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Annihilator appear to be one of those bands that greatly divide opinion among metalheads. Derivative sell-outs to the many who deem them to be yet another generic B-list thrash band; fantastic musicians making hugely enjoyable riff-driven music to the band’s many devoted fanatics. And, on this album, both the great and awful elements of Annihilator are present in large amounts. On one hand, ‘Refresh the Demon’ is packed full of tight, powerful riffs (eg: ‘The Box’, ‘Ultraparanoia’ ), melodic leads (‘Hunger’, ‘Anything for Money’), and crafty solos (title track, ‘Ultraparanoia’), contributing to what is, overall, a good, fun, thrash album. On the other hand, cheesy abominations of songs such as ‘A Man Called Nothing’ and ‘Innocent Eyes’ and non-music pieces such as ‘Awake’ take away from what could otherwise be a really great piece of work.
The album starts off in a promising manner with the title track showcasing all that is good about Jeff and co. Fierce yet melodic riffing, a strong rhythm section, some well-placed tempo changes and perfectly executed solos all come together in this truly wonderful opener and can be seen in parts throughout the rest of the album, with ‘Syn. Kill I’ exhibiting similar musical qualities as the title track. ‘Anything for Money’ and ‘Ultraparanoia’ showcase top-notch lead and rhythm riffs, respectively, with the latter in particular being a great thrashy number. ‘Hunger’ and ‘City of Ice’ have insanely catchy vocal lines and bouncy riffs that only the most stick-up-arse-d elitist fan would be averse to singing along and rocking out to. However, to claim that this album is mere poppy-lite-thrash would be hugely inaccurate. The main riff of ‘The Box’ must be one of the most menacing licks in Annihilator’s entire catalogue, contributing to a fantastically dark song that evokes a similar mood to Slayer’s ‘Dead Skin Mask’. Really great stuff. Had all the songs on ‘Refresh the Demon’ been of the same quality as the aforementioned tracks, we could really be on to – not a thrash classic by any means – but a solid, fun metal album to rock out to.
Sadly, however, the remainder of the songs utterly pale in comparison to the great qualities of the tracks already described. A large reason for this is the unnecessary length of the album. Thirteen songs on an album can only be justified when every single song is of the highest quality, and when each song is sufficiently different from the others to warrant its inclusion. Unfortunately though, very few, if any, of the residual songs on here have any real merit whatsoever. If someone could explain to me what the purpose of ‘Awake’ is, then, please let me know. ‘Innocent Eyes’, while having some beautiful sentiments, is just too out of place to have any real effect. ‘The Pastor of Disaster’ and ‘Voices and Victims’ are obvious fillers that really have little or none redeeming or unique moments to distinguish them from any of the other songs on the album. ‘Riff Raff’, while keeping in tone with this album’s mostly ‘fun’ element, is, overall, really nothing to write home about. Perhaps the most frustrating track on the album is ‘A Man Called Nothing’. With a hideous intro resembling a Guns N Roses knock-off, the song then goes into predictable generic thrash for a while, before descending into a bizarrely out-of-context phrase at 2.43, then actually really picking up for an interesting and enjoyable riff and subsequent solo. Again, though, it spirals back into predictable-thrash mode, another annoying riff at 5.21, and then closes with that same ‘’woe-is-me’’ riff that was used for the intro. This song exemplifies the album as a whole, going from good to bad to good to bad again.
So, as you can probably tell, this is truly an album of peaks and lows. The burning question : is it worth owning for the good tracks alone? Difficult to answer as it may be, I’d say no. As great as songs like ‘Refresh the Demon’, ‘The Box’ and ‘Ultraparanoia’ may be, they really are not worth sitting through the enormous amount of filler that infiltrates the rest of the album. As I type this final paragraph while listening to classic Annihilator songs like ‘The Fun Palace’ and ‘King of the Kill’, I am again frustrated at knowing just how great Annihilator can be, and reminded of how fantastic ‘Refresh the Demon’ COULD have been, had the creators been more selective in their choosing of songs. Pity.
It’s tough to really articulate in words where this album goes wrong, as it basically carries a good deal of commonalities with Annihilator’s two previous albums. It’s equally difficult to fully explain why “King Of The Kill” is superior to this, given some very obvious musical blunders that stick out like a bowl full of vintage guacamole dip dated 1979 on said album. It is definitely a metal album, which is a lot more than I can say for the utterly horrid “Remains”, but the challenge in fully understanding why it’s an inferior release still endures. Truth be told, the best way to sum this album up is that it is simply a hard listen, and not in the positive way that one might describe the aftermath of hearing a stripper talk dirty to you on a Saturday night.
What we essentially have here is a slightly better version of “Vulgar Display Of Power” meets an inferior version of “Cowboys From Hell” with a vocalist who cuts right down the middle between Phil Anselmo’s best and worst performances. If Pantera had released a transition album between the two aforementioned releases, it most definitely would have sounded like this, although having been released in 1991 it would have sounded a lot more original, although equally as uneven and inconsistent. Throw in a few decent speed metal songs here and there, alongside about twice as many repetitive and dull groove songs, and add in a slight helping of ballads and novelty songs similar to ones in Annihilator’s past to remind you that this isn’t quite an all out Pantera tribute band, and you have a nice monosodium glutamate casserole with everything a young poser needs to grow up weak and without an identity to speak of.
Perhaps what makes this album so outright annoying is the fact that when it’s good, it actually is pretty damn good. Barring a really idiotic and childish sounding intro, the title track “Refresh The Demon” is a solid slice of speed metal that’s pretty catchy. Sure it rides 3 or 4 riffs and is about as simplistic as you can get, even when compared to bare bones speed metal songs like Pantera’s “Shattered”, but the final product definitely gets the job done. “A Man Called Nothing” is basically a mid-tempo version of the same thing, only the bad clean intro has some really annoying whispered vocals at the beginning that just itch to let you know how horrible the next album is going to be where stuff like this dominates the album. But once it gets going, some pretty solid riffs get thrown out, before it dies off with an ending that rehashes the dull as hell intro.
If there’s a highlight point of this album where all of the best elements of what could have been on here reach a climax, it’s the all out speed metal track “Ultraparanoia”. Basically it puts forth the same simple riff structure as the two previously mentioned songs, but also spares us the stupid quiet intros and puts more emphasis on Jeff Waters’ true forte, the guitar solo. His vocal are at their best here as well, as Waters’ vocals often consist of a fairly flat, mid ranged growl, which works well for this style. Sure, there are times when this thing starts cooking and you’d really wish that either Coburn Pharr or Aaron Randall was doing the vocals so there’d be some banshee screeches, but given how much hatred and derision was focused at that style of singing at this point in metal’s history, it’s asking a little too much.
Unfortunately, most of what is on here is either a less interesting version of the speed metal highlights mentioned, a nightmare straight from the groove assembly line, or a really sappy and crappy ballad that should be buried beneath 50 tons of rusty nails. “City Of Ice” is fairly decent speed metal, but the chorus is a little too happy go lucky and sounds more like a slightly more technical version of pop punk. “Syn. Kill 1” basically plagiarizes a riff from the title track and proceeds to ride it for about 70% of the song, in a fashion almost as annoying as the famed Pantera abomination “Walk”. “Voices And Victims” almost sounds like a slightly lighter version of a “Far Beyond Driven” song, although with plainer riffs and a cleaner production, minus the distant megaphone quality of the vocals. And as far as “Innocent Eyes” goes, unless you want to hear a bad version of a Vince Neal solo project ballad, with a Gin Blossoms style acoustic presentation and lyrics that are sappy enough to make your headphones stick to your ears, the stop button serves its purpose very well.
Now obviously there was worse out there in the music world in 1996 than this, not the least of which being the massive mallcore explosion that was going on at the time. Hell, there are a lot of things that sound worse and are far less metal than half assed Pantera worship, but that doesn’t mean you should go out and spend money to hear it. The band has done worse than this, but they’ve done way better. Interested parties might want to check out songs like “Refresh The Demon”, “Ultraparanoia”, “A Man Called Nothing” and maybe also “City Of Ice” for legal download, but a much better place to look for quality metal would be the band’s first two albums. There is nothing refreshing about rehashed ideas from a recessionary period in metal’s history, and there is nothing remotely demonic about anything on here.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on October 9, 2008.
Refresh the Demon is the best of the experimental Annihilator albums (KotK-Remains) though by the end of the day, it's generally unremarkable. It is important; however, as the album to establish the 'modern' Annihilator sound. Taking the better, heavier elements from the King of the Kill album, Waters re-established the base Annihilator sound, and it is from this album that many of the later albums' recycled riffs would spring from, as opposed to say the Never Neverland album. There are a few notable songs from here, but much of this is typical 90's thrash.
Though there are plenty of speedier thrash moments, much of that is balanced out by repetitive groove riffing, the exact kind that would dominate ad nauseam on Remains. These are the riff structures that would get pilfered for later albums, themselves based off of the basic "King of the Kill" and "Second to None" structures. Waters' tone is indeed beefed up and slightly modern, but it doesn't really help the mediocre riffs. Even the leads are toned back a bit, though not without their occasional spot to shine. Drums and bass are generally meh, with the only other instrmental plus being Waters' vocals. This is the album he sounds best on, minus a few distorted vocal parts. And of course, the lyrics are typical and lame.
So as for the songs themselves, most of them are your standard mid-paced thrash fare. Songs such as the title track, "Syn. Kill 1," and even "The Pastor of Disaster" plod along repeatedly, offering some interesting parts at times, but generally not. The stand-outs are right in the middle of the album. "A Man Called Nothing" starts with a mellow acoustic part, but soon accelerates into the most interesting song on the album, full of little progressivisms here and there (notably the little jazzy break at 2:44). Then we get the speedy "Ultraparanoia," above average in the riffing and tempo departments. "City of Ice" is surprisingly upbeat, but has the best vocal melody and a good sense of energy. "Hunger" also stands out as one of the better songs, if only for being catchy. Most of the songs are at least average, but I rarely listen to the ending ballad "Innocent Eyes." A touchy-feely acoustic ballad that I'm going to assume is about Waters' kid, it's definitely out of place on this album. Perhaps better suited for KotK.
I still listen to this occasionally, but I recognize it as a risky venture for fans of the band's older and/or newer material, either of which is far better compared to this. May be good as a bargain bin find.
It became blatantly obvious during the 1990's that Jeff Waters was the primary foundation of Annihilator. The band's inconsistent lineup was an endless thread of new members coming and leaving as Annihilator rolled through the 1990's. Jeff Waters eventually decided to write, record, and perform a majority of Annihilator's material to avoid any problems that would most likely occur if other band mates were hired. Though this seemed like a risky move, Waters was able to rebound from the commercialized "Set The World On Fire" with 1994's "King Of The Kill," which ended up being a smash among Annihilator fans. Waters continued doing everything himself on his next effort: "Refresh The Demon."
Anyone who knows the slightest bit of information about Annihilator can probably agree with me when I say they're one of the most inconsistent metal bands of all time. Annihilator started strong with the legendary "Alice In Hell" and "Never, Neverland," but it has been a rocky path ever since as the group continues to make albums that don't reflect the skill and ideas that were once there. Unfortunately, "Refresh The Demon" is one of those records that just isn't up to par with their potential talent and ends being another average Annihilator release.
Musically speaking, "Refresh The Demon" presents nothing new in the typical Annihilator catalog, yet Waters is able to mold some good riffs that are scattered across the course of this record. The standard thrash riffs that were prevalent on previous Annihilator albums continue throughout the duration of "Refresh The Demon." Some of songs are drastically slowed down and are filled with groove riffs that turn out to be rather enjoyable. The end of this album begins to seem a bit boring because it all just sounds somewhat generic and there isn't anything new being done. Some of the riff variety is very limited (which I'll get to later), but at the end of the day, this is an average shredding effort by Jeff Waters.
Jeff Waters's short stint as Annihilator's vocalist is an important phase in the group's history and "Refresh The Demon" is the last offering of his surprisingly good vocals. Waters uses an aggressive display of singing with an emphasis on anger that is quite common with other thrash vocalists. The Annihilator leader also shows his ability to function as a normal singer on "Innocent Eyes" when he drops the aggressive tones and adds smooth vocal harmonies to his voice that sound calm and emotional. Waters's vocals are the best part of this record and it would a lot worse if someone else was singing.
The lack of riff variety and horrible lyrics on "Refresh The Demon" are definitely the album's weakest points. Most of the guitar work here is ok, but some of the songs sound almost indistinguishable. The main riff on the title track is EXACTLY identical with the shredding on "Syn. Kill1" and there is no way to tell them apart. "Hunger" is just a slower version of "Ultraparanoia" with a tiny note change, but the similarities are painfully clear. Waters should of spent more time correcting the riffs, but he didn't, and "Refresh The Demon" suffers from it.
I usually don't have a problem with lyrics, but some of the crap Waters spits out is ridiculous. The lyrics were clearly rushed when this album was made as Waters seems to say whatever was on his mind during the vocal recordings. Take "Anything For Money" and this poorly written verse:
"I'd sell my mother and I'd steal from the blind
just to have every last nickel and dime
break-ins and muggings, I'll try to defraud
I'll run up the bill on your credit card"
Need I say more?
This is pretty much a mediocre album overall. It has some good moments and some bad moments, but it's an average listen when you boil down to the point. Annihilator has done both better and worse than "Refresh The Demon," but I suggest sticking to "Alice In Hell" and "Never, Neverland" before you consider buying this.
This review was written for: http://www.Thrashpit.com
"Refresh the Demon" is the successor to the great "King of the Kill" and was written and recorded (again) by Jeff Waters only. The ingredients are mostly the same, except for a greater amount of Thrash riffs and far less vocal oriented songwriting.
The album kicks off with one of Annihilator's concert staples: "Refresh the Demon". Definitely one of the strongest Annihilator title tracks and even better than the one on "King of the Kill". Like UltraBoris mentioned, the melodic break is dead on and fits perfectly. Awesome soloing and highspeed rhythms dominate the song. You can't go wrong with it.
Another highlight is the second track "Syn. Kill 1". While the main riff is pretty much groove based, it's amazingly catchy without sounding dull or overused. Decent leads appear on top until the rhythm turns into a blazing thrash fest later. Awesome vocal lines also appear.
Ignore "Awaken" since it's not a real song, just some useless noise, with a few riff cuts from various songs on the album. Don't see any reason for it to exist.
Then the Groove songs kick in. "Pastor of Disaster" is a very catchy track with a very memorable chorus and some stop/start riffing, maybe a bit similar to Pantera's "Far Beyond Driven" album, but thrashier and stronger. I'm sure many fans dislike the track for this "modern" approach, but for me, it's great.
"A Man Called Nothing" is the obligatory ballad. Very calm and nice...and BAM! A nifty upbeat thrash riffs annihilates your brain with some great harmonics accenting the end of a riff line. The most memorable vocal lines on the album and great thrashing around! It ends the same way it started, a thrashfest disguised as a ballad.
"Ultraparanoia" and "City of Ice" are two great thrashers (the latter being a highlight and the better of the two) in typical Annihilator fashion. "Anything For Money" cuts back with the aggression and sounds more like a straight hard rocker. Nice, but seems a bit out of place on here. "Hunger" and "Voices and Victims" follow the tradition of "The Pastor of Disaster" and succeed at it, but are still quite a bit weaker.
"Innocent Eyes" is the only REAL ballad on the album and probably the calmest of all previous albums. Still, Jeff Waters manages to pull it off decently. The chorus is really moving and it's actually serious and sad without sounding pretentious (Dave Padden will turn the ballads into pussified forms later in Annihilator's career - see "Holding On"). A good ballad.
Overall, "Refresh the Demon" continues with the style presented on "King of the Kill" but incorporate more thrash and more effective songwriting.
Check it out, it's a must.
Refresh the Demon
Syn. Kill 1
The Pastor of Disaster
A Man Called Nothing
City of Ice