Friday, April 28, 2017

RECORD REVIEW: Anthrax - "For All Kings"

RECORD REVIEW
Anthrax
For All Kings
(Megaforce / Nuclear Blast)
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Is the latest from Anthrax
really the band's all-time
best? Let's have a looksie.
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For a kid like me who came of age during the late '70s, addicted to the catchy sounds of such power-pop purveyors as KISS, Angel and Starz, the thrash metal craze of the early '80s was a bit hard to swallow — at first. While many of these brash up-and-coming bands certainly looked cool and packed plenty-o-punch, I thought they fell short in terms of delivering songs. Plus, I had difficulty embracing such angst-filled messages. I mean, I'd enjoyed a wholesome, Leave it to Beaver-type upbringing — what did I have be pissed about?

Anthrax live onstage in Orlando,
promoting For All Kings - 2017.
Of that original thrash era, there was "The Big Four" — Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and... Anthrax. Possessing as much street cred as any of their contemporaries, Anthrax brilliantly combined authentic nut-crushing metal with a colorful, comic book-style image. Simply put, I totally "got" Anthrax — and they became my band in short order. I saw them perform many times during the "golden era," and every day that brought a new Anthrax record felt a bit like Christmas in my world. For me, Joey Belladonna IS the voice of Anthrax. And when he bailed in the early '90s, the band lost its luster. As a result, over the years, Anthrax faded from my radar.

Joey Belladonna onstage in Orlando - 2017.
I remember receiving a call offering me an opportunity to interview drummer Charlie Benante while he was doing press, promoting the 2010 Anthrax tour. I was intrigued, and I accepted the assignment immediately. Since first seeing him perform live back in '86, I've considered Benante to be one of rock's truly great drummers and our conversation was a memorable one. You can read that interview HERE.

Although I was blown away completely upon attending their subsequent 2010 show in Miami, and reasonably impressed with the 2011 album, Worship Music, Anthrax still hadn't popped back fully onto my radar until I attended their recent Orlando show with Killswitch Engage.

As I researched my review of the April 2017 concert for Ink19.com, I discovered that I'd somehow missed the band's latest, For All Kings, which had been released a year earlier. So, I got my hands on a copy of the record, posthaste, and realized quickly that it's the band's strongest work to date.

Jonathan Donais delivers a superb
studio debut on For All Kings.
Produced to pure perfection by Jay RustonFor All Kings is the first Anthrax release to feature the blistering lead work of Shadows Fall guitarist, Jonathan Donais. And from "You Gotta Believe" through "Zero Tolerance," it just sounds absolutely gorgeous. But what makes the record such an epic achievement is not merely the band's legendary overall shred factor or the individual components of Scott Ian's signature Jackson crunch or Benante's beefy, mouth-watering drum tracks or Frank Bello's punched-up bass mix or even Belladonna's glorious vocal gloss. What makes For All Kings the best-ever Anthrax effort is the impeccably well-crafted songs. Need proof? If "Breathing Lightning" doesn't prompt you to wet yourself, it's time to call an EMT.

Scott Ian onstage in Orlando - 2017.
Remember when Metallica first went Journey-O-Styx-Wagon? Truly embarrassing. And how about that one year when KISS went grunge? Ridiculous, indeed. My point — while some critics have pooh-poohed For All Kings for not breaking new musical ground, I contend that's another reason why it's so amazing, so freaking perfect it's 60 blistering minutes of Anthrax simply being Anthrax, with their best songs ever. Note to self: Find Jay Ruston and kiss him on the mouth!

-Christopher Long
(April 2017)

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