INTERVIEW WITH JOEY BELLADONNA (ANTHRAX)
ANTHRAX release their masterpiece ‘FOR ALL KINGS’ on February 26th via NUCLEAR BLAST… and it is THAT GOOD. Most critics saying it is the best album they have done. This will drag new fans from everywhere AND add 10 years to their career
Vocalist Joey Belladonna had a killer chat with Casper about the ins and outs of making and releasing this masterpiece.
As with any band, ANTHRAX has its creative turbulences, but those add up to their unique chemistry. While all five members contribute ideas and make suggestions to pretty much every song, drummer Charlie Benante makes early writing inroads with foundation riffs and other ideas, rhythm guitarist Scott Ian has a very particular way of incorporating his intense lyrical ideas into the band’s music, Bello has proven to be a very talented melody writer, something that has helped set the band’s music apart from others in the same genre, Belladonna crafts his vocals to best utilize that soaring voice of his, and guitarist Jon Donais brings crushing leads. In the end, the five bring it all together to create what simply is ANTHRAX music.
Scott will be the first to admit that the For All Kings (Nuclear Blast) backstory hasn’t exactly been conventional or without its setbacks. In the summer of 2012, Charlie realized that due to his ongoing carpel tunnel syndrome, he would be unable to join the band on all tour dates going forward. But Charlie wasn’t about to just sit around at home, so began writing riffs for the new album.
Crucially, Charlie would employ a secret weapon that would become central to the process of creating an album that would stand tall in a back-catalogue bejeweled with some of the most important and influential releases of all time: a mutant guitar called The Shark.
The result, in short, is a record that’s as diverse as it is satisfying: a feast for the ears, and something of a victory lap for a band that bears the unique distinction of inventing what they do while still being the best at what they do. From the straight-ahead, no-nonsense fury of ‘You Gotta Believe‘ and ‘Evil Twin‘ to the sprawling, heavy-riffing masterpiece of ‘Blood Eagle Wings‘ (original working title, ‘Epic’) to its stately title track, For All Kings was – as Joey reveals – as much fun to record as it was to listen to. Chalk it up to the masterful efforts of Grammy-nominated Worship Music co-producer Jay Ruston, whose credits span the likes of STONE SOUR, KILLSWITCH ENGAGE, and STEEL PANTHER, among others.
There have been other changes, too. In 2013, it was announced that Rob Caggiano, longtime lead-player who’d become known for his startling solos as well as his backstage antics, left the band to resume his role as a producer, but not before he’d introduced the band to highly respected shredder Jonathan Donais from New England bruisers SHADOWS FALL.
It would be an emotional experience for Jon, who confesses to the unique problem of simultaneously being a fanboy of a band in which he’s now a full-time member.
It’s about more than just the music though, and true to ANTHRAX form, For All Kings isn’t just infused with pop-culture references, but deeper subtexts that bespeak the thoughtful artistry that underpins everything that they do. As Charlie explains, while ANTHRAX’s 11th studio record doesn’t have a running theme, there’s a significance to it all that comes straight from the heart.
Look closely at the album artwork, and you’ll notice the fingerprints of one such hero in the band’s life – the inimitable work of godlike comic artist and longtime ANTHRAX supporter Alex Ross, whose immortal depictions of classic DC and Marvel characters are in a league of their own.
There’s an interesting parallel there, because there’s little that ANTHRAX does that doesn’t have a story or thought-process behind it. Take ‘Blood Eagle Wings,’ for instance, and consider the wide-eyed imagination that inspired it.
‘Evil Twin‘ isn’t just influenced by the shocking state of international affairs, but by the emotions accompanied by the realization that you suddenly have everything to lose.
The result is an album that’s as ferocious as it is sublime, as current as it is classic. From the straight-ahead thrashing brilliance of opener ‘You Gotta Believe‘ and ‘Breathing Lightning‘ to the seven-minute majesty ‘Blood Eagle Wings,’ For All Kings is the quintessential ANTHRAX record, and proof positive that you can’t keep a good band down.