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Seriously a dead girl holding her doll supposedly having drowned and her spirit hovering above the mountains? Kind of cheesy for a thrash metal album cover methinks, unless there’s a hidden meaning which I don’t get. Anyways on to the album. After the masterpiece that was Alice In Hell, one could hardly expect Annihilator to follow up with yet another masterpiece of technical thrash, but they did! The riffs this time have taken on a more groovier nature and the band has stepped in up in the lead guitar playing for sure, but apart from that, all the elements that constituted Alice In Hell are still very much in place, so no worries about that. Another thing to be noted; this is not an out-and-out thrash fest. For that you might want to look at the debut of Vio-lence, Sepultura’s savage “Beneath The Remains” or Kreator’s underrated “Terrible Certainty”. This is more a blend of technical thrash and power/thrash with a touch of NWOBHM rather than pure technical thrash/speed metal. For the latter, you might want to pick up their debut instead. Just saying. Probably one of the more ambitious technical thrash albums for its time, right up there with the masterworks of Coroner, Watchtower and the like.
Like all good thrash out there, it’s all about the almighty riff at the end of the day and Annihilator deliver the goods 110 per cent. There are much more mid-paced moments here than on other thrash albums making way for a much more varied listening experience with even a bit of melodic singing on “Stonewall” and the title track and some dissonant clean picking on “Imperiled Eyes”. Very refreshing and interesting for a thrash album, that’s for sure. Seriously they set the bar so high on their first two albums that they’ve been unable to replicate it ever since. After all, let’s not forget that this was a time where both death and thrash metal had already begun to take on a more progressive and technical nature with “The Big Four” and all the giants of death metal (namely Death, Autopsy, Possessed etc.) having released most of the classic albums back in the late 80s.
The guitarwork is all over the place with acoustic interludes, superb melodic licks, harmonics/pinch harmonics, bouncy and technical riffing and a silky touch of good ol’ guitar shred with squeal and some mad legato and shred runs. Jeff Waters simply kills it here and a great deal of thrash acts today would do good to take influences from this underrated guitar god (Yeah, I said it). Even if the bands later works happen to be too inconsistent and scattered, he made his mark on the first two Annihilator albums for sure. Listen to any song on the album to see what I’m talking about. Probably the most straightforward element of this album is the drumming. Now I do get that a lot of die-hard and old-school thrash fans would dislike this album for the mere fact that it has too many groovy and acoustic sections for the blazing thrash to come through. But you know what? I couldn’t really give the remotest of fucks about that. I mean I would surely hate it if every band post 1986/97 only decided to rehash “Pleasure To Kill” or “Bonded By Blood” and didn’t bother to incorporate their own ideas within the genre. Seriously guys thrash in its pure and simple form does get a bit too one-dimensional after a point and the late 80s till about 1993, there were thankfully enough bands pushing the genre forward and expanding more on the progressive and technical nature of thrash rather than letting the genre rot in stagnation.
If you consider yourself even a casual fan of thrash, you need to get your hands on this album ASAP along with Alice In Hell of course. Non fans however, need not apply.
Standout tracks: “The Fun Palace”, “Sixes And Seven”, “Imperiled Eyes” (arguably the most technical song on the album) “Phantasmagoria” the title track and the frenzied rifforama of “I Am In Command”.
“Never, Neverland”, the second album in Annihilator’s long and, well, semi-successful career, often gets mentioned as one of the band’s strongest efforts. Well, it certainly boasts one of the best vocalists in Annihilator’s seemingly endless parade of singers, as Coburn Pharr does an excellent job fronting the band and infusing his gruff vocals with some well-placed screams. It is also nicely produced, giving it a surprisingly crisp sound considering it was released as early as 1990. Moreover, it features one of the very best songs Annihilator have ever written. So how come this release isn’t quite as strong as it’s sometimes made out to be?
The worst flaw of this album is the lack of truly memorable moments, with the band seemingly content do deliver fun tunes that will keep you interested for a while but, with few exceptions, won’t make much of a lasting impression on the listener. Take “Road to Ruin”, for instance: sure it’s a good song, one that will have you shouting along to that “leading up the road to ruin, you’re full of alcoholic speed” chorus the first time you hear it, but it’s not in any way an ambitious or exceptional track. It also doesn’t offer all that much in terms of quality riffing, making it more of a nice little speed metal tune than an all-out thrash monster. And even when Annihilator seriously speed things up and churn out a wealth of awesome thrash riffs, like they do in the closing threesome “Phantasmagoria”, “Reduced to Ash” and “I Am in Command”, the end result still feels somewhat underdeveloped and lackluster. Make no mistake: all three are quality songs, even among the best the album has to offer. Still, they rush by way too quickly, failing to truly capitalize or expand on the promising ideas they contain. Luckily, another thrasher called “Imperiled Eyes” constitutes a nice exception to this rule, as it’s a more developed song that doesn’t end before it ever really gets going. Sporting some nice blistering staccato riffing following the chorus, it’s not a spectacular track by any means, but solid nonetheless.
Unfortunately, when the band tries to create something more complex or epic in style, like in the semi-balladic title track or the longer thrash cut “Sixes and Sevens”, the outcome leaves something to be desired as well. Again, none of them are bad songs and particularly the title track brings something fresh and unexpected to table. For instance, the lyrical theme of schizophrenia is transported well by the music, which alternates between soft, tranquil passages and a stomping riff accompanying Coburn Pharr’s (or is it Clare’s?) plea to “get back, back, just leave us all alone”. Yet there’s nothing earth-shattering or awe-inspiring about those tracks, no real “wow” moments to elevate them above what they are: solid speed/thrash metal that’s neither boring nor overwhelming. The more melodic, catchy “Stonewall” and the tongue-in-cheek, punk-influenced “Kraf Dinner” aren’t standout tracks either, but they work quite well within the framework of the album, offering some stylistic variation and, in the case of the former, even some well-placed strokes on the acoustic guitar.
Almost in a league of its own, however, is the opening track “The Fun Palace”, which is spectacular enough to dedicate an entire paragraph to it. It’s on this particular track that band leader Jeff Waters really puts on a clinic, showing off his impressive guitar wizardry with a wealth of smashing riffs and insane (in the best sense of the word) harmonies and solos. This is melodic thrash/power metal at its best, underlining Waters’ reputation as one of the most technically proficient thrash metal guitarists and once more proving he’s a pretty gifted songwriter as well, something he doesn’t showcase nearly often enough on “Never, Neverland”. Another asset of this excellent song is the way the creepy “haunted house” theme of the lyrics is reflected perfectly in the music.
In closing, this is a really difficult album to grade. It is fun to listen to and has its fair share of headbanging moments, but it still feels like the band left a lot of potential on the table with this one. Devoid of any glaring missteps and boasting a number of very entertaining songs, including one definitive classic, this is a nice record that you will likely come back to every now and then to give it a spin or two. In fact, this review probably makes it appear worse than it actually is. At the same time, a good, decent effort should not be mistaken for a classic, and this is precisely the story with “Never, Neverland”: it’s not a classic, but a very steady and solid metal album – nothing more and nothing less.
“The Fun Palace”, “Imperiled Eyes”, “Phantasmagoria”, “I Am in Command”
A primary trait of Annihilator is that no two albums sound entirely alike. There are a few musical characteristics that can be expected to hear, like technical, often melodic guitar playing, derpy if not entertaining lyrics, amongst other things, but they are always grouped with newly evolved sounds. This makes it worth getting most of their albums as they don't just perpetuate the same sound, but if you truly love the sound of an album, you're not really gonna get that sound again, and that can be frustrating.
Enter Never, Neverland, cursed with following up the successful and blazing Alice in Hell. Although this album is often lumped together with Alice as its classic thrash counterpart, and not only should you get both albums if you're a fan of classic thrash, you likely will get them in the same package, the sounds are quite different. Most apparent is the change in vocalist. Coburn Pharr (what the fuck kind of name is that?) has a much smoother and cleaner voice then Randy Rampage (come on!) allowing the music to diversify beyond the full throttle thrash that dominated the debut, but he can still fit in the heavier material that is still present on this album, especially on side 2.
The new elements that were branched into on this album are ones not uncommon in the thrash genre, and as such this album remains as one of the easiest to get into of the band. Some mid-paced chugging type riffs are added to the repertoire, and thankfully they aren't bland one note for 2 minutes type chug songs, and are instead weaved into the song structures and/or faster riffing already present on the album. Basically, don't expect things to get too moshy or groovy, but songs like Stonewall, Sixes and Sevens, and Road to Ruin have that tasty mechanical rhythm to it, albeit with a refreshing guitar melody, or ripping lead often mixed in with it. In the end keep your ears perked, because the album can make dramatic shifts on a seconds notice, and there's always something going on. Definitely a plus.
Clean guitars find themselves more prominent here, opposed to just a classical intro on the last album. Eerie guitar work on the intros of Sixes and Sevens, and the title track immediately set those tracks apart. Never, Neverland continues utilizing the acoustics throughout the song to maintain the depressing tone of the song. One of the best and most technical song here, Imperiled Eyes, throws some classical guitar in the mix too, making a crazy song even more crazy, and is a good example of the 'schizo' songwriting of the band.
The production of this one isn't as forceful as Alice in Hell, and despite how admittedly well done it is, besides the slightly louder bouncier bass sound, it's inferior. The guitars do sound cleaner, and that would be fine on much of the album, but the more powerful crunch of the past would have been more effective on the heavier parts of the album. Still an overall very well produced album, as drums sound great, and the vocals are at a perfect volume.
I barely notice the slightly weaker guitar tone for much of the album, as the riffing and guitar work is just great on all levels again! This is actually one of the few Annihilator albums recorded as a band effort, and perhaps the ability to rehearse together enabled more complicated harmonies and layering of the music. The Fun Palace stand out as a highlight, with sliding guitar work under a great staccato style riff with an escalating bouncing bass line. With Jeff Waters at the helm, the catchiness and power of the lead work is a given.
Have to mention, Kraf Dinner? One of the best songs ever. Forget the punk like energy and speed of the song. Its about fucking macaroni! Catchy, heavy, fast, and memorable. So if you can't get past its silliness, do yourself a favor and try until you do.
In the end this albums greatest sin for me is sitting between the bands two best albums. No song is objectionable, and some of the sings here are downright thrash classics. But it doesn't match the debuts technicality and ferocity nor the follow-ups sheer uniqueness. So my final verdict is near essential, but perhaps only after experiencing Alice in Hell, and Set the World on Fire, the latter of which is one of my favorite albums of all time...
The Fun Palace
Kraf FUCKING Dinner
Yeah, this isn't that great. The number of strikes against Never, Neverland begin to stack up quickly, with an uneven progression and Under the Influence-esque pluggy production being the biggest offenders. In many ways this is Alice in Hell all over again, only with less inspired songwriting and a more featureless vocalist in Coburn Pharr. At the very least, early Annihilator scores some points for trying to move the then-stagnant thrash aesthetic into new directions by the use of subtle technical overtones. It may come off as superficial by modern standards, but for the time tracks like "Imperiled Eyes" were definitely something fresh, with descending note clusters flying out left, right, and center alongside ethereal acoustic passages.
The opener and requisite hit "The Fun Palace" serves as a snapshot of many of the aesthetics (both good and bad) being purported here. The main riff sporadically hints at thrash abandon, but the entire song just sort of sputters away in a mid-paced groove, occasionally erupting into technical and animated spurts akin to someone suffering a seizure. The dissonant melodies are a nice touch, and as always Waters sets the fretboard aflame during the solo section, but the band fights an uphill battle against the lingering modern influences for the entire duration. The entire first half of Never, Neverland is in a similar vein, with only "Road to Ruin" and "Stonewall" standing out, albeit for entirely different reasons. "Road to Ruin" is a decent, snappy neck-jerker that doesn't overstay it's welcome and thrashes along quite nicely. "Stonewall" is ironically the most mainstream, yet most appealing track here. It wouldn't sound out of place on Set the World on Fire, and showcases Pharr's otherwise-forgettable inflection quite nicely.
While the rest of the album is in a more spirited vein, it only serves to highlight the offensive nature of the production. It reminds me of Overkill's Under the Influence or Exodus' Impact in Imminent in that it sounds excessively compressed and pluggy, truly damaging the lasting power of the more ass-kicking numbers later on like "I Am in Command" and "Phantasmagoria". Waters' tone is stronger and more full-bodied than on either of the aforementioned band's records, but he finds himself standing alone in appeal as Hartmann's kit pitter-patters away alongside Darley's thin bass presence. Pharr is neither here nor there, embodying a fusion of Rampage's gritty barks and Randall's silky tenor. That might sound amazing at first blush, but I promise you that it doesn't live up to the promise you are likely building within your head. He can clearly belt out some divine wails, but his reliance on a faceless mid-range bark for the majority of the album only serves to bore.
While Never, Neverland's later half consists of more of the same from the Annihilator camp, it certainly has it's moments. "Kraf Dinner" gets a lot of flak for being the archetypical off-the-wall Annihilator tune, but it isn't nearly as strange as it is made out to be. On a purely instrumental level it falls in line with much of the better material here, and is much more digestible than "Brain Dance" or "Chicken and Corn". The last three songs are all worth the time, even if they would sort of just blend into the background on Alice in Hell.
Despite revisionist claims, much of this material falls in line with Set the World on Fire, only with less ballads and more speed. In fact, much of Annihilator's third album was written while Pharr was still in the band, so it only serves the blur the line between the two records even more. The modern influences are clearly beginning to influence the writing process, but Never, Neverland is okay - it just isn't the second coming of Alice in Hell it is often purported to be.
Their surprising debut made every thrash fan around aware of the Jeff Waters Group (aka Annihilator) promising potential. It actually became a huge success they wouldn't repeat again. The constant changes of the band’s line up contributed to make their sound unstable, in fact Randy Rampage didn't even wait for the end of their 1989 USA/Canada tour with Testament to leave. Ex-Omen vocalist Coburn Pharr was the chosen replacement, a clear sign of Annihilator’s determination to refine their music and explore new musical horizons. Following the general trend of early 90’s thrash, these guys moved away from brutality and aggression to make a much cleaner sophisticated effort.
A more technical versatile attempt is what this stuff intended to be, starting from the opening cut “The Fun Palace”, which features a certainly meticulous configuration with advanced guitar lines in incessant transformation, varied structures and an exquisite touch of melody. A pattern other numbers like “Sixes & Sevens” and “Road To Ruin” also include. More classy complex music than any previous material Jeff ever played before, showing an obvious intention to polish and improve the debut primitive style and increase the difficulty of the arrangements, the quality of instrumental passages and the song structures diversity. They don’t want it simply fierce and fast exclusively anymore, now it has to be complicated, rich and ambitious. As usual in the subgenre, technical means mellow inevitably. The title-track is the biggest expression of that undisputed truth, half energetic-half peaceful, even melancholy and touching for a second, with some vicious heavy riffing reappearing soon to remind us this is still supposed to be thrashy. The level of complexity reaches a quite admirable level during the whole record, but that composition, along with the fascinating progressive “Imperiled Eyes”, have the most hyperactive rhythm alterations, numerous structures and most memorable instrumental execution you will hear here. On other hand, Waters and co. perform more direct vibrant tunes like “Reduced To Ash” or the sarcastic “Kraf Dinner” reducing the technique and complication a bit to let violent riffing and outrageous speed take all attention instead. But if you want action and something to headbang to, “I Am In Command” and the sinister “Phantasmagoria” are all you need.
Musically superior to Alice In Hell, this surprising record was one of the finest reflections of the subgenre pretentious mellow nature in the early 90’s. This time, melodic and progressive don’t mean cheesy and inoffensive, fortunately. Jeff’s music still keeps its original energy and strength intact, undoubtedly now more sophisticated. However, it’s obvious the band lost a lot of that bestiality and obscure imagery of both Welcome To Your Death and Phantasmagoria mid-80’s demos. Particularly, Pharr’s sweet vocal haven’t much to do with Waters’ scruffy guttural voice and cuts like the title-track (which was originally conceived as the much brutal and disturbing “Gallery”) sound in this 1990 incarnation less grotesque and evil. Everything has been transformed into cleaner melodic thrash; even if some of the genuine riffing remains untouched, these Canadians intentions are concentrated on higher aspirations than just being heavy and lethal. Although as I mentioned before, this radical sound change was proved effective, not only by the sales of this CD, also by the excellent construction and execution of the songs, which proved the great talent and skills of Waters and Ray Hartmann. Yes, I have only mentioned 2. The CD back cover band photo shoot might show 5 guys but according to some rumors, it was just Jeff, Ray and Pharr who recorded this. Are those rhythm guitar lines performed by Dave Scott Davis? Is that Wayne Darley’s bass? Actually, it all sounds like the meticulous work of one man, one style, none other than Waters himself only. However, he didn't take a really big part in the production/engineering job, which is absolutely deficient and incompetent. Each instrument is truly weak in the final mix, ruining the final result scandalously.
So you see, this album could have been an unforgettable masterpiece, though it became rather an unlucky underrated work, even considered the beginning of the end for the Canadian thrashers. But it remains as probably the most solid versatile effort Jeff and friends ever did. There was a time when Annihilator were competent, challenging and inspired, that period didn't last long but their couple of first CDs preserve that ephemeral brilliance for us to enjoy and relive. Problems started already in the final tour for the record, on which the band supported Judas Priest in Europe. Dave Scott Davis wasn't taken for it, once it finished Pharr left, Hartmann as well the following year…then came the end: Set The World On Fire.
Now this, is more like it. Hands down the best Annihilator album, everything about this is just fucking awesome. Thankfully they got rid of Randy Rampage and recruited one time Omen vocalist Coburn Pharr who was the ideal voice for Annihilator, it was such a shame he didn't stick around for anything more than the one full-length.
Everything about this is just better than the debut, vocals are great, the songs are great, riffs are stupendous, production is quality, it just sounds altogether better. The album opens up with "The Fun Palace" which is just about the best Annihilator cut, the riffs in this song are mental, and the melodic middle part is like Maiden on crack. "Road to Ruin" blasts out some tasty thrash riffage, which normally has me flailing like a fish out of water. Never, Neverland is essentially the perfect blend of power and thrash metal.
"Stone Wall" complete with its gorgonzola fest of a music video is the kind track Anthrax wish they had released. The title track is one of my absolute highlights, I can feel every single note Jeff Waters plays in that intro solo, and then oh my fucking god, the drums kick in, trem abuse ensues and finally unleashed, is the riff Dragonforce based their entire career on. This is one of those songs I sit and rewind back to the intro, shame the lyrics are a little on the pink side.
The latter half presents us with some more power thrashing delights, "Phantasmagoria" starts of as pedestrian as they come, but before you know it the band declares open season on you're face and its a pure barrage of awesome riffage. "Reduced to Ash" delivers similar levels of excellent riffery and a nice speed/power metal feel in places.
Overall Never, Neverland is the finest of the Annihilator albums, Jeff was really on the ball here and it's a shame he couldn't keep it up longer. Still, there are patches of awesome throughout select albums, you just need to look in the right places. Regardless this is as far as I'm concerned, the definitive Annihilator album. You can't deny how much fun this is. Perfect for the summer, get the BBQ on, crack open a beer and head-bang like an idiot.
Unlike the last album, there's a bit more variety on 'Never, Neverland': the Megadeth like groove of 'Phantasmagoria', heavy-soft-heavy headbangers like 'Stonewall'' and complex thrash workouts such as 'Sixes and Sevens' & 'Imperiled Eyes'. And of course, something of a sequel to the great 'Alison Hell', 'The Fun Palace' is a shining example of what makes Annihilator that band you wish you didn't have to pretend to dislike. The guitarwork is technically impressive, as well as melodically pleasing, and what it lacks in speed is made up for in top notch rhythms and memorable half-gutteral half-screaming vocals. Rather than being part of the scenery like Randy Rampage was on the last album, this new vocalist is allowed a little more freedom to hold a melodic buffer to the still raging guitars. It's worth mentioning that whilst the songs are a little less aggressive, they are somewhat more memorable and approachable.
I've read reviews here and on classicthrash (.com) which seem to indicate Annihilator went down a more commercial route with the next album, and you can definately hear the beginnings of this transformation during the melodic breaks of 'Stonewall' and the verses of the title track. Unfortunately, this new clean sound brings a new flaw that wasn't always obvious with Annihilator: incessentaly awful lyrics.
'My room is full of toys and things,
But filled with nothing new,
Just me and Clare alone in this,
Enchanted, placid room'
'My room is full of toys and things'?! Great, well I can visualise those things perfectly. What things you ask? Well those things you just keep lying around next to your toys obviously, not important enough to be identified or described, especially not in lyrics so lazily written. And I know Annihilator have always been quite theatrical, but this really takes the buscuit:
'Get back, back!
Just leave us alone
Take that and that!
I'll break every bone!'
Which can't help but remind me of Green Jello's hilarious 'Three Little Pigs'. Thankfully, these lyrics can easily be avoided, as they all feature on the song 'Never, Neverland'. An otherwise great song so hindered by words written by a bad children's author.
Lastly, although it's a small problem, it still puts me off truly embracing this album: there's just no obvious direction to the album. The order of the songs certainly doesn't help. 'Stonewall' would have been best put last, because lyrically it would conclude the album quite nicely: humans need to stand up and take responsibility for their actions on how they affect the world around us. Its ending is much more suitable too: it fades out with the soft interplay of the guitars featured in the break (minus the naff vocals). A song like 'I Am In Command' (an anti-Christianity song seemingly from the point of view of Satan) would have been much suitable in the middle of the album, to give it some thrashy meat where it feels it starts to lag.
Overall, more 'song' oriented than the last album, which isn't to say there isn't any less tasty riffs here. In fact, besides the fairly average 'Kraf Dinner', 'Reduced to Ash' and 'I Am in Command', Annihilator have filtered out the less exciting speed metal riffs of the last album, coupled their sound with a more melodic vocalist and made this album more engaging and accessible to the masses.
Quite possibly the most well-known Annihilator album aside “Alice in Hell”, “Never, Neverland” is a very solid effort. It is however a big disappointment considering that people who bought this were expecting something close to Alison’s Hell. The fact is, while musically being the closest album to the debut, it is still absolutely different then the previous album.
This one is more thrash plus traditional heavy metal/NWOBHM than the speed/thrash assault that was the debut. The acoustic interludes and tempo changes are still here, as well as the amazing solos, but the direction is somewhat different. Some groove riffs make its way, but they do not compromise the album. Actually, they are placed in a very interesting way. All of this result in Annihilator’s trademark, which is not having a trademark. Jeff’s songwriting is very unusual and when you least expect, riffs and acoustic passages are thrown in (‘Imperiled Eyes’ is a great example of this).
I must admit that my first impression was a bit of a disappointment, since what I was expecting was something else. And that’s the wrong way to go for an Annihilator album. Now I find it to be one of the greatest Annihilator’s albums.
One great thing that this album offers is Coburn Pharr’s vocals. Seriously, this guy is incredible. Probably the best singer in Annihilator’s history, he is one of the main reasons why these songs have become great classics. Also, the lyrics here are very interesting and sometimes consciousness, like in ‘Road to Ruin’ and ‘Stonewall’. People always bash Annihilator’s lyrics, but I must say that during the early years of the band (probably until “Refresh the Demon” or “Remains”), Jeff had some very good ideas going.
Another thing that I must emphasize here is the fact that, while being different than “Alice in Hell”, sometimes a déjà vu feeling is born because some tracks rely on the past work. ‘The Fun Palace’ has some parts that vaguely remember ‘Alison Hell’, such as the bridge (“Look at the fun and the games that you’ve taken away” reminds a bit of “Sitting in the corner …”). Also, the chorus has one similarity, which I’ll let you find out. The main riff from Kraff dinner, although I love the song, is very similar to the one found on ‘W.T.Y.D.’ There are other moments like these, but after a couple of listens, it is not really a problem. I don’t see it as recycling riffs or stuff like that, since most songs here were written during the demo days (like the songs on “Alice in Hell”) and it is natural to some ideas being close to others.
The only thing that prevents me from giving this album the 100% rate is the production. It is very well produced, but the guitars just sound a bit weird to me. They are very aggressive, but the clear guitar sound from “Alice in Hell” would make this album a whole damm lot better. Jeff also didn’t enjoy the production and that’s the reason he’s been producing his albums ever since (with the exception of “Schizo Deluxe”).
In conclusion, this album is pretty damm good and probably the last one from the 90’ that deserve attention from all fans of heavy/thrash metal. Annihilator would get even better in some aspects, but that I would recommend only for open-minded people and die-hard fans.
Funny fact: Vocalist Coburn Pharr has become the president of a plastic manufacturer. Google him if you’re curious!
This album, which sort of filtered in right before the end of the thrash metal glory days, is one of those kinds of progressive, technical albums that seem to be forgotten by some fans of the genre. The praises reaped upon its predecessor are well documented and justifiable, and although this one isn’t quite as thrash-happy as the last one, it still has a solid set of songs that deserve the attention of more metal heads. What it amounts to in its entirety is a veritable potpourri of speed, power, progressive, and thrash metal that takes a few listens to really sink in. It does very well to accentuate the strength of Jeff Waters as a fret board sailor, although it’s still a band oriented album, rather than the quirky solo project oriented phenomenon that took hold of Annihilator a little later on.
The important thing to understand when approaching this album is that although it has a fair share of commonalities to “Alice In Hell”, it also has a slightly power/groove feel to it at times, not all that different from Pantera’s “Cowboys From Hell”. The album actually sort of splits down the middle between the two styles and devotes most of the power/speed/groove elements to the first half, while the thrash elements come in during the 2nd half. Many thrash purists would point this out as being the flaw that puts this album into the mediocre category, but the band carries these particular changes very well here and put out material that would work well for power/thrash fans, particularly those who really liked Megadeth’s “So Far. So Good. So What?!” and Overkill’s “Under The Influence”.
The one area where the album shows improvement from the one that came before it is in the vocal department. Coburn Pharr, although not quite the adept screamer that former Liege Lord front man Jon Comeau would prove to be on later releases with this band, is a far more versatile vocalist than Randy Rampage. Although maybe not quite as strong on the gravely growls, he pulls them off well enough and has a much stronger high range and can actually sing clean when called upon. On the more groove oriented tracks like “The Fun Palace” and simpler speed metal numbers like “Stonewall” and “Reduced To Ash”, Pharr’s voice is what compensates for any lack of impressive riff work between the spot on solo sections that are almost twice as prevalent as they were on the last album.
The flow of the album is a little uneven, as there isn’t really a coherent structure to the first half of the album, but most of the songs work very well individually. “Phantasmagoria” and “I Am In Command” are obvious winners for anyone who really loved the debut album and wanted more riff happy progressive thrash, loaded with tempo switches, contrasting riff attacks, and all of the technically dazzling guitar gymnastics one could hope for. “Sixes And Sevens” and “Road To Ruin” mostly stay fairly standard in structure, and apart from a few off-kilter sections situated in between lead breaks, work basically as catchy speed metal. Apart from the album’s title track “Never, Neverland” and “The Fun Palace”, which have just a few too many ideas crammed into them, everything on here is highly memorable, even the quasi-punk sounding joke song “Kraf Dinner”.
Annihilator get a bad wrap in many circles for essentially twisting with the popular winds, and while there is definitely a case to be made that Jeff Waters doesn’t stick to his thrash metal guns under pressure, this does little to affect negatively the solid material present on here. As far as releases go for 1990, this is well placed within the core of solid metal, and definitely showcases the technical capabilities of the outfit. Unfortunately this is the last release by the band can be called a thrash album to any extent beyond a few isolated songs. If you like mid-80s Megadeth and Overkill with a hint of Judas Priest here and a touch of Pantera there, this would definitely be something to check out.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on September 29, 2008.
Never Neverland: the last great Annihilator album for quite a few years. Progressing even further from their debut, the band manages to craft a powerful, albeit inconsistent, followup that fails to disappoint.
The monster riffage that made the first album great returns here, evolved and refined. Jeff Waters is absolutely brilliant, even if most of the songs here tend to be mid-paced. "The Fun Palace" and "Imperiled Eyes" feature some incredibly technical riffing while "I am in Command" and "Phantasmagoria" just gloriously thrash it up. His lead work is even better as well, with every solo being quite memorable. Note the solo and outro lead of "Reduced to Ash" for a prime example of his chops. The rest of the instruments are proficient, if not necessarily outstanding.
Randy Rampage is gone as vocalist, replaced by Coburn Pharr. Though his replacement doesn't have his stage presence and energy, he damn sure has the better voice. Maybe the best in Annihilator history. He has a wide range, able to sing quite melodically (the power ballad "Never, Neverland") and quite sinisterly (pretty much everything else). Unfortunately, the lyrics on this album have gotten even worse, most notably on the macaroni and cheese-inspired "Kraf Dinner."
Compared to some of the band's later work, this is a freaking classic album, but it manages to represent itself relatively well among some of the other albums of its time. I have a bit of a bias towards Annihilator, but only because I appreciate their unique variety of technical thrash. I recommend it for fans of the genre, but it is a bit of an acquired taste.
One thing I've to get off my chest first is that the two first Annihilator albums are not my favourite Annihilator records ever. I'll probably get bashed for this, because I don't enjoy their "most oldschool" albums more than any other work by them. Anyway, what I want to say with this is just:
I don't care.
Not that we have this out of the way, I can honestly say that "Never, Neverland" is a very strong Annihilator release.
Of course another line-up change had to happen prior to the recordings of this album, most notably the addition of singer Coburn Pharr. In my opinion, he's a better singer than Randy Rampage technically, as well as "emotionally". I just don't enjoy Randy's barking, it made "Alice in Hell" worse than it actually was for me.
Coburn's performance here is very good, his standard singing is consistently strong and he also shows some awesome wails (Imperiled ...EYEEEEEEEEEES)
as well as a harsh, almost growling tone at times.
Jeff Waters' guitar (and bass) lines are even more impressive than on the last record, albeit less thrashy and focusing more on awesome melodic lead work. Exceptions are the thrashtastic tracks "I Am In Command", "Imperiled Eyes" and "Phantasmagoria". "Road to Ruin" and "Reduced to Ash" are thrashy as well, but not to the same extent as the former ones.
There's also a strong NWOBHM vibe present at times, most notably in some of the riffs on the title track and in "The Fun Palace".
Talking about half-thrash, this is the first album where Annihilator try to infuse more groove than in your typical textbook thrash, but fail somewhat. It's one of the few parts that was utilized better in the next record "Set the World on Fire". These groove riffs here just don't really fit ("Never, Neverland, Sixes and Sevens)
Overall, the album is one of Annihilator's most consistent, featuring only one rather silly track (Kraf Dinner), even though it's mostly the lyrical work (the chorus sucks large amounts of ass) that drags it down because the riff base is pretty strong.
The production job is well done, all members know how to handle their instruments well (especially Jeff, of course) and so 1990 spawned another great thrash metal album.
Recommended to all fans of Thrash and Heavy Metal alike.
Road to Ruin
I Am In Command
Where thrash and cheese meet: Enter Annihilator's "Never, Neverland" released in 1990, only a year after their highly acclaimed "Alice in Hell" was relased on Roadrunner records. Much slander of this record is stated by many people, although I think some metalheads need to take a second close listen. This album has killer riffage from Waters and Davis, combined with some excellent musicianship from the rest of the group. The "Alice in Hell" lineup was demolished with singer Randy Rampage gone, also Anthony Greenham - guitarist departed. Enter Dave Davis on guitars, Jeff Waters right hand man. We see Coburr Phar take over on vocals this time in place of Randy Rampage. He's a much better singer technically and can wail pretty good, but doesn't match Randy's sardonic singing on AIH. Certain parts of this album could have been on Alice in Hell, "Phantasmagoria" for example which is one of their finest tracks ever.
Tracks like "Stonewall", and "Kraf Dinner" come off as pretty damn cheesy (boiling water I can't wait, it's getting hotter it feels so great, macaroni maniac, a cheddar cheese heart attack) although the lyrics is something I'm not really worried about on this one. These songs have a almost Jig Saw puzzle style construction in the way they tend to write. Very sporadic and tight, this album is much more mature than Alice in Hell, and also has a huge step up in the production and mix job. The drumming performed by Ray Hartmann is impecable, he's quite the drummer, definatly underated, and unknown in metal. The bass playing is all the fuck over the place as well (check out "Imperiled Eyes", again proves the musicianship is pro. Imperiled Eyes possibly the best song on NN, and is about the fear of Annihilation, during horrible nightmares. "Reduced to Ash" is a short one but has a castle full of riffs, containing lyrics that represent an imaginary view of our planet. "I am in Command" really shows their love for Judas Priest, and it sounds like a faster Painkiller era song. I enjoy all Annihilator's Full-Lengths except for their most recent "All for You" which in my opinion is a fucking abortion, not worthy enough to be dubbed metal. This although shall stand the thrash test of time in my eyes, Annihilator was a thrash band of the highest calibre back in the late 80's and early 90's, I don't think they will ever beat the first two (AIN and NN) in their lifetime. Thrash it up!
This may not be a paragon example of pure thrash, but it's not trying to be. You can moan about the "half-thrashness" of it, or the "groove" it employs in places, but for me it is a successful, very enjoyable album.
I would say that the carrying force is completely the guitars, and there are some top quality riffs here! Some really melodic ideas which I really like, and some highly proficient, ripping soloing throughout. The production is spotless, I love the guitar tone, and everything is about as clear as you would want. Some people might like the rawer type of thrash production, but - while that works for the rawer approach to thrash - the production suits this album down to the ground.
The main thing that makes me come back to this album time and again is the variety to be found. Variety in the riffs, some very melodic, some technical, others very speed metal-esque, and some clean guitar as well. I don't really care for comments that these elements "break up" the album or anything else like that, because frankly I find it refreshing to listen to a varied, technically proficient piece of thrash from time to time. The songs themselves are all varied as well, because some are more focused on rhythmic ideas, while others are more conventional speeders and some focus on collections of really original riffage.
I play the opener a lot - Fun Palace - simply because it's such a fun song, in terms of the riffs and the vocal lines, but there are lots of high points to the album. Forget some of the goofy lyrics (yes, Kraf Dinner is gay), and just rock out to some of these songs!
Don't approach this album expecting a beginning-to-end face melting thrash fest, and I think you'll be glad to find an album which doesn't really pin itself down to any particular expectations. Just expect a collection of very catchy, technical, energetic METAL, and leave it at that. If you like the catchy, speedy assault of the likes of Exodus but also the pure metal barrage of Judas Priest and melodic capacities of Maiden, definitely check this out, if only for some of the guitarwork. Be sure to get their earlier album Alice In Hell as well though, which admiteddly beats this one, but both are well worth owning.
Most of the songs on this album are simply inane. “Kraf Dinner,” is the strangest song I have ever heard. Basically the title says it all, it’s about liking a macaroni dinner, or at least that’s what it seems. In the booklet it states that it is a tribute to macaroni dinner, which is the “heavy metal musicians best friend.” Maybe it has some hidden meaning, which my simple mind is not able to grasp, but its apparent meaning is very cheesy and simply put, stupid. Now don’t get me wrong, the music is really good with heavy riffs and overall appealing melody, but the lyrics just kill the enjoyment created by the music.
This album doesn’t have totally pointless lyrics, as can be heard on the fourth track, “Stonewall.” The song is of the impending danger caused by pollution, which is a pleasant break from the retarded lyrics of track three, “Sixes and Sevens.” I understand that it comes from the British phrase “At Sixes and Sevens,” which means at a point of disorder or confusion, but for someone who does not understand this, the lyrics seem pointless. As with “Kraf Dinner,” the lyrics are silly but the music is decent if not great. The album can be categorized into the two categories just mentioned. The overall instrumental music on the album is solid and offers some killer riffs and memorable melodies, but some of the lyrics definitely hinder the album’s general appeal.
One of the best tracks on which the instrumental ability is displayed is track six, “Imperiled Eyes,” which begins with a guitar solo and develops into a vocal, guitar and drum assault. Then at 1:47 it goes into an acoustical crap fest and all of the energy displayed before is lost. It does regain it a minute later, but the minute of uselessness was not needed. A full song filled with energy of this caliber would surely suffice my needs. Heck, a full album with such energy, as was displayed throughout most of this song, would have been a worthy addition.
This album doesn’t fully disappoint, as songs such as, “Phantasmagoria,” redeem the album’s overall quality. Although the riffs and melody are mostly recycled from, “Imperiled Eyes,” it still satisfies my needs since track six had an ample amount of energy, made me headbang and most importantly, was memorable.
Other noteworthy tracks are track nine, “Reduced To Ash” and the closing track, “I Am In Command.” They provide a well-needed energetic atmosphere that half of the album lacks. Closing with “I Am In Command,” was a wise decision by Annihilator for it diverts the attention away from the weaker tracks and leaves a satisfactory impression on the listener. As I have stated earlier, about half of this album is dull and/or pointless. The positive thing is that most of the second part of this album is energetic and memorable, with the exclusion of “Kraf Dinner.”
This is an overall decent album, although it does get boring at times, especially during most of the first half of the album. The second half is much superior and revives this album’s quality. The score would have been somewhere in the mid eighties songs had they been like the last three, which are all highlights of the album. Nonetheless this is a moderate album. Point of advice though, get Alice in Hell first.
Roughly one year after the groundbreaking Alice In Hell album, "Annihilator" have once again returned to unleash their insanity and down to earth views upon an unsuspecting audience. The expectations were great, so does their sophomore release live up to the hype it was blessed with?
There is no starting instrumental here. The album kicks right off with the track 'The Fun Palace', which is enough to catch the ear of any metal fan. Soon the album continues as the group soon get's more down to earth with their lyrics, which is obvious on 'Road To Ruin' (driving drunk) and 'Stonewall' (blocking information), while holding a sarcastic element to their writing in 'Kraf Dinner' (an insatiable lust for a macaroni and cheese dinner).
As present in the first, the slight "Alice In Wonderland" feel remains in Never, Neverland with the title track of the album, giving a very dark look once again at sanity, using this fictional cartoon character as a premise. While all the other songs are more down to earth, and the new vocals prove to be a real cornerstone for the album, the lyric work is definately different and more diverse compared to their last, and many other albums out there by other acts.
Again, the riff work and drum work remain the same, catchy as all hell, fast paced, and simply amazing. So, whether you are a new Annihilator fan joining on after hearing the single 'Stonewall', or a die hard fan, everything in the album has been upped for the better.
The follow-up to Annihilator's mindblowing debut "Alice in Hell" was to me quite a disappointment. Most people seem to hold these two in equally high regards, but I just can't see what everyone loves about this album.
Right from the start, you'll notice the huge difference in the songwriting between "Alice in Hell" and this. This is much more on the lighter side. "Alice In Hell" had some catchy vocal lines and lots of melodic breaks and interludes all over, but the majority of the songwriting on "Never, Neverland" seems to more or less revolve around the vocal lines, and it's also much more melodic on all aspects. The vocalist has a pretty shitty range, and was never very memorable or interesting. The only really good shit he does on here is that mental high-pitched scream on the chorus of "Imperiled Eyes".
And the guitarwork, which in most songs seems completely devoid of any pure thrashage. While it mostly fits within the boundaries of the genre, it fails to do what the genre is supposed to do: Namely, thrash. It's too light and melodic, and for the most part completely harmless.
However, on some songs they totally get this to work. What opening track "The Fun Palace" lacks in sheer thrashing madness, it makes up for in very catchy vocal lines and killer guitar melodies. It's not a monster thrasher, however it's quite a fun piece and definitely a winner.
Which shows us that despite the fact that the guitarwork is very light for the genre (it still gets pretty heavy at times, but compared to their debut, this is featherweight) this could've been quite a great album. But they just don't manage to get the songwriting down, and at times it seems they can't decide what they want to do. "Phantasmagoria" for example has some wicked headbang-inducing thrash riffs, but also some really boring midpaced stuff. The riff under the chorus is lame as hell. "Imperiled Eyes" also has this one mental fast-paced chorus riff that could definitely fit on their debut, but the rest of the song just fails to really grab you.
But the lowest point of the album is "Stone Wall", which is downright awful. With the whiny mallcore-sounding chorus, the lame and uninspired riffs and general suckage, it sounds like a leftover from Jag Panzer's horrible "Dissident Alliance" album.
This said, the album also has some really great stuff. "The Fun Palace" like I said is just a fun, catchy and melodic tune that works very well. The second track however, "Road To Ruin", is probably the highlight on here, with some really thrashy and headbangable riffwork and an insanely catchy but powerful chorus. "Sixes And Sevens" ain't too bad either, though not spectacular. Pretty similar to the second track, only not as great. The title track also varies between pretty average melodic parts and killer midpaced heavy stuff. A fun song all in all. And of course, the ridiculous but also very cool "Kraf Dinner".
And let us not forget the closing track "I Am In Command", the album's second real highlight. But even this can't quite decide whether to rock or suck. In the beginning, it has this really boring midpaced part that drags on and gets really lame. But this is easily forgivable in favour of the intense, fast paced and aggressive thrash metal that comes after, almost in the vein of Human Insecticide with the fast sung verses and extremely catchy shout-along chorus and whatnot.
This is by all means not a bad album. However, it kinda goes back and forth and is very inconsistent. But for the good stuff, this is definitely worth your money. If you come across it, I'd definitely recommend you buy Roadrunner's 2 in 1 re-release with this and "Alice in Hell".
Some songs with potential to be killer are kinda ruined by boring interludes and breaks that just don't work, and some songs are just very average in the songwriting department. But most of the stuff here is quite alright, but with the two previously mentioned exceptions, there is nothing as spectacular as what you'd find on the debut.
This album was the first Annihilator album I picked up, and boy is it a fucking good one! The cd starts off with The Fun Palace, which showcases Coburn Pharr's ability to do comical Halford-esque wails. The song is a great one, and it gives the listener a good idea of what Jeff Waters guitar playing ability is somewhat like. I know that his influences lie in mainstream 80's thrash and hardrock, but he really does take it to the next level on this album. Stonewall is arguably the best song on the cd, and it really was the first song that anyone stood up and noticed.
A lot of the album is cheesy, but if you think about that, the only thing that really makes an album cheesy (at least back in the early 90's/late 80's) was what the lyrics are about. No pun intended, the song Kraf Dinner is obviously a tune about Jeff's love for the (so-called) pasta. But thats what Annihilator is about. They write songs that are sometimes progressive, sometimes thrashy, and the lyrics are always a little cheesy. I think the one song that hits the hardest on this album is Phantasmagoria, which is one hell of a cool song.
It would be impossible to go into immense detail about this album, purely because it is very consistent and just so good. This is landmark for thrash because Jeff Water's takes what has been done and makes it that much better. Coburn Pharr sang only on this album and it's unfortunate, because aside from Joe Comeau, I believe he is the best Annihilator vocalist. Not too much cheese and thats all there was in the Alice In Hell, and everything up to Carnival Diablos. Check it out thrash fans, you won't be disappointed.
So this is where they start running out of ideas... what worked for one album really doesn't work much more. The ability to not fill up space competently with riff after riff is becoming very obvious, with the silly halfthrash moments (see "Fun Palace") getting more prevalent.
Nonetheless, there are still some great songs here, like 'I Am In Command", which is a total headbanging number, as is "Phantasmagoria". It's just that when the songs are dead on, they sound like this - too much like this - and when they are off, they are horrible. At times this is more speed metal than anything else. "Reduced to Ashes", for example, is a speed metal song. Listen to the solo after solo, over the same main riff - this is not thrash. It's very nice speed metal, and if they had kept to this formula, they'd have a winner, given a decent variety in solos to make up for the lack of variety in riffs. But no.
"Imperiled Eyes" is a very nice thrash song, probably the highlight of the album. But again, if you've heard this, then you've heard most everything. There just isn't enough material here. "Kraft Dinner", the inexplicably titled "Stonewall" (General Jackson?), the formulaic haven't-I-heard-this-before "Sixes and Sevens". It's odd, how the highlights of the album are at the END - sorta like the previous album, except what you have to suffer through is far worse, like the godawful title track (Annie has a habit of making the title track the absolute most putrid wreck on the album).
Forgettable. Absolutely forgettable.