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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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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…