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Like every other thrash metal veteran, Annihilator sought a return to form after a near decade of inconsistency that cost them a good deal of their fanbase (That and poor management...). Guitarist Jeff Waters proceeded to abandon his vocal duties, rehired "Alice in Hell" vocalist Randy Rampage and original drummer Randy Hartmann, and began to write songs in the vein of (and sometimes making reference to) the band's classic era. Fortunately, Waters had the riffs and songwriting skills to back up his ambitions...
In terms of music and style, it's pretty safe to say that this is one of the fastest, heaviest, and darkest Annihilator albums to date. Most of the songs on here go at an intense speed and showcase a direct approach. There is also less variety than most other Annihilator album and successfully leaves little room for the experimentation that only made fans wonder what the band was thinking on past efforts. Of course there are slight exceptions in the near-ballad styles of "Punctured," the bass heavy title track, the two melodic instrumentals ("Schizos (Are Never Alone) (Part III)" and "Mending"), and the complex mindfuck known as "Double Dare."
There is also a present air of darkness that seems to pick up where the more controversial "Remains" left off. While most Annihilator albums seem to be pre-occupied with themes of war, mental illness, or whatever else enters Waters' mind, there's something about this album's lyrics that make the themes more cryptic and personal. Maybe it has something to do with the production. Whatever it is, it's most evident on tracks such as "Loving the Sinner," which Waters claimed was not about his ex wife...
Unfortuntely, I think this album may also be the root of Annihilator's more desperate sounds and themes. In addition to the old school sound, there are so many throwbacks to the band's first two albums that it really makes evolution seem like a good idea. I know Megadeth wrote a sequel to "Hangar 18" with the "Return to Hangar" and I know Metallica wrote two sequels to "The Unforgiven," but having two sequels on the same album probably wasn't the best idea. On the bright side, I'm pretty sure "Schizos (Are Never Alone) (Part III)" is a sequel in name only...
All in all, this is a pretty solid comeback in spite of its desperate moments and easily makes the band's Top 5. Of course, it merely hints at the greatness that would soon come with the arrival of Joe Comeau...
1) Less experimentation leads to a more consistent overall album
2) Solid songwriting and an energetic band performance
3) An interestingly dark atmosphere
1) It's obvious that the band was desperately trying to make this as old school as possible
2) Rampage's vocals are as challenging to get into as ever
3) There are a few odd tracks along the way
My Current Favorites:
"Bloodbath," "Punctured," "Schizos (Are Never Alone) (Part III)," "Nothing Left," and "Loving the Sinner"