When Anthrax’s 11th studio album For All Kings comes out on Friday (26), it’ll come with a lot of expectations. Having taken five years to follow up Worship Music, it’s been in the works since 2014. Then there was an update and even a hashtag promising an album in 2015. Oops. With two songs to listen to, as well as lots of touring happening, there are high expectations. MI’s Bram Teitelman and contributor Holly Fitzpatrick have listened to the album, and here are their thoughts.
Bram: I’ll be honest here. I was a little skeptical of Anthrax going into Worship Music. The last album I’d really loved of theirs was Sound of White Noise, and even giving Stomp 442 the benefit of the doubt, it had been 16 years since they created an album I’d really cared about. The last album got me back on track with the band, and seemed to re-energize them. They continue that trend with For All Kings.
Song for song, this could be better than Worship Music. The first two songs released, “Evil Twin” and “Breathing Lightning” are a good indication of the rest of the album. “Evil Twin” is fast, heavy and thrashy, and could’ve come off Among the Living, while “Lightning” is more commercial and melodic, yet still signature ‘Thrax. This album splits the difference between the two sides of the band. “Lightning” is one of the best songs they’ve written, maintaining that trademark thrashiness with an anthemic chorus. Songs like “You Gotta Believe,” “Suzerain” and “Defend Avenge” are equally riffy. “Blood Eagle Wings,” is an eight-minute epic that starts out with acoustic guitar, develops into an off-kilter groove and keeps building in intensity, and is an instant classic. As Holly says, not every song on the album is a classic, but they’ve got a pretty high on-base percentage.
Joey Belladonna’s voice is such a trademark part of the band, it’s hard to imagine that the band got rid of him twice. Also of note is Shadows Fall guitarist Jonathan Donais, who steps up to his role as the lead guitarist like the pro he is, playing solos that are tasteful and shreddy at the same time. In closing, just as Worship Music seemed to re-energize the band five years ago, they’re just as comfortable in 2016, and batting two for two this decade. Hey, they got the Lady Gaga seal of approval, so that’s gotta count for something.
Holly: It’s definitely an album that has to grow on you. It’s got its highlights – but it’s gonna take two or three listens to really like it. Keep in mind, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The album’s got some real winners- “Defend Avenge,” the title track “For All Kings,” and “Monster at the End.” Not to mention, the two singles “Evil Twin” and “Breathing Lightning” were pretty solid. But every album has flops. Even if you’re a die-hard Anthrax fan, you have to admit they’ve never truly released a perfect album. Has anyone? That being said, “Zero Tolerance” and “Blood Eagle Wings” are two tracks the album could have done without. Side note: do you know what a blood eagle is? Google at your own risk.
There’s a bigger issue than a couple lousy tracks: the entire album (to an extent) meshes together into a giant pile of meh. It took us a couple listens through to pick out the best tracks- and that’s a problem. There’s definite filler. It’s Anthrax for Dio’s sake. A powerhouse. The Big Four. What happened? It makes you question what went on in the recording studio. If anything, shouldn’t a year and a half help make a better record? It’s almost like they made a record around solid songs- just to get it done. And considering how long we’ve waited for For All Kings– it’s a legitimate concern. While Anthrax came through on a record, it’s just a record. While they are great tracks here, they’re not enough to carry the album.
For All Kings will be released on Friday, 2/26 and can be pre-ordered here.