In late February of 2016, Anthrax released their eleventh studio album, For All Kings. It is the band's first studio album to feature Jon Donais on lead guitar, replacing Rob Caggiano. The two singles released so far are 'Evil Twin', that was released on October 26, 2015 and 'Breathing Lightning', that was released on January 7, 2016. In its first week of release it sold 34,000 copies, putting it on the Billboard 200 chart at No. 9, which is their first album to achieve this feat since 93’s Sound of White Noise.
The title track, ‘For All Kings’, is a classic Anthrax anthem in the making. Driving drums and bass, a perfect guitar riff - courtesy of new Anthrax guitarist Jon Donais and seasoned vet Scott Ian - for head banging, and Joey Belladonna giving a vocal delivery so perfect and driving that it sounds more like a man half his age. While being interviewed by Overdrive magazine, Scott Ian stated: “The meaning, to me, for this title is that everybody can be a king. Everybody can have control over their own lives, control over their destiny, just by growing up and becoming a responsible human being. I'm not necessarily saying that being a "king" is being the boss in your relationship, or any relationship for that matter. A king of yourself is what I mean. Taking responsibility and ownership for your own shit is basically what it means to me.” Which how can you have a more positive message than that while still having a truly badass song?
‘Evil Twin’, was released last year in October, a full five months before the album was released, got fans excited for the upcoming album. It was truly a great choice for a teaser single, the thrash legends overall stepped up their game with this album, with both song quality and heaviness, Evil Twin was definitely not exempt from that. Evil Twin is a rather blunt commentary on extremism, specifically in this case, Terrorists of the Islamic State. Lines like “Ideology used as a weapon with lines that cut so deeply to the truth” and “Look what you did so fucking sick it's what you did. The evil twin of devotion then now you're dead. You represent your discontent slaughtering the innocent. Insolence, you're no martyrs. The arrogance to reinvent. The holy words their meanings bent.” Get across a point that what they are doing may seem justified in their own minds but does nothing to help and actually hurts people more than anything. They preach a message of peace but attempt to achieve it by murdering the innocent. “Let’s forget for a moment the history of radical extremism and why we live in a world where it exists and just think about now. That’s what Evil Twin is about. It’s my relationship to the violence perpetrated by radical extremists. It’s my anger towards it and it’s my hatred towards the inability to stop it,” said Scott Ian in an interview with Rolling Stone.
Of all the songs on the album, the one that immediately drew me in was ‘Blood Eagle Wings’, which was a rather brutal torture method used by the Vikings. In an interview from Louder Noise with Scott Ian over the writing of the song, he lamented over the fact it was the most difficult song of the whole album to write. “It took a long time – it’s one of the last songs that got finished. It carried over for months and months. It deserved that. Lyrically it was the hardest for me to write. I was so nervous to do justice to the arrangement. I didn’t know what I was going to say. Somehow I cracked that nut.”
He previously summed up the lyrical content by saying: “Any great city, whether it’s London, Rome, Paris, New York, Los Angeles – these cities are alive because of how many people were killed to make them what they are. How much blood was spilled over time.” The accompanying music video shares this idea. It is not for the weak stomached or the faint of heart for it is truly disturbing but very powerful and poignant. It flashes between a man who is wearing a human skull mask, dressed in a kings robe, over looking a sandstone model of an old city; and a medieval torture chamber where featureless masked men mutilate frightened prisoners. As the video progresses, the “king” starts to crush the model and the torturers start to give the last prisoner “blood eagle wings” which is where incisions are made down ones back, ribs are cracked outwards and their lungs are removed from their body and hang… looking like bloody eagle wings. When all is said and done we see the prisoner die, the king walk out and look over his city - Los Angeles. And as a rather odd break in mood, the last thing we see are two of the torturers remove their masks, and one of them says “That was brutal” and the others nod their heads. I didn’t know if I should have laughed or joined them in their shocked expressions. The whole video and song perfectly sums up the point Scott was trying to make - for every great city that has existed this was the price that was paid.
It is not too often that old vets like Anthrax can come out with material that is as fresh and heavy as For All Kings, yet this year has been proving to be a year of new beginnings for the classic metal acts, Megadeth put out the hard hitting Dystopia in January, Metallica has promised a new album this year and Iron Maiden released The Book Of Souls late last year. One can only hope that this pattern persists and we see more beloved metal acts resurface and melt our faces once more.
You can get your face melted by Anthrax very soon! They will be appearing at many festivals such as Fort Myers, Welcome To Rockville, Carolina Rebellion, and the Rock N' Derby. here in the US! After that, they go over to Europe to take part in even more festivals, such as Rock Im Revier, Rockavaria Festival, Rock In Vienna, Sonisphere, and more! For further information, please head on over to Anthrax's official website!
Written by Coby Andrews
All reviews have the date they were written, the album title, and the band's name, with the exception of Life Starts Now by Three Days Grace and Dear Agony by Breaking Benjamin. Those dates were guessed at, as they were written well before the website began.