“For All Kings” is the second record since Joey Belladonna returned to Anthrax. This is a band that has always been in a really weird spot in metal. They’ve obviously achieved a ton of commercial success in their time (given that they’re one of the Big 4), but they always seem to play little brother to the other 3 bands. When Joey re-joined the band, it definitely legitimized Anthrax again. Despite that, “Worship Music” was simply a decent record. The follow-up, “For All Kings”, follows in a similar vein, but is definitely stronger. This record succeeds in being more memorable and thrashier than its predecessor. The tendency towards more aggressive riffs is evident from the opening moments of “You Gotta Believe”, which starts out with a pounding thrashy riff. While this riff is considerably slower than any modern thrash band would be playing, this lack of hyperspeed actually makes it more interesting.
Unsurprisingly, it isn’t long before drummer Charlie Benante goes for more of a laid-back groove, and the rest of the band follows suit. This is really the biggest frustration with this record: it has a number of wickedly devastating parts, but it feels like every single time they really start building towards something great, they take their foot off of the gas. Relative to bands like Slayer and Kreator, Anthrax has never been all about speed, but they still could benefit from adding more aggression. At times, they end up sounding more like a modern rock band with a metal vocalist (see “Monster At The End” and “Suzerian” for the most prominent examples). This isn't always a bad thing. "Breathing Lightning" manages to take this sound and make it pretty potent, even if it isn't quite what I want out of Anthrax.
One area where you cannot fault Anthrax is in the quality of the performances. Joey sounds as good as ever. When I saw the band live 5 years ago, he was a madman, screaming his heart out and hitting every single note. Clearly he has not lost a single step since then, and I would argue he’s the most important element to the band’s sound these days. The aforementioned Benante also has a few really good double bass moments (one of which comes at the end of “You Gotta Believe”). There are also a ton of good riffs; they’re just too few and far between on a somewhat lengthy record.
The highlights on the record are fairly spread out. Both the title track and “Breathing Lightning” offer some moments of excitement, but things pick up most with the final two songs, “This Battle Chose Us” and “Zero Tolerance”. The former is a song that is continually building momentum until it explodes in a rage at the end of the song. “Zero Tolerance” is more straightforward with its approach; it’s simply a high-speed thrasher with plenty of good riffing. Many of the songs on the second half of the record have their moments, but it is these two that leave a very positive impression of “For All Kings”.
For a band this far into their career (and one that has clearly had their share of difficulties over the years), “For All Kings” is a respectable record. It isn’t the band’s best work, and it still feels like they are playing catch up with Metallica, Slayer, and Megadeth, but there is a lot to enjoy here. Even though it’s stylistically similar to “Worship Music”, “For All Kings” features much better songwriting, and better performances from the entire band, making it a worthy purchase.
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"You Gotta Believe"
"For All Kings"
"This Battle Chose Us"
3.9/5 or 78%.
Written by Scott