Anthrax: For All Kings (7-Inch Box Set)

A set like this is less about the music and more about having something that says, "I am a fan, and this is the proof".


For All Kings (7-Inch Box Set)

Label: Megaforce
US Release Date: 2017-03-24
UK Release Date: Import
Original Release Date: 2016-02-26
Artist Website

2016 was a big year for popular thrash metal bands from the '80s, as Metallica released a new album (Hardwired... to Self Destruct), Megadeth released a new album (Dystopia), and Anthrax released a new album (For All Kings). Somehow, all three of these records evoked their respective bands' heydays, and all of them were pretty solid in their own right (although none of them truly measured up to their most celebrated predecessors).

Perhaps the quietest of these releases was For All Kings, which did a fantastic job of sounding like classic Anthrax. There are the requisite fist-pumping anthems ("Breathing Lightning"), headbanging thrashers ("You Gotta Believe"), and even the occasional levee-breaking dirge ("Blood Eagle Wings" -- well, the first half of it, at least). It's not really the statement-of-repurpose that Metallica's album was, nor is it the single-minded slab of evil cynicism that Megadeth produced; rather, it sounds like a collection made by dudes who went into the studio and said, "Hey, let's make an Anthrax album." For the most part, listeners were pleased (despite the appeal being largely limited to the hardcore fanbase).

In fact, it's only the hardest of those hardcore fans that this re-release of For All Kings is targeting. It is the same album as before, only housed on ten seven-inch records -- one song per side -- with the "Breathing Out" coda appended to the end of "Breathing Lightning" as a single song. The rest of the package consists of instrumental album demos, a couple of cover songs, and "Vice of the People", an outtake that also appeared on both the Japanese version of the LP and the recent "tour edition" re-release. A few of the demos and the covers are exclusive to this collection (for now), so there is certainly some incentive to shell out for this version of For All Kings if you're a major devotee.

The music itself is a dicier proposition. The demos are well-produced and well-performed, but almost to a fault because they sound less like raw demos and more like pre-vocal versions of nearly finished songs. It's no secret that singer Joey Belladonna doesn't really get along with the rest of the band, so the tracks are largely completed by the time they get to him. As such, if you're looking to bust out some Anthrax karaoke or blast some great thrash tunes without vocals while you do other things, these demos are great; however, if you're looking for some insight into Anthrax's creative process, you're not going to find all that much evolution from the demos to the finished products. That said, packing six different A-sides with their demos on the B-sides is a smart decision that allows for easy and direct comparisons (if that's your ultimate goal).

As for "Vice of the People", it's a fine track, even if it's easy to see why it was left off the album: it doesn't really add anything that wasn't already there. Still, solid thrash tunes in 6/8 are always welcome, and it's pretty hilarious to hear Belladonna do his best Mustaine growl at the bridge.

Then there are the covers songs. All of them are relegated to their own seven-inch singles, which, to be honest, feature the best sleeve art of the bunch by far (due mostly to its White Stripes-inspired representation of the members). This, of course, is related to the cover of "Black Math", a surprisingly faithful version of one of the White Stripes' quickest and loudest tunes, right down to Belladonna's imitation of Jack White's cackle halfway through. The guitars are heavier here, though, and Belladonna is clearly a different kind of vocalist from Jack White, but other than that, this is the song as it was written. The same can be said for "Carry On", the band's cover of Kansas' instantly-recognizable classic "Carry on Wayward Son". If anything, this one sounds even more like the original than "Black Math", thanks to the inclusion of keyboards and Belladonna's more convincing Steve Walsh impression. All in all, both covers are fine -- and they sound like the band is having fun -- but neither one lights the world on fire.

Sadly, that could be said of all of the new music on this special edition of For All Kings. It's fine, yet none of it is worth whatever price this ten-record box set is going to command (again, a set like this is less about the music and more about having a thing, something that says "I am a fan, and this is the proof").

(Note: PopMatters was given the audio of this edition to review, so we cannot speak firsthand to the quality of the packaging, though it sounds fantastic and photos of it look extremely colorful and appealing. Chances are, if you're buying this because it looks and feels cool, you're not going to be disappointed.)







Great Peacock Stares Down Mortality With "High Wind" (premiere + interview)

Southern rock's Great Peacock offer up a tune that vocalist Andrew Nelson says encompasses their upcoming LP's themes. "You are going to die one day. You can't stop the negative things life throws at you from happening. But, you can make the most of it."


The 80 Best Albums of 2015

Travel back five years ago when the release calendar was rife with stellar albums. 2015 offered such an embarrassment of musical riches, that we selected 80 albums as best of the year.


Buridan's Ass and the Problem of Free Will in John Sturges' 'The Great Escape'

Escape in John Sturge's The Great Escape is a tactical mission, a way to remain in the war despite having been taken out of it. Free Will is complicated.


The Redemption of Elton John's 'Blue Moves'

Once reviled as bloated and pretentious, Elton John's 1976 album Blue Moves, is one of his masterpieces, argues author Matthew Restall in the latest installment of the 33 1/3 series.


Whitney Take a Master Class on 'Candid'

Although covers albums are usually signs of trouble, Whitney's Candid is a surprisingly inspired release, with a song selection that's eclectic and often obscure.


King Buzzo Continues His Reign with 'Gift of Sacrifice'

King Buzzo's collaboration with Mr. Bungle/Fantômas bassist Trevor Dunn expands the sound of Buzz Osborne's solo oeuvre on Gift of Sacrifice.


Jim O'Rourke's Experimental 'Shutting Down Here' Is Big on Technique

Jim O'Rourke's Shutting Down Here is a fine piece of experimental music with a sure hand leading the way. But it's not pushing this music forward with the same propensity as Luc Ferrari or Derek Bailey.


Laraaji Returns to His First Instrument for 'Sun Piano'

The ability to help the listener achieve a certain elevation is something Laraaji can do, at least to some degree, no matter the instrument.


Kristin Hersh Discusses Her Gutsy New Throwing Muses Album

Kristin Hersh thinks influences are a crutch, and chops are a barrier between artists and their truest expressions. We talk about life, music, the pandemic, dissociation, and the energy that courses not from her but through her when she's at her best.


The 10 Best Fleetwood Mac Solo Albums

Fleetwood Mac are the rare group that feature both a fine discography and a successful series of solo LPs from their many members. Here are ten examples of the latter.


Jamila Woods' "SULA (Paperback)" and Creative Ancestry and Self-Love in the Age of "List" Activism

In Jamila Woods' latest single "SULA (Paperback)", Toni Morrison and her 1973 novel of the same name are not static literary phenomena. They are an artist and artwork as galvanizing and alive as Woods herself.


The Erotic Disruption of the Self in Paul Schrader's 'The Comfort of Strangers'

Paul Schrader's The Comfort of Strangers presents the discomfiting encounter with another —someone like you—and yet entirely unlike you, mysterious to you, unknown and unknowable.


'Can You Spell Urusei Yatsura' Is a Much Needed Burst of Hopefulness in a Desultory Summer

A new compilation online pulls together a generous helping of B-side action from a band deserving of remembrance, Scotland's Urusei Yatsura.


Jess Cornelius Creates Tautly Constructed Snapshots of Life

Former Teeth & Tongue singer-songwriter Jess Cornelius' Distance is an enrapturing collection of punchy garage-rock, delicate folk, and arty synthpop anthems which examine liminal spaces between us.


Sikoryak's 'Constitution Illustrated' Pays Homage to Comics and the Constitution

R. Sikoryak's satirical pairings of comics characters with famous and infamous American historical figures breathes new and sometimes uncomfortable life into the United States' most living document.


South African Folk Master Vusi Mahlasela Honors Home on 'Shebeen Queen'

South African folk master Vusi Mahlasela pays tribute to his home and family with township music on live album, Shebeen Queen.


Planningtorock Is Queering Sound, Challenging Binaries, and Making Infectious Dance Music

Planningtorock emphasizes "queering sound and vision". The music industry has its hierarchies of style, of equipment, of identities. For Jam Rostron, queering music means taking those conventions and deliberately manipulating and subverting them.


'History Gets Ahead of the Story' for Jazz's Cosgrove, Medeski, and Lederer

Jazz drummer Jeff Cosgrove leads brilliant organ player John Medeski and multi-reed master Jeff Lederer through a revelatory recording of songs by William Parker and some just-as-good originals.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.