Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A Soldier For Each Star In the Sky


Forget Not-Man, he's old news. Anthrax are their own mascot. If the band members don't have a 60" x '48" print of that album cover framed and hung somewhere in their respective domiciles, there ain't no more heroes no more.

For All Kings differs from its predecessor Worship Music in two significant areas: lead guitar is now handled by Shadows Fall founder Jon Donais (no big deal really) and the songs were written for Joey Belladonna to sing (huge deal really).

"You Gotta Believe"--Such an Anthrax song title. Confidence has always been the single trait separating them from their comrades, be it in their approach to life or to aping younger bands in the genre.

From the first, the band lets us know that the gloomy days of "Panthrax" can't even be felt by the most sensitive worm. After several blows direct to the nose, the fist unclenches for a stinging slap. Such a dick move. But, I love it. (Not like it was MY face.) Until the dull soloing begins. Misplaced languidness is really more of a Megadeth thing, guys.

"Monster At the End"--Of every Choose Your Own Adventure story gone awry. Joey's really going with that voice! His actual tone is fine; the choices, the flourishes, I would say he should have thought twice, but maybe he did.

Heavy as an Easter Island Head in the midst of an existential crisis.

"For All Kings"--Old-school Belladonna, crown-spearing riffage…the way the band holds everything aloft, it's difficult to not feel awestruck in the presence of such gilded metal.

"Breathing Lightning"--Balancing the urges is no mean feat; nah, it's fuckin' nasty. Metal means what? Frenetic and untamed. Until it means atmospheric and focused.

"I stalk this land with just one purpose"--to keep doing "the right thing." Which is? Hardly a mystery. Keep sniffing the air if you haven't figured it out halfway through.

"Suzerain"--Atomic wedgies, hydrogen noogies, but then the chorus is old guard Bard-style. How'd we go from catapults to launch pads?

Anthrax are merchants of metal, willing and able to embrace melody and buoyancy in the same arms that clutch speed and power, which is why For All Kings will wind up on my "Best Of" list at year's end.

"Evil Twin"--Think Hebdo, not Hebner. The monster at the everywhere.

Fuck off, y'all. This is razor blade to the throat after you just taped the mouth shut. This is splitting shotgun shells for a salad. Sharpen the sword only to jab at the enemy with a rusty spoon.

"Blood Eagle Wings"--Here's the advance tracklisting for the new Anthrax. One of those songs is eight minutes long--care to venture a guess?

The intro piece fills me with jealousy towards all archers that have ever lived. Everyone who's ever scaled a mountain, regardless of height or fame. Can't tremble behind the ice and fog for too long; the mountains are still there, somehow, and I can always pay for lessons.

Joey Belladonna was put on this planet to belt the crap out of choruses. And to sing the "Star-Spangled Banner" before sporting events in Chicago. 

"Defend Avenge"--A general can't lead the men (and the cross-dressing women) in his battalion if the a.m. cobwebs just won't clear. How did wars ever end in the days before Visine and energy drinks?

"All of Them Thieves"--The dirt's been soaked with liquid rehash, and Joey doesn't step into the earth with enough strength to make a print worth any investigators time.

"The Battle Chose Us!"--Up, puppets! After nine songs of fighting, Anthrax have now settled down, stirred yet unshaken, to process the losses. Who knew their destiny was to be the American Iron Maiden?

"Zero Tolerance"--Desire does not necessarily abate with age so much as it refocuses. The differences between sublime and ridiculous are much less distinct than, say, those between Sublime and R.E.M. So a success story should be celebrated, and a rousing one deserves a cake not bought fully formed, decorated with an icing of regal hue, some cryptic seal in the center.

Anthrax always wanted to be Metallica, even in the days before Metallica were Metallica. They were never as successful, either commercially or critically or creatively, but with the critical assist of a fresh motivation, Anthrax have made peace with the present and in doing so, have accomplished something none of the other Big 4 could do this year: left me more excited for their future releases.

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