Anthrax holds a special place in my heart. Branded in my brain, 10 years old, snowy, Cleveland, OH winter evening, watching MTV, more specifically Headbanger’s Ball, as most 10 year olds did in 1991. On screen come Anthrax, a band I had heard of only in the most darkened circles in the 5th grade, usually reserved for the kids whose parents let them out of the house past 8 on a school night. And Public Enemy who drove the bus for bringing African American youth politics to the forefront through hip-hop. Quite an exotic mix for a white kid from the suburbs whose cassette tape collection consisted of Milli Vanilli and Madonna.
“Bring the Noise” was so crazy… so much cooler than Aerosmith and Run DMC, such a punch in the face. I had no idea you could mix the two genres and make a sound that was heavier than both on an emotional, physical, and social level. One of the few times that it actually worked. I was hooked, bought all their records, including the Mid-90’s version of the band, and Stormtroopers of Death, and Public Enemy’s Fear of a Black Planet, and from there the floodgates opened until I was one of the kids staying out past 8 on a school night.
Often spoken in the same breath as “the Big Four”, 80’s metal giants that include Metallica, Slayer, and Megadeth, Anthrax’s catalog provides an ever-evolving sound from the social hilarity, to the occult, to the alternative and coming full circle back to the thrash metal that cemented their fan base for over 30 years. Anchored by the metal gods of Scott Ian, Charlie Benante, and Frank Bello, with Joey Belladonna on vocals, and Shadows Fall vet Jonathan Donais on guitar, the new record, For All Kings, takes another step forward in their 4 decade career.
Out of the gate is the head thrashing, neck burning, malloike-giving instant classic of “You Gotta Believe” with signature time changes and a beautiful mid-song guitar-melody. Continuing into the straight hard rock of “Monster in the End”, and the speed metal, punk thrash of “Zero Tolerance” providing a 3 song gut punch showing the veterans can out-rock most of the younger metal bands coming up.
The album continues to scorch the listener with Benante giving drum lessons on “All of Them Thieves”, Scott Ian’s precision guitar work on the title track; “For All Kings” as well as the bottom-heavy “Suzerain”, Bello’s jazzy lead in for “The Battle Chose Us”, and the war drum pulse of “The Voice of the People”.
One of the bigger surprises on the record is the power rock of “Breathing Lightning” showing Joey Belladonna’s range as a vocalist proving that the band offers a radio-friendly side if they ever had to reveal it.
The best song on the record, and first single, is the final track on the album, the scorching “Evil Twin”. I would like to think that the band chose this as the last song on the album as a stance of sorts to show the importance of the slowly dying album format. The single has all the elements of what make the band such a strong force in metal, with all members showing their chops at once.
Personally 2016 has brought forth an awakening of old-school metal with Slayer and Iron Maiden showing they can still bring it, Megadeth and Metallica offering signs of new recordings, and the death of the preeminent metal god Lemmy bringing his omnipotent iron fist back into the mainstream. The new Anthrax record fits nicely into this pantheon and continues to make this 10 year old boy from Cleveland, OH excited for where they go next.
Anthrax is one of the highlight acts coming to Jacksonville on April 30 / May 1st for Welcome To Rockville. See the full lineup here.
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