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This album has been issued as a Steamhammer double re-release along with 'Waking the Fury', which is the way I came across 'Carnival Diablos' and was introduced to Annihilator. Those two albums are perhaps odd companions, because - despite the fact that they signal a return to form for the band - they both have such an entirely different modus operandi that they could be recorded by different bands. 'Waking the Fury' is a snarling, chugging neo-thrash assault of squealing guitars that never lets up from beginning to end, while 'Carnival Diablos' may start off in the same direction but ends up at a far stranger destination.
I remember listening to the opening few tracks and feeling pretty pleased with my purchase, since the groove thrash of 'The Perfect Virus' and 'Battered', plus the slightly purer and faster 'Denied' were right up my alley, even if they do have a few annoying overly rhythmic sections. But then the title track kicked off and I had to do a double take to check that this was still the same band. Everything suddenly mellows out and the thrash makes way for a leisurely rock song with airy soft chorus vocals, which is a dramatic 180 from the previous style. This is followed by 'Shallow Grave', a strutting hard rock track in the vein of AC/DC that actually suits these guys much better, since Jeff Waters can shoot out licks and solos from behind the simple riffs and the sneering vocals of Joe Comeau, providing upbeat excitement and a few cool tricks. When 'Time Bomb' commenced, I had started having fun and had opened my ears to the album in its many styles, which is just as well since that initial groove thrash template only returns twice more after the opening brace, on 'The Rush' and 'Hunter Killer'.
Maybe the confusion of styles and influences makes 'Carnival Diablos' sound like a mess, but for me that's one of its strongest points - it's a fun album that doesn't take itself too seriously. Having explored Annihilator a little more since buying that double album, it's apparent that the sense of humour present here runs throughout their work from the beginning in songs like the cheekily-named 'Schizos Are Never Alone' and 'Kraft Dinner', which almost has its reprise in the hidden joke song 'Chicken and Corn'. All this means that I can bang my head and air guitar along to 'Battered', then refresh myself with some lighter moments before returning to the heaviness once again. It's the perfect buffet strategy: never getting tired of one thing, so that the hour-long album never outstays its welcome. I can sing along to every song, although the title track is a bit wet, and the slightly big and dumb lyrics don't matter so much when you're already having so much fun and they're being sung pretty well. Oh yeah, and the lead section in 'Insomniac' must have you grinning like a loon or there's something intrinsically wrong with your serotonin levels.
With Annihilator, you're usually concentrating on the guitars, so it's good to know that there are a fair few riffs to grab onto, not all very thrash-oriented for the purists, but good enough for your standard metalhead. The solos don't all come flying out of the sky, yet Waters is almost at his shreddy best, with notably excellent leads on 'Battered', 'Denied', and a scorching break on 'Hunter Killer', as well as a few outside-the-box moments, like 'Insomniac' and the melodies in the more classic 'Epic of War'. Waters is handling most of the instruments for this album, though he's capably back up by Comeau, who puts in a convincing performance, and Ray Hartmann, who plays solidly, handling the thrash parts and the mid-paced material with admirable skill. Comeau actually doesn't have a particularly distinctive voice, yet (as noted in other reviews) he pulls off decent imitations of several other great vocalists: there's Rob Halford in 'Time Bomb', Bon Scott in 'Shallow Grave', and we get an impressive Bruce Dickinson when 'Epic of War' suddenly turns into an anthemic Iron Maiden song halfway through. Derivative as it may be, that's one of the highlights.
An album like this one can't be a classic by definition, because it uses too many unoriginal components and doesn't play like it has a specific aim in mind. However, it can still be a triumph, because it's a great listen and has decent replay value whenever you're in the mood for something varied and not too serious. Considering Annihilator's string of poor albums throughout the 90s, it might actually be thought of as even more of a success, as it pulled the band out of a slump without pandering directly to the thrash fans of yesteryear or trying to make progress for progress's sake. Dig in.
Annihilator never stopped writing bad songs musically. This is what makes Annihilator odd, they live and die by their vocalist. This album is totally forgotten and overlooked by all but Annihilator dedicated, and who can blame them for not noticing this album? They went from great to good to average to bad and there didn't seem to be any sign of the band getting better any time soon. But guitarist and mainstay Jeff Waters discovered a great vocalist in former Liege Lord guitarist Joe Comeau, whose gruff voice seems perfect for modern thrash like Annihilator, and they released their best album outside of the classic first two.
Annihilator is known for their technical and intelligent take on thrash metal, and here they don't drift far from the expected sound, at least at the beginning. It starts fairly generic, but the further into the album the better it becomes and each of the songs incorporate more and more styles of rock. The style diversity is assisted by Comeau and Waters' ability to actually play different styles well and write in those styles well too. The styles I'm talking about range from groove-based hard rock, to older straight metal, and all the way to occasionally hitting some true prog metal moments.
Comeau is a great vocalist, no way around it. At times, he can sound like Bon Scott and Brian Johnson (sorry, I've been listening to a lot of AC/DC recently so these were the first to come to mind). They can go from dark growls to soaring smooth highs. The band has tried to be more versatile in the past, but until now they never had a singer able to match the band. Speaking of band members, guitarist Jeff Waters is who really propels this album. There are many great instrumental moments and solos, all made interesting because of his guitar playing. His riffs are intense, but never sound like he's trying too hard.
This is the third best Annihilator album. It has above average song-writing, with stellar performances, great instrumentals, and an awesome production to boot. I don't know a single metalhead, regardless of their preferred sub-genre, who listened to this album and came away from it with a bad aftertaste. There's something for everyone here, and it is an awesome return to form for the band.
Annihilator refused to give up the ghost, no matter how hopeless the band's situation appeared to be throughout the '90s. After Randall's departure shortly after Set the World on Fire, the band gravitated from average (King of the Kill) to downright repugnant (Remains). Despite Waters' manic delivery and proclivity to shoot from the hip from a compositional viewpoint, the band has always lived or died by the quality of their vocalist. As such, the announcement of Liege Lord veteran Joe Comeau on vocals is about as enthralling of an announcement as possible; his gritty, multifarious intonation tailor-made for modern thrash.
As such, Carnival Diablos is a marked improvement over the discursive abomination that is Criteria for a Black Widow. This doesn't necessarily mean this album is anything more than average, but a step in the right direction all the same. While much of this material is in the same compact, compressive vein as Waking the Fury, the songwriting is a bit looser and less sure of itself. It certainly doesn't help that the forever-infamous "'90s baggage" weighs Carnival Diablos down mightily, as songs like "The Perfect Virus" consciously steer well clear of anything even approaching structured melodic appeal; instead drawing heavily from Overkill's The Killing Kind and tacking on an ear bleed-inducing chorus to round out the repulsion. Annihilator teases more than a high-school crush here, hinting at thrash abandon repeatedly only to implode back in on themselves as soon as the album calls for any measure of exertion. Apparently, linking two spirited riffing passages together on Carnival Diablos is the equivalent of dividing by zero; the universe will perish. I guess I missed that memo.
Waters' crunchy riffs are enjoyable on a superficial level, but begin to decay without much of the "Brain Dance" level of technicality that normally serves as Annihilator's stylistic trump card. Carnival Diablos is quite featureless and simple in it's approach, especially when judged against the group's first two albums. The guitars' tone is excessively overdriven and subtly hints at the digital, buzzing guitar timbre of Waking the Fury. The leads and solos are rather biting and glossy, with a supple tone that helps highlights Waters' eclectic lead work. Conversely, Hartmann's performance on the kit is a bit phoned-in and throwaway. Mangini and Black are hardly novel either, but they at least managed to squeeze some personality into their playing, which is sadly lacking here.
As unappealingly modern as it might be, Carnival Diablos still delivers on the slower, more emotive cuts like "Liquid Oval" and the title track. The former is an instrumental number that embodies the second coming of "Sounds Good to Me" without Randall's saccharine vocals, and the title track is a decent-enough example of how Comeau's diverse delivery can be exploited for great returns. His exaggerated, hoarse grunts are more than worthy on their own, but he also belts out some Halford-esque wailing like on "Time Bomb". This multifaceted vocal approach was largely dropped for Waking the Fury, so this can be viewed as the single area that Carnival Diablos undoubtedly manages to upstage it's direct successor in. That said, "Insomniac" is easily the best track here. It grooves along nicely at first, with a bouncy bass presence and spoken-word sections weaving in and out out of the buoyant riffs. Lightning strikes during the second half, with the song coalescing into a mixture of cleaner tones and choir-like backing vocals that sound more triumphant than Annihilator has any right to be.
Other than the blatant AC/DC worship of "Shallow Grave", what remains of this carnival is anything but diabolic. Annihilator tries to craft a couple of heavier epics near the end of the album, with "Hunter Killer" boasting a fairly potent build-up during it's first half. Old tropes quickly arise, however, as the band meanders mightily until haphazardly giving up on the song entirely and shifting into the childish joke track "Chicken and Corn". A horrible way to end the album and a real atmosphere-gutter to boot.
It's still got Comeau's acerbic vocals, but with little else going on within it's furious confines Carnival Diablos can't help but fall a bit short of the decent potential it had. Hey, at least it isn't another Criteria for a Black Widow, so its still got some teeth to it.
Criteria For A Black Widow was supposed to be a back to basics album, a return to the genuine thrash sound of their debut that unfortunately turned into a big disappointment. The promising classic line-up reunion (with the exception of Wayne Darley) was nothing but a failure, but at least its intention was right: bringing back the aggression Annihilator’s music once had, long ago. A proper replacement was found for Randy Rampage, ex-Overkill guitarist Joe Comeau, whose presence would contribute to make this stuff even rougher. 8 Years of experiments, instability and difficulties had passed since it all started going wrong with the abysmal Set The World On Fire. The dawn of the new century meant a short period of brilliance for Annihilator, luckily.
This record material follows its predecessor pattern, on which a bunch of years after Alice In Hell, they decided to play some thrash again. The results this time are greater than anything they did on the previous disastrous release, though. “Denied” and “Battered” feature outstanding energy and speed the band’s music didn’t reach since 1989. Constructed by decent riff series that evolve efficiently, including reasonable structures and executed with passion, both cuts are the definition of Annihilator’s thrash comeback sound which provides an ideal chance for headbanging. However, it seems Waters was’t that determined to make a whole thrash record as he attempted on Criteria For A Black Widow, the thrashy touch is present in other songs as well, but it isn’t the main goal. “Epic Of War” or “Insomniac” have some intense instrumental sequences with admirable progression, rich breaks and mellow harmonies, getting closer to heavy metal rather than being thrashy. The power and brutality of the opening numbers become more and more tenuous on the forgettable cheesy title-track and the melancholy instrumental piece “Liquid Oval”, plenty of that exhausting melody Jeff can’t live without, at times instrumentally inspired and immaculate but soon they get generic and predictable. Other compositions in the pack, like “The Perfect Virus” and particularly the enjoyable “Time Bomb” slow down for a while, including pretty solid weighty riffing, surprising alternative structures and rhythm changes that make them certainly consistent. Among this diversity of styles we can also find the groovy dumb riff of “The Rush” and “Shallow Grave”, with Waters making his own tribute to their admired AC/DC with that cool casual Angus-Malcom Young riffing style, pure fun!
It starts as a fierce thrash album, but soon melody takes control and Jeff uses his hard rock/heavy metal influences to determine these tracks intentions. The result after all is surprisingly competent. At times this material is pretty heavy and raw with nothing to do with the tenderness, the ballads and their usual mediocrity on previous attempts. Although we all know melody is inevitable for Waters. He always introduces some sweet arrangement, bunch of harmonies or cheesy break in each cut, breaking the continuity of aggression on certain numbers specially. At least, there’s no love song this time, though the instrumental one sounds like a lullaby for children. Comeau’s voice fortunately gives this music a lot of strength, with his tough tone, emulating Halford very well and demonstrating his versatility on that scruffy tribute to Bon Scott on “Shallow Grave”. Definitely, that guy was the greatest singer Annihilator ever had. It’s not a coincidence they started making better music once he joined them. Even production is fine this time, far from the scandalous inconsistency of every previous record mixing. However, about the weak spots, Jeff is still stubborn, using his silly ways if we refer to the development of the tunes, which have many unfocused riff alterations which lack direction and sense. Some structures are also inappropriate and wrongly chosen. Elements like the comical distortion of vocals and that stupid choir on some compositions make this stuff difficult to take seriously. I have to insist on how unnecessary and tiring melody is here. Some of these songs tender breaks and harmonies ruin the violence this music could have achieved, but that’s the way Jeff likes it, he has always been unable to conceive it straight and heavy.
A decent record for the time it was done and undoubtedly, the greatest thing Annihilator did since Never, Neverland. Expect no pure thrash or incredible bestiality on other hand, rather more Jeff Waters characteristic heavy metal with a little extra roughness. The early new century days meant a period of resurrection for some of the heroes of the subgenre, although the vintage old-school splendor hasn’t been achieved again, this CD is another proof of that. The magic of the classic thrash movement was unique, one of those things that only happen once in life, so it’s kinda pointless to compare the new stuff with the old stuff, we all know which is superior.
This album is yet another mediocre release from Annihilator, flirting with too many different genres other than thrash for its own good. Groove, hard rock and even comedy metal (okay, it's only a hidden track but 'Chicken & Corn'? more about that below)... help me out here guys. In this escapade, Annihilator take their unconvincing songwriting technique (add riffs, detract enjoyment) to new lows with such (s)hits as the title track, featuring a members of the Backstreet Boys singing 'Carnivallllll, Dia-ahblo-ooos!' in those heavily-treated clean vocals of metalcore (originally an acceptable technique used by Fear Factory). Burton C Bell made it a trademark of FF (and it kicks ass), but Annihilator took it, sugar coated it and presumably tried to sell it to scenekids. Who didn't even exist at the time.
It does only happen once, but it's still enough to make people hate this album. Betsides the forced thrashers like 'Hunter Killer' and the Maiden-tinged 'Epic of War' (well... the singer does his best to sound like Bruce), there isn't much for Annihilator fans of old. 'The Perfect Virus' is a fat stupid groove song to appeal to everyone apart from who'll end up buying the album. It has chorus so irritatingly awful that you wish Annihilator would give up and do a metal pantomime.
'Denied' is perhaps my favourite song on the album, but it's still not anything anywhere near as good the classics 'Sixes and Sevens' or 'The Fun Palace', which actually have an atmosphere and - this may sound crazy - feel well written. Basically, this album has the same symptoms that tarnished 'Alice In Hell' (the only difference being it sucks harder). Little things like the solo/middle eight of 'Denied' which is so poorly bolted on to provide some melody it almost seems like a crazy last minute decision in the studio, or bigger problems like how half the songs seem to flop around like a worn out old mattress, repeating a hookless riff over and over, now and again punctuated by the most forced sounding thrash sections.
I've used the word 'forced' twice now, but I don't think it's entirely correct to describe Annihilator's guitarwork on 'Carnival Diablos' (or on anything later for that matter) as 'forced'. No, the right word is tired. Because despite his talents, at this point Jeff Waters' can't physically write songs that don't make me think, 'Huh, well this is okay n'all, but it sounds like he's running out of ideas and has taken to writing parodies of the first two albums.' Do we have a less than conventional singer? Check. Poorly structured songs? Check. Boring, try-too-hard-to-be-different solos? Check.
The dreary instrumental track, 'Liquid Oval', was never going to be as touching or impressive as 'Crystal Ann', but there isn't even a single memorable ornament or melody I could follow. 'Chicken & Corn', interestingly enough, was written for Jeff's kid for fun, but heck, why not just include it on the album? How could it make it any worse? In fact, it's actually somewhat more enjoyable than the rest of the songs. Atleast it has a sense of humour. Atleast it celebrates Annihilator's goofy character, rather than pretend they're 'cool'.
Unfortunately, the production is quite impressive, and is one of the only things from preventing the score from dropping any lower. Yes, the music is basically devoid of good ideas, but it sounds so damn good!
To put it lightly, this album isn't exactly thick with songs you'll find yourself listening to more than once, but that's not surprising - it's the norm for these guys. Annihilator are the kind of band you listen to by yourself with the lights turned out so nobody ever finds out you've even bought one of their albums, let alone admit to enjoying it.
They say that one should never judge a book by it’s cover, and Carnival Diablos is a perfect example why! I can only imagine the disappointment of the poor, unsuspecting, metal head who picked up this album based on the horrific, skeleton-molesting, demon on the cover… not to mention a name like ANNIHILATOR! I’m sure he felt pretty optimistic through the first track “Denied”, with thrashing riffs and aggressive vocal performance. Perhaps the listener managed to keep hope alive through the next two songs, perhaps grimacing every so often at the corny lyrics and do I hear a bit of Rob Zombie on the song “Battered”? Luckily we’re carried through by the superior guitar work… Until finally the CD player clicks over to the title track “Carnival Diablos”.
Even for a big fan of the first 2 Annihilator albums, this drastic shift to bad radio rock was a shocker. We’re honestly talking straight up radio ready, aging rocker trying to keep up with what the “kids” are into these days, “here’s a metal CD that even a soccer mom could love” garbage! Unfortunately, things are all downhill from the title track on. On track 5 “Shallow Grave” we are treated to a song that would be great for the listener looking for an AC/DC tribute band, which I doubt is the case for people who bought this album. The songs “Time Bomb” and “The Rush” sound like Godsmack and Seether respectively. Track 8 “Insomniac” would feel right at home on the latest Disturbed album and comes complete with lame grunting sounds. Rounding out the album we have a forgettable instrumental track “Liquid Oval” and SURPRISE! 2 tracks worth of the classic Annihilator speed/thrash metal that we all know and love. It’s unfortunate that our aforementioned metal head would have the intestinal fortitude to stick it out long enough to hear “War Epic” and “Hunter Killer”. These final 2 tracks really encompass all of the qualities that made the first few Annihilator albums great; plenty of speed, great riffs, harmonizing guitars, and killer solos by Jeff Watters. These last tracks also give vocalist Joe Comeau the chance to show off his prowess as a fantastic metal singer with the Iron Maiden inspired chorus of “War epic“ and the searing growl of “Hunter Killer”.
In the end, this album ends up feeling directionless as opposed to having something for everyone. Apparently Jeff Watters was originally going to call the band “The Jeff Watters Project” before the name Annihilator was suggested. If this is the direction the band is going, let me be the first to suggest revisiting this idea. If only in the interest of that unsuspecting metal head that would undoubtedly pass up a band with a name like TJWP, assuming it to be an eclectic compilation of songs such as this album is. Even as a fan of the band I have to say that if you’re going to call a band Annihilator, then you had better deliver the goods.
Check out the Iron Maiden meets Annihilator sound of War Epic… or as I like to call it “The Trooper In Hell”.
Diehard AC/DC fans check out “Shallow Grave”.
Unsuspecting metal heads looking for something consistently heavy check out the hidden track “Chicken and Pork” to solidify your decision to write off this band completely!
Another album, another new line-up. But that's the way it is with Annihilator. For this album, Carnvial Diablos, Jeff Waters hired ex-Overkill guitarist Joe Comeau. This album is a nice, refreshing change, especially after the failed reunion with Randy Rampage and the handful of Jeff Waters 'solo' albums. Maybe it isn't quite a 'return to form' as such, but it is probably the best disc since King Of The Kill.
Comeau is one of the reasons why Carnival Diablos impresses. He really does give an excellent vocal performance. The variety of styles he sings is wide and he is simply one of the best singers Waters has ever recruited. He is also probably the only Annihilator member to have co-written some of the material since Waters tends to write quite literally everything bar drums.
Speaking of drums, original drummer Ray Hartmann does all the percussion and drum work on here which is nice (until next album when he is replaced by Randy Black). In all fairness, this album is quite hard to fault. Every song on here is decent. Opener 'Denied' is an impressive thrash fest which kick-starts everything well. 'The Perfect Virus' is kinda strange and messed up but the riff is cool and the chorus is very memorable. 'Battered' returns to the speed metal frenzy of 'Denied'. The title track is a bit more experimental with some melodic and interesting melodies and some great backing vocal work from Waters.
'Shallow Grave' is the catchiest tune on here and is clearly an AC/DC tribute- Comeau sings like Bon Scott and does a fantastic job! 'Time Bomb' is slow and heavy and has a cheesy intro but it's some good stuff. 'The Rush' impresses again, especially the vocals but the riffs are pretty cool too along with 'Insomniac', which sounds a lot like old school Annihilator. 'Liquid Oval' is a melodic instrumental. 'Epic Of War' and 'Hunter Killer' go back to the speed and intensity of Annihilator. At the end of 'Hunter Killer' there is a hidden joke song with Waters singing called 'Chicken And Corn'.
It was dissapointing that this and the following release, Waking The Fury were the only albums that Comeau sang on. He is actually my favourite Annihilator vocalist behind Randy Rampage. He is superior to the latest frontman, Dave Padden (who many seem to hate after All For You, but I think he is pretty decent). Comeau is great simply because of the amount of styles he can sing, and how he does such a great job on all of them. Generally it's Waters' guitar skills which stand out above most Annihilator discs, but here it isn't.
I think it's safe to say that this is essential Annihilator, definitely one of the strongest albums Waters has made. It is easily worth your time and money along with Waking The Fury. The only other thing I can say is bring back Joe Comeau!
This is the sort of album that is very easy to like, but for some reason is also extremely hard to completely fall in love with. If a couple songs on here were either dropped or revamped, this album could have outshined their late 80s classic “Alice In Hell”, but unfortunately consistency often takes a backseat to variety where Annihilator is concerned. But in spite of the occasional misfire, most of what is on here is so damned good that you can forgive the occasional necessary employment of the skip button.
What ultimately sets this album apart from somewhat similar albums stylistically, such as “Refresh The Demon” and “Criteria For A Black Widow” is Jon Comeau’s vocals. Yes, the same guy who turned the early power metal visionaries Liege Lord from a solid metal outfit into a veritable colossus circa 1988. His voice just oozes power and attitude, even when doing a lighter clean voice for harmonized backup tracks. His lead vocal work goes through a wide range of characters, bringing to mind such well known front men as Blitz Ellsworth, Jon Oliva and occasionally Rob Halford. What he brings to the outfit is something that the band had lacked in the previous 8 years, and that was a voice that could be the center of attention without dragging things down.
When things kick off with the starting speed metal killer “Denied”, things seem remarkably similar to the ill-fated “Refresh The Demon”. But when Comeau’s jagged edged shouts take over, things really get a much needed kick in the guts. It should also be noted that Waters spares us needless repetition and jams about twice as many riffs into this baby as he did the title track of the afore mentioned release. Towards the end of the album a similar yet slightly more melodic speed anthem in “Epic Of War” draws again from the band’s mid-90s sound, but succeeds in being twice as killer due to a superior vocal delivery, though it’s also helped by a slightly helping of thrash riffing. When hearing these songs I often wonder why Jeff Waters wasn’t begging Comeau to join his outfit after Aaron Randall made his exit, sparing Annihilator’s fans a good 6 years of mediocrity and botched attempts at remaking the band.
Although this album doesn’t completely go back to the root sound of “Alice In Hell” as some have suggested, some songs on here definitely flirt heavily with doing so. “Battered” is the first riff monster on here that leaves the straight up speed department for something more akin to the thrash glory days of old, often invoking mid-80s Slayer riff devices, as well as some early 90s Megadeth atmospheric quirks to give it a more epic feel. The guitar work gets pretty ridiculous at times, and almost dwarfs some of the band’s earliest opuses in the technical department. The album’s closer “Hunter Killer” takes the route of Slayer’s “Hell Awaits” and has this extended 2 minute riff intro before kicking into high gear. After the introductory material, it’s total “Reign In Blood” riff madness married to Waters’ fret board shredding, similar to the attempts at recapturing the spirit of the band’s debut heard on “Criteria For A Black Widow”, but with much more structural cohesion and a superior vocal delivery. Hell, I’d argue that Comeau delivers a better thrash vocal attack on here than Rampage did on “Human Insecticide”.
Ironically the point where the album really catches my attention is when it goes into Pantera territory, which was previously a liability for this outfit. “The Perfect Virus” gets a lot of its ideas from “Cowboys From Hell”, although with a bit more of an industrial aura to it, which is a little difficult to truly put into words. It’s mechanical sounding, but it doesn’t put forward anything techno-like, save an intro riff with guitar harmonic work that avoids being as overdone as what Machine Head puts forth. It kicks into this brilliant thrash section in the middle that goes back into 80s territory, yet manages to fit the song perfectly. The best stand out track “Time Bomb” basically defies any established premises about this band by ridding one very groove oriented riff, and puts all attention on the vocal delivery. Comeau largely sounds like a throaty Jon Oliva until just after the 2:00 mark where he pulls off this perfect Halford imitation. Taken as a whole, the song could easily be mistaken for something on one of Fight’s albums or Halford’s first solo album, and yet somehow it’s a lot catchier than anything heard on those albums.
A lot of what remains is where the album loses some points, mostly because the songwriting gets pretty confused. The AC/DC tribute song “Shallow Grave” is a little out of place amongst all the speed metal on here, yet comes off relatively solid as Comeau can imitate Bon Scott just as well as he can Halford, and features Waters doing what he does best, pouring tons of sugar onto a simplistic rock tune with solos galore, making even the technically oriented AC/DC release "The Razor's Edge" look like child's play. “Insomniac” suffers from the half-ballad meets bad groove metal syndrome that plagued much of “Refresh The Demon” and nearly all of “Remains” and basically meanders between quiet and loud sections with little cohesion. There are a few good riff ideas here and there, but between all the off-the-cuff changes and too much spoken/whispered vocal sections, it’s a really hard listen. The title track “Carnival Diablos” is an instant throw away. Half the time it’s stuck in redundant 2 chord land, and when that annoying chorus comes in you’d swear you’re hearing that annoying as hell Fuel song “Hemorrhage”. Surprisingly enough, Comeau seems equally as competent as sounding like a bad alternative rock singer if Waters tells him to.
Despite a few glaring blights on this track list, “Carnival Diablos” is a worthy pick up for fans of Annihilator’s brand of technical metal, especially those who really liked “Never, Neverland”, to which this has quite a few similarities. In addition to drawing from a wide range of styles, both good and bad, Jeff Waters has outdone himself in the humor department yet again. If you doubt this, listen to the really goofy pop punk spoof “Chicken And Corn” that’s hidden after “Hunter Killer”. It’s way funnier than any gay novelty song about masturbation that Green Day ever put out.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on October 19, 2008.
So Randy Rampage is gone (again) and Jeff Waters is in position to either keep up the good work or pull another Remains, and for once he makes the right call. Picking up ex-Overkill guitarist Joe Comeau for vocals while retaining Ray Hartmann on drums, Waters once again crafts a new Annihilator and a new album, but without compromising quality.
Carnival Diablos continues in the same vein as the previous year's Criteria for a Black Widow, but with the talents of Joe Comeau. As much as I love the Rampage, Comeau is undisputably the best vocalist in the band's history. Most of his delivery is nasty and snarly, but he's quite capable of some legitimate singing, as well as a few well-placed Halford-esque shrieks. Additionally, he does a pretty good Bon Scott impression, which explains the addition of the very AC/DC sounding "Shallow Grave." A little out of place, but a cool song nonetheless.
The other big reason to appreciate Comeau is his ability to make the lyrics work. There's not a single moment on here that will cause you to cringe from the cheesiness of the lyrics, half because of Joe's vocal delivery, half because the lyrics themselves, while not spectacular, are at least respectable.
The rest of this does indeed continue the work begun on the Criteria album, but with some vast improvements in creativity. There's a variety of song structures to be explored, lots of thrash, plenty of melodic breaks, some groove riffing, etc, but no blatent riff recycling as on the last few albums. Waters is still using a modern tone, but he's at least crafting some new material. Expect plenty of worthy riffage and plenty of great solos. The only problem with this album is song consistency. While on one hand, there's some killer thrashers ("Hunter Killer," "Denied," "Battered"), some worthy mid-paced songs ("Time Bomb," "Perfect Virus") and the AC/DC-ish "Shallow Grave," there's a dismissable melodic instrumental, the pretty much worthless title track, and a bonus song so lame and terribly fucking goofy that it makes the band's previous food-inspired song "Kraf Dinner" sound like a masterpiece. Just imagine, this could have been an Annihilator album that only featured good songs, rather than mostly good songs and a couple fuck-ups.
But regardless of a few weak tracks, this remains in the upper half of the Annihilator discography quality-wise. There's plenty of great songs to go back and listen to repeatedly and only a few brief moments of despair, which surely beats the hell out of where they were just a few years before and where they'd end up just a few year after. Recommended to fans of any of their post-KotK albums and good modern thrash in general.
the first time I heard the song Time Bomb, I was at an Overkill concert and they were playing it over the PA. I asked some other metalheads "is this Fight?" because guess which legendary vocalist the performance manages to imitate... the song has a silly spoken intro, and it definitely rides one riff, but Hell, it's not bad... sounding like an especially inspired Pantera, with Rob on vocals.
Then, bringing up the other end of the spectrum, there are some really lamezoid songs... the title track is terrible - midpaced and overgrooved and the chorus is just really fucking stupid. Annie title tracks always blow ass, seemingly on purpose... this is no exception. Also, there's the obligatory whisper campaign, "Insomniac", which is half thrasher and half boredom, and even features an outro piece... oh, the agony.
The rest? Well, above average by Annihilator standards, which doesn't say much... it's actually pretty good and worth repeated listens, simply because at times it goes away from the Standard Annie Formula without going into Gay Remains Land... Shallow Grave is an AC/DC cover, by necessity, even if AC/DC didn't actually happen to write that song... hey, it's pretty fucking good. A nice endless solo to close the song, and Joe's doing a great Bon when he's not busy doing a great Halford.
"The Perfect Virus" sounds like a more repetitive "Cowboys from Hell", including ganking a riff from that song in exactitude. In fact, the guitar tone of the whole album is reminiscent of Cowboys, though with 10 years of technology thrown on. Production is good, and as I said before, the vocalist doesn't suck. Jeff Waters has a nasty habit of hiring some real fucking cheeseballs on vocals. Here, the vocals are EXCELLENT... sometimes VERY Halford-like, though most of the time they sound like a more aggressive Tim Owens, and yes that is a good thing. Songs are repetitive and sometimes there's a real nasty Big Dumb Chorus (Battered... Battered... Battered) to fuck things up, but overall, this isn't bad. Hunter Killer has a wicked thrash break that shows that Jeff Waters really can crank it up if he wants.
A highlight in Annie's career... they quit trying too hard, and also quit playing the same riffs over and over again. They slow down a bit, so that Jeff isn't trying to be "TEH R00LM4STAR" on riffs, and some inspiration manages to creep in. Sure, most of the songs ride three or four riffs, but hey, that's how Annihilator has ALWAYS been, except some people are too caught up in TEH G0nZ0 of some of the riffs... just because it's a bazillion notes per second doesn't mean it's suddenly better. Here, it's simple and effective. There's a few songs that just miss absolutely (hey, it's Annihilator) but a few really hit the mark.
ps I have no idea what's up with the last half of Hunter Killer. Chicken Corn?
Classic heavy metal albums are getting rarer and rarer to find today. The same goes for thrash albums. Many bands are bringing more and more evil and darker influences into the mix, leaving the style to get darker and darker day by day. Which is truly a saddening thing for those who were brought up on the old-school thrash albums and acts that brought melody into the mix to create a rather catchy album of truth and metal.
Carnival Diablos blends both styles well, along with the new thrash sound of today. At first glance, the album seems to be like every other thrash album out there today. But, when you hit the title track, 'Carnival Diablos', you will definately look twice at the album.
The beginning tracks aren't anything major, save for 'The Perfect Virus'. If anything, they are meerly a showcase of their previous successful styles. However, the album soon picks up and takes off as an amazing heavy metal influenced thrash album a few tracks in. Once you hear 'Shallow Grave', you know you are in this one for the long haul as you are brought back to the golden days of rock.
The album, while dark in many ways, is catchy as hell and completely insane while retaining that signature "Annihilator" style. The guitar work is just as fast and insane as we have come to know, love and respect, and the drums are simply amazing. The vocals and lyrics about strength, self-realization, war, and even sleep deprivation, make this album stand out completely against te back drop of other acts that try to mimic this sound.
And the best part about this album is the obvious hint of hilarity and sarcasm on the style that obviously helped to influence many of the songs on the album. The satyric hidden track 'Chicken & Corn' (about Jeff's love for the food) will make you laugh your ass off at it's blatent comedic twist on the style, giving you a new respect for the band to have the balls to do something like that after one of the most insane tracks in "Annihilator" history, 'Hunter Killer'
So whether you are a fan of the good old days of heavy metal, or a fan of the darker days of today's thrash metal, this release is definately one that you must check out. A skillful and artful compilation of many styles and inspirations make up the contents of this album that might just slip through your radars due to the artwork on the front cover. But this is one CD you simply cannot judge by a cover. It has to be heard to truly be enjoyed.
This thing is strange indeed. Somehow it sounds like Jeff Waters tried to make up his mind in which direction to continue musically. After the more-or-less back to the roots album “Criteria for a black widow” this one slows things down.
Anyway, there at least remain three considerable thrash songs:
“Denied” starts off the album nicely and straightforward with a fast melodic mid section and an extensive solo. In “Battered” the fast riffing contrasts with the mostly slow drumming. The real thrashmonster “Hunter Killer” closes the album as very tight and disciplined song (it plays only 6 minutes because of the hidden track!).
Then we have three non-thrash songs. “Shallow grave” sounds like trademark ACDC and “Liquid oval” is an unexciting acoustic instrumental trying to catch some atmosphere where there is none. The title track represents the groovy midpaced semi-ballad. At the first listen I was perplexed by the intro that sounds quite similar to “Highway star” of Deep Purple. For once, Joe Comeau shows his best performance on here.
The remaining songs are somewhat intermediate. On the worse side stand the boring midpaced “The perfect virus, “Time bomb” with its confusing stop and go rhythm plus misplaced acoustic interlude. The inconsistent “Insomniac” presents one of the worst refrains ever (insomniac, huuhh, insomniac, huuhh). The better side contains the steady grooving “The rush” and “Epic of war”. The latter features a nice Maidenish mid section (from “The Trooper” days). The hidden track “Chicken and corn” (?) is totally forgettable.
To sum up, “Carnival diablos” leaves the bitter taste of uninspiredness save for some five songs. Also, I dislike the stupidity of the singing and the weak songwriting.
Aside from the first two Annihilator albums, this is all I've got by them so far. This is for the most part pretty comparable to Never, Neverland in that it's very much on the lighter side of the thrash metal genre, but this one is in fact better, mainly because they seem to know what they want on here more than on Never, Neverland. This one has a few pretty damn thrashy tunes, like Denied, Battered and Hunter Killer. And while Hunter Killer is probably the only overwhelmingly heavy and amazing, the others are pretty damn solid, and unlike stuff like Imperiled Eyes and I Am In Command, they don't have any stupid melodic and slowed-down shit to mess them up. Denied has this pretty melodic lead section, but it works well with the song and doesn't take away anything from the thrashiness. And Battered has a kinda melodic bridge in it as well, and while it's not very interesting, doesn't at all ruin the song.
But anyway, most of the album is generally light thrash with some pretty rock-ish influences here and there. Shallow Grave is total AC/DC worship, both musically and vocally), Carnival Diablos is a pretty cool midpaced melodic tune, The Rush is a pretty heavy but uplifting and catchy number, and so on.
And for the most part, all the stuff on here works pretty damn well. Among others, we have The Perfect Virus, which is incredibly silly with the electronic-sounding intro riff, the distorted vocals and the evil destruction lyrics, but it's pretty damn groovy. And of course let us not forget about the crazy bridge, which is total thrash metal mania. "I will expand and annihilate!" Killer stuff. And Time Bomb is another midpaced song, and is completely devastating. The Terminator inspired lyrics enhance the sinister but simple atmosphere, and the riffs are incredible. But the coolest part is again, the bridge. "Die SCREAMING! Die BLEEDING! Die PLEADING!" On this three shrieks, he sounds exactly like Rob Halford. Yes, exactly.
Which brings us to the very cool but weird vocals on this album. He has some range, that man. Mostly, he sings in a pretty standard and non-spectacular midrange with a solid but discrete raw edge to it. But when he wants to, he can sound really fucking evil ("And then I'll drink your blood, I am the hunter killer!"). And of course, the previously mentioned Halford-screams that only appear on that certain part. But his best performance on here is the one on the song Epic of War, where he shows more of his magnificent vocal variety. During the verses he sounds very aggressive and powerful, but really starts to rule when he brings out his more melodic side on the bridge.
Joe Comeau doesn't have the best voice ever, but he's got great range and variety, and fits on every single song on the album, from the clean and melodic Carnival Diablos to the groovy and heavy Denied to monster thrasher Hunter Killer.
I suppose I have to mention a couple of song highlights on here. I'll start with the masterpiece of the album: Previously mentioned monster thrasher Hunter Killer. It begins with this awesome above midpaced intro riff, but they just play it one too many times... But, no big deal, just fast forward and skip to the madness. Cause when it gets going, I can assure you it's evil and aggressive as all fucking hell. This can stand back to back with Human Insecticide.
There is one more totally awesome track found here, that being Epic of War. In this, you find some killer riffs perfectly suitable for headbanging. But it gets better. We have one of the most powerful and amazing lead sections I've ever heard, which leads into this that epic, melodic and insanely powerful bridge. "As I race into the fire, I have only one desire! Let me see the light another day!" The lyrics also rule, as they manage to write about the misery of war without sounding watered out and boring.
Other highlights include the title track, which has some really nice layered guitarwork with cool distorted riffs underneath and some catchy but atmospheric clean melodies over, and also the clean vocal performance is excellent.
Denied and Battered are pretty solid as well, with their nice riffwork and all.
Previously mentioned midpaced crusher Time Bomb also rules. The riffwork is devastating, the apocalyptic intro narration is cool as hell, and the sinister melodic right after that awesome bridge is totally killer.
And that's about all the great stuff. The Perfect Virus, Shallow Grave and The Rush are all decent but not spectacular. The only really bad song on here is Insomniac, which has riffs that send out a definite "I've heard this before" vibe, and also boring vocal lines that get repeated one too many times. And the lyrics are just ridiculous. In the bad way, not the Kraf Dinner way.
In conclusion though, this is definitely a good purchase, and while not nearly as amazing as Alice In Hell, it definitely gives Never, Neverland a good hard kick in the nuts.
Oh, and I also forgot to mention the hilarious hidden track Chicken & Corn. The album is worth paying full price for just to hear these guys fucking around and singing about chicken and corn.
Annihilator is one of those bands that have a varied collection of cds. There is the bands first two cds, which are great thrash cds and also the fan faves. Then the band released "Set The World On Fire." Wow, did that cd ever suck. There was very few thrash moments, replaced by boring music and a singer who is more suited to have big hair and make up. I bought this cd used because it was Annihilator, but I sold it the next day. I don't want to hear a dude singing about "crying in the dark" or "when knight jumps queen, if you know what I mean." Thankfully, that release is way in the past and the band has returned to a good thrash sound on this cd, after some decent, if forgettable releases after that cd.
As many know, this band is the child of mastermind Jeff Waters. This band is similar to Testament in the amount of ex members. This time around the band has new vocalist, Joe Comeau. Well he fits in well and I hope he sticks around for awhile. The cd opens with Denied, which is a cool song. It has a few parts which stick out, those being the awesome riffs and a neat bassline before the chorus. The Perfect Virus is next and is decent. It starts out a slower pace and the vocals are distorted for the first bit. Though this doesn't stay this way, as around the middle part, the song picks up and goes faster. Battered is up next and is one of the best songs on this cd. Its fast, has awesome riffs and a cool solo. The title track is a little strange. It opens up slowly, with clean(for annihilator) singing. Again, it picks up with a great solo late in the song. Shallow Grave is next and don't be confused if you think this is AC/DC. This song is actually ok, but doesn't really fit on this cd. The vocals are very close to Bon Scott and the music is bare bones simple, like AC/DC. The rest of the cd is basically in the same style as the first 5 tracks, being either a slower song, which picks up, or a fast song, with riffs and solos that are awesome.
These guys have written a good cd here(or should I say, Jeff Waters has...), that is worth getting. It may take a few listens to get into, as some of the songs pick up a min or two into them. All the songs are actually quite catchy and some have the old Annihilator feel (Insomniac). Also, this cd has one of the weirdest "secret" songs. You really gotta hear it to understand, but I'm sure you'll get a laugh from it.
My fave song on the cd is Hunter-Killer, as this song has a KILLER guitar work. Another great song is Insomniac. If these guys are gonna pump out 80s style thrash for a few more years, I'll be one happy guy. We can all hope that the cds are like this and the latest release, Waking the Fury and not like Set the World on Fire.