Review by Greg Maki
It’s not much of an exaggeration to say Anthrax shocked the metal world in 2011 with “Worship Music,” its first studio album in eight years and its first with vocalist Joey Belladonna since 1990.
A few years earlier, the band reunited its “classic” lineup (Belladonna, rhythm guitarist Scott Ian, lead guitarist Dan Spitz, bassist Frank Bello and drummer Charlie Benante). But after a few tours, that experiment fizzled out with only a live album to show for it. Metal fans know the story that followed—the unsuccessful enlistment of a new singer and the back-and-forth flirting with John Bush, who was sent to the sidelines during the reunion, before Belladonna came back full time.
Though the songs on “Worship Music” were written long before Joey’s return, he was the star of that album, seemingly giving the performance of his life. He clearly took care of himself during his time away from Anthrax, and his voice was stronger and more powerful than it ever was during the band’s 1980s heyday. Combine that with the ever-maturing songwriting of Ian, Benante and Bello, and “Worship Music” was an instant classic.
How then could Anthrax possibly hope to follow that?
Easy: Make an even better album.
That’s exactly what we have with “For All Kings,” a surefire album-of-the-year contender and more.
A superb record in every sense, it mixes the band’s thrash roots with the more groove-oriented sound of the John Bush era and features Belladonna outdoing even his “Worship Music” performance. His vocals are flat-out amazing. At 55, he’s light years beyond where he was at 25, an incredible feat, especially in metal, which often sees singers lose their power quickly once they hit middle age. Versatility is another Belladonna strength; he’s equally at home on thrashers like “You Gotta Believe” and “Evil Twin,” and melodic numbers such as “Monster at the End,” “Breathing Lightning” and “Blood Eagle Wings.”
The disc also marks the Anthrax recording debut of guitarist Jonathan Donais (Shadows Fall), arguably the best lead player the band has ever had, adding another dimension to its sound.
Not to be overlooked, the band’s core—Ian, Bello and Benante—has been together for decades, and it shows. Rhythm sections don’t get any tighter than this.
The classic albums—1987’s “Among the Living” and 1990’s “Persistence of Time” foremost among them—hold a special place for a lot of fans. Don’t get me wrong, they’re classics for a reason. I’m also a huge fan of the John Bush years, especially “We’ve Come for You All” (2003). But “For All Kings” is on a level of its own. Thirty-five years into its career, Anthrax has reached a new high.
(Megaforce, February 26, 2016)