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During the ’93 European tour for Set The World On Fire, Boston guitarist Neil Goldberg and drummer Mike Mangini left, so the band found on Randy Black and Dave Davis a solid replacement. Wayne Darley couldn’t get into Japan later, so Davis ended-up playing bass by the end of the tour. Vancouver singer Aaron Randall left the following year so you see, Annihilator’s line-up has always been scandalously instable. Eventually, only Waters and Black took part on the recording of the group’s 4th studio release, which featured Jeff playing all instruments but drums and singing again, a similar situation to the 1986 demo recordings (back then it was only him and Paul Malek on percussives). It became totally obvious that Annihilator was no longer a band, rather a solo project Mr. Waters was lord and master of, undoubtedly.
So here we got a huge diversity of styles, you can’t really hear the same tune twice, something remarkable and risky (experimenting has always been). Jeff always tried to make something inventive, avoiding repeating the same formula, a resolution that becomes clear on cuts as “The Box” and its surprisingly reduced level of complexity (rather inexistent), or the also easily developed homonym number (not to be confused with the 1984 “Annihilator” song with John Bates on vocals). He even denies his distinctive predilection for technique and progression to explore alternative patterns on those, including unusual cheesy sound effects like the background noise of the opening track and the lame distortion of the homonym title rhythm basis. Methodology remains basic and straight on “King Of The Kill” and “Speed”, constructed by uniform leading riffs whose variations are unexpectedly tenuous and limited, defining simple structures in total contrast with the complicated ways Waters and co. used to embrace on previous attempts. However, simplicity ain’t the only suspiring element here; melody becomes also a vital characteristic to determine the nature of these compositions, so exhausting on both ballads “In The Blood” and “Hell Is A War”. Waters can’t help getting sentimental and romantic as usual. The tenderness, delicate chords and dramatic verses bring back the commercial essence of the infamous preceding album. Melody is present too on others like “Bad Child” and “Fiasco”, which ain’t that cheesy, they’re even vigorous and rapid but combined with an excessive level of sweetness that soon keeps aggression away. Choruses contribute to make them so casual, repetitive and infectious, contrary to any kind of brutality or sonic violence (nothing to do with the ’86 demos and their sinister guttural growling). They’re part of Waters’ new musical schemes, which attempt to move away at all cost from the unpopular thrash music by that time by getting polite, melodic and inoffensive, just like the Set The World On Fire disastrous material though more versatile.
So the album hasn’t got much heavier or musically stronger in comparison with its predecessor, only more varied. There are silly love songs, other slightly energetic and also nearly pop t_rash here, though all share a similar element: the supremacy of melody. Of course, cool original riffs can be found, Jeff’s pickin’ are still talented and rich but generally, these tunes’ configuration is rather poor and uninspired. You can’t play it complex if you want to make it sound commercial, just the opposite: simplicity must take control. Not even the instrumental “Catch The Wind” is inventive, it shows the usual predictable development and inconsistency of the rest of the pack, getting repetitive and unfocused. Either the heavy artillery on “Second To None” or “21” have the intensity and roughness of early Annihilator, their thrashy riffs are soon relegated at the service of unstoppable tenderness and clean arrangements. Those are the discreet exceptions of a record whose musical basis is mostly mellow and primitive, something you can’t even describe as hard rock because riffs are excessively merciful and delicate, while tempos are so traditional and quiet with a couple of inconspicuous hyperactive rhythms. Waters usually played most of the instruments on previous LPs, but here it becomes obvious it’s hard for one guy to take all duties and make it competently. It’s all so uniform and cold, lacking the passion and variety a real band with distinct players would achieve. I even doubt Randy Black really performed drums, they sound programmed and robotic, so dumb, limited and deprived of technique and skill. Production is another of the critical handicaps, too clear and soft. Guitars’ texture in particular is lacking so much strength and distortion, while drums are so cheesy and dry; making the whole thing even more polite and ideal for the radio, though evidently these Canadians never got that far. So this time, don’t judge it by the cover or the title.
This was the beginning of that experimental phase during the uncertain mid-90’s when Waters definitely took absolute control of the group, which was no longer a group in fact, once the instability of the line-up and the constant radical direction and sound changes became the rule. Nobody cared about thrash by that time, so the alternative pattern Jeff already followed on Set The World On Fire was relatively reasonable and fresh, though sadly it went too far when melody, unbearable ballads and pop became incessant and omnipresent. So once again, I must insist on how incompatible a band name like Annihilator is for the nature of this record. It must’ve been labeled as Jeff Waters alone instead and well…King Of The Kill isn’t the proper album title for these forgettable AOR numbers either.
Waters has made it clear that he was stylistically torn after the release of Set the World on Fire, which sold extremely well overseas despite being much more melodic and in a blatantly commercial vein. Despite being a big seller, it naturally rubbed Annihilator's older fan base the wrong way and promptly divided the fans down the middle. Said confusion was only supplemented by the dissolution of the Set the World on Fire lineup, a sickness that began to spread before the touring even began with Darley being forced out of the group due to VISA issues. Annihilator was one fine, hot mess around this period, and in hindsight it is easier to give Waters some leeway regarding his decision to continue as a one-man band with a revolving door of guest musicians. He certainly has the chops to deliver on his own, but the truth is that he never convincingly pulled it off. Even with King of the Kill being the most coherent and digestible of the three solo Waters records, it still falls prey to many of the then-modern aesthetics that historically plagued many thrash bands as they fought tooth and nail through the cesspool of genre ambiguity that was the early-'90s.
While much of this material isn't too far removed from Set the World on Fire's heavier cuts like "Knight Jumps Queen" and "Don't Bother Me", the lack of Randall's silky-smooth cleans does a lot more damage than you would expect. Waters has the mid-range gruff barking down pat, but his cleans (which would admittedly improve later on) are a little thin and unsure of themselves here. It puts unnecessary pressure on the riffs, which aren't really up to the task on their own, embodying an amalgamation of faceless half-thrash grooves ("The Box", "Annihilator") and phoned-in faster numbers ("Speed"). The entire first half of King of the Kill is in the vein of the former, inducing heavy eyelids well before anything of marked value occurs. The overacted, gruff vocals are unreasonably highlighted due to unbelievably faceless and angsty lyrics. "The Box" is easily the worst song here, which is quite confounding with it being the opener. The entire song just sort of sputters along, never getting animated enough to craft a decent groove, but also not going anywhere on the whole either. The lyrics are complete swill, and there are constant sound effects in the background that are akin to people talking in a movie theater. "21" is also really unconvincing, proving that Annihilator wrote an awful song about card games eleven years before Overkill did it on ReliXIV.
The first signs of life come around in the form of "Second to None", which has some fun riffs, a well executed solo, and moves along at a decent pace. The short acoustic interlude "Bliss" is nice for what it is, as Waters always crafts some truly enthralling acoustic passages, but it is kind of pointless as an individual track being less than a minute long. "In the Blood" is enjoyable enough, embodying the second coming of "Sounds Good to Me". I can't believe I am isolating the power ballads as the highlights on an Annihilator record, but that is the meager hand King of the Kill leaves you with. "Catch the Wind" is similar, joining the acoustic passages with some weaving leads and a grooving bass line. It reminds me of "Liquid Oval" off of Carnival Diablos, which while not a bad thing by any measure, is still wholly out of character for the band.
Despite Annihilator maintaining the high production values off of Set the World on Fire, the entire concept is a bit gutted this time around due to stagnancy and confusion on Waters' part. Black is a suitable replacement for Mangini, but he wouldn't show his true colors until Waking the Fury. While some of the swifter numbers like "Fiasco" and the aforementioned "Second to None" wouldn't sound out of place on Set the World on Fire or even Never, Neverland, the rest is just way too offensive to be approached without wearing at least a level A hazmat suit. Props to Waters for forging on without a stable lineup behind him, but this is just too much to swallow.
”Hey there Jeff Waters! Have you finally decided to be the vocalist? Well, that’s awesome!!” This is Annihilator’s fourth studio album, and it is very underrated. It is a true classic indeed! Well, let’s get on with the godamn review then!
The first track “The Box” is a strange one. It isn’t bad, but not something you’d like to listen to again and again. Jeff Waters sounds ok on this song. The mixing on his voice is actually pretty cool. However, the second track which is the title track is a LOT better! This is one of my favourite Annihilator songs of all time actually. It may not be as good as “Alison Hell” but it is a true classic! The guitar riff is the main part of the song, and that is the reason why it is so fucking good. Jeff Waters voice suits perfectly in as well.
There are many other good tracks on this album as well. “Hell Is A War” starts off as a ballad, but suddenly it changes dramatically. It get’s a lot heavier, and in the end, it changes back to the ballad it started as. A very interesting song indeed! Then there is the song “Annihilator” which is really good as well. On this song, the guitar is also surprisingly good. The only thing is that after I’ve listened to it a few times, it gets boring and I have to wait a while before I listen to it again.
However, not all songs on this album is that good. The song “Second To None” is really nothing special, and neither is the instrumental “Bliss.” It isn’t a perfect album. But since there are songs on this album that are great, it drowns the worse songs.
The album “King Of The Kill” is a true classic, and it shows what Jeff Waters is capable of. He really knows how to make devastating riffs and incredible solos. Of course, it isn’t really comparable to albums like “Peace Sells” or “Rust In Peace” by Megadeth, but it doesn’t really matter. The album isn’t really thrash metal either, but I don’t really care. Although I am a hardcore thrasher, I can listen to different music without crapping my pants. So if you want a creative album, then check this one out!
Annihilator ceased to exist as a band circa 1994, and instead became something of a laboratory for Jeff Waters, resulting in a trilogy of experimental albums that turned out different malformed and inferior versions of what we know as heavy metal. The first of these 3 is not so much a grotesque groove metal nightmare, but more of a watered down version of the musically confused predecessor to this album “Set The World On Fire”. You’ve got your fair share of genre variance between groove metal, speed metal, and 80s power ballads from song to song, a general lack of cohesion in the album’s pacing, and the saving grace of Waters’ proficiency as a lead guitar players.
Where the last album was loaded with hooks and memorable ideas, in spite of the odd stylistic meandering going on, “King Of The Kill” just fails in keeping things interesting throughout its near 50 minute duration. The most blatant example of this is the really dull and uninspired groove song that opens things up “The Box”. Like much of Pantera’s material at the time, the overall feel of the song is consistent in its plodding and flatness, refusing to kick things up a notch when it would be most welcome. In a similar fashion to the sleep inducing yet annoying as hell archetype of the genre “Walk”, it just hangs on to one riff for almost the entire time, perhaps hoping to induce hypnosis in the listener to get him to think better of this album.
Other groove songs fair a little better and play off the dense atmosphere of the production to keep things interesting. “Annihilator” has a principle riff that sounds remarkably similar to Pantera’s “5 Minutes Alone”, but with a multi-guitar layering to give the song some dimension and a vocal performance that is far more listenable than what Phil Anselmo was doing at the time. Jeff Waters’ vocals are slightly reminiscent of Aaron Randall’s, but without the high range, and a little more jagged edges in line with Randy Rampage, although not quite as throat oriented. “Hell Is A War” works okay for a half-ballad/half-groove song, but suffers a little due to excessive repetition and uninspired riffs. Things get better when the song speeds up before the guitar solo, but largely this qualifies as average Pantera worship with some decent quiet sections in line with standard Annihilator ballad work.
The place where the album really starts to shine is when the speed/thrash elements come into play. Although extremely formulaic and repetitive, “21” completely gets the job done in the catchy department and puts forward some solid Judas Priest sounding riffs with plenty of punch and crunch. “Second To None” and “Fiasco” get even faster and really showcase Waters shinning as a vocalist, although both songs seem to be using very similar principle riffs. The really important difference between these songs and the groove ones isn’t merely that the songs are faster in tempo, but that they don’t dwell upon one idea for so long. Some ideas may be interesting enough to be repeated over and over, but they tend to be few and far between, and usually work better playing off an atmospheric quality rather than being a mechanical sounding, homogenous mixture of guitar drones and repetitive rock beats.
The ballads and the novelty ideas that sort of filter in and out of the groove/speed dichotomy going on here tend to sound either completely out of place or suffer from a mixed performance between the vocals and the instruments. “In The Blood” is fairly similar to the ballads put forward on the last album, it’s memorable enough, but the vocal delivery lacks the power necessary to work in the exposed environment of a power ballad. “Bad Child” is the same story but in a half-ballad format, going back and forth between sounding like Winger and Saigon Kick, and not really getting beyond just going through the motions of both contrasting sounds. “Speed” basically goes the exact route of “The Edge” and puts forth a swinging rock tune in the “Hot For Teacher” mode, but aside from its catchiness, doesn’t come off as much more than a rehash of the latter with a smaller vocal range and a bunch of car noises filtering in and out.
If you were a fan of “Set The World On Fire” this will likely also appeal to you, although it comes up a little short in the idea department. It’s still within the realm of heavy metal, but it’s definitely flirting with leaving the genre completely at times, foreshadowing the inevitable harm that would be reaped on the band’s credibility. Personally I wouldn’t spend more than $7 for it, but a lot of it hinges on what you look for in an album, and given that a lot of people tend to listen to releases in small doses rather than all the way through in one shot, it may be worth your time.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on October 1, 2008.
This is the album where Jeff would officially take over every aspect of the Annihilator sound, recording all instruments and vocals save the drums. For those uninitiated in Annihilator's rocky history, this would be the first of three experimental albums that would sully the otherwise good name of the once innovative thrash metal band. King of the Kill was Jeff's most diverse foray, attempting to showcase the broad nature of his influences, yet only proving that without a proper supporting band, Jeff is merely a jack of all trades and a master of none.
It's hard to begin describing the album's sound, as it really does go all over the place. There's some leftover speed metal numbers, a bunch of ballads and half-ballads, a few instrumentals, some slow groove songs, and even some bluesy songs with more in common with classic rock than heavy metal. Well naturally its the speed metal ones that are the best here. "King of the Kill" and "Second to None," though weak lyrically, are quick as hell and peppered with Waters' magnificent lead work. Then there's those ones that fuse speed metal with the classic rock/bluesy influences, such as "Fiasco," "21," and "Speed." Not as good, but still quite listenable. The rest go from mediocre to bad. "Annihilator" is pretty cool for a groove song, though the old demo song of the same name is a lot better. "Only Be Lonely" and "In the Blood" are ballads that while being quite well-written musically, come off as cheesy because of the lyrics. Lyrics were always one of Jeff's weak points and that comes across quite blankly on here. "The Box" is a perfect example of the dregs that this band is capable of wallowing in, a long drawn-out groove song that suffers from poor lyrics and repetitive riffs. It's almost not worth suffering through the weaker songs on here to get to the good ones, but that's at the listener's discretion.
As for Waters' vocal work on here, he's actually not bad. He can maintain a gruff tone for the heavier parts and still manage some nice melodic singing, sometimes even in the same song ("Hell is a War"). Of course it is his lead guitar work that is his true talent. While his riffs are repetitive here, his solos are not, and its clear that he was one of the only thrash guitarists still shredding it up in the early-mid 90's.
So in conclusion, KotK is a mixed bag. A very mixed bag. You can't go into it expecting any single sort of sound or you'll end up liking a handful of songs and hating the rest. Think of it as you would say, Megadeth's Risk, as a solo project of Jeff Waters and not as an Annihilator album. You might just find this rewarding.
In 1994, everything but Black Metal was pretty much dead. By that time, many respectable Thrash bands either died or tried to gain enough influence of the (at the time) current pop culture to survive. Jeff Waters and his brainchild Annihilator also had a failed commercial experiment with "Set the World on Fire" released a year earlier, so should he try it again?
Luckily, he didn't. While I'm not one of the STWoF haters, it was definitely not a real Annihilator album and still undeniably subpar compared to the two classics "Alice in Hell" and "Never, Neverland". So Jeff turned into the opposite direction. Don't get me wrong, "King of the Kill" IS Thrash, but it's different to what he's done before. "King of the Kill" does incorporate a light Groove influence, is overall "heavier" bit a bit slower and more vocal-oriented than the early classics. When KotK gets going, it's a rapid, groovy and very headbang-friendly riff-fest without any fucking around (unlike the many interludes in the songs themselves - often happened on the two classic albums).
Jeff Waters does everything but the drumming on his own, that's why this Annihilator era is called the "one man era" (King of the Kill - Remains) and he really gives a damn great performance, like we're used to, but even his vocal work is impressive and I rank him far above Randy Rampage (i really disliked his frog barking) and dare to think of him in the same league as Coburn Pharr.
The album kicks of with the often critisized "The Box". Yes, it has distorted vocals and samples, but they fit very well over some great mid-paced riffs. A great intro to the album. The highlight comes right after this one, and it's the title track. "King of the Kill" has one of the catchiest main riffs in the complete Annihilator catalogue, with awesome vocal delivery and simple, yet lethal drumming.
"Annihilator" completely differs from any other song Annihilator have released before. It's total groove dominated, but without sacrificing riffs and solos. There's even clapping in the song! For some strange reason, it's working quite well.
"King of the Kill" also features a few great ballads and semi-ballads. While "Phoenix Rising" is probably the greatest ballad Annihilator have under their belt, "Bad Child" and "In the Blood" come very close. Again, Jeff Waters' vocals surprise.
Another plus is the album's variety. It has it all, raging headbangers, mid-paced rockers, powerful ballads and two great acoustic songs (especially "Catch the Wind has some very nice classical guitar work).
One thing that the reviewer before me already mentioned, is the fun factor on this album. "King of the Kill" is not an album with a very serious approach, but it's hard to explain, so you better listen to it yourself.
So, in the end, we got a very good Annihilator release with some career highlights
(King of the Kill, Second to None), a lot of above-average to good material and only one filler (Speed).
I recommend "King of the Kill" to any fan of Thrash and Heavy Metal. Not the best Annihilator album to get, but a strong release anyway.
When you mention the band "Annihilator", many different albums come to mind to any you ask. However, there is definately one that is overlooked, and remembered primarily for it's title track.
King Of The Kill is one of the lesser known "Annihilator" albums for some odd reason. But if you ask the die hard fan, this is one of the first albums out of their mouths. The album is a change from what the band is use to doing.
The music on the album isn't quite as fast as many are use to, but rather somewhat toned down and vocal and lyric orientated. Take 'The Box' for example, which is a song about television, and how it can control our lives. And the track 'Annihilator' is so diverse from many of the tracks that have been released previously. Sure the war influence still remains, but that's one of the very few similarities between this and previous releases.
Some of the tracks hold that old-school heavy metal feel to them. If you actually sit down and listen to them, songs like '21' and 'Fiasco' are just somewhat fun to listen to while being aggressive.
So, definately give this one a spin. Though it may not be the heaviest album, it is somewhat of a fun one to listen to. It may hold a few traditional "Annihilator" signatures here and there, but the fact that the album is somewhat diverse from it's predecessors. While some songs may not be able to hold your attention the whole time, it's definately one that will keep you listening no matter what.