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Aren't you growing cold? - 89%

Metal_Thrasher90, March 29th, 2014

John Bates, Dave Scott, Paul Malek, Myles Rourke, Joe Bongiorno, Richard Death…those were the guys that jammed with Annihilator’s lord and master, none other than Jeff Waters himself from 1984 to 1987. During that period, Waters managed to record 3 decent demos that featured parts that’d end up eventually on later songs we all know and determined the sound and identity of his project. The Ottawa guitarist started preparing to record the debut seriously after he met drummer Ray Hartmann when he moved to Vancouver in 1987. Alice In Hell took form in 1988 when most of the guitar and bass tracks were finished, including some arrangement suggestions and ideas from Hartmann. In 1989, Randy Rampage joined the group along with Dave Scott Davis, who was chosen as 2nd guitarist after Casey Taeves and Anthony Greenham didn’t make the band.

However, among that bunch of names only 3 took part in the recording of the album (ignore the band photo shoot): Waters, Hartmann and Rampage. Those 3 guys played one of the most inventive thrash records of the late '80s. Actually, the title track isn’t exactly the biggest expression of the sub-genre; the nature of its riffs is rather heavy and slightly refined with vocals particularly exhausting and extravagant. Although we are talking about an exception in the pack because tunes like “Ligeia” and “Human Insecticide” make it clear Waters likes it rough, energetic, and progressive.

The band’s schemes make a difference from the bunch of generic thrash acts around by increasing the difficulty of lead guitar lines and the constant diversity of structures. The peculiar methodology of Jeff and co. is also distinct from Coroner or Watchtower’s technical thrash. Annihilator always had notable classic metal musical bases that provided their numbers of class and explicit melody, so their patterns have wider possibilities that avoid the usual sub-genre limitations. Others like “World Salad” and “W.T.Y.D.” sound varied as well, combining some heavy riffs with total thrashing lines that define rich structures that include sequences of alternative tempo and nature, from melody to absolute aggression.

Instrumentally, they reach a remarkably high level of complexity with intricate arrangements during the many stunning passages and breaks on compositions like “Burns Like A Buzzsaw Blade” and “Schizos (Are Never Alone) Parts I & II”, on which Jeff tries his best, inspired and skilled on his advanced guitar parts. These guys’ patterns offer no notable changes on following tunes like “Wicked Mystic” for instance, technically consistent but following an uniform direction focused on complication, speed, and violence that works out successfully, but has inevitable limitations.

This material is so fresh and original compared to most of common thrash acts, not only because of that elaborated execution and admirable technique, but the combination of traditional hard rock/heavy metal influences Waters adores with the punk-ish vocals of Randy and that unique thrashy riff artillery. So there’s sonic violence, velocity, and raging riffs, but also mellow sequences and impressively difficult instrumental series and harmonies. From Slayer to Van Halen, Judas Priest and Razor, this stuff takes inspiration from varied styles that give it versatility and keeps it away from the usual sub-genre topics. However, these songs lack no power or brutality. Some of the riffs are especially sharp and lethal and tempos are generally loose and rapid. The climax gets intense, ideal for headbanging when Jeff attacks with those rabid lines and convincingly shredding solos that materialize his potential. His pickin’ parts are admirably solid; the several riff alterations are reasonable and complicated and there’s no palm mute riffing abuse in an immense guitar work that took the attention of metal fans worldwide and some of their peers who were looking for a guitarist. That technique isn’t exhausting, unfocused, or vain as it serves a purpose and follows a clear pattern. That’s the lesson Waters should’ve learned from Edward Van Halen, whose abilities were always at the service of the band not of his ego in contrast with the pompous, egocentric late '80s guitar virtuosos discovered by Mike Varney. So this is a fine debut with the usual handicaps of everybody’s first time: lack of precision, maturity, experience, refinement, and, of course, that primitive production. This music also lost much presence and brutality in comparison with the mid-'80s Annihilator demos; it sounds cleaner and more professional, yet more accessible inevitably.

There was a time when Jeff Waters Group was truly competent, inspired, and fascinating, this I insist. People like Xentrix or Defiance admired them and they achieved a status of respect and admiration before it all started going wrong with those radical direction changes of tiring melody, polite lyrics, ballads, and hard rock that made Annihilator become a victim of vituperation. Back in 1989, no crystal ball would predict such a musical decline for them. It was all brilliance and inventive, ephemeral, but remarkable, so this album remains as one of the unforgettable vintage Canadian metal jewels with refreshing songs for a sub-genre that would soon become decadent and unpopular.

An Anomalous Yet Crushing Debut - 100%

InfinityX, January 31st, 2014

Annihilator are a beacon of hate for some, and the only thing that most every metal head, Annihifan or not, can agree on about them is that their debut Alice in Hell, is fucking awesome. Though I believe it is that awesomeness that allows a fair amount of haters for this band. Alice in Hell is gritty, heavy, dark, violent, technical, and blazing fast for much of it. That draws in listeners that given their later sound would never even try the band out in the first place, and then when they listen to some of said later material it's like culture shock, as Jeff Waters would fuse multitudes of styles together into what would become the 'schizo' sound of the band. For though at least some of those elements mentioned above would be on all future Annihilator records, they wouldn't really come together like they did here, the most traditional thrash album by the band.

Anyway, what you should take from the above paragraph is whether or not you like/are interested in/despise or have never heard they're later ballad playing, pop and groove infused metal, this album here should absolutely be in your collection. Because after the beautiful classical guitar intro of Crystal Ann, the type of clean guitar work that would become an integral part of some later album's (Set the World on Fire, King of the Kill etc...) sound, here it’s one intro and BOOM straight up tech-thrash until the album is finished.

Obviously influenced heavily from the bay area thrashers, this album is easily (though too generally) described as early Megadeth with wackier riffing and more progressive songwriting. The production is very polished for a thrash debut, as each instrument breaths well on its own and still sound great when brought together. The crunch on the guitars has a percussive sound to it that I love in my thrash albums. Even on the fastest sections (see Schizos, Human Insecticide) no note is wasted, and everything sounds crisp and clear. Furthermore, the acoustic guitars on Crystal Ann sound perfect, something many thrash albums struggle to sound right.

I've listened to a lot of thrash in my day, and Jeff Waters has a riffing style all his own. One of the reasons EVERY thrashaholic should pick this up is though this has a classic bay area sound to it, Waters style and unique blend of influence come together to make this album STILL stand out in a genre full of sound alikes. He is very talented from a technical stand point, and he covers all guitars: rhythm, lead, and bass on this album. The results are awesome. Riffs? Fucking right. Leads? DUH! Sick bass licks? Even that! Overall a great guitar album. Just check out the instrumental intro of the classic, Alison Hell, or the nearly-instrumental song Schizos (Are Never Alone). A final note, on some of the riffs I hear Waters eclectic influences that would later become more prominent. I swear I hear some happy funky bouncing in the riffing of Burns Like a Buzzsaw Blade, and Ligeia. That type of crazy and often random touch to the music is one of the things I love most about the band, as it gives the music a different touch, as well as make the music often sound very happy, though this is more prominent on later albums.

Randy Rampage (-_- I know...) delivers an aggressive snarling vocal performance, not unlike a particularly pissed off Dave Mustaine would sound, making the Megadeth comparison all the easier. He brings dignity to even the more awkward lyrics here, like Word Salad, and Buzzsaw. Lyrically this album is if nothing else unique, with some more original topics thrown in with the more typical metal ones (W.T.Y.D., Wicked Mystic). Wonky lyricism has become a trademark of the band and either you'll embrace it or you won't, but this album doesn't really offend in that regard.

When it comes down to it, Alice in Hell stands out not just amidst not only Annihilator's discography, but in thrash metal as a whole. Every song delivers powerful, blazing guitar work on all fronts from bass to lead work. Throw in a great production job, a charismatic and fittingly angry vocal delivery, and what’s left is one of the absolute best thrash debuts. Future albums would take many twists and turns, and how you enjoy those albums I feel is heavily dependent on how open minded you are. In the end, this album is perfect, and I wouldn't change a note of the mania within, but nor would I base the bands whole career off this one opus. I view this as an anomaly. The band was young, and not unlike many bands, the sound would develop and change. But that's for different reviews. As for you, don't you have some shopping to do?

To tame a genre - 82%

Napero, September 18th, 2012

Yay! It has thrash in it, it's from the 80s, with the perfect refined 80s sound, and it's technically pretty damn good! And it even has progressive overtones! Overlooking the fact that the band is Canadian, what on Earth could possibly go wrong?

Well, a few things. A semi-accidental castration of a genre takes place, someone waxing and polishing something that should have been sandblasted, and turning thrash from a beer-guzzling bastard's fun into a real musician's business, for starters...

Alice in Hell sounds very good. Very, very good indeed, especially when compared to many of its thrashy contemporaries. The production is clean as a priest's privates, every single instrument is audible, and the sound almost epitomizes the late 80s producers' target, combining the guitar sounds Metallica brought to the table and the clarity of the heavy/power metal of the era better than anything before. Yeah, this was state of the art at the time, crispy but meaty like a good crimson-cored slab of beef with a whiskey-burnt layer of peppercorns on the surface. Much like the sequels to Back to the Future from the same times, this essentially set some new industry standards of its time. Add the ex post facto amusement that can be gleaned from the title track's awkward-ish video and the fact that Randy Rampage looks like a post-detonation Q-tip in it, and you have something positively so 80s in your hands.

And there are riffs. Oh, the glorious, blessed riffs! The album is a pile of riffs, occasionally interrupted by some mandatory vocals or undistorted melodic passages, which only manage to put the riffs on hold for less than a minute at a time. And those very riffs, just like the guitar solos, are played with very high technical skill and virtual perfection. There should be nothing to complain about, but somehow, the album lacks something the earlier thrash albums had, and despite the perfection, Alice in Hell strangely falls short of what it should have been.

That something missing, the mysterious radar-eluding piece, is, to put it in an esoteric way, the soul. While the technical delivery is impeccable, and the production is perfect for its time, the music lacks a soul, a purpose, and the essential burning, wrecking passion thrash needs to thrive and survive. And no 1989 album was more fitting to announce the looming death of the original thrash scene than this one. Because, DAMN!

The sheer clarity of the sound, the abundance of the nice riffs, and the overwhelming number of sections and passages essentially hides and camouflages an album that certainly has ideas and execution, but lacks aggression, and resembles an Excel sheet of song parts more than an inspired work of art. The album is simply tame underneath the surface, and lacks passion.

Sure, there has been some form of passion in play here, but the music is simply too ordred and clean to have come from the garage. Thrash is supposed to be aggressive, a bit dirty on the surface, and relentless; Alice in Hell has the feel of a poppy product, and despite the mild form of ingenuity in the melodies, songwriting and riffs, it has been neutered. At no point on the album, even in the fastest parts, does a feeling of a merciless onslaught appear. There are fast sections, but no real machinegunning; there are riffs but nothing that ever makes the listener breathless; the riffing is innovative, but somehow strangely plastic and almost like a machined and chromed piece from a delicate machine, rather than a rusty offroad 4x4 running over a herd of confused soccer moms.

What's worse, rather than the beloved opposites and contrasts, the parts in the songs have a feel of arranged marriages. The transitions between different items within the individual songs sometimes feel extremely illogical and forced, and there's an atmosphere of songwriting by pulling random prewritten sections out of a tophat, arranging them neatly on a wall on Post-It stickers, and calling it a song. Sure, the individual parts are good, sometimes even brilliant, but they seem incapable of taking the final, defining step and turning into a flowing, logical, progressing song. It would be an extreme stretch, even by the 1989 standards, to call this "progressive" in any sense, since the songs do not actually progress; rather, they take leaps from one place to the other, kind of like a plot in a movie script jumping from one story line to another by the means of some goofy plot device. To see how this is done properly, see either Rust in Peace or the last two albums of Stone.

Perhaps Alice in Hell was a symptom: thrash was about to puff out the holy smoke and die a temporary death, and not least due to losing its spirit to awful crap like grunge and the generally incredibly whiny 90s youth culture. 90s was the worst episode ever during the 20th century, simply because the young people in the western world, up to the lower middle class, finally had their financial things in order well enough to concentrate fully on whining. That's something remarkable, considering that the worst problems were AIDS, a bit of pollution, and the ozone layer. There was no sign of a global economic meltdown, the economical collapse of the old world, global warming about to kill us all, and just the first signs of today's overdone and shameless corporate greed. So, there was enough time and resources to cry rivers over spilt milk, invent emo, worship a loser who shot his own brains out after a bad trip and one too many whiny three-chord songs, and make movies shot with a gloomy grey colours about a bunch of young adults living in a commune of total losers who can't make up their minds about whether or not they like anyone enough to get laid and fail to make their pseudo-fartsy video collages about a friend's drug-dead kittens. Sure, that does not describe Alice in Hell, that describes the mentality of a future about to take thrash and squeeze out its life by being a world of whiny cunts. Alice in Hell is a well-made album, despite its soulless hollow core.

What the essential result of this all is, the album is a product. Someone took thrash, dissected it, saw what is it consists of, and made an imitation of it, but forgot to put in the ethanol-drenched rebellious soul full of aggression and naughty words. The result is skilled, technical, occasionally complex, and shiny, but at the same time, robotic, colour-by-the-numbers, machine-made corned beef frankenstein copy from the conveyor belt. This probably is what the record company executives wanted, since everything must be watered down quite a bit before the masses with the purchasing power can enjoy it... no matter if the honestly gritter, more thrash-spirited and meaner Master of Puppets had sold 6 million copies three years earlier.

This album felt artificial in 1989, and it still has the same off-putting feel to it. The chainsaw has been replaced with safety scissors, the autocannons with mean Nerf guns, and the spirit has been downgraded from a Tasmanian devil to a ferocious baby alpaca. It would have been better for everybody if Jeff Waters had found actual prog metal instead of thrash at this stage, and then managed to hold on to a steady line-up long enough to figure out how to make prog songs. Maybe Mr Cobain would have gotten famous several minutes earlier in this alternative universe, but that would perhaps have also meant that Waters' considerable guitar skills could perhaps have turned into something positive, instead of the lousy groove á la King of the Kill and the rest of the main body of Annihilator's discgraphy. Now we are left with a well-produced and technically skilled but artistically zombified snapshot of the year that also witnessed the liver failure of thrash, and that surely is just an additional anti-climax in the bunch of anti-climaxes that ended the otherwise good metal decade. This album was the forerunner of a tsunami that tamed thrash, turned it into a real musician's business, and ordered it to attend an anger management course.

Not to be avoided. Heavens, no! Alice in Hell is way too good for that. But definitely not to be worshipped or emulated, either, unless you're a bedroom guitarist.

Jeff Waters makes this. - 70%

Andromeda_Unchained, November 30th, 2011

Annihilator have one of the more peculiar discographies I've come across, pretty much the dictionary definition of a hit or miss band. Annihilator's debut Alice In Hell has always been the one of their more popular releases, and most fans of the band swear by the copies of Alice In Hell and not much else (depending on how die hard a fan they may be).

I never really saw the attraction with Alice In Hell, with the exception of Jeff Waters' excellent thrash meets power meets speed metal guitar work Annihilators debut never did as much for me as I thought it would.

A lot of this is due in part to Randy Rampage, now I will say that his vocals aren't necessarily bad, but some of the lyrics and vocal lines he is given verge on redundant, even in the otherwise kick-ass "Alison Hell" he nearly ruins the awesomeness. This would all be remedied with Coburn Pharr on their next album.

Still, Jeff Waters' guitar work is pretty much worth the price of admission, his style was pretty unique, a blend of classic heavy metal sensibility, Dave Mustaine riff-development, and a spot of crazy shred and guitar pyrotechnics. Jeff honestly owns Alice In Hell, and its a shame this guy could never keep up the promise he made here.

Overall this is worth picking up for the title track and Jeff's guitar work, although there is certainly some filler and I've normally had enough by "Word Salad" (the increasingly rare occasions I listen to this album). If you want to hear Annihilator at their best pick up Never, Neverland instead, pick this one up later.

And We'll Never Let It End - 90%

grain_silo, September 21st, 2011

This is THE Annihilator album. Pretty much everything about his album is awesome. This is when they were pretty much pure thrash before Jeff Waters decided to change line-ups every other song. This is the album when I feel like they were at their best. Everyone on this album does an amazing job.

The music is extremely technical. The riffs on here are flat out amazing. “Alison Hell" has some of the craziest riffs and bass lines I’ve ever heard in my life. “Crystal Anne” is just an acoustic intro thing, now usually I hate these intros because usually, they serve no purpose, this one however, does serve a purpose. It displays how good this album will be. It sounds pretty beautiful, and for being an intro, it’s actually really good. The songs on here are pretty fast. They are thrash with technical riffs and some power metalish vocals. “Human Insecticide” is the fastest song on here, pure thrash from start to finish. Pretty much every other song on here is really fast, not like Slayer speed but pretty speedy. “Burns Like A Buzzsaw Blade” is definitely one of the best songs on here. The solo in the beginning is awesome and then some incredibly fast riffs. Randy freakin Rampage….they really should’ve kept this guy. He sounds like he could be some kind of monster but at the same time his highs are awesome, I can’t really explain it. Just listen to the “Sitting in a corner” part in “Alice in Hell” and then listen to “Burns Like a Buzzsaw Blade”. The vocals are so varied and give the album a more unique feel to it.

Production is very good. Guitars are clear and heavy. The bass sounds beyond amazing and audible the whole time. The drums sound decent, they are kind of flat. Other than the drums, the production is perfect.

I have one problem with this album, not all the songs live up to others. “Ligeia” is just….meh. “Word Salad” is good but not nearly on the same level as “Burns” and “Human Insecticide”.

This album is awesome. The technicality, the riffs, the speed, the solos, and Randy Rampage make this album what it is, one of the best technical thrash albums ever.

A really phenomenal guitar exercise - 68%

Noktorn, September 5th, 2008

This is a rather revered release for reasons I entirely fail to understand, considering that it really seems like a long technical exercise more than an actual album. It's instrumentally very impressive and has some excruciatingly detailed compositions, but this is really more of a pseudo-shred album than anything and those who praise this as a technical speed metal classic are either listening to a different album or have standards about music entirely removed from mine. I understand that it's a technical exercise that takes the form of a song, but in the end it's still a tech demo and not something I would ever listen to for musical reasons.

This actually feels more sterile to me than most prog albums do and I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because of just how super guitar and bass oriented the whole thing is, with the drums and vocals feeling remarkably extraneous to the whole album. If you removed the drums and vocals you would really still get the full effect of the album because they're the whole purpose of the compositions. Some of the riffs are pretty remarkable and ahead of their time, with some almost proto-death metal riffs popping up in form of ultra-fast sequences of low notes ala 'Covenant'-era Morbid Angel. Most of it though revolves around fairly typical speed/thrash riffing but with triple the number of notes in the same musical space. Maybe that's why this feels like such a technical exercise: it's otherwise totally standard music but with totally over-the-top guitar and bass theatrics.

The whole idea of technical thrash is sort of an alien idea to me as it seems to go against the genre's ethos to some degree, particularly when it's done in such a purely instrument-oriented way as seen here. I'd almost call this speed/thrash minus the punk; it has the speed and aggression but no real sense of groove or 'musicality'. The riffs are melodic but the melody isn't a very important aspect to them; it's just to make the constant technicality more palatable. As I've said, it's decently composed music that happens to be not very musical at all; none of the material is extremely memorable or exciting as far as songwriting goes; it's just extremely demonstrative and impressive from a purely technical standpoint.

I guess there's a possibility that this is one of those albums I simply don't 'get', but either way it doesn't excite me greatly. I totally recommend it for guitar or bass students, as there's plenty of interesting material on here as far as technique and composition goes, but I can't imagine wanting to listen to it as an album. It just sort of defeats the purpose of being music to me.

Annihilator's brief glimpse of glory - 93%

BastardHead, March 23rd, 2008

Because everything went downhill extremely fast after this. Those new to metal may have heard good things about Annihilator, but grabbed albums that weren't this one, thus disappointing themselves greatly. To me, the only album after this that has even the slightest bit of merit would be Waking the Fury, but even that still doesn't even come close to holding a candle to this 1989 masterpiece of thrashing insanity.

This is usually labeled technical thrash, and that's not a bad description. It's not uber technical in the sense of Watchtower or Coroner, but it has a heavy emphasis on melody as opposed to brutality, unlike most thrash bands. There is also a fair share of acoustic melodies throughout the record as well (Crystal Ann, Alison Hell, Word Salad), so I guess you could make a case for attaching "melodic" onto their genre as well. There are thrash beats aplenty (just for clarification, whenever I use the term "thrash beat", I am referring to the drum pattern with the snare being hit on the off beat, thus making the music seem a lot faster), with a healthy dose of double bass patterns sprinkled in for good measure. Jeff Waters, before he became a pretentious tit widget, shreds out some excellent leads and solos, as well as a fresh set of creative and fun riffs. Most riff-centric albums do this quite well, but I find that Alice in Hell does an exceptional job with them. The vocals are kind of reminiscent of Blitz Ellsworth from Overkill, which is obviously a good thing.

The individual songs are kind of interchangeable, but I mean this in a good way. Some records can be described as "samey", while others can be described as "consistent". The former is when all of the songs are similar, so it's cool to have it playing on shuffle, but you get bored after the first few songs. The latter is when all of the songs are similar, so it's cool to have it playing on shuffle, but every song continues to sound awesome throughout. Alice in Hell is clear practitioner of the latter category.

There are a few problems unfortunately. Wicked Mystic is cool, but it's one of the only tracks I can't recall from memory... it's the only one that's not memorable. Some of the songs do this annoying random stop false ending thing that confuse and irritate me. Ligeia does this before the solo, and Schizos (Are Never Alone) does this in the middle of the song as well, and it's annoying. Apparently the latter song is a two part song, but it transitions very poorly and horribly breaks the flow.

Overlook those shortcomings, and this is a top notch thrash record from right around the time bearing the height of acceptable mediocrity in the genre. The weaker tracks (Burns Like a Buzzsaw Blade, Wicked Mystic) are few and overshadowed by the monstrous thrash classics (Alison Hell, Human Insecticide). Overall, a highly recommended album by a band that nailed it once and then never returned to form. A fluke, if you will, but a very glorious fluke.

Slightly flawed pacing, but a must have. - 91%

hells_unicorn, March 9th, 2007

There are countless stories of thrash/speed metal bands in North America who had the right formula and then threw it all away in order to jump on the groove bandwagon, one of the more disappointing ones being that of Annihilator, whom played a rather unique hybrid of thrash/power metal with some progressive tendencies. “Alice in Hell” represents the road not taken by the majority of American bands (if only things had been different) in the early 90s, marrying some inspired acoustic and clean playing with a gritty style that is reminiscent of the New York thrash scene. Vocalist Randy Rampage actually sounds quite similar to Blitz Ellsworth on most of the songs, especially his raw growls on the faster tracks.

The only real flaw in this album is the pacing, as the fastest and most furious tracks have all been back loaded. “Crystal Ann” and the title track lead off and give the impression that this is something other than a speed metal outfit. While they listen quite well on their own, placed together at the beginning it works against the band’s core sound. I’ve often wondered what it would be like if “Alice In Hell” was bumped up a track and “Human Insecticide” had been put on track 2.

Things really pick up on “Welcome to your Death” and “Wicked Mystic”, both of which remind heavily of early Megadeth. “Burns Like A Buzzsaw Blade” starts off with a vintage speed riff that sounds like late 70s era Riot, then launches into a series of rapid paced sections that scream early Metallica. “Word Salad” starts off slow and menacing sounding, somewhat reminiscent of the intro of Fates Warning’s “No Exit” but without vocals and more structure, then the thrash returns again with a vengeance and we get some killer lead displays that make Kirk Hammet look like a hack.

The last 3 tracks are too incredible to really do justice to, except to say that if Kill Em’ All had this kind of polish and production it would have been a perfect listen. “Human Insecticide” takes the prize for best song ever recorded by this band, and even rivals a lot of the stuff found on “The Years Of Decay”. This song alone makes the entire album a worthy purchase, although I would have put this song earlier on the track list and closed the album with “Ligeia”, which is quite powerful and works as a closer.

If you like Overkill, Megadeth, early Metallica (pre-“Master Of Puppets”) then this is a worthy addition to your collection. I was fortunate enough to receive this as a gift from a fellow guitarist whom rightly dubbed this a standard by which any thrash guitarist ought to be measured by, but it is well worthy parting with $14 in order to obtain. Although the band didn’t really last long with this amazing formula, people are also encouraged to check out “Never, Neverland”, which is often offered in a package deal along with this well respected classic and is mostly cut from the same tree.

Later submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on September 14, 2008.

Technical Thrash at its Grittiest - 97%

DawnoftheShred, December 10th, 2006

Annihilator is probably the most inconsistent band in thrash metal history, with a shitload of lineup changes and lots of stylistic experimentation, mostly for the worse. But a downhill slide has to have its roots in a higher plane, and that peak was the band's mighty debut, Alice in Hell. Technical, heavy, dark, and occasionally brutally quick, few other thrash debuts can stand up to it, even to date.

Jeff Waters is pretty much the driving creative force behind Annihilator, considering he's been the only constant member since the band's incarnation. He recorded all guitar parts for this album, as we would go on to do for most of the band's releases. Unlike future albums, however, his playing here is nothing short of inspirational from beginning to end. His riffs are powerful and creative and his songwriting is brilliant. From the flamenco-like instrumental "Crystal Ann" that opens the album to the final crushing riffs of "Human Insecticide," his rhythm work defies convention, effortlessly hopping between clean and distorted riffs and alternating between time signatures almost on impulse. His solos are equally impressive, displaying more melodicism and talent than most of his contemporaries' work.

This album is sometimes criticized because it doesn't rely on pure speed but rather, it incorporates a lot of catchier mid-paced thrash and some clean interludes. Okay, it's not brutal non-stop lightning fast riffage from start to finish, but really, what is thrash without a little variety? The lyrics on the album are also pretty derivative, though cool in their own right. What makes up for them is the presence of one of the mightiest vocalists to ever front a thrash band, Randy Fucking Rampage. His is one of the rawest, nastiest snarls ever to grace a thrash record and he's one of the primary reasons that this album is infinitely superior to most of Annihilator's discography. Sure he's not that great of a singer, per say, but he's a hell of a vocalist. And yes, there is a difference.

This is high quality thrash at it's dirtiest. I've found it technically impressive and highly influential. If you can get past its rough exterior, you might learn to appreciate the tasty goodness within. Highly recommended for thrash fans.

Highlights: Alison Hell, Wicked Mystic, Word Salad, Schizos Pt 1, 2

Great riffs and.... well, there's great riffs. - 78%

lord_ghengis, December 5th, 2006

I'm not the biggest thrash fan, like most metal fans I see early Vio-lence, or the first four metallica albums as near perfection, but I've never cared for most thrash bands as I generally see it as one of the most repetitive single-minded genres I’ve ever heard, and for that reason the genre has very little space in my collection.

However, Jeff Water's solo on the song "The Dagger" in the recent Roadrunner United album interested my enough to fork out a few dollars for another thrash album, even if my hopes weren't high. While I was impressed, and it surpassed my low expectations, the album really fails to deserve that thrash classic title it has. Yes, the guitar work of Jeff Waters is godly, and as good as you'll hear, but EVERYTHING else drags Alice in Hell down. Waters is pretty much the whole 78%.

One thing I’ve noticed about this album is that it brilliant in small doses. For example, when I first listened, it was set on shuffle, so I got “Schizos Are Never Alone Part 1 & 2” up first. And I was blown away, despite originally thinking it was “Crystal Ann”. When the second song came on and started talking about Ligeia, I realised my mistake and turned off shuffle, then started again. By the time I made to “Schizos…” again. There was nothing, my mind was numb to mid-to-fast paced rhythms, kind of scratchy sounding guitars and the straight forward drum line which goes through pretty much the whole album… non-stop. And suddenly the mind-blowing instrumental had become just another riff, which sounded like the rest, with the same ugly production.

Honestly, this album doesn’t fly along at high speeds either, it's very slow for something praised so highly in thrash, in fact it contains many aspects of groove and half-thrash metal, particularly in the acclaimed title track... which is for the main part a groove metal song, and not even a good one.

This album does showcase some amazing writing skills though, considering ALL the string work on this album was written by one man. The album consists of only three people, despite being recorded with two guitars, bass, drums, and a vocalist. Waters is simply an extraordinarily talented man to write for three instruments so well. His skill is only drawn back by this album’s ugly recording.

The production here is pretty bad; the lower end of it all sounds blurred together and the higher sounds often lack power. And more often than not the sound sounds scratchy and thoroughly unenjoyable to listen to. Now, I know metal heads are going to jump down my throat for that. Yes, there’s plenty of fast technical guitar work going on here, but that’s truly only one part of music. A more important thing about music is that it should be enjoyable to listen to. And yes, production effects this.

Really, this bad production is even more destructive to the overall sound of the album as this bands only real draw is Jeff Waters brilliant guitar work, and the guitars do sound pretty shitty. The vocals are well, bad, very little technical skill. Don’t get me wrong, “Randy Rampage” is probably the best of the 3 vocalists I’ve heard them use. But he’s by no means a good vocalist. He has a decent low gruff voice, which if backed up with some talent, or some more practice singing, could be decent. He also has a womanly squeal, which I hate oh-so much, but you know back in the thrash and pre-thrash days those horrible transgender noises were the “in” thing, so what can you expect? It's a pity he didn't stay around, as he does show promise here, while Alison Hell's squeals are ear piercing and generally awful, songs like Wicked mystic hav high pitched vocals which don't bring on so much pain.

Then of course you have the drums of Ray Hartmann, which are your stock standard thrash fare, with less double bass skill, and very little variation in tempo. And the recording makes it sound all tinny, so absolutely nothing to praise here.

So, as you can see, Waters is the draw here, and he is quite spectacular, he never does anything which simply jumps out into your ears like that solo in “The Dagger”, but stays pretty cool throughout the album, with quite a lot of tempo changing. His real draw is the solo's, sure there's some serious riffage, odd little things which fit in perfectly somehow, such as the melodic and accoustic sections which occure randomly, and the punk styled touches in Schizos, but everything just seems irrelevent when Waters starts soloing. Even then, there isn't THAT much soloing here, every song has one or two, but theres only a couple which are extended long solo sections, basically Word Salad has a great epic solo, and that's it.

Even with all the crazy and different things which Waters throws into his thrashing machine, the album still gets boring quickly, partially due to the best songs being at the end, and some average (Burns Like A Buzzsaw Blade) and poor (Alison Hell) songs occuring early on. With only a two (W.T.Y.D and Wicked Mystic) of the first six songs really leaving an impression with their fast paced fury. So by the time the three brilliant closing tracks; Schizo's Are Never Alone, Ligeia, and Human Insecticide come around, their overall splendor is dulled by the fact that you're already bored out of your mind.

The thrashness also brings in the final drawback. The lyrics are so goddamn cheesy. Like so much of the genre, it somehow appeals to many people, as some kind of positive. But no, not here, cheesy/lame lyrics are horrible, and are plain embarrassing to listen to. Luckily there’s nothing as bad as “Never, Neverland’s” “Kraf Dinner”, but remember you are buying an album with a song called “Alison Hell” and a front cover depicting a 20 or so year old woman being stalked by a small evil doll. “See buckets and buckets, yeah buckets of sin”. Say anything to you? Even with that, these are probably the best lyrics in general I’ve heard them do, from the 3 albums I’ve heard of them.

In general, Alice in Hell is a piss-poor album, with some abysmal drumming, and poor production, not the worst I've heard (I own early Sepultura albums) but overall very detrimental to the sound of the album. Really, the whole thing is saved by the fact this album has been pretty much Waters high point. While the other elements of the band have improved to compensate for Waters gradual slide to mediocrity from here on in, his influence is so strong in the band's sound that this will probably remain their best work.

I can’t recommend this album as well as pretty much everyone else who likes this album, and I certainly wouldn’t tell people it should be in everyone’s collection, it just wouldn’t be an unwelcome addition.

Alice! - 87%

cyclone, November 7th, 2004

This is probably the best Annihilator. It's the first one, so you probably know why. Jeff Waters has some great ideas, how to make a nice thrash album. Quite technical and developed, yet so catchy, that it grows on you in no time. Well, since Jeff Waters is THE Annihilator guy, the album is quite guitar based. Nice, interesting riffs, no recycling, cool passages and hidden leads and melodies. You could find something new again and again. The vocalist, Randy Rampage is also worth mentioning. His vocals are interesting and work perfect for the atmosphere of the album. The lyrics are very interesting, since they are about inner struggles, fear and horror.

The highlight on here is Alison Hell. Great track to kick off an album with (if we don't count Crystall Ann, ofcourse). Short clean intro which developes into some nice riffing. It's also the catchiest song on the album and has some awesome guitar work and a great solo. The short vocal part near the end (''Sitting in the corner...'') is amazing and truly shows Rampage's ability.

There aren't any off-cuts on this one, since the rest songs are equally good. Very good thrash/speed/power riffing, some very good ideas and very good vocals. Oh, Crystall Ann, the intro track is one of the best intros ever made. Really cool acoustic guitar passage.

So, if you like Helstar or simmilar artists, you will dig this. It's also the best Annihilator album, so get it, if you want to get to know them better.

Human Insecticiiiiiiide! - 85%

Vim_Fuego, August 6th, 2004

Uh oh, what's this? A dodgy thrash album? Well, it has all the trimmings to set off the average crap detector– a logo which looks like it's stolen from Blade Runner, five bemulleted denim–clad warriors trying to look tough on the back, a pretty girl being stalked by a demonic dolly on the front. This should really set alarm bells ringing. It almost makes Anthrax's 'Fistful Of Metal' look classy.

But never judge a book, or an album, by it's cover. The grooves within contain pure class.

The pretty intro piece "Crystal Ann" is a well executed classical guitar passage, merely whetting the appetite for some thrash action. And thrash this does! "Alison Hell" sets the standard for the rest of the album to follow. There are tasty guitar licks by the truckload. Annihilator main man and guitar slinger Jeff Waters wrote just about everything on the album, played all the guitars and bass, and threw in some backing vocals. Lead vocalist Randy Rampage (as if THAT was his real name…) looks like he'd just escaped from the introductory class at the Motley Crue School of Big Hair and Bad Makeup, but when the guy opens his mouth, the hair crimes are forgiven. Limited vocals were often a stumbling point for thrash outfits, but Rampage lets rip with a gutsy, tuneful shout reminiscent of a more restrained version of Overkill's Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth

The recording of the album took over a year, as it was done a small piece at a time, but there is excellent flow throughout, with no sense of anything being disjointed.

The music is second to none when it comes to riffs and solos. OK, so it's more polished than the likes of Slayer or Possessed, but both of those bands would have cleaned up their sound if they could have written melodies and solos like Waters. There is something new to discover on almost every listen, with the odd thing still hitting the ear more than a decade after first hearing it– a quick fill here, an unnoticed counter–melody there. However, it's not Malmsteen–esque guitar wankery. These are songs which will have you playing air guitar and compulsively banging your head, so be careful listening to it while using public transport if you don't want to attract funny looks.

Waters' lyrical bent was rather refreshing for the time. Each song has a quick explanatory note with the lyrics. He explored themes of mental illness and altered states of mind ('Schizos Are Never Alone Part I & II', 'Human Insecticide', 'Alison Hell', 'Word Salad'), and even literature, with a retelling of Edgar Allen Poe's twisted supernatural story of love lost and found in 'Ligeia'. On any normal album, 'Ligeia' would be a contender for the best track on the album. It has an addictive crushing main riff, excellent guitar and bass interplay in the bridge section, intelligent, thoughtful lyrics, solos to die for, and a driving thrash pace to get even the most jaded toes tapping.

But this isn't any normal album. Last track off the ranks is the storming 'Human Insecticide'. It pushes the standard just that bit further. It rips straight into the main riff, a high–speed thrash classic– simple, memorable and irresistible for the air guitar enthusiast. Rampage puts in his most er, rampaging performance of the album, spitting out the lyrics as if he were the delusional psychotic subject of the song. Blasting out of first one speaker, then the other, then both, the fretboard frenzy seems to pick up speed as the song progresses. It thrashes it's way through several themes of the original concept, continuing to gain momentum until it all collapses in an exhausted, satisfied mess, like a slow motion train crash in a 1970s disaster movie.

Jeff Waters set the standard so high for himself with this stunning debut he has never even remotely approached such greatness again.

Exactly what the fans want. - 80%

CallerOfTheCthulhu, July 11th, 2004

How many thrash CDs have ever been released are a breath of fresh air into the metal community? Not many, even to this date. But, it was one specific album and effort that sparked an interest in the style that would live on for years to come. And now, it wasn't "Metallica".

The Canadian answer to that group, "Annihilator", have been renown as simply one of the greatest speed and thrash metal acts out there, and their debut CD alone, Alice In Hell is enough to prove that fact from start to finish.

As soon as the album starts, you can tell it's not your typical thrash album, as you are created with 'Crystal Ann', a slow moving instrumental that sets the tone of the album. But then you are charged with an onslaugh of insanity as soon as 'Alison Hell' kicks in.

Covering most of the typical topics, such of love, lust, insanity and death, the album proves to be somewhat of an average release with one exception. The guitar work and musical arrangement throughout the album makes it far from your every day thrash album. With insane guitar riffs and melodies with controlled drum beats, the album is simply an amazing effort.

True, the album isn't the best one out there, but for a starting point, these guys brought exactly what the fans wanted to hear, and gave this style a breath of fresh air. From start to finish you will be lapping up the insanity that looms throughout. This is obviously a must have for any metal head.

Burns Like A Buzzsaw Blade! - 92%

radiohater, December 30th, 2003

Forming in 1984, Canada's Annihilator had been around the Canadian metal scene in various incarnations revolving around mainman Jeff Waters. Their early demos Phantasmagoria and Welcome To Your Death attracted the attention of many labels and in1988, Annihilator, then just Jeff Waters and drummer Paul Malek, signed to Roadrunner.The recording for this album began in 1987, which was completed without a budget. Sometime before or during the recording, Paul Malek left and was replaced by Ray Hartmann. The entire recording process took well over a year. Some time after the musical tracks were completed, Annihilator welcomed ex-D.O.A bassist Randy Rampage on lead vocals, and the debut album of Annihilator was released to the world in 1989.

The album was an instant thrash classic. Full of chillingly precise and technical guitar work and the venomous distinctive delivery of Rampage, the album ended up becoming Roadrunner's highest selling debut at the time. The album propelled Annihilator into the thrash elite.

The Cast

Randy Rampage (vocals) - Rampage's first and only appearance for Annihilator for the next ten years (his second and final appearance with the band was on 1999's Criteria For A Black Widow). His voice is a powerful roar which doesn't have much range, but succeeds solely on it's aggression. Special mention goes to his work on Alison Hell, where his roar sounds downright menacing.

Jeff Waters (guitar, bass) - Perhaps the most underrated guitarist in thrash, the classically-trained Jeff Waters puts in an electrifying performance, filled with nice melodic lead work and precise rhythm picking. His bass playing is effective and does more than play root notes/follow the main riff, interspersing some nice licks here and there. He does vocals on one of the demo tracks (Ligeia), favouring a generic death metal grunt.

Ray Hartmann (drums) - Hartmann puts in a competent performance for the album, but a relatively safe one, save for the thrash break in Ligeia (perhaps because of joining just before the recording of the album. He does show some tight double bass skills, especially on Human Insecticide and Schizo's Are Never Alone.

Paul Malek (drums) - Malek played on the bonus demo tracks, and does a competent job, but plays it even safer than Hartmann.

I only have the remastered version, so I'm not sure of the original recording quality. The remaster was produced by Jeff Daniel and remastered by Chris Gehringer. The sound is crystal clear, with all instruments clearly audible. The guitars are full, the snare has a full booming sound, and the bass is high in the mix, showing off the bass fills employed by Waters throughout. The demo tracks have been taken straight from the demos themselves, which explains the poorly mixed drums (drowned in ride and hi-hat) and rather loud tape noise.

Choice Cuts

Crystal Ann - If there ever was any doubt about Jeff Waters' abilities as a guitarist, this would instantly put them to bed. A classically influenced totally acoustic number that showcases Waters' tight lead chops over some nice arpeggiated chords.

Alison Hell - There's something about this track that makes it really creepy. It's a slow cruncher full of time and riff changes. Features some nice lead work from Waters and most notably and absolutely predatory and menacing vocal performance from Randy Rampage.

Word Salad - Another track that showcases Waters' incredible skill on lead guitar. It kicks off with a clean intro, then morphs into typical Annihilator. Features a rather lengthy solo from Waters.

Schizos (Are Never Alone) - A long and multifacted instrumental, replete with a multitude of time changes (especially a vicious double time break about 44 seconds in), with Rampage chanting "Schizos are never alone". The song stops about 2 and a half minutes in before returning to the insanity that preceded it. Definitely one of the top tracks on the CD.

Human Insecticide - What a monster! Perhaps the craziest speed riff this side of Raining Blood, pulled off with deadly accuracy, and a nice slowdown in the middle typical of New York thrash, before returning to the insanity earlier in the piece. Excellent closing track.

Off Cuts

Burns Like A Buzzsaw Blade - This is by no means a bad track, but seems a little non-descript compared to the rest of the album.

Raw Sewage

None to be found here. According to popular belief, Jeff Waters was saving that for later...

Closing Comments

What we have here is one hell of a ride. If you like thrash metal driven by precise riffing and stellar lead work, and enjoy Rampage's vocal style, this is for you. Don't hesitate to pick it up.

I love to see them bleed... - 92%

Nightcrawler, October 9th, 2003

Annihilator's debut is by far their best work, judging from what I've heard of them (which, then again, isn't much...). They here delivers one of the absolute essentials of thrash fucking metal. The devastatingly heavy yet melodically aware and also pretty technical guitarwork of band leader Jeff Waters is of course the main focus of the album, but the vocals of Randy Rampage are also pretty awesome. His voice could be pretty much summed up in the chorus of the song Alison Hell: He starts with one piercing high note, then suddenly shrinks into a sinister growl, and finishes off in a wicked, raw midrange. In conclusion, this man's got a wide range, and he uses it perfectly.

The songwriting is pretty standard thrash: Fast, straightforward, heavy and right in your face. But this release manages to sound pretty unique, with many tempo changes and lots of melodic breaks and other weird parts all over. But if you'll approach this with an open mind, you'll be rewarded.
While the songwriting seems weird at first, eventually it all just sinks into place and fits perfectly. Just like the various heavy/melodic alternations during the intro to formerly mentioned Alison Hell, or even the almost orchestral guitarwork on the melodic break on W.T.Y.D. (Welcome To Your Death).
The guitar tone is menacingly heavy but also compliments the melodic parts perfectly, the production and mixing is done very tastefully, done loud and heavy yet with all instruments more or less audible. All instruments are played very well, and the songwriting is not only original but also catchy as hell (Human Insecticide and Burns Like A Buzzsaw Blade come to mind). On top of it all, the cover art totally rules. So all in all, we have a really complete package in here, and a definite essential for all you thrash maniacs out there.

There really isn't a single bad song on here, on the contrary each tune kicks a good amount of ass. The intro Crystal Ann shows that Jeff Waters has some immense skill on the acoustics as well, and it builds up a cool atmosphere before kicking into Alison Hell, which is the second best song on the album. The first minute just insane, with tons and further tons of riffs and the previously mentioned heavy/melodic alternations, all extremely well written and executed. And the song doesn't let up, it just keeps kicking your ass from start to finish. Awesome, awesome thrash.
Burns Like A Buzzsaw Blade starts a bit boring and over melodic, but from 0: 32 and on it's just relentless thrash metal.
Word Salad has that really groovy midpaced riff in the middle sounding something like Pantera meets Zakk Wylde, and some wicked catchy and varied riffwork under the verses.
And of course the closing track, Human Insecticide. The lyrics are cool as hell, dealing with genocide of insects. How metal is that?!
And the music... Fast, insane, relentless and all other praise words that are often used in thrash fucking metal. And then that mental shout-along chorus: "RE-TA-LI-ATE! DE-CA-PI-TATE! I like to see them bleed. A-NNI-HI-LATE! I am human insecticide!" Best song on the album, easily.
I could really go on and on with the dissection, but I think I'll leave it to you to discover the rest.

Annihilator never seemed to be able to top this. At this they got really close (Hunter Killer from Carnival Diablos is definitely in the same league as Human Insecticide!) but the other albums I've got by them all have their share of filler mixed with the great stuff. And from what I've heard and read, what I do not own by them isn't that great either...
Nope, Alice In Hell is the Annihilator you really need. The highlights... the four mentioned above are all excellent, but aside from those I'd also note W.T.Y.D. and the instrumental Schizos (Are Never Alone), which has perhaps the coolest song title ever. But it's all great stuff on here.

This Burns like a Buzzsaw Blade! - 85%

Demon_of_the_Fall, August 30th, 2003

1989 was the year and thrash was nearing an end....or so we thought. Annihilator released Alice In Hell and the metal world which was not yet familiar with Annihilator (many still don't not know of them Pathetic isn't it?) tried to listen in on what they had in store. The underground metal scene ate this shit up like a juicy fucking steak. If i wasn't 5 years old i'm pretty sure i would have been banging my head to this baby. This is close their thrashiest moment alongside with Never, Neverland carved individuality, and creativness into their music right from day one. Alice In Hell has great lyrics and a very unique vocalist named Randy Rampage, as he releases his shrieks of rage and gutteral but yet very tolerable voice. There are some instant classics on AIH such as Alice In Hell, W.T.Y.D, Burns the a Buzzsaw Blade, Schizos, Word Salad, and Phantasmagoria. Highly acclaimed cd that this was for the underground metal scene, that the media still didn't take notice to them (except perhaps in Japan and Europe). Some point this out as being Annihilator definate classic release and best effort to boot, but i tend to disagree on those terms due to the fact the Annihilator of old is much different than the annihilator of today. (which is abit more rockish yet still attaning the thrash elements of old) I tend to enjoy KOTK, Never Neverland, and Carnival Diablos much more although everone has their opinion. I just find this cd abit pre-mature, as Rampage sounds very much like a kid at times although this just adds to the atmousphere of the album. I really love this cd, but just not as much as some of their other works. AIH is definatly a must have for all thrash fans, and metal fan alike. I suggest picking this up if youi ever have the slim chance of finding this. I still havn't fucking found it and i've been listening to this for 3 years. Oh well I hope you all enjoy this as much as I do.
Welcome to the Annihilator Palace.

Best Tracks: Crystal Ann (nice acoustic peice), Alice in Hell, W.T.Y.D, Burns like a Buzzsaw Blade, Word Salad, Schizos Prt 1+2, Human Insecticide, Phantasmagoria