Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Anthrax - For All Kings




Long ago there lived a feudal lord.  The serfs and vassals referred to him as their Suzerain.  One fateful day the lord's wife gave birth to twin sons.  While the two boys' infancy and toddler years progressed smoothly and without incident, it quickly became evident as they grew that they were polar opposites.  One son was noble and kind hearted.  The other was evil and mean-spirited.

The noble son pursued every action he could for the betterment of...you know what?  Who cares?  Nobility is boring.  Let's focus on the evil twin.  Much more interesting.  He found himself spending much of his free time visiting the castle's dungeon to speak with the prisoners at great length about their lives.  It was here that he learned of a secretive order of ne'er-do-wells called the Blood Eagles. This organization was composed of "all of them thieves" and the twin learned the leaders wore metal pins fashioned in the shape of wings to denote their rank.

After the lord made it abundantly clear that the noble twin would be his true heir, the evil twin left to pursue power elsewhere.  Using his conversations from the dungeon for guidance he quickly made contact with and joined the ranks of the Blood Eagles.  After taking a solemn oath to defend/avenge his newfound criminal partners the young man set out to earn his wings, which he did in short order.  His high born education certainly helped, but fortuitous events in his life also greased the wheels for his rapid advancement.

During one of his many physical confrontations with authority figures lightning struck the ground nearby.  This led to people claiming he could magically breathe lightning.  Another occasion saw the man being chased across rooftops by guards of the manor he'd just robbed.  One of the guards lost his footing and fell onto the pointy end of a lamp post resulting in his untimely death.  Of course the official story became the evil twin purposely impaled the guard to get away. 

Never one to let a good lie go to waste he let these two fabrications spread like wildfire throughout the land.  To history the man would be remembered as the monster at the end of a proud family line, yet the men and women he eventually led looked on him more than kindly.  He brought them together under the endlessly repeated phrases "you gotta believe!" and "this battle chose us!".  In return they called him their King.

Unfortunately the actual King of the land had a zero tolerance policy towards rebellious thief-lords who upset his idea of how society ought to be.  In short order the evil twin was hunted down and executed. 

So endeth the tale.

Good day waveriders.  By chance has anyone ever heard of the band Anthrax?  I'm told they were kind of a big deal back in the 1980s.  Apparently they had a couple of hit songs and released one particular album that many metal fans hold in extremely high regard.  Something about being among the living?  I don't know.  The whole thing sounds a little suspect to me.

I'm kidding of course!  While I don't pretend to be the biggest Anthrax enthusiast this world has ever seen, I am absolutely a fan who has been enjoying their music for years.  The alluded to Among The Living?  It ranks among my favorite metal albums of all time!  That said I lost track of the band from 2004 until 2011 when Worship Music was released.  When I heard that album it not only rekindled my fandom, it proceeded to fuel it to new heights.  Fast forward to 2016.  The new Anthrax album was high on my list of most anticipated releases of the year, and guess what my friends?  For All Kings delivers.

It goes without saying that there's thrash metal aplenty.  Songs like album opener "You Gotta Believe", "Evil Twin", and "Zero Tolerance" are the purest examples of the form in my opinion.  Although it fits the genre criteria I didn't mention "Suzerain" because it is notably the heaviest track on the album and another thrash-tastic song, "Defend/Avenge", is my personal favorite so I wanted to keep it separate as well.  Those of you looking for more of a hard rock vibe with strong metallic overtones need look no further than "Blood Eagle Wings", "This Battle Chose Us", or "Breathing Lightning" with it's anthemic choruses.  Last but certainly not least the title track "For All Kings" is spectacular!  Simply stunning!

In case you're concerned that the production might let the music down, don't be.  All of the instrumentation comes through crisp, clear, and impactful.  The guitars always suit the needs of the song sounding either meaty and nasty, or restrained and graceful.  The bass work is rich and vibrant, and the drums readily provide the locomotion necessary to propel the band and listener into a mosh-worthy frenzy.

Can I focus in on the vocals for a minute?  Good, because they're extraordinary.  I'm not here to tell you that Joey Belladonna's voice is better than it's ever been.  What I will say however is that his voice has seemingly not aged a day and is just as infectious as it ever was back on the early Anthrax records.  His performance defies reason but take a listen to any of the songs off this album and you will inevitably draw the same conclusion.  It's amazing!

Waveriders, For All Kings is a slam dunk!  Long standing Anthrax fans will flip head over heels for this album, and folks new to Anthrax will discover what all the fuss is about.  Fantastic, fantastic music!

-Penfold


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