Big Four or Big Whoop?
If you’re able to look past “Ugly Hanukkah Sweater Gate 2016,” then you’re clearly an Anthrax fan who is likely pretty stoked at the prospect of them releasing a new album. To take that even further, it’s also likely that if you are stoked about For All Kings, that you were also pretty excited for Dystopia and Repentless, the other latest releases from two more of the “Big Four,” Megadeth and Slayer, respectively. It’s inductive reasoning for thrash metal – it’s simple. Yet, from the perspective of a reformed thrasher, the question of whether anyone needed a new album from Anthrax (or either of the others, honestly) is pertinent. With this in mind, going into the initial listen of For All Kings can induce a bit of failure ridden anxiety.
Failure might be a strong word, but an understandable one. Bands that have been together for years less than Anthrax has been have dropped albums riddled with dwindling abilities. If there’s one thing that can be said about ol’ faithful Anthrax, it’s that despite the more than frequent lineup changes, shifts in metal trends (and music trends in general), and the unavoidable factor of growing older, their aural aesthetic has remained fairly consistent for the last nearly four decades.
The album begins with the handsome melody of the first bit of “You Gotta Believe,” before it sort of slaps you with its complex structure. “Zero Tolerance” is an “our world is politically doomed but we can fight it with thrash” type of song, whereas “Breathing Lightening” classically nods to angels and death.
For All Kings is the first album that guitarist Jonathan Donais has played on since he joined the band in 2013. He lets his capabilities as a lead guitarist prove his worth, especially on the album’s other melodic metal song “Blood Eagle Wings.” Consider “Suzerain” as the album’s leading track, as every member’s capabilities seem to flow together the most seamlessly here with a low key funky bass, yet chugging guitars, precise execution of drums and vocals that don’t reach too high or fall too low.
Let comfort live in the fact that Joey Belladonna is back on the mic and Scott Ian is still keeping the rhythm on guitar. Charlie Benante is still drumming and Frank Bello obviously isn’t a roadie anymore. Jonathan Donais seems to have found his vocation. For All Kings shows that Anthrax are still just Anthrax, doing Anthrax things. Whether that’s something to celebrate or not is up to you.