CD Review: Anthrax – For All Kings

CD Review: Anthrax – For All Kings
MRI/Megaforce Records
All Access Rating: A

Anthrax - For All Kings 2016
Oaken strings and deathly drums usher in For All Kings, the latest album from thrash-metal trailblazers Anthrax. Reverential in tone and almost orchestral, the brief intro "Impaled" is suggestive of a ceremonial procession – something along the lines of a royal funeral or the lead-up to a very public and bloody execution.

Hardly a solemn occasion, For All Kings is not at all a pretender to the mighty throne that was Anthrax's storming blitzkrieg of a comeback album in 2011's Worship Music. Instead it raises the bar and then some, with immaculate and visceral production intensifying and articulating perfectly the combination of increasingly dynamic, well-crafted songwriting, raging energy and taut, tactical precision that has Anthrax flying high at the moment.

Leaked early, the stirring anthem "Breathing Lightning," probably the most radio-friendly song Anthrax has ever recorded, is a bracing and glorious pop-metal spectacle with an unforgettable, yearning chorus powerfully expressed by Joey Belladonna, whose singing on this record is remarkably melodic, charismatic and forceful. And while thrash-metal's old guard might wring their hands over its obvious commercial appeal, just as they did with Metallica's Black Album, this is not a betrayal of their uncompromising principles or their raucous past. It's still Anthrax at the wheel, driving as aggressively as ever, although now they're speeding away in a sleeker, shinier vehicle and the insurance is paid up – i.e., this is Anthrax showing its maturity, even if their anger still tends to spill over from time to time in socio-political commentary that hits especially hard.

In typical fashion, however, Scott Ian and company thrash to their hearts' content in compelling fashion on "You Gotta Believe," stopping only to survey its smoldering ruins of dark melody before violently beating the song into a coma, as drummer Charlie Benante unleashes a mind-boggling array of beats throughout. Even faster and more frenzied, "Zero Tolerance" is a furious blaze, ranting against racism with old-school venom – some of the rough edges sanded off with modern sonic sensibilities.

And if that's not enough, the vicious bluster of a heart-pounding "Evil Twin" and the seismic pounding of "Monster At The End" – a massive earthquake of a track, where the rumblings of bassist Frank Bello causes the ground underneath mighty guitar riffs to crack wide open – serve notice that Anthrax still packs a devastating punch. More ominous and heavy, "Blood Eagle Wings" broods like a hulking monster hiding from villagers wielding torches and pitchforks and plotting his vengeance, while tough, bruising grinds "Defend Avenge" and "All Of Them Thieves" pummel, even as the latter picks up sweeping momentum.

That Anthrax remains this vital and continues churning out material this bold and exciting is truly awe-inspiring, resulting in eye-opening chart performances that are well-deserved. One day, maybe time will soften them. This is not that day.
– Peter Lindblad

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