Review Summary: Riffs for days, Joey for Life.
I don’t think John Bush is a bad vocalist, but he just wasn’t Anthrax. I wholeheartedly believe Anthrax could have done just as well, if not better, if they had kept Joey Belladonna. I believe sales of Sound of White Noise
benefited more from the positive momentum of Persistence of Time
than from any vocalist change. In contrast, I think the excitement around Worship Music
had everything to do with Joey returning to the band, and very little to do with how good We’ve Come for You All
was compared to the other Bush-fronted releases. Having said all that, despite Joey’s return, I don’t think Worship Music
was a great return to form. It was a really good metal album, but it lacked the classic Anthrax flair. For All Kings
is the great return to form Worship Music
should have been.
For All Kings
channels Persistence of Time
-era riffs, energy levels and performances, while doing away with the dark aggression. Instead of darkness, For All Kings
features the catchy streamlined metal of Worship Music
while channeling a bit of a modern metal style. The result is an album that can satisfy those fans that are still locked into the 80s, but without sounding dated, and with stronger songwriting than ever before. The blend of old and new, along with a few fresh influences, also leads to one of their most diverse albums. There’s the high-energy of ‘You Gotta Believe’ with its straight-up homage to Persistence of Time
and everything that made it great. There are tracks such as ‘Breathing Lightening’ that layer melody over chunky riffs, complete with a classy harmonized chorus, and there are songs that blend all these influences to varying degrees. In fact, Joey seems to have free reign with his voice on this album. He can do the more aggressive stuff, but he also does quite a bit of straight-up singing; especially on the choruses.
If the riffs and increased energy levels are what bring the fans to the party, it’s going to be those super-slick choruses that won’t let them leave. There are really only a few songs that don’t contain ultra-infectious choruses, and even most of them are good because they tend to be the heavier tracks. The exceptions are few, but they do exist. The worst offender is the nearly eight-minute ‘Blood Eagle Wings’. The song is simply too lethargic and repetitive to justify its length. The album would have definitely benefited from replacing ‘Blood Eagle Wings’ with another straight-up thrasher in order to finish strong. While not nearly as bad, ‘This Battle Chose Us’ is just so average, from the bland riffing to the total lack of energy, that it almost closes the album at a low point – almost. Actual closer, ‘Zero Tolerance’, is like the modern version of ‘Gung Ho’. It’s just a balls-out thrasher that sends the album out in style.
In all honesty, For All Kings
is great, but it is definitely front-loaded. It could have used a few more thrashers down the line to really push it to the next level, but it is still the best thing they’ve done since Persistence of Time
. During For All Kings
’ runtime, there are classic, nostalgia-laced moments mixed with an embrace of modern metal, wrapped in some of the band’s strongest songwriting. It’s an album that can riff its way into your head, but it’s going to stay there because of the excellent choruses.