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What an atrocious fucking album cover. Look at that thing's stupid face, I just want to take a pin to that fat ass tongue and watch it deflate like a balloon. I wish I could come in at this point and say that Refresh the Demon's abhorrent album artwork belied nothing of the same regarding the material, but many of these songs are nearly as loathsome. Of all of the solo records by Waters, he has the most stable lineup of contributors on this one, including Annihilator veterans Black and especially Davis. Does it matter much in the end? Of course it doesn't.
The atmosphere and delivery here falls pretty close to King of the Kill, but despite being more consistent, Waters has also sacrificed the variety that brought us tracks like "In the Blood" and "Second to None" on said full-length. I fully comprehend that many people despise the clean vocals that Annihilator has experimented with in varying degrees throughout the years, but stuck in the dregs of the '90s, Refresh the Demon needs tertiary experimental elements to survive. As it stands, we get a number of largely interchangeable groovers that occasionally perk up ever so slightly ("Ultraparanoia," "Refresh the Demon") and deliver some phoned-in speed metal antics. Even this album's best moments are essentially rehashes of past moments of glory. Take "Syn. Kill 1" for instance, which is essentially a repackaged variant of "Set the World on Fire," only lacking Randall's silky clean tones. Waters can always deliver passable cleans as well, but for some reason he really abstains from letting loose on this one. I'm not sure why, but he instead hoards the majority of them for use on the lame-ass power ballad "Innocent Eyes." Annihilator has always been very reliable regarding power ballads, be it "Sounds Good to Me" or "Only be Lonely," so it is a huge detraction that Refresh the Demon fails to revel in the same aesthetic.
This only puts extra pressure on Waters' gritty half-barks, which are really more irritating than ever here. Some comparisons have been made to Anselmo, but even he has some sort of sincerity emanating from his choppy shouting. Waters' delivery sounds like a parody of metal vocalists. It's almost like a comical emulation somebody with little knowledge of the genre does at it's expense. As stated above, it's nice to see Davis and Black here instead of a drum machine like on Remains, but what little input they had has likely been washed over by Waters' strong-arming. If the band mastermind was actually putting out material worth standing behind, I'd be right there with him, but Waters comes off lost this time around. He's got the manic drive, but no cause to fight for.
There are good moments. The title track is the most balanced song here and is well-written enough that the vocals don't drag it down at all. A particular coherence is gained around the 2:45 mark, where the band breaks into a neat little jam that is ripe with leads and sticky melodies. The aforementioned "Ultraparanoia" is easily the most compact and riff-driven number on Refresh the Demon, and would fit quite nicely on any of the band's earlier albums without too much friction. A couple others nearly fall through the cracks but certainly have their appeals. "City of Ice" is a really fun song with a decent vocal performance and catchy lyrics. I'm assuming Waters is complaining about living in Canada on this one, so it elicits a few chuckles from me. "Hunger" features a simple, grooving stomper of a riff but it rides it for way too long, so approach with caution.
I'm also not sure what I think about the sterile production on this one. We still get the trademark snappy, digital Annihilator guitar tone from Waters, but the drums and especially the bass are diffused beyond much recognition. The lack of bass accentuates the vapidity of some of the grooving sections, which would be much more potent with some heft behind their measured punch. It's still Annihilator, so the leads and especially the solos are always exceptional and technical, but it's just too much to stomach otherwise. By the time the overlong "Innocent Eyes" finishes it's maudlin antics you start to wonder if the demon on the cover has it's mouth agape in anticipation of something entering it. Easily the worst of Annihilator's period as a solo outfit.
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