• Liberating metal potpourri on the pulse of time - A review of Anthrax's ''For All Kings''

    Anthrax - For All Kings (2016)

    ''For All Kings'' is Anthrax's newest studio release and it is very similar to its predecessor ''Worship Music''. This album is very diversified, melodic and modern. Let me explain what that actually means. From melodic alternative rock anthems over instrumental interludes to mean thrash metal stompers with a solid dose of punk spirit both musically and lyrically, this album summarizes almost everything the band has tried out in its career but adds some fresh enthusiasm and consistent high quality song writing. This is also the band's most melodic album. Especially new guitarist Jonathan Donais really shines here and adds a more modern and quite catchy tone to the thrash metal legend. I must also point out Joey Belladonna's energizing, juvenile and melodic vocal performance. He has always been my favourite singer of this band and his gifted vocals distinguish this band from other genre bands who might have charismatic but ultimately technically less talented performers. Our Native American frontman really delivers his best career performance so far on this output. This new album can be called modern because the production is precise but not polished. The rhythm section is the powerful backbone of this record while vocals and guitar sounds have a few efficient sound effects here and there. Some songs on this album have traditional heavy and thrash metal sounds that should please the more conservative fans. Those who liked the band's more experimental phase during the nineties might also find a few interesting passages here and there even though this is only a subcategory on this record. The album offers a lot more catchier, shorter and more modern alternative rock and metal passages that could actually get some mainstream radio airplay if the band really tried to become more popular. ''For All Kings'' would actually be an appropriate album for younger audiences to discover the world of metal music. To all open-minded teenagers with a weakness for rock music out there: go ahead and try this record out!

    Even though some band members described this album as a heavier output that goes back to the band's earlier albums, I would rather disagree. If you liked ''Worship Music'', you will equally fall in love with ''For All Kings'' but if you are expecting a youthful thrash metal revival, you should look elsewhere. Since I admired the predecessor, I'm also satisfied with this album even though some of the new material needs a few more spins to open up if comapred to the infectious previous strike. The most accessible songs can be found in the strong middle section of this album. ''Breathing Lightning'' is a very melodic and uplifting song that you won't get out of your mind. The guitar melodies sound harmonious and positive and the vocals are refreshingly liberating. The track has both a proper introduction and an instrumental coda as a short separated track. The songs builds up a majestic yet honest atmosphere that is crowned by an efficient chorus. It's one of the band's mellowest yet one of their best songs ever.

    The coda entitled ''Breathing Out'' leads to my personal highlight ''Suzerain'' that starts with heavier guitar work and an energizing rhythm section. The song then gets a more mysterious and sinister tone just to surprise you with a catchy, melodic and positive chorus which is simply unforgettable. The hypnotizing vocal performance is spot on and I feel like singing along to this track all the time these days.

    ''Evil Twin'' is one of the straightest tunes on here and mixes vivid heavy and thrash metal elements in equal parts. The lyrics are very interesting and comment on the events that shook up France last year, especially the Charlie Hebdo shooting. Since thrash metal is closely inspired by hardcore punk music which is a genre that regularly comments political and social events, the combination of meaningful lyrics and a meaner sound works perfectly. Especially the chorus with lyrics such as "You represent your discontent slaughtering the innocent - Insolence, you're no martyrs - The arrogance to reinvent - The holy words their meanings bent - Evil twins, you're no martyrs!" offers some food for thought, remembrance and debates. 

    The album closer ''Zero Tolerance'' has a very similar tone and is the band's most vivid album closer since the unchained anti-conformist statement ''Imitation of Life'' twenty-nine years earlier on the legendary ''Among the Living'' album. ''Zero Tolerance'' starts as a focused heavy metal tune before it turns into a fast thrash metal anthem. The band makes a very important statement in the middle part of this track: ''Zero tolerance for extremism - in the name of religion - zero tolerance for racial hate - no police state - zero tolerance for politicians - on the left and the right - zero tolerance for killing children'' before adding the pissed off question ''What would your God say to that, motherfuckers?". Usually, I don't like profanity in lyrics but in this case, the angry attitude is spot on and offers once again some food for thought, remembrance and debates. 

    In conclusion, Anthrax offers a diversified, melodic and modern output with lyrics on the pulse of time. This logical sequel to ''Worship Music'' proves that Anthrax is back for good and offers the most consistent present day efforts among their genre colleagues. This one hour of positive power might reunite traditional heavy metal fans, thrash metal maniacs and younger audiences with a weakness for modern metal. ''For All Kings'' might have a couple of average tunes but the greatest tracks are so close to perfection that this album can already be considered a serious candidate for album of the year. If the American quintet comes close to your town for a show with this new material, you know what you have to do.

    Final rating: 90%

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