Record Review: Anthrax – For All Kings

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As their official 11th studio album, “For All Kings, released on Friday, February 26th, thrash veterans Anthrax have proven once again why they have earned their place as one of The Big 4. And if Alex Ross’s ’kneel-down-before-thy-kings’ cover art doesn’t compel you enough to want to slam your hard-earned money down on the counter at your local record shop, then I don’t know what to tell you? Physical media! What is that? Whether you’re a collector of vinyl, CD or simply stream digital, this album takes you on an interesting journey that commands the respect of a heavy metal sit-down listening session.

From start to finish, this record is a well-oiled, super-thrash, heavy metal machine. From a production standpoint, Jay Ruston’s engineering prowess has clearly served the band well. With an EPIC, calm-before-the-storm-like “Intro” building into the head-banging “You Gotta Believe,” it is evident that classic-thrash riffs, signature Belladonna vocals inspired by Dio-Dickinson, extended guitar solos, technical and precise, dynamic drumming are leading the charge on this masterpiece.

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Throughout the record and especially during Jon Donais’ solo during “You Gotta Believe,” it’s undeniable as you clearly hear Dimebag Darrell-inspired shredding & pinch harmonics. In my opinion, Donais is truly one of metal’s most underrated shred guitarists of our time. Give a listen to his work on Shadows Fall’s The War Within and you’ll understand why Anthrax recruited him. He undoubtedly serves the band very well and compliments the entire record with a youthful, modern edge on Worship Music and especially 4AK’s.

As a fan of grunge, rock and heavy metal for over twenty years now, I can’t recall the last time I felt this excited about a rock record as much as I have with 4AK’s. OK, maybe Iron Maiden’s “Book of Souls” (Incredible record) or Steel Panther’s “All You Can Eat,” but I’m talking non-Spinal Tap-esque rock and metal. There’s no filler on 4AK’s as it is a true metal masterpiece straight through and has great replay value. Shit, is this Anthrax the video game? Call of Duty: Anthrax? OK, enough ADD, let’s continue, shall we?

“Monster At The End” takes you into the “Belly of The Beast” (no pun intended) portraying how the monster in your worst nightmare becomes you:  A very interesting theme for a metal tune. Are there any subliminal messages? If so, someone please enlighten me.

“For All Kings” takes a more mature approach telling a rather relatable tale of a youth evolving to an adult, holding their own in taking on an uncertain future and finding love. At least that’s what I gather as it appears evident in lyrics:

“When the noise is gone, you’re there
  Through the storm our souls laid bare
Given all beyond too much The strongest love lifts me up
As my sky turns black, turns black as if asleep
The king is dead so, Long live the man in me, by divine right.”

“Breathing Lightning” is most definitely the most commercial, radio-friendly track on the record. The chorus will definitely appeal to fans of sub-genres of hard rock and heavy metal. In reading the lyrics below, the song presents a very conscientious, life-affirming theme, which Anthrax implemented very well into one-of-two of their newest hit singles.

“You always have the chance to do the right thing
Until the right thing comes undone
And with a thunderclap I’m breathing lightning
And this world has moved on
I look inside myself is this the right thing?
Is this the right thing, I don’t know”

As “Evil Twin” was chosen to be the band’s 2nd official hit single, the song clearly conveys the cowardice, inhumane acts of senseless violence deriving from religious extremists. Whether listening to the song or watching the official lyric-based music video, you can’t help but think of ISIS’ violent acts in the recent Charlie Hebdo and Eagles of Death Metal shootings. The chorus lyrics below present the obvious theme:

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“You represent your discontent
Slaughtering the innocent
Insolence. You’re no martyrs
The arrogance to reinvent
The holy words their meaning rent
Evil twin
You’re no martyrs, no martyrs, No martyrs, no martyrs”

As per the Japanese import of For All Kings, the record will include an additional track “Vice of the People” as well as a song written exclusively for Game of Thrones. In contrast to Worship Music’s approach of recording analog and bouncing to digital, the band admitted to their all digital Pro Tools approach taken with 4AK’s. Given that a single reel of analog tape costs roughly $20,000.00, the digital approach doesn’t seem so bad after all.

So, considering as this is the band’s 11th official record, your fellow metalhead is presented with 11 solid, thrash-riffing, head-banging tracks with no filler. From a compositional standpoint, each song is intricate and well-written, containing interesting themes, lyrics and Oh, Yes, who could forget the harmonious-sounding instrumentals on the Intro track and “Suzerain.” All-in-all, For All Kings impressively delivers on multiple levels. With that being said, I give the album a 10-Out-Of-10!

As a musician, journalist and radio show host, it has been an honor to promote and share Anthrax’s music with the heavy metal masses. I wish to thank Charlie Benante for his recent January interview, of course, Anthrax, Architekt Studios and all music fans for supporting true hard rock and heavy metal. So, to YOU reading this article; go pick up the physical copy of “For All Kings” ASAP!

Also, check out a promo video I made with footage shot at Anthrax’s February 25th Record Release Party. Hope you enjoy it!

    youtube.com/anthraxrecordrelease

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