In promotion of their official 11th studio album, For All Kings (available now), big four thrash veterans Anthrax celebrated in true high-class heavy metal fashion. And where might the band have chosen to host their record release listening party? Where 4AK’s, Sevendust and many other artists chose to record: The one and only Architekt Music in Butler, NJ. (architektmusic.com) on February 25th.
Upon arrival, not only was I greeted with a warm welcome, but was immediately impressed with the aesthetics of Architekt’s studio. Upon arrival to the listening party, one of the head engineers hosting the event announced the order of the night’s festivities: Playing 4AK’s Record > Anthrax Live Performance > Q&A > Meet & Greet.
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?) Let me just say that 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 and technical, precise drumming are ever present on this masterpiece.
Throughout this record and especially in Jon Donais’ solo during “You Gotta Believe,” it’s undeniable as you clearly hear his Dimebag Darrell-inspired shredding & pinch harmonics. In my opinion, Donais is truly one of metal’s most under-rated 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, from start to finish.
Upon the ending of each track, nothing but deafening, enthusiastic cheers of approval was heard from those in attendance. As a fan of grunge, rock and heavy metal for over twenty years now, I can’t recall the last time I felt this enthusiastic toward the release of 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.
“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:
“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”
As if the formal studio recording didn’t blow everyone away with 11-solid tracks, Anthrax proved to be tighter than ever in their exclusive performances of new hit singles, “Breathing Lightning” & “Evil Twin.” Belladonna, Ian, Bello, Benante and Donais all appeared very energetic, focused and by the event’s mid-point, the Q&A Session began.
Each member of the band were very jovial as they answered questions mostly pertaining to recording, performing and touring. From the passing of Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister, Phil Enselmo’s controversial remarks and appearing on Married With Children in the 90’s, some of the more serious questions were asked as the band gave genuine responses.
As Anthrax is currently on tour with Lamb of God and soon, Iron Maiden for their South American dates, Frankie Bello confirmed their recent invitation to fly aboard the official Ed Force One. In discussing the making of 4AK’s, both Ian and Benante made known the additional tracks included on their Japanese Import, “Vice of the People” and 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.
Last but not least, Anthrax went even further with an exclusive meet & greet of their fans. Allowing roughly 2-3 people in at a time, all five members of Anthrax took the time to sign records, pictures and memorabilia as well as taking an all band photo with each of those in attendance. To say it was one of the most exciting record release events I’ve been to thus far would be an under-statement. For a band to collectively project a humble yet confident energy as people, veteran musicians and as one-of-the Big 4 are qualities that newer, up-and-coming rock bands can learn from.
As a musician, journalist and radio show host, it has been an honor to promote and share their music with the heavy metal masses. I wish to thank Charlie Benante for his recent January interview, of course, Anthrax, Architekt Studios and all of the fans in attendance 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!
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