Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Anthrax - For All Kings

Anthrax occupy an interesting place among thrash metal's big 4. While Megadeth, Metallica, and Slayer's careers are marked by higher highs and lower lows, Anthrax can be counted on to put out decent album after decent album. Following that trend, For All Kings offers no surprises. For anyone who's heard Worship Music, this review is halfway to writing itself.

The album starts with a brief intro track, Impaled, which builds tension nicely into the first proper song, You Gotta Believe. A few things stand out on this track that hold true for more or less rest of the album. The riffing feels more like traditional heavy metal with a thrash influence. Jon Donais fits right in as Rob Caggiano's replacement on guitar, and I'd have never noticed Caggiano's absence if I hadn't already known from following the buzz around the last Volbeat album. Frank Bello's bass is as simple and effective as ever. Joey Belladonna's voice has aged well, or at least he knows how to work with his limited range instead of letting his age show. But that was already evident on Worship Music.

Since almost every song fits that description with varying degrees of memorability, I'll focus on the highlights. Monster at the End is a catchy, modern sounding hard rock song that the band pull off without dumbing down their sound. For all Kings and Breathing Lightning have the two back to back catchiest choruses on the whole album. Blood Eagle Wings is as epic as a song can be while staying true to the band's sound. Evil Twin sounds the most like classic Anthrax and left me wishing they ramped up the energy on a few more tracks. This Battle Chose Us! is the battle anthem that Fight 'em Til You Can't was on the previous album, and I can see it being a big hit live.

While there are no flat-out bad songs on the album, the second half is bogged down with tracks that just aren't as memorable. Breathing Out and Suzerain feel unnecessary on a 60 minute album considering that Breathing Lightning transitions smoothly into Evil Twin. Zero Tolerance lacks the necessary punch to be a satisfying closer, and the album might have been better off ending on This Battle Chose Us! instead.

For All Kings will offer little in the way of anything new for Anthrax Fans, since the album is essentially Worship Music part 2. But in an hour it delivers about 45 minutes of strong material, which is more than any other big 4 band can say with any consistency these days. I'd give For All Kings a very slight edge over Megadeth's Dystopia, making Anthrax the current reigning kings of among the big 4, if only for lack of a better claim on the throne.

Final Score: 3.5

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