Anthrax revives thrash metal scene

Posted March 10, 2016


Fans still can’t agree on the exact year rock music began to wither away. Some try to stay positive and have faith in few bands, but most people recognize the end of an era when they see one.

Very rarely are new guitar riffs and drum solos blasted on mainstream (code for “successful”) radio stations. But in only the second month of 2016, heavy metal veterans Anthrax defy all odds yet again with a new album titled “For All Kings” that offers a glimmer of light to fans all over the world.

Formed in 1981 by rhythm electric guitarist Scott Ian and bassist Dan Lilker, Anthrax is a thrash metal band from New York City. They are considered one of the leaders of the metal revolution in the very early 1980s. This was the shift in music focus that essentially kicked hard rock into serious overdrive.

They are part of the “Big Four,” (also Metallica, Megadeath and Slayer), which is a group of bands that originated the and perfected the genre to this day. Thrash metal is guitar-heavy, tuned in standard E, and traditionally played at the fastest tempo.

Anthrax was always considered the outsider of that group. They were the only band from the East Coast and, let’s say that if the Big Four were to be the Big Three, Anthrax would have to get the boot (although I believe it ought to be Slayer). As of 2016, the band has released 11 studio albums with worldwide sales of 10 million. Its latest album tells us that the members’ ages and a shift their audience are not reasons stopping them from doing what they have always done.

The new album’s 11 tracks are the most diverse collection of metal songs on one album since Metallica’s “Black Album,” which is, to date, the highest-selling metal album of all time by a significant margin.

Anthrax combines the melody of modern rock, the distant sound of reverb electric guitars, and the outright string-picking speed of 1980s metal to craft a masterpiece of an album in an age no one expected it to exist.

The Internet unanimously received a “Lord of the Rings” feel from the introduction of the first track “You Gotta Believe.” As the soft, clean guitar faded away, it was instantly followed with an absolute beast of a riff, reminiscent of a 1990s Pantera lick. It’s fast, electric and heavy. The first song got the message across: they’re back.

While metal music isn’t very focused on the vocal aspect of songs, this album is being listened to with extra excitement since the return of the band’s old vocalist Joey Belladonna. He was both the voice and face on Anthrax for a while at the start and, with his return, it seemed that 30 years have only affected his singing ability a little bit.

The second song was the title track. For those eagerly waiting to see Belladonna’s vocals and lyrics in this day and age, “For All Kings” gave an extensive vocal intro. The lyrics have obviously matured along with their writer, and this one was about personal responsibility and being a new father.

The song that would seem to make many fans choose sides was probably the third track “Breathing Lightning.” The chorus was a melodic vocal nod to modern rock music, with the rhythm guitar playing two open chords. This is pretty uncharacteristic of thrash metal and many would say that just because Anthrax didn’t exactly abide by every rule they did in 1985 doesn’t mean that this song is necessarily bad.

With that said, the song probably boasts the best thrash riff in the 21st century in the verse, where the vocals clearly take the back seat.

For anyone starting to have doubts after that last chorus, the next track cleared things up in a split second. “Evil Twins” starts off as probably the most quintessential thrash metal song on the album. It was violently rhythmic in standard E tuning. This is interesting when taking into consideration modern metal’s favoring of drop D tuning. The lead guitar was as pronounced as any hard rock album’s back in the day was, giving Metallica’s Kirk Hammett (lead guitarist) a run for his money since his last two albums.

“Evil Twins” is such a ripper that many wonder how it is not the first track of the album. It showed that Anthrax’s guitars only gets better with age. The picking and the hefty drumming remind us what thrash is compared to rock.

Unfortunately, the rest of the album typifies today’s metal. It sounds hastily written, almost simplified, but at least with good guitar tone and sound.

Overall, Anthrax’s 11th album gets three and a half stars out of a perfect four. Almost every clean guitar intro is excellent and many of the main riffs are great by both the 1980s standards and those of today. The vocals were a semi-successful gamble. This album is the band’s best since the mid 1990s and, depending on Megadeth’s and Metallica’s upcoming albums, could be the best metal album in the last few years.

  • Artist: Anthrax
  • Album Name: “For All Kings”
  • Record Label: Megaforce Records (North America) Megablast (International)
  • Tracklist: 11 Tracks
  • Release Date: Feb. 28, 2016
  • Forms: CD, vinyl, boxed set of works, available on Apple Music and Spotify.