ANTHRAX – For All Kings “A Back To The Future Type Of Record”

March 1, 2016, 2 years ago

By Aaron Small


ANTHRAX – For All Kings “A Back To The Future Type Of Record”

“You can think, ‘we did something really good,’ but until people really hear it and you get that feedback… that’s how you really measure the album,” says Anthrax drummer Charlie Benante about his band’s newly released 11th studio effort, For All Kings. Thus far, reaction from both fans and critics has been overwhelmingly positive. “Yeah, I see that and it’s really encouraging.” Significant in so many ways, For All Kings is the first Anthrax album to feature lead guitarist Jonathan Donais (Shadows Fall), who replaced Rob Caggiano in 2013 when he left to join Volbeat. Donais unquestionably earns his crown, as does Benante, along with the rest of Anthrax: vocalist Joey Belladonna, guitarist Scott Ian, and bassist Frank Bello.   

Given the fact that Anthrax is an American band, originally formed in New York City, and The United States of America has a President, as opposed to a King, the question beckons, why the title For All Kings? “Well, I started to think about this whole concept of what a king is, and what a king means,” answers Charlie. “Growing up… for me, I didn’t have a Dad – he passed away when I was five. So, I looked elsewhere for that type of thing. Whether it was my Uncle, my teacher, or my favourite music star – I looked up to these people; they were kings to me. It’s pretty much about what a king means to you, and how you can become that; basically a role model for someone. Or in this sense, a king; that’s where For All Kings came about.”

The artwork adorning For All Kings, created by Alex Ross, is quite interesting in that it depicts the five Anthrax members immortalized as gigantic statues. Furthermore, the connection with the previous two album covers (2011’s Worship Music, and 2003’s We’ve Come For You All), is present but not blatantly so, with the lower portion showcasing zombie-like creatures clawing at the feet of the statues. “Right, so basically the last three albums that we did, I’m trying to almost tie-in the covers together. It’s taking place in this world – I don’t know where this world is – but it exists somehow. With this one, you really don’t know? In this hall, that these creatures are in… there’s these statues, these monuments to these kings. Were these kings there thousands of years ago? Were they responsible for music at one point? There’s not music anymore? It’s a story I’m still playing around with in my head to take it further in comic book form.”

That opens a whole realm of possibilities. If For All Kings were a KISS album, there would already be action figures, playsets, and statues available for purchase. “Right, and I would have already given blood for the red in the statue,” chuckles Charlie. But Anthrax isn’t going to take it that far. “I don’t think so. We go more of the Iron Maiden route, not the KISS route.”

After the album’s initial introduction, “You Gotta Believe” is a super strong opening track with an unexpected yet welcome surprise in the form of the mid-song breakdown. “That whole part was originally intended to be something else, and then it just got inserted into this section a while back. It was just a nice departure from basically the onslaught that was ‘You Gotta Believe’. I call this record a Back To The Future type of record because it’s a throwback to ‘80s thrash, but then it’s done in a modern day feel. That song has a very thrash metal type of vibe to it; then it has this breakdown that can be from 2016, and it resolves back to thrash style.”

Guitarist Scott Ian does a lot of the lyric writing for Anthrax, and “Zero Tolerance” contains some rather poignant words: ‘On the day you meet your God what will he say? Zero Tolerance for extremism in the name of religion, Zero Tolerance for racial hate, Zero Tolerance for politicians, Zero Tolerance for killing children. What would your God say to that motherfuckers?’ According to Charlie, “Originally the idea for that song, the working title I had was ‘Thrash In A’. Basically, that song was written in the key of A. It was another throwback to those early ‘80s thrash songs that were just riding on the A. That was the vibe for that song – fast, heavy, and in A. We just pushed it a little more than what we would have a couple years back. We wanted to push it a little harder and a little faster. It’s awesome; it’s one of my favourite songs on the record. Again, the first few songs that were written, I felt like I had to get it out, these thrash type of songs. It was just the state of mind I was in at the time.”

Lyrically “Zero Tolerance” kind of sums up the world today; unfortunately every time you turn on the news or read the paper, it’s extremism, racism, and hatred.  Talking about politicians, just look at the current presidential race in The United States with Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton. It’s a crazy world isn’t it? “It’s a divided world; it’s a divided country that we’re in right now. Every day I wake up and I don’t know what to expect. I just feel it’s very volatile. It really is a weird time for not only our country, but our planet. There’s a lot of people out there that are afraid of the Ted Cruzes, the Donald Trumps, the Hillary Clintons – me, myself, I don’t like to discuss politics because I feel when you discuss politics, it’s a no win situation. You either are going to get people to agree with you, or you’re going to get people to hate what you just said. I tend to just keep my opinions to myself. That’s why when you go vote, you pull that curtain and nobody can see what you’re doing.”

The Japanese version of For All Kings contains a bonus track, “Vice Of The People”. That song contains a rather interesting line – ‘Do you solemnly swear to use your powers for Evil?’ Normally it’s the exact opposite, swearing to use your powers only for Good. “Yeah, I think the tides have changed and using them for evil is much more popular nowadays. Evil is winning.” Musically that song has a very militaristic beginning, was that intentional? “It was intentional. It was meant to have that kind of militant anthem kind of thing; the whole song is pretty mid-paced. That song didn’t make the sequence on the release, but we all liked it. We were going to hold it back… then of course you give Japan a bonus track.”

Another really intriguing musical element of For All Kings is the beginning to “The Battle Chose Us” with Frankie Bello’s bass distorted and crushing. “Yeah, that’s not him playing. It’s Steve Harris, that’s why,” jokes Benante. With so many battles fought on a daily basis, whether it’s between two opposing countries or something on a much more personal scale, that song is certainly open to listener interpretation. “For me, I came up with that title, ‘The Battle Chose Us’, and it does have a personal meaning to it. When I was thinking about that title, I was thinking about music in general and the business that you are forced to get into because you love to make music and you love to play music. It’s always been a battle, dealing with the record companies in the past. That’s how that basically came about. I think other musicians, artists, whatever – will agree with me on this. You never feel like you’re getting paid properly. You never feel like it’s right, you always have issues. You’ll pull into town and you’ll see a record store – I’m not talking about nowadays but in the past – and your record is not displayed, even though it just came out. Things that make you go what the hell? So ‘The Battle Chose Us’ was something that… we play this music, we make this music, but there is a battle that goes with it.”

For All Kings producer Jay Ruston has been labeled as the sixth member of Anthrax, and Charlie is quick to sing his praises. “Jay has been such a great addition to our lives. He’s Canadian; he has a great set of ears, and an even better demeanour. In the writing process he’s been helpful, in the tracking process he’s been helpful, the mixing. He’s just an all-around great guy. I don’t think this record would be the record it is without him.”

When it comes to touring, Benante’s carpal tunnel syndrome – a medical condition causing pain, numbness and tingling in the hand and arm – has caused him to miss several shows in the past. Looking ahead, Charlie declares, “I play as much as I can, and then I have to take a rest. Then Jon Dette (Testament, Slayer) comes in and plays; it’s just the way it is nowadays. Everybody’s cool with it, and that’s how we have to do it, or else I couldn’t do it.” Fear not, Charlie will be behind the kit when Anthrax opens for Iron Maiden in South America in March. Anyone who’s seen Maiden’s Rock In Rio or En Vivo! DVDs know those crowds go absolutely insane! “I’m playing those shows; it’s some crazy shit over there. They really embrace music and metal. They’re just so passionate… it’s pretty awesome!”

During this tour, Iron Maiden vocalist Bruce Dickinson is piloting Ed Force One – the band’s very own Boeing 747 – and Anthrax will be aboard. “Yeah, we’re flying on that, it’s how we’re getting around with them. It’s going to be good. I had an hour-long conversation with Bruce about aviation, and he kind of set me at ease on a couple things. He’s done this quite a bit, so I trust him.” Do you have a fear of flying? “Yes I do. It’s not one of my favourite things to do.”



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