Sunday, January 3, 2016

Anthrax : " For All the Kings"

Anthrax used to be one of my favorite bands and to this day "Among the Living " is without a doubt one of the best metal albums ever with "Spreading the Disease" not too far behind. I hung tough with the band for the first six albums, even liking Jon Bush's first album. Then we grew apart.  "Worship Music"  saw the return of singer Joey Belladonna, but I never gave it a shot. I am giving them a chance here and while Belladonna might be 55, but I just reviewed the new David Bowie, and he is 69 so no body is slipping by due to age. Age might have helped Anthrax here , because with age Belladonna's voice is lower than even on "Persistence of Time" , but it gives him more aggression, which might have helped on albums like the almost too happy "State of Euphoria". There is younger blood injected in the band as Jonathan Donais from Shadows Fall is now in the band. They a surprisingly melodic section into the middle of the opener before thrashing back into it. They do not let up on the heavy with "Monster at the End", though it has a smoother groove allowing Belladonna's vocals to coast into a hookier chorus. A little less thrash and closer to mainstream metal, it's still a solid headbanger.

The title track opens with Belladonna belting by himself in a very Dickinson like manner. Charlie Benante proves he still has it as well on this song, though the melodies don't hit me as powerfully as they did on the first two songs. At this point in the album it's obvious the vocals are way up front in the mix. There is a more classic anthemic metal ring to the chorus of "Breathing Lightning" , though it is mindful of where more melodic hard rock is at today. The vocals do feel more hard rock than metal on this song and have big layered harmonies creating an almost Dream Theater like soaring. Which is well executed it just doesn't have the classic Anthrax bite, but this proves to be a good song regardless. Things are clearly not in the 80s for the machine like chug that kicks "Suzerain" into gear and balances out the vocals which hit a better blend of aggression and melody. Scott Ian has said in interviews that "Evil Twin" is about the mass shootings in the media . In some ways it reminds me of a faster version of say "Indians" .

The more deliberate "Blood Eagle Wings" is a different sound for Anthrax, but it's darker and heavier than the previous song and the vocals fit into the groove better. At first there is a moshier groove to "Defend Avenge" before their hard core roots start pounding the riffs around. There are some cool guitar sounds, but the song is not as finely tuned of a metal machine as the others. "All of Them Thieves" carries pretty much the band's trademark sound without sounding dated. There is a pretty mean groove to "This Battle Chose Us"that recalls the bands best moments. Sure the vocal hook is slightly more blatant, but it works. The more thrashed out "Zero Tolerance' is rougher around it's edges as it abandons groove for more of a hard-core tinged break neck speed fest. I'll round this one up to a 9 because they exceeded my expectations on this one. Some solid metal that strikes an excellent balance of past and present.

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