This record isn't as disastrous as it could have been. Respectable and well-crafted? Yes. Exciting? No, not really. Listen to Among The Living if you want a real idea of what Anthrax used to stand for.
The appreciation of true, balls-to-the-wall thrash metal must start with the Big Four. Anthrax – along with Megadeth, Metallica, and Slayer – pioneered and popularised the genre in the 80s and 90s, culminating in the infamous worldwide Clash of the Titans tour (1990 – 91) featuring three of the aforementioned four. Therafter, thrash metal declined for some years until a new generation of bands rekindled the fire in the early 2000s and veteran groups made a return to their roots in subsequent releases.
For All Kings, the bands eleventh studio album, is a grower rather than a shower: it takes a couple of listens to get into and to recognise which tracks are worth your time, but it isn’t a bad record persay. When, however, you consider that we’ve been waiting over four years for a new Anthrax album (the last one was 2011’s Worship Music) then this one comes as a dreary disappointment because, despite the obvious finesse that comes from over thirty years of experience in the music industry, it’s a little bit boring.
The record opens with ‘You Gotta Believe’, a rising medley of strings and steady, funeral march-esque percussion which sidles gingerly into a rapid, but somehow very dull, guitar hook. The title track ‘For All Kings’ isn’t a total trainwreck (once you get past the 3:00 mark and the tap riffs actually get going), and ‘Breathing Lightning’ goes some way to redeeming the previous three-track snoozefest with a good mixture of deliciously fast shredding and near-symphonic major highs.
Next up is the heavy but ham-fisted ‘Suzerain’, reaching out of the speakers to hack off your face with a blistering intro. Be warned, it stagnates for a few minutes, but hold on until 2:42 and you’ll get more of the Jonathan Donais slice ‘n’ dice guitar treatment. ‘Evil Twin’ and ‘Blood Eagle Wings’ follow up with more of the same, tinging the guitars with a touch more distortion; it’s a minor tweak, but enough to make these two tracks very listenable. For fans of golden era Anthrax, the final three tracks are a pleasant step in the right direction. ‘All of Them Thieves’, without a doubt the most exciting track on the album, deserves praise for boasting all the constituent parts of a superb thrash metal song: heaving riffs, melodic peaks, and more shredding than a chainsaw serial killer.
The verdict, then, is not a great one. For All Kings is, if nothing else, a very well-crafted and fluid album with some noteworthy tracks scattered across the board. No doubt the diehard fan will be satisifed, rather than thrilled, with this record. If, however, you’re new to thrash metal then I would seriously advise you to steer clear until you’ve got the good stuff under your belt: listen to Among The Living and Spreading The Disease instead.
For All Kings is out now via Nuclear Blast.