” being a good example, however the understanding of the albums true personality can found here. A brooding composition that swells with light and shade both musically and lyrically, showing a band that is evolving with their sound and present genre surroundings and totally conquering it.
Possibly one of the top highlights on the album, “This Battle Choose Us”, is an instant brain invasion! The pace, tone and heart soaring chorus, will have you reaching for the repeat button over and over again. Sounding like a track that could have easily been on the bands classic “We’ve Come For You All” (2003), “This Battle Choose Us” is simply an epic tune, that is begging to be unleashed live. Benente and Bello’s presence on this album has to be one of the most solid in the bands long recording career, as they feed off each others energy with a true sense of connected passion. It should be noted that Bello’s outstanding bass tracks are not apparent at first due to the front line structure of the guitars and vocals, however I urge you to listen to the album with this in mind and experience the fantastic low end melody that he injects throughout the album.
Displaying a level of virtuosity that becomes apparent over repeat listens, the overall performance and chemistry on “For All Kings”, shows a band that are at the height of their game right now. As the album comes to a finish with pit-friendly banger, “Zero Tolerance”, one cannot help but feel that this is a huge step for the band in light of the line up changes and other hurdles they have encountered over the last decade. “For All Kings” possesses a wonderfully powerful and subtly dark presence, yet has a feeling of strength and positivity, that is damn near impossible to find these days among the ‘tough guy’ metal-core scene and the new wave of Thrash bands, who simply can’t move on from the ‘done to death’ sound of the genres classic 80’s period.
“For All Kings” is a triumph that bridges the gap between the past and the present, all the while displaying a band at the top of their game, who continue to proudly protect the name of Heavy Metal for over three and a half decades!
Overdrive caught up with Scott Ian last November to talk about the new album. Get that interview here.
Words – Oran O’Beirne
© OVERDRIVE 2016
FOR ALL KINGS TRACK LISTING
01. You Gotta Believe
02. Monster At The End
03. For All Kings
04. Breathing Lightning
06. Evil Twin
07. Blood Eagle Wings
08. Defend Avenge
09. All Of Them Thieves
10. The Battle Chose Us
11. Zero Tolerance
For All Kings is available for pre-order on February 26th via Nuclear Blast. Order your limited pressing by clicking on the link below.