Review: Anthrax – For All Kings

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I like all periods of Anthrax and consider myself a fan of the band, so while I was immensely excited to hear new material from them, In The End I was left quite disappointed. Don’t agree with me? After reading my review you will have the chance to calculate your own score of For All Kings.

The last time we heard from the New York quintet was their comeback(ish) album Worship Music, which marked not only a return of frontman Joey Belladona, but a sort of second wind as they recaptured some of the energy of their early, thrashier records. For All Kings feels like a natural progression of that album, but with less thrash infused into their sound.  It starts out with “You Gotta Believe”, a 7:30 long song that serves as a good cross section of what to expect here: speedy start/stop riffs that might be ideal for a Guitar Hero game, catchy choruses, a relatively slow and quiet bridge, a bump in speed with fierce dueling guitar solos, then a return to the main chorus. This is a decent song and it does a good job of weeding out those who may have fear about the direction in which the band is headed.

I need to point out three things that the album does right:

  1. GOD DAMN is Charlie Benante a beast!  He remains one of the most skilled skinsmen in thrash and so long as he’s a member of Anthrax, I will find something interesting to latch onto in their sound.
  2. For All Kings marks the first release with guitarist Rob Caggiano’s replacement Jonathan Donais (Shadows Fall), and with that comes some really cool, flashy guitar soloing.
  3. The song “Breathing Lightning”, embedded below.  As cheesy of a ballad that it is, it’s top-shelf cheese that’s catchy as hell and captures what we all loved about their 2003 hit “Safe Home“.

Generally, when a band reaches for two opposing goals, they come up short in both aspects. Occasionally they succeed, but I find it to be the exception rather than the rule. With For All Kings, Anthrax seem to be attempting to satisfy both Belladona-era fans and Bush-era fans, and in the process end up failing to accomplish either. Pretty much every song features interplay between fast-paced riffs and hard rock-ish power chords, and it’s a formula that grows stale as quickly as it starts. Tracks “Monster In the End”, “Suzerian”, and “Blood Eagle Wings” feature slower, sing-songy choruses that simply aren’t effective for a hard-hitting band such as Anthrax.

Sometimes it pays for a thrash band to catch the progressive rock bug, as with Metallica‘s …and Justice For All or Kreator‘s Phantom Antichrist; but it doesn’t seem to suit Anthrax, or perhaps they just need to iron out a few kinks and adjust to life with new guitarist Jonathan Donais. Hell, the band doesn’t really treat us to a real thrash kicker until the last song “Zero Tolerance”! But I found that to be just one of the short-comings of the album: For All Kings lacks bite, something that was present in pretty much every prior Anthrax release. The bass doesn’t kick and the treble doesn’t slice; the riffs don’t assault you and Joey’s voice definitely does not intimidate. Any time a song builds some mosh-worthy momentum, it quickly tends to deflate during the chorus. The aspects about the album that I like can’t overpower its misgivings. For that, For All Kings receives

1.5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell

NEW_TOILETSCALE_1-5_of_5

Here is YOUR chance to provide the world with your own score. Fill out the following questionnaire, tally up your points, and let me know in the comments section.

verified-checkbox-symbol_318-64495
check-box-empty-rounded-square_318-41751I appreciate the general skill of this band of fine musicians as a whole. (20%)

check-box-empty-rounded-square_318-41751Anthrax doesn’t need to keep thrashing away like they did 20 years ago. (20%)

check-box-empty-rounded-square_318-41751Catchy, melodic hooks are more important to me than breakneck speed. (10%)

check-box-empty-rounded-square_318-41751Longer, more progressive passages are what interest me. (10%)

check-box-empty-rounded-square_318-41751“In The End” off of Worship Music was great, and I’d like to hear more of that. (15%)

check-box-empty-rounded-square_318-41751I enjoy Joey Belladonna’s current style of vocals. (15%)

check-box-empty-rounded-square_318-41751If the guitar solos rock, I’m willing to forgive the lack of intense riffs. (5%)

check-box-empty-rounded-square_318-41751I do not miss Rob Caggiano’s beanie-clad head. (5%)

I do love the band, and will continue to see them live when I can; but for now please excuse me while I spin Among the Living, Worship Music or even We’ve Come For You All

(image via Nuclear Blast, Freepik)

 

  • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

    An Anthrax album not on par with Among the Living? Shocking!

    EDIT: In no way was Anthrax “thrashing” 20 years ago. They were full on mid-paced, groove mediocrity.

    • i’ll join you with this assessment!

    • Óðinn

      Yeah. I don’t know what they were doing in the 1990s after Joey left, but it wasn’t good. Not even close.

  • Dubs
    • Boss the Ross

      Nice pick.
      I have loved Anthrax since I first heard them, it’s hard for me to pick a favorite. I’d have to go album by album.

    • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

      Hmmmmm, nice pick Dubs and a good thread to start. Here’s my favorite.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wLzSGCTsTS8

      • Dubs

        Thanks. While I noted above that I liked Worship Music, I pretty much always stick to the first three.

        • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

          YES! The first three is all you need.

          • Dubs

            Never really got into the Bush-era, though I can understand why some people did.

          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

            Me too.

      • with all the claims of returning to thrash roots, i’ve never heard a modern band sound as thrashy as their old stuff. sign of the times? who knows.

        • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

          Agreed. It’s just a ploy to try and gain interest. That being said newer Testament, Death Angel, and Overkill ain’t bad.

          • Dubs

            I’m glad you dig newer Testament. And Overkill. And Death Angel. Basically there was a lot to like in that sentence.

          • Owlswald

            Not sure what is considered “newer” Testament but The Gathering was the album that got me into them. That album slays.

          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain
          • Dubs

            This was actually probably my least favorite song on the album.

          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

            I just chose one at random. But blast beats in a Testament song and Skolnick soloing is rad.

          • Blast Beats? Damn… Guess I need to check this out.

          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

            Hoglan did session work for them, ’nuff said.

          • Oh fuck… That’s right. Haven’t kept up much with Testament honestly.

          • Dubs

            Both The Formation of Damnation and Dark Roots of the Earth were really good.

          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

            So it goes, too many bands. Derp.

          • As always bro.

          • i can dig the musicianship. but that key change in the hook around 4:27 ruins it so hard for me.

          • Dubs

            The Formation of Damnation and Dark Roots of the Earth

          • Owlswald

            I stopped after The Gathering. I’ll have to check them out.

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            Definitely check them out. They’ve been on a roll ever since The Gathering.

          • Owlswald

            Dark Roots currently in process. Isn’t Gene Hoglan drumming for them now?

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            Hoglan handled the drumming on Dark Roots. Dunno if he’s a full member though…
            Hoglan drumming + thrash is always a winning combination. From Dark Angel to Testament.

          • Owlswald

            Agreed. I’m about through the album and its not bad. Cold Embrace might be the worst Testament song ever though.

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            Honestly I always liked Testament’s and Overkill’s earlier stuff (way more than I ever liked Anthrax), but for some reason Testament’s The Gathering and Overkill’s Ironbound are the albums I spin the most by each band. Both are ridiculously good. I could say the same about Exodus’ Tempo of the Damned.
            Death Angel though…I could never seem to get into that band…

          • Óðinn

            Testament and Death Angel, yes!

            To be honest, Overkill wasn’t very good in the 80s. Now they’re just overrated. They’re one of those bands that everybody thinks was great in hindsight.

          • by no means. but they seem to approach their old style 75% of the way and … i dunno, are scared to make the full transition?

          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

            Benante and Ian run everything. That’s the problem.

          • Marketing is a bitch.

          • Agreed. Loved the last two Overkill albums.

          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

            Overkill doesn’t get mentioned enough, honestly. I’m just as guilty.

          • Everyone complains about Bobby’s voice. I fucking love it!

          • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

            Fuck yeah, it’s hash and mean.

          • Boss the Ross

            He’s one of my favorites in thrash.

          • Man’s a legend. Hail Bobby Ellsworth.

          • Boss the Ross

            Hail the Blitz!

          • Jag would agree if he was here.

          • Boss the Ross

            He’s here in spirit.

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            Cool dude. He still gets involved in bar fights. I approve of this.

          • Buddy of mine toured with Overkill. He was drum teching. Said it was a blast!

          • Boss the Ross

            That’s bad ass.

          • Indeed.

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            THIS. One of the greatest snarls in thrash.

      • Boss the Ross

        Solid.

      • Pentagram Sam

        Better version of Apt Pupil than the movie and I loathe to be talkin smack about Ian McKellan

    • I’m a State Of Euphoria guy, 1st album I ever bought from them.
      http://youtu.be/mgn4e7Vov04

      • Boss the Ross

        That was the first full album I heard from them as well

    • Sir Tapir The Based

      My favourite Anthrax song:

    • ME GORAK B.C.™

      INTRO MAKE GORAK WANNA SMASH!!!!!!!!!!
      https://youtu.be/L6kPZyRBc58

      • Boss the Ross

        Man I’m already in jail, don’t they know my life’s just one big cell…

  • Good write up, sorry you didn’t like the album. I was looking forward to it, but not so much now 🙁

    • i too was looking forward to it. i didn’t like giving it a low review.
      but i think you should still listen to it at least once!

    • Ted Nü-Djent ™

      Don’t listen to Jimmy

  • Dubs

    Thanks for the review, McNulty. I thought Worship Music was good but not great. I shan’t be spending money on this. Also, I hung out with Jon Donais at a bar in Deep Ellum once. He’s a really timid dude.

  • Janitor Jim Duggan

    This was a very good album. 3.5/5 stars.

    • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

      • Janitor Jim Duggan

        It wasnt bad. I enjoyed it as much as the new Megadeth album which I liked quite a bit.

    • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

      Agreed. One of their best tracks. Punishing as fuck and slays every Anthrax song put together.

  • It’s funny how there was a good amount of excitement over the return of Joey Belladonna and then everything just kind of fell off the map. The new stuff they’ve done with him is perfectly fine. Maybe if this music was released in the early 90’s, people would be more into it but now in 2016, it’s just kind of “eh”. Not really bad, just eh. Is it that times have changed and we expect more? Might be a good future Think Piece.

    Thanks for the honest review.

    • King Shit of Fuck Mountain

      Maybe they peaked in 1987? Maybe Scott Ian’s best riffs were on the first SOD album? Maybe they need to stop writing mid-paced boring bullshit? Maybe?

      • more beer

        He absolutely left his best riffs on Speak English or Die. He hasn’t written a decent riff since then.

  • Boss the Ross

    It pains me to read this, I was really hoping for something heavier than Worship Music. I heard the leak a little while back from a friend and I could only really get into one song. Anthrax is one of my favorite bands, but I’m going to have to think about this one before I buy it. Thanka for the review Jimmy.

    I’m gonna stick with this for now.

    https://youtu.be/A15_toteGag
    https://youtu.be/WdTgI2D08mk
    https://youtu.be/BIr5ex4l_gg

  • Although I haven’t heard much beyond the singles that’ve been released, I don’t think this quite measures up to anything on Worship Music. There were some songs on WM where I felt they were written with Bush in mind, but Joey did an OK job with them. Jimmy has confirmed my feelings that this album is a load of meh.

    • Boss the Ross

      I get the same vibe from WM as you do and I think Bush would’ve killed on it.

      • ProfoundHatred

        He certainly would have improved that atrocious cover of “New Noise,” although honestly I just don’t think the guys in Anthrax understand the style of the original enough to be covering that song at all.

      • I really think it would’ve been cool if the both of them split the tracks on that one. Never would’ve happened because of egos.

        • Boss the Ross

          Hahaha, an Anthrax/Anthrax split LP. One side Bush, one side Belladona. I would buy that quick, fast and in a hurry.

    • thanks for your score! i’m sure it will be higher for a lot of folks, i remember @lmd666:disqus really digging it.

  • I think I will pass. I was never an Anthrax follower, only a couple of songs on Among the Living and Worship Music (indeed, a very fun record with more energy, like Macñulti said).

    Thanks for this review, curly haired detective.

  • Eliza

    The album got leaked at one point and I managed to listen to all of it then. I don’t know why, but I was hoping for this to be great. Maybe because I love Anthrax’s older material and I want them to keep making good music. This album is not bad by any stretch of the imagination and I had a fun time with it, but I don’t feel it has the lasting impact it could have had.

  • ChuggaChuggaDeedleyDoo

    Anthrax’s musical zenith clearly was back when they were trying to ape the Beastie Boys

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=A15_toteGag

  • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

    Spreading the Disease and Among the Living were great. For me it was over after that. Those tracks they released from this new album were cringe as fuck. Usually I listen to an album before I throw it into the trash can, but I really don’t know about this one…

    • Boss the Ross

      Persistence of Time?

      • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

        Meh. Listened to it once, forgot all about it. Never a good sign.

        • Boss the Ross

          DAMMIT!!!

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            On a more positive note, I’m starting to appreciate Blind Guardian. Listened to Nightfall in Middle Earth and liked it.

          • Eliza

            Oh yeah! Nightfall is my favourite album by Blind Guardian!

          • Boss the Ross

            I think right now Follow the Blind is my favorite, but that changes constantly.

          • Eliza

            It’s just the same for me. I’ll never get bored of Blind Guardian.

          • At the Edge of Time this month for me.

          • Boss the Ross

            Such a killer album!
            Favorite track?

          • In between Ride into Obsession and Sacred Worlds. Too much great songs!!

          • Boss the Ross

            Tanelorn (Into the Void) for me!

          • ME GORAK B.C.™
          • Boss the Ross

            GORAK!

          • ME GORAK B.C.™

            BOSS!

          • Boss the Ross

            YEEEEEEAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!
            I retract previous dammit.

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            So that means there are about 3 Euro-style PM bands I kinda dig a few albums from: Iced Earth, Blind Guardian, Kamelot.
            I always liked several of the US style bands such as Cirith Ungol, Manilla Road, Jag Panzer or Riot.

          • Dubs

            Iced Earth is more US-style than Euro-style.

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            Yeah, they’re hard to categorize though. To me they don’t sound like any Euro-style band, but for some reason they’re always mentioned in the same breath with the Euro-style bands.

          • DVRKBEVRD

            did you check out last years Judicator album

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            Still have to check that one out. Too many damn bands to keep up with…

          • DVRKBEVRD

            its another us PM band you should check for sure. everyone whos a PM fan around here will tell you to check out Noble Beast but i wasnt that impressed

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            Thanks for the recommendation. Will put that one on the list. If I end up liking them, I’ll have to put them on the evergrowing “album copies to buy list” as well.

          • DVRKBEVRD

            we’re all in that club man. alongside Gloryhammer, Blind guardian (my fav album from last year), and Unleash The Archers, Judicator was a surprise. all of those are dope albums from last years PM bands

          • DVRKBEVRD

            so is Kamelot (because theyre from the US)

          • you said a wirty dord

          • DVRKBEVRD

            ???

          • Kamelot

          • DVRKBEVRD

            kamelot is a dirty word now? i forgot i was the only one around here who liked them.

            we have more dirty and banned words than not

          • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

            P sure Link digs, maybe Tommy too. And me.

          • DVRKBEVRD

            pretty slim toilet approval, either way

          • Boss the Ross

            I like Kamelot as well.

          • Yeah, I support.

            Guac likes old Kamelot, too. I think Masterpants too.

          • ME GORAK B.C.™

            GORAK LIKE KAMELOT!!!!!!!!!!

          • don’t focus on who likes them. focus on the hilarious, dank memes people posted about Kamelot last year.

          • DVRKBEVRD

            people make dank maymays about erthang nowadays

          • Boss the Ross

            Solid man, that’s a good list to have.

          • Pentagram Sam

            Check out Persuader from Sweden. Even though the vocalist Jens Carlsson hates the CONSTANT HANSI KURSCH comparisons, they are much more riffy than Blind Guardian. First album The Hunter is more straight ahead Power Metal, second album Evolution Purgatory throws in more time changes and riff arounds, the third album When Eden Burns has em using more death vox and well, asspotato, I haven’t heard the latest one The Fiction Maze.

            I was gonna link a song from Evolution Purgatory, but there’s one thing on that album that WOW STANDS OUT. Piet Sielck from Iron Savior (who I also really like) produced it and does “backing vocals” on it. And by using “” marks, I mean on the choruses he basically takes over the vocals. Like he just waited til everyone left the studio for the day and went hahahahhahaAHHAHAHAHAH and pushed his vocal mix to 11 and Jens to 9. Iron Savior is coo too foo

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CsdRsFLdskk

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            Thanks for the recommendation! Will check them out.

      • Yes, real good album by them.

        • Boss the Ross

          Hell yeah!

          Ron Deuce, he’s the man.

  • On a thrashy note, apparently there is going to be a new Hobbs’ Angel of Death album this year.

  • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

    Hmm. “We’ve come for y’all” and “Vol h8, da Threat is for realz” and everything else they did with Bush that wasn’t Sounds of White Noise is worth an 1,5 at best.
    With that in mind, this is an album a million times better than they, so while I reckon I understand the low score, Jimmy my dear, you’re wrong.
    And that’s a paddlin’.

  • CyberneticOrganism

    Ouch.

  • COAL ROLL

    Anthrax was always mediocre, and always will be.

    • No track previews yet unfortunately.

        • CyberneticOrganism

          Damn @ that artwork

        • Flying Hairy Uvula Of Doom

          Goatdayum, this song is thick as hell! Could’ve done without the intro of an old guy sounding like he’s taking the most painful dump on Earth, though.

  • Waynecro

    Thanks for the great review, McNults! I never really cared for Anthrax, but I bought a Belladonna solo album for one cent once. It was definitely a pity purchase.

  • Lacertilian

    I remember some time last year someone posted studio footage of this album being made in the FB group. It was obviously supposed to be an impressive riff they were working on but my thoughts at the time were that it resembled a Revocation riff missing all the interesting note choices played at half-speed.
    Did not garner any excitement for me, in fact, it likely did the opposite. After this review, I don’t think I’ll bother.
    Thanks Jimmy, you’ve saved me some time.
    Time I just wasted writing out such a long comment.

    • whoa. spot on with that Revocation reference. i couldn’t think of how to describe their riffs (stair-stepper maybe?)

      • Lacertilian

        The riff I heard was a fairly stock pedal-point riff with all the pizzazz sucked out of it through slow tempo and having essentially nothing going on in terms of the non-open notes.

        • MoshOff

          Anthrax riffs have devolved into just playing one note pedaled off another palm-muted one, and it’s kinda sad 🙁

  • Flying Hairy Uvula Of Doom

    I never quite got the deal about them. Good band, but overrated as hell. Thankfully the new one isn’t as bad, ridiculous and unnecessary as:

    http://loudwire.com/files/2013/12/p18cbnlajauq79a4d98hka5jt41.jpg

    For those who love to hear Scott talk even more than he does.

  • Óðinn
  • Stanley

    I’m glad that I was busy today and wasn’t able to take part in the 80s thrash dialogue. I would have wasted an awful lot of time.

  • Ted Nü-Djent ™

    Review by (Rustling Teds) Jimmy McNulty