Personnel: Joey Belladonna (vocals); Scott Ian (guitar, background vocals); Jonathan Donais (guitar); Charlie Benante (acoustic guitar, electric guitar, drums); Frank Bello (background vocals).
Audio Mixer: Jay Ruston.
Recording information: Downtown Music Studios, NYC; Krustys Fun House, LG; Serenity West Recording, Hollywood, CA; Steakhouse Studios, Burbank, CA.
Opening with a martial drum roll that segues into an opulent orchestral bit, one could be forgiven for thinking that Anthrax have drained the mead and gone full-on Viking metal. As part of the big four, alongside Metallica, Slayer, and Megadeth, the band has always leaned harder on the sociopolitical side of the thrash spectrum, and For All Kings, despite its Lord of the Rings-worthy opening salvo, is no exception. The group's 11th studio long-player, and the first outing for new guitarist Jon Donais, who replaces outgoing shredder Rob Caggiano, For All Kings does nothing to tarnish the band's legacy. Like 2011's Worship Music, which saw the band reuniting with vocalist Joey Belladonna, the 13-track set mostly feels like vintage Anthrax: tight and punishing, with just the right amount of melodic might. That melodic power is derived largely from Belladonna, whose vocals have never sounded better, especially on standout cuts like "Blood Eagle Wings," "All of Them Thieves," "You Gotta Believe," and "Evil Twin," the latter of which was inspired, in part, by the 2015 Charlie Hebdo attacks. A bit of fatigue sets in near the album's end, via the sluggish "This Battle Chose Us!" and the heated closer "Zero Tolerance," which despite its palpable vitriol, lacks the hooks to take down its quarry, but coming from a band that's 30 years into its career, For All Kings sounds surprisingly vital. The riffs are punchy, the drumming relentless, and nary a note is wasted, and it strikes that balance between artistry and economy that has always made Anthrax an elite metal force. ~ James Christopher Monger
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