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Jeff Waters was in a very dark place when he created the controversial Remains. This is immediately obvious when you listen to this weird record where Annihilator's founder and sole constant member sings, plays the guitar as well as the bass and programmed a drum machine. Cold and clinical start-stop riffs in the key of groove and industrial metal meet highly distorted guitar solos giving this release a depressive and dystopian atmosphere. The low and unspectacular bass guitar sound and the clinical and dry drum sound add to these sinister soundscapes. Occasional electronic sound elements increase the mechanic vibe of this album. The lyrics blend in very well and just a look at the song titles reveals how desperate, frustrated and isolated the creator of this release must have felt.
That's exactly what I like about this album. It feels absolutely authentic and you can definitely feel a liberating negativity in every single song on this quite consistent effort. This is Jeff Water's most personal, most intense and most atmospheric record and it really sucked me into a gloomy atmosphere right from the start and never let me go until the very end. It definitely is a record for special occasions on your own only but it definitely has its unique charm. Despite its surprisingly coherent structure, this record still features slightly diversified soundscapes and offers creative little surprises from start to finish that work out very well most times but also fall flat here and there. Among my favorite tracks, I would mention the heavy anti-racist statement ''Never''. In addition to its honest lyrics, it convinces with its dystopian and uneasy guitar soundscapes and a stoic rhythm section. One of the most unusual and yet successful experiments on here is the floating and progressive rock tune ''Wind'' with its multiple vocal layers, relaxing guitar melodies and smooth keyboard sounds which all work as counterparts to the record's overall aggressive direction. The song was described as very Canadian by Jeff Waters himself and it reminds me indeed of a mixture of Rush and Voivod in their smoother moments. Finally, the vivid ''I Want'' mixes classic heavy and thrash metal with crossover elements. The track almost sounds like it could come from a manic-depressive Red Hot Chili Peppers clone of the late eighties.
A special shoutout goes to the reconciliatory and warm bonus track ''It's You'' which is a truly profound ballad transmitting a feeling of smooth liberty that fits so well with Canadian culture. You can really picture yourself driving on endless highways through the nature of the true north strong and free and despite this reference, the song isn't flat or stereotypical but beautiful and diverse. ''It's You'' is probably the most underrated track in Annihilator's entire extensive discography.
Even though I adored this album, it's easy to understand why most people can't relate to it and felt negatively surprised by Annihilator's new lyrical and musical style, the cold and underproduced mixing and the seemingly uninspired cover artwork. Only a few tracks include classic Annihilator trademarks like the energizing ''Tricks and Traps'' with its more melodic guitar solo reminding of the group's first four records or the extremely fast dystopian thrash metal attack on ''Reaction'' which are both forgotten pearls in Annihilator's discography.
On a side note, the rhythmic ''Dead Wrong'' has clearly inspired ''Death Scent'' from Annihilator's latest studio album since lyrics, melody lines and song structures are very similar. Even though ''Death Scent'' is probably my least favorite track on an excellent record, this shows that Remains is one of the most important records in Annihilator's history and deserves more attention and respect than it gets.
To keep it short, Annihilator's Remains is another record showing a darker side of a veteran group in the nineties. This is basically Annihilator's equivalent to Iron Maiden's The X Factor, Judas Priest's Jugulator or Voivod's Phobos. I loved all these three albums because of their direct, gloomy and uncompromising atmosphere and it's the same case here. If you like this particular type of atmosphere, you should give this release a fair chance. It's a perfectly imperfect record that feels so intense because of and not despite its obvious flaws. Those looking for vivid thrash metal from the old days will only find two or three interesting tunes on here and should ignore this release.
Remains is certainly about as uncharacteristic as its reputation suggests. Waters has made it sufficiently clear that this album was written and recorded during a period of isolation and identity crisis on his part, and as a result a menagerie of outside elements began to seep in to the writing process. On the surface, this is hardly a reason for unease or even atypical for Annihilator, who have always proudly done their own thing with little concern of fitting a specific overarching mold. The problem begins to take shape in the form of multiple "Walk" rehashes that end up constituting nearly half of the album. Annihilator has tried so often to groove in the past, but they never seem to be able to pull it off convincingly. Maybe it is the quasi-technical riff delivery that precludes the band from achieving a truly bouncy subtext. Maybe it is the fact that these songs just suck, but looking forward all the way through Waking the Fury, it remained a sizable monkey on Waters' back that he was never fully able to shake off until much later.
It's difficult not to toss some respect in Waters' direction by virtue of the fact that Annihilator was nothing more than a one-man band at this point. As such, the cohesive nature of this material is quite impressive, and Remains certainly has its moments when it feels like giving a damn. "Reaction" nearly breaches the space-time continuum in the speed category, rightfully immolating any sense of stagnancy accrued by the meager first half of the album. "Tricks and Traps" is more mid-paced and atmospheric, but it gets the job done and hails back to "Bats in the Belfry" from Set the World on Fire. Speaking of Set the World on Fire, Waters attempts to completely ape Randall's delivery on virtually all fronts. Whether it is the gritty atonal barking or the silky smooth cleans, his approach and tone is virtually identical to Randall's. As such, those who were not fond of Annihilator's more mainstream-oriented approach that began in earnest on their third album will certainly find Remains equally revolting - if not more so.
At any rate, the aforementioned lame duck first half of Remains is a hard beast to love, no matter how dedicated an Annihilator fan one may be. "Murder", "No Love", "Dead Wrong", and especially "Sexecution" (seriously?) are all abhorrent blends of churning stop-start riffs, extremely dated electronic undertones, and whispered-so-my-mom-won't-hear-me angsty vocals that make you feel embarrassment and pity for the band. The normally enterprising crunchy Annihilator guitar tone tries to salvage some of the riffs, but even it finds itself reaching levels of self-parody through excess. Listen to the beginning of "Human Remains", that tone is so excessively overdriven that it sacrifices virtually all of it's bottom end, diffusing into a wall of garbled noise that clash mightily with the irritating pinch harmonics. Just unappealing no matter how you slice it.
As strange at this may sound, some of Remains' best moments are centered around the two acoustically-textured, power ballad efforts in "The Wind" and the bonus track "It's You". On an instrumental level alone, Waters always delivers on songs like this, and his insistence on ganking Randall's saccharine delivery could certainly be a lot worse. The otherwise faceless drum machine is much more digestible here, and the melodies are rather searing and memorable. "Bastiage" is also passable for what it is, which is an atmospheric keyboard-driven number that stands out like a store thumb in the album's procession. The clacking approach to the drum machine may sound like a metronome, but it isn't too bad and manages to squeeze by without offending.
Remains has its particularly vile moments, but it still isn't the worst thing I've ever heard, or even the worst Annihilator record. Most uncharacteristic? Certainly, but for a record composed entirely by one individual, it is alright. Falls in line with most of the band's '90s material, and has it's place.
Jeff Waters had a rather unique place in the musical wasteland that was the mid to late 90s groove metal scene. When he took complete control of vocal duties and began what many refer to euphemistically as his experimental period, he didn’t fully morph his music into an all out crap fest the way Sepultura and Machine Head did, but instead took the concept of half-thrash to a more literal place. Instead of simply dumbing down the thrash style into a slower, more primitive and less aggressive version of its former self in every song, he took the road of thrashing out for a few songs and then loading up the rest of the album with whatever was happening at the time. “Remains” lives up to its title, as it basically functions as a collection of decayed remains of what made “Alice In Hell” and “Never, Neverland” good, mixed in with the most decrepit stench guising as music that one could imagine.
Despite there being a collection of moderately listenable to respectable metal songs on here, what fills up most of this is so utterly gay and revolting that it occasionally dwarfs “Supercharger” in terms of crappy mallcore tendencies. There’s a bit of everything terrible about this era of music drenched all over the first half of this album, including some techno-like beats courtesy of Rammstein, plenty of homoerotic whispered vocals in line with Nevermore, dumb ass tough guy vocals that try to be Hetfield, Flynn and Anselmo all at the same time, and plenty of boring, repetitive 2 note chug riffs played at mid-tempo that only someone with a 60 IQ could truly appreciate. One actually has to marvel at just how eclectically terrible this thing gets within the first five songs, from the Pantera inspired groove drones to the somniferous and cybernetic percussion which almost flirts with Ace Of Base territory.
The crappiness commences with the groovy “Murder”, which only really succeeds in murdering the concept of aggression. Basically you throw in this really annoying “Walk” riff with some abrupt silence, later substituted with some single note chugging, and pile on the technology and whispered narrations like pepperoni on a meat lover’s pizza. Waters sounds like he might as well be going to an authentic German microbrewery and ordering mineral water during the whispered verses, to speak nothing for the comical pseudo-Hetfield yells going on around them.
Next enter “Sexecution” and “No Love”, loaded with even more annoying grooves and mechanical beats, and Waters continuing to threaten to make out with every male listener of this album with his pansy sounding whispering. Things get a little once we arrive at the middle of the album with “Dead Wrong”, as the breathy same-sex foreplay leaves and we are left with a merely bad imitation of Phil Anselmo with another groove drone inspired by “Walk”, this one even more overt of a direct homage to the song.
Once you get past this, what remains on “Remains” (that pun was definitely intended) is a smattering of moderately enjoyable early era Annihilator. The weakest of this collection is the ballad “Wind”, which suffers from having a groove mentality being superimposed on its main riff and sounds like a sad version of a children’s song Silverchair style. It picks up a bit for the last minute of so and throws in some fairly solid lead parts, but there were two better versions of this song on “Set The World On Fire”.
The real meat and potatoes of what is good on here manifest themselves in two solitary songs, “Tricks And Traps” and “Reaction” respectively. Both highlight riffs and segments of well realized, thrash-happy and technical aggression that are reminiscent of “Alice In Hell”, the latter of the two really getting close to the majesty of “Human Insecticide”. Waters’ vocals are a fairly decent Hetfield imitation here, but there are so many really good riffs thrown into these two that you don’t really care what the vocals are doing. If you took most of the rest of the music on here and ignored these two songs, you’d assume that Waters’ creative well had completely run dry, but these two songs definitely offer an explanation as to how he was able to turn this disaster back into something viable a few years later.
This isn’t something that I can recommend purchasing in its entirety, even to core Annihilator fans that were able to tolerate “King Of The Kill” and “Refresh The Demon”. The bulk of the contents on here don’t really qualify as groove metal when compared with the first pure manifestations of the style in Pantera and Machine Head’s earlier 90s releases. It’s stylistically confused, at times extremely painful to listen to unless you like techno-pop (I don’t), and vocally about as annoying as can be. Jeff Waters had the good fortune of releasing a near complete musical abomination only once, which is more than I can say for some of his contemporaries at this stage of the game. The advent of legal individual song downloads via itunes and amazon.com has made it possible to obtain “Tricks And Traps” and “Reaction” by themselves, so simply do that and forget the rest of this album ever existed.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on February 28, 2009.
I got this album after being impressed by two songs I had downloaded from it. Two songs really owned, so getting it should have been a safe bet. Alas, it was nothing more than cruel irony, as I later found out that I had somehow downloaded not only the album's best two songs, but the only two songs that could be considered good.
Apparently dissatisfied with the last few Annihilator releases, which were kind of mediocre, but not bad, main man Jeff Waters figures that it's the other members of the band that are holding him back. So he decides to do it all himself. Well, he pretty much did it all to begin with, but now he has a drum machine. The result is an album that is highly industrial influenced, with more in common with Rammstein than Annihilator. Waters' usually outstanding playing is muddied down with effects, shitty industrial/groove riffs, and unbearable repetition. His lead work is half-assed at best, minus the two good songs. Those two songs I'll stand by are "Tricks and Traps" and "Reaction." The former is a riff masterpiece, reminiscent of Never Neverland era Annihilator, while the latter is an all out thrasher, a modernized version of "Human Insecticide". But these two are late in the album. Much of it is made up of shitty repeated riffs interplayed with the very predictable and synthetic sounding drumkits. And if the music wasn't unbearable, the vocals/lyrics make it so. Waters actually has a good voice, when he's not doing that horrid whisper-singing he does through pretty much all of this. The lyrics are retarded and inconsequential, even at their best. So besides the two above songs, there's a few infrequent riffs, leads, and vocal lines that are nice.
This is actually a bit more bearable if you don't mind the heavy industrial sound and aren't expecting any real thrash metal on this, which is why my review is a bit more favorable than the others on here. But this is still undoubtedly one of the band's worst releases and easily one of the worst albums put out by a once great thrash metal band. Avoid unless you're really fucking open-minded or you like shit.
I'm sure many Annihilator fans were shocked when they purchased "Remains" which was released only half a year after the very good "Refresh the Demon". Most probably expected a continuation of the frenetic speed/thrash ideas showcased on the last album. Boy, were they wrong!
I heard about this album being two things: unbelievably bad and unbelievably weird. While I don't hesitate to agree with the latter, I'm not so sure about the former.
According to Jeff Waters, 1996 was a very hard year for him, Metal was pretty much dead in the USA around that time, so he decided to do some experiments.
"Murder" is the first track and Jeff's really digging in the groove box here. Remember the groove elements in "Pastor of Disaster" on the album before this one? Well, if you didn't like those, you can shoot you in the head now. This is even too much groove for my taste. The track remains fairly monotonous throughout, which gives you enough time to think about your opinion about the industrial effects that accent the track.
"Sexecution" doesn't differ much from "Murder", it's just even less guitar driven. When I heard the next track "No Love" which wasn't any better, I started losing all hope for this album.
Luckily, "Never" finally utilizes some riffs again and features REAL vocal work for the first time on the album (only whispering and .... weird singing was used before). Here the industrial elements lose importance and more space is used for guitar riffs. Nowhere close to their former work, but it's definitely noticeable. The next two tracks follow the same formula. "Wind" is the shittiest Annihilator ballad so far, even competing with "Holding On" from the "All For You" album. It sounds like Jeff was too lazy to sing in a right key and the guitars sound half-assed as well.
The next three tracks are the saving grace of this album. The industrial level is turned to almost zero, the riffs are cranked up to an almost "Refresh the Demon" - like level and the vocal work sounds like the one from the Jeff we're used to again (except for the chorus in "I Want" which sounds kind of shitty). "Reaction" is the best track of the three and it's main riff is very brutal for Annihilator, showing first signs of the sound that would later appear on "Criteria for a Black Widow".
The track "Bestiage" is an industrial instrumental outro with lots of effects and strange use of the drum machine. The guitar work is driven back to it's most primitive and monotonous. But for some reason it manages to not completely suck, despite it being undeniably forgettable.
Was this the Annihilator I've come to love? Definitely not.
Did this even remotely sound like Annihilator? Yes, at least in parts.
Did I enjoy some of the tracks here? Yes, I did.
A very strange record, but not without merit. You can clearly hear that Jeff wasn't really sure what to do with this, neither does it feel like as if he was very experienced with industrial music. That's probably the reason for it's inconsistency.
Recommended to Industrial fans and VERY open-minded metalheads.
Tricks and Traps
This album, for lack of a better term, is really fucking gay. From the technocore drumbeats to the whispered vocals, this sounds like the soundtrack to a homo-orgy rave. Not even Rammstein was ever this insipid.
So the first song is shit... I mean I couldn't listen to it in entirety. I figured, well, sometimes Annihilator takes a while to get going... because that song is eminently forgettable and I had to skip it halfway through. Then the second track, which is more of the same! Whispered vocals, percussive single-note riffs. Fucking mallcore, basically. Again, the band this sounds the most like is fucking RAMMSTEIN. If you like that band.... great! I for one couldn't get through this song either.
The third goes into distorted vocals, and the same plodding almost-a-quarter-to-half-thrash shit. WTF, I can't get through this one either. Throw in some homoerotic keyboard dripping a la Nine Inch Nails.
Track FOUR is where the song is almost guitar-oriented, but again... shitty riffage. Wow, okay, this album may actually NEVER get anywhere? Holy moly, this is Christian in its suckage. Track FIVE actually speeds up, but again it's basically fucking techno. Holy CRAP. Track SIX is groovecore techno.
At that point, the album actually turns mediocre... i.e. the Annihilator we have grown to ignore after all these years. Wind is half ballad, as though the Set the World Afire album came back to life... Tricks and Traps, I Want, and Reaction are all mediocre thrashers, but hey, they are thrashers at least. So there's three in a row, but really, you don't need to wade through this shit.
Oh yeah the last track is techno too, and I am not exaggerating.
HOLY COCKMUNCHING MONKEY FETUSES. This album is downright pathetic. How the FUCK did a metal band release this??