For All Kings review by Anthrax

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  • Released: Feb 26, 2016
  • Sound: 8
  • Lyrics: 7
  • Overall Impression: 8
  • Reviewer's score: 7.7 Good
  • Users' score: 7.8 (46 votes)
Anthrax: For All Kings

Sound — 8
Although Anthrax's pioneering contributions to the thrash metal genre are at the top of their curriculum vitae, they've always been one to separate themselves from the pack; both in terms of their humorous aesthetic of their earlier years, or in terms of their branching out from their thrash metal home range (even going so far as to help blaze a trail for rap metal). And though the tail end of the band's initial run brought forth a post-grunge/alt-metal side (especially with then-vocalist John Bush's singing style), Anthrax's classic lineup reformation in 2010 (which brought back the speed metal dulcet tones of vocalist Joey Belladonna and bassist Frank Bello) also warranted a return to their classic thrash style with their returning album, 2013's "Worship Music."

Now back in the swing of things, Anthrax's eleventh album, "For All Kings," continues even stronger in the vein of appealing to a stark thrash sound, and the instrumental skill shows an uptick all across the board. Along with benchmark thrash guitar riffs brandishing more menacing energy - whether the tight gallop strums of "You Gotta Believe," the strumming bursts of "Evil Twin," or the hammer-ons in "Zero Tolerance" - there's also a more nifty usage of tuplets, most notably in the rhythm-modulating verse riff of "Blood Eagle Wings." New lead guitarist Jonathan Donais (who's also the lead guitarist of Shadows Fall) not only meets the match of the band's previous lead guitarist as expected, but arguably one-ups him with his guitar solos, heard especially in "Monster at the End," "All of Them Thieves," and "Blood Eagle Wings," and the rhythm section also gets to show off some more skill, both in Bello's bass activity (heard in "Monster at the End" and "Breathing Lightning"), and in Charlie Benante's drumming (especially in "Defend/Avenge").

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"For All Kings" isn't just about superseding instrumental output, however, and it also elaborates upon its thrash metal backbone. Whereas "Worship Music" still concerned itself with incorporating some contemporary hard rock/metal characteristics (much like late '90s Anthrax), the band's songwriting shows some more textural dimension being added to the bolder, darker thrash sound that primarily appears. Though in some cases, it simply doubles down on the darkness (like the black metal tremolo at the bridge of "All of Them Thieves") or literally just adds noise (like the wonky feedback tones peppered in "Defend/Avenge"). Other moments bring forth more emotional soundscapes - the eponymous song has a righteous NWOBHM feel to it (mainly caused by Belladonna's vocals), the borderline progressive metal likes of "Breathing Lightning" wields an uncanny triumphant cadence to it with its chorus of sirening guitar leads, and "Blood Eagle Wings" goes from a gloomy mood and tempo into a faster bridge that perfectly represents the desperate fervor articulated in its lyrical narrative.

Lyrics — 7
In tandem with Anthrax's returning style being a darker and more menacing thrash metal sound, Ian's lyrics in "For All Kings" are decorated with lethal imagery and fatal narrative, heard from the fantastical story of vengeance in "Breathing Lightning," to the crestfallen tale of someone plagued with regret from former destruction in "Blood Eagle Wings." But for the most part, Ian's death-filled lyrics stem from an outrage towards different forms of tyranny. He covers economic tyranny of greedy plutocrats in "All of Them Thieves," militaristic tyranny of war and its perpetually spiraling jingoism in "Defend/Avenge," and with both "You Gotta Believe" and "Evil Twin" regarding religious extremism, the band have explained that the latter was written in response to Al Qaeda's attack at the Charlie Hebdo office last year. All in all, though, Ian's discontent towards each path of destruction dovetails in the final "Zero Tolerance," coming to a complete boil with the simply scathing sentiment towards how manically fickle humanity is in their own undoing: "Humans kill each other and so often for every reason there is; including none / Extreme school, inhuman rule, brutality; nowhere to run."

Overall Impression — 8
With Anthrax having spent years writing music that strayed away from their initial thrash sound, it was no surprise that they came right back to that home range with their returning album years ago. However, with them continuing down this path in "For All Kings," Anthrax don't fall into the ditch of staid familiarity like other tenured bands that choose to stick to what they know best, but instead, make a thrash record that stands to be substantial for both old listeners and new. Given their nature, it would also be no surprise if Anthrax moved in a significantly different direction in a future album, but for now, "For All Kings" makes a great case for Anthrax still being capable of putting out some captivating thrash.

33 comments sorted by best / new / date

    As a longtime fan it's my fave record,classic anthrax in 2016,it does need a bit of time to grow on you but it's such a masterpiece
    I don't know those riffs are so generic...and I love Belladonna Anthrax, maybe it is a grower.
    Remember that Jon Donais from Shadows Fall is a member now and is likely a driving force behind the guitar writing for this album. Since he's new to... old thrash, he may need an album or two under his belt before he nails down the essence of Anthrax, so to speak, since he's been writing metal core albums for 21 years.
    Jon only contributed leads.
    a drummer
    Jon absolutely killed it on the leads. Some of the best solos i've heard from him ever
    and the leads are great, closest to those classic Spitz leads they have ever gotten. I just don't know what Scott was thinking with some of those riffs,
    Watch some of the studio update stuff. Looks like Charlie writes most of the riffs. Scott composes the songs and writes the lyrics.
    Charlie has done harmonizing leads in previous albums as well. He did a solo on the Metal Allegiance album I believe.
    Maybe I'm reading this wrong bc you're bringing up metalcore as if it's a bad thing? Shadows Fall was great.
    You are reading it wrong. Metal core is just a different genre of music than thrash. I didn't say anything about it being bad or good. In fact I believe one or two of my first reviews on this website were of Shadows Fall albums.
    Yeah, idk. I just thought that labeling him as being part of a metalore band for that long and is now in a thrash band is a bad thing. I always thought SF was more than metalcore too. They have a ton of thrash influence.
    Definitely a solid album from start to finish. Joey's voice sounds great. Scott still has one of the best right hands in metal. Charlie is still killing the skins, and Jon adds some fresh new blood to leads. Great album! I still like Worship music a little better, but this album grows on me the more I listen to it. Glad these guys aren't just going through the motions, but actually writing decent music.
    Its a grower for me. Cant stop listening to Zero Tolerance now, love the lyrics too. With Worship and this one Anthrax has earned one fan, definitely. Waiting for their next show here
    A great album.This battle choose us sounds like a filler but overall really catchy riffs and vocal melodies.Definitely a strong contender for album of the year.But it will never get the praise it deserves i think.
    Fucking love this album. Had it preordered as soon as I could and was beyond happy with their results! Opinions seem to range between "meh" and "great" here, but to me this is phenomenal Great fucking job Anthrax!
    loved worship music to death and saw them on the tour..killer fucking show. first listen through of this album hasn't impressed me all that much, but Donais on lead is SO stellar and Belladonna sounds great. Shadows Fall had great guitar work, IMO. maybe I need a few more listens and I'll dig it more...hopefully.
    Anthrax is probably the only one of the big 4 to actually improve their later years. In my opinion Worship Music and For All Kings have been on par with if not better than Among the living/Persistence of Time/Spreading the Disease
    Been listening to this album since January, 10/10 , brilliant stuff, even better than worship music, and that takes some topping!!! Album of the year !!!
    SO sing along-y. STD and ATL will always have a special place in my 15-17 yr old memories, but they've been cheesy for eons now.
    Honestly, this album is really boring. Worship Music at least had some interesting and fun songs, but everything on this album is long and painful. "Breathing Lightning" is the only good song here imo.
    I believe they handled Joey's vocals better on Worship than here.Check out the "Breathing Lightning" track.Heavy intro but the chorus is just embarassing.I wouldn't say the same for "Evil Twin" and "You've Gotta Believe" though.
    kill it
    This is a great album and is much better than anything the other "Big Four" have released lately. Solid songs and Belledonna's voice sounds fantastic. Contender for album of the year.