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It's a well-known fact in the metal world that, regardless of whether the band is still together or not, thrash metal usually goes through several line-up changes. However, few thrash metal bands, especially those who went through their prime time in the 80's, have stuck to the sound that made them famous in the first place. Annihilator are one such band. Sure, they emerged at the tail end of the 80's, and their music from 1994 through 2001 hasn't been exactly, shall we say, original, but at heart their take of thrash metal has remained firmly at the standards set on the band's first three albums. Today, Annihilator are little more than a band just making albums for the sake of it, but I'd like to think they are still existent in many metal elitists' eyes.
This isn't to say that Annihilator aren't a band that, despite of whether you like them or not, strive for perfection with each and every album they release. In fact, it seems that on every album since the supposed comeback of 'Schizo Deluxe', the band have tried to create a song bigger (and possibly better) than 'Alice in Hell' or 'Fun Palace'. So what of their recent self-titled album? Certainly self-titled albums have always been known to bear some significance of a band's career itself. Metallica's debut became bigger than a pregnant whale, and Annihilator's self-titled effort proves to be slightly similar. Sounding bigger and slightly better than anything they have made in the last few years, the band's latest effort fails to surprise but definitely succeeds in satisfying both long and short term fans of the band.
The album starts off brilliantly. Annihilator have been known to make a great first impression, introducing each of their albums with sizzling hot riffs, surprisingly good song structures and enough energy to fill a lifetime's supply of Red Bull. No, that isn't an exaggeration. 'The Trend' pretty much sets the standard of the entire album. Scything riffs, explosive solos and melodic guitar licks courtesy of the incredible talent of Jeff Waters dominate this album. In fact, even before the vocals begin in any of the songs, there is at least one solo that will introduce itself to you, and you can bet your high horses that every one of those solos is different. Whether it's the ultra fast fretwork of 'Ambush' or the slight nod to NWOBHM on 'The Other Side', Waters just never lets up on his performance at all. It is probably him who has been keeping the chemistry of the band from dissolving over the last two and a half decades or so.
However, whilst the guitar work here is admittedly incredibly fantastic, the other instruments, especially the vocals, do not quite match the quality. If you've listened to every one of Annihilator's albums with Dave Padden, you'll know that he isn't exactly an instant highlight. Most of what he does is in fact supported by very aggressive lyrics, and even if his shouting method isn't to everyone's taste, the nature of the lyrical content matches the frenzy and intensity of the guitars. Speaking of the lyrics, much of the content is purely directed at the pronoun 'you'. Whether this 'you' is personal or not is unknown, but it certainly sets the album as a whole firmly in the boundaries of thrash metal. Some songs, including the medium-paced and mediocre '25 Seconds' and the equally as monotonous 'Nowhere to go', are sung in first person, and it certainly doesn't help the song to improve when Padden almost croons his way through at times. Nevertheless it is a distinctive way of writing lyrics, to direct one's own anger purely at the same pronoun for the majority of the record.
The aggression set on Annihilator's self-titled works surprisingly well. In an age where bands try to be too angry for their own good, Annihilator seem to get the right balance of melodious passages and pummeling metal to make the record as a whole fit well. When Padden almost screams his lungs out, it works even better. As on the impressive 'Coward' and the silly yet satisfyingly good 'Betrayed', Padden introduces an even angrier approach to the lyrics, making them seem much more meaningful than they actually are. The lyrics are simplistic, but they work in a way that sets them apart from other tedious bands of the same genre.
Negatively speaking, Waters' guitar work doesn't always seem that impressive. A prime example of this would be the dreary tedium of '25 Seconds', which as a matter of fact, is probably the weakest song on the entire album. Introduced with a slow riff and drum beat, the listener can be tempted to automatically hover their finger over the 'skip' button before even proceeding. It's a shame that '25 Seconds' doesn't live up to its name, and actually seems like a lifetime before Waters once again picks up where he left off, and lays down the craziest of solos. That said, some Annihilator fans are more patient than others, I'm sure.
All in all, Annihilator's self-titled doesn't offer anything new or fresh, and one can pretty much guess the amount of fun and energy that was put into this record. The problems found here are only the ones that have been haunting the band for the last decade or so, but this is surely one of their better albums of this century so far. Let's hope that Waters and co. keep up the momentum and standard set here, because if that is the case, then we can certainly expect something special in the following years.
Ho hum, another Annihilator album. First impressions: that album cover is gross. And not in a 'Hey, that's COOL man! Ewww!' way, but in a way that'll make people want to move away from you on the subway. So I was totally embarassed to pick this up, but interested to see what Annihilator sounded like in 2010. I'd read terrible things about pretty much every album they've released since 'Never, Neverland'. Classic Thrash (.com) had stopped reviewing their albums a long time ago and nobody I know who likes Annihilator even knew they played thrash metal originally! But just like the better of Annihilator's output, this album is audible saccharin: Yes Annihilator can kick some serious ass, but there's no escaping that unpleasant aftertaste.
'Annihilator' certainly sounds good. The band borrows heavily the speed and thrash metal elements of their debut album, albeit in their simplest form, and produce an album that could almost - almost - but the Big Four and their most recent output to shame. Padden is somewhat better than your stock thrash metal vocalist, and an improvement over previous Annihilator vocalists. Growling and shouting with some considerable speed ('Ambush'), other times sounding like a pissed off Dalek ('Death In Your Eyes'), which is kinda bad ass, but it sometimes gets on your asscheeks (and irritates them). Oh and there's a definite whiff of Pro Tools when he goes softer, an obvious attempt at trying to appeal to a newer scene.
Song wise, Annihilator seem able to do no wrong on the first half of the album, which features some of their best songs in a long time, the best of which is 'Coward'. It's got a blast of speed metal in the verses, a hardcore punk chorus and unless I'm very much mistaken an industrial metal breakdown accompanied by some sort of screaming, angry metalcore vocals. The songs also features Waters' most memorable solo on the album, which isn't saying much. His solos here aren't exciting or interesting, and almost seem like a parody of himself. They merely exist to have that creepy old homeless metalhead put his six fingered hand on your shoulder and tell you he likes your style.
The second half is a bit different. Full of average songs, for which I can't remember the names, the riffs, the vocal melodies or the choruses. But if anything, these actually prevent the album from being an absolute disaster: besides that horrible chorus in 'Nowhere To Go' ('Carnival Diablos' anyone?), they aren't unpleasant to sit through, and don't offend me enough to provoke harsher criticism.
The biggest let down of the album is the production. It's as cold as that horrible girl on the cover, a big problem for me. The album feels like what a replicant would produce trying to 'blend in', it feels as though Pro Tools was used to process every single freaking note. Basically, it doesn't sound natural, and leaves me feeling detached from the music. Yes it's crisp and clear, but that lack of dirt leads to a lack of feeling, a lack of emotion.
All in all, it's a fairly solid attempt at speed-thrash, with an unwelcome modern twist to it. It could have done with two or three real 'standouts' and the production could've been more organic, but in a world that has seen the reanimation of the Big Four of Thrash Metal(Anthrax, Megadeth, Metallica and Slayer, if you must know) and seems to have embraced thrash metal once again, it's a fine effort.
Trend hopping is probably the last thing that I’d suspect Jeff Waters of lyrically denouncing on an album, let alone the prospect of him releasing a mostly thrash oriented metal album, but that is basically what came to pass here. Likewise, his lone longtime project putting out a self-titled album a full 26 years after being formed is quite auspicious. But all of these unexpected occurrences have come into being here, and it has worked out very well for a band that has had one of the most inconsistent careers in the history of Thrash, which is saying quite a lot considering the company kept in said genre.
Although the modern tinge in production qualities is maintained on this latest studio offering, “Annihilator” is a stylistic exercise in turning back the clock a couple of decades. The multifaceted riffing approach, the impressive lead breaks, and the chunky feel of the whole package hearkens back to the late 80s to early 90s adventurism of the likes of Death Angel, Sepultura and Exhorder, but reinterpreted with a polished production is somewhat more in line with the semi-mechanical feel of the mid-90s groove era. It’s faster and more furious than most of this band’s recent output, but doesn’t quite abandon the mixed innovative measures that began to be incorporated into the band’s sound on “King Of The Kill”.
What this translates into is that Annihilator has not gone into complete retro mode here, but they get a good deal closer to it than many other older bands looking to reclaim their original base. Right at the onset of “The Trend” the melodic contour and familiar heavy metal influences that typified the first 3 studio releases out of this outfit leap right out at the listener, and are immediately followed by a bludgeoning set of fast paced riffs that remind of a couple different songs off of “Alice In Hell”. When taken as a whole, this is among the betters songs put out under this name since the early 90s, and perfectly captures that epic development of a basic riff concept that became standard in the mid 80s thanks to Dave Mustaine.
Surprisingly enough, this trend (no pun intended) in songwriting doesn’t stop after just one crushing masterpiece, and continues on through the next couple songs in an unrelenting fashion. “Coward” and “Ambush” are both a good bit shorter than the lead off song, but are essentially the same mixture of mad speed riffing in the mode of Slayer and Dark Angel, with a thudding breakdown somewhere in between, but with the extended intro cut off. “Betrayed” revisits the creepier progressive side of the band’s history, keeping things to somewhat of a slower groove most of the time, and incorporating a few spooky guitar themes that intermingle with the heavier main riff. After this things take on a bit more of a groove oriented character that is a bit similar to the Pantera-like of Annihilator’s history up until “The Other Side”, which kicks things back up a bit with a sinister triplet riff in the mold of “Children Of The Grave” on steroids.
Although this album sort of ebbs and flows a little in the middle, things are pretty much solid and consistent throughout. Even the Van Halen cover “Romeo Delight” manages to bring home the poundage, and also proves to be vocalist Dave Padden’s best moment on the album as he seems better capable of pulling off a David Lee Roth than he does doing the vocalizations on the Thrash songs. Padden basically proves to be the usual weak link in this chain, though his husky baritone bellows are not quite as obnoxious as they were on the last couple of releases. Picture a really overbearing version of Matt Barlow, but with only a segment of his middle vocal range, and you’ll get the idea.
There seems to be a really strong up trend (again, no pun intended) among the old guard in the Thrash Metal scene of late. Annihilator seems to be, yet again, unwilling to buck the trend in this case (okay, that one was intentional). Those who loved both “Carnival Diablos” and “Never, Neverland” will definitely be taken in by this, as well as most other fans of this genre who wanted to see it being done competently rather than by metalcore hacks who don’t understand how to get beyond imitating some of the riffing techniques. Regardless to whether or not Jeff Waters has been consistent in the past; on here he gets the job done quite nicely.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on August 1, 2010.
...At least not as much as their previous efforts on trying to make good music.
There's a lot to say about this album. However, one thing is certain. It is Annihilator. I think that I will begin with Dave Padden's vocals.
We all know that Padden has been responsible for Annihilator's metalcore/mallcore sound on their previous albums. He has delivered gay vocals on many of the songs, and a lot of us has just been thinking "What the fuck was Jeff Waters thinking?" Well, it seems as if Waters has sat down and thought some things over again, and wanted to deliver a more thrashy album. I must say that I really didn't think that was possible with such a gay singer, but I have actually been prooven wrong. Although, we still get to hear his gay side here and there sometimes. You will notice that especially on the track "Nowhere To Go" where the chorus is pure G.A.Y! It was sad, because it could have been a good song. Even though his singing is gay on that piece, he actually manages to hold himself back on most of the other songs. Except some gay singing on "Coward," "The Other Side" and "Death In Your Eyes" his vocal performance is very good. He shows a really thrashy side of his voice on the last verse of "Coward," which by the way is one of the thrashiest songs on here.
The guitars are a surprise as well. We don't get much groove metal here, unlike the so called "Metal" album in 07. Jeff's guitar playing is really amazing to say the least. Now, I know that this won't matter so much to you guys who can't hear which note is which, but Annihilator have tuned their guitars back in E on a couple of songs here. Thrash metal guitarists have tuned their guitars in E, but unfortunately, a lot of them started tuning their guitars down to D or Drop D for some strange reason. I guess they just wanted to sound darker and heavier. Well, it backfired. It's no coincidence that every fucking groove metal band out there play in D or faggy Drop D. Even though you might not know what they have tuned their guitars in, you can still here a good difference. It is just more thrashy when they have their guitars in E. (End of story) The riffs are pretty awesome, and deliver quite a blast on most of the songs on this record. It goes from the devastating riffs in "Coward" and "The Trend" to a little more groovish ones on "25 Seconds" and "Payback". It is definetely something worth listening to!
I don't got that much to say about the drumming here. It's pretty standard thrash metal style. We've got the really fast drumming on "The Trend," "Coward" and "Ambush" to the real heavy shit on "25 Seconds" and "Payback".
One thing I liked about "25 Seconds" was the cool bass intro. It really came as a surprise for me. I could say that you shouldn't listen to that in the middle of the night. God knows what will happen then!
So there. That's what I think of the album. If you are an Annihilator fan, and did or did not like their previous albums, go buy or download this album! It's not gonna dissapoint you!
The Trend, Coward, The Other Side, Death In Your Eyes!
Before I begin, let me just start off by getting one thing out of the way: Dave Padden isn't going anywhere. He may not be a popular figure in these parts and doesn't quite compare to the band's previous singers, but he has officially become the band's longest serving vocalist with his fourth effort. Hell, guitarist Jeff Waters doesn't even have any lead vocals on this release! Now with that fact established, let's just see what the group has come up with for their thirteenth effort...
For the most part, you could say that this album's style picks up where 2007's "Metal" left off though there are a few noticeable differences to be found. In addition to the absence of special guest musicians, the production has a rawer feel than the last few releases and there seems to be a rather angry feel in the band's delivery. Having said that, the vocals retain the previous album's more polished edge and the guitar playing delivers plenty of the standard riffs and solos.
Musically, the album starts off on an intense note with the first four songs largely being fast paced thrashers. "The Trend" starts off with a "Fun Palace" styled introduction before leaping into some rapid fire Hot Topic bashing (Weren't most of the last album's guests an attempt to be more accessible to said demographic?), "Coward" is probably the most intense track of the lot with its particularly fast riffs and angry vocals, "Ambush" is another fast number with a chorus that brings to mind the hooks of Hallows Eve's "Speed Freak," and "Betrayed" is an upbeat song in the vein of "Torn." While I'm not sure how many classics this side of the album has, it should be the most appealing end for fans of the band as well as a few of its critics...
Of course, the next five songs go into more groove-oriented territory with some unusual results coming out of it. "25 Seconds" is made memorable by its slinky bass line and screaming vocals, "Nowhere To Go" brings in more melodic elements while still sounding upbeat, "The Other Side" sticks out in its similarity to the climax of Diamond Head's "Am I Evil," and "Death In Your Eyes" and "Payback" attempt to go back to faster ground though mostly stick to a mid-tempo march. This side is likely to be the source of controversy for its stranger tracks and it isn't quite as good as the first half. Of course, there are still some decent songs such as "The Other Side" and "Payback" that manage to stick out.
Fortunately the album picks up the pace once more with a cover of Van Halen's "Romeo Delight," which is pretty much the only cover ever included on an Annihilator studio album. While the scenario sounds incredibly weird written down, it manages to work pretty well and ends up being an album highlight. Padden manages to channel David Lee Roth quite nicely, Waters gets Eddie's guitar playing down, and the song generally does justice to the original. Of course, such a loyal cover may make the listener wonder why they did it in the first place but I sometimes get that mentality with a good portion of the covers I've heard...
All in all, there's not much on here that will convince those that have already disliked the band's recent works. The vocals haven't changed too much, the lyrics still range from cringeworthy to generic (Though Padden's contributions are a great improvement over his bit on "Schizo Deluxe"), and there aren't too many amazing songs on here. Having said that, I do find this to be a pretty decent album that may prove to be a little bit of improvement over the last few. Hopefully the band will find a way to stop going through the motions and deliver another excellent album.
My Current Favorites:
"The Trend," "Coward," "Ambush," "Betrayed," and "Romeo Delight"
16 long years have now passed since the last time I uttered an honest WOW upon hearing a new Annihilator album. 1994's King of the Kill was the last in a long run of great albums from these canucks and while they've never put out any crap, apart from the hideous Remains debacle, they haven't exactly blown my mind either. I won't go as far as saying that this, their 13th album, has reinvigorated my early 90's Annihilator-mania but it is without Jeff Waters' best output since the aforementioned '94 album.
From the get-go with The Trend the album launches into wellknown thrash domains. Waters' guitar playing is unmistakable and it is such a joy to hear him shred like a maniac again. My older brother, another Annihilator fan for 20+ years, called me up after giving the album a few spins and said it sounded like Wargasm meets Lamb of God at times. I'll stand behind that statement 100%. It definitely has that old school clean thrash feel of Wargasm and at the same time is sounds modern and somewhat grooveish. If comparing to the bands own back catalogue I'd say a King of the Kill, Carnival Diablos, Schizo Deluxe combo ain't too far off the target.
The überthrashing Coward is an immediate favourite with its devastating opening riff and its sing-along chorus. Should quickly become a staple in their live set. Death in Your Eyes and the oddity that is 25 Seconds are two other delights. Extra props to Dave Padden for delivering his best vocal performance thus far!
This is the album that should be able to bring old and new fans of the band together and as such it could be that long awaited break Jeff and crew have deserved for two decades.
Annihilator (or should I say, Jeff Waters) are surely one of the least consistent metal bands around. While their overall sound doesn’t change enormously, they’re totally hit and miss in their albums. One year you’ll have a real winner, the next a true stinker. In their career they’ve had some truly atrocious offerings (Remains, Criteria for a Black Widow), some great ones (Carnival Diablos, Alice in Hell) and plenty of mixed bags in between. As such, you never really know what to expect going into a new album, as the last one is very rarely an indicator of the next one’s quality.
Thankfully, on this self-titled offering, Annihilator have done themselves proud and really put out one of their higher grade releases, with little of the filler material that all too often plagues them. Annihilator (the album) is as thrashy as they come, only occasionally slowing down the pace, and most every track is full of intense razor-sharp riffs and rapid-fire drum beats. If you like your Annihilator fast-paced and wild, this is the one for you. The solos are also a real highlight. Granted, they are Jeff Water’s speciality, and often a good point, but on this album they really shine, Waters is on top form throughout, and this one is particularly laden with enough to keep any shred fanatic happy.
Of course, a point of contention will, as has been the case for the last few albums, be Dave Padden’s vocals. It’s true, he’s not as good as Joe Comeau’s vicious barks, which elevated Carnival Diablos and Waking the Fury to new levels of ass-kickery for the band, but they still do a good job and suit the music. His slightly screamy style will grate with some purists, but he’s good enough, and definitely has talent.
With that aside, there is one significant down-side, one that’s always present: the lyrics. Try as he might, Jeff Waters simply does not write good lyrics for his songs. It’s not just that they are often not entirely serious, but they can be downright cringe-worthy. Waters is to lyrics what George Lucas is to film dialogue, and he would be better off finding someone else to do it. But still, the delivery and music surrounding is good enough, so it doesn’t hold the album back overly.
True, it still has a stumble here and there: the funk beat breaks of 25 seconds just don’t work so well, and you won’t find many epic masterworks as you might on some of the more ambitious thrash albums. The Van Halen cover, “Romeo Delight” will be also noted as a slightly odd choice for an album closer, but it works surprisingly well, and there have been weirder ones in Jeff’s career (Chicken and Corn anyone?).
But all told this is a fine return to form after a couple of lesser albums, calling to mind other high-quality recent works by the old guard like Megadeth’s Endgame, Testaments Formation of Damnation or Overkill’s Ironbound. It’s full of prime Annihilator-brand thrash, with just the right degree of Anthrax-esque bounce and sense of fun, while still maintaining the momentum of the aggression.