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Annihilator has historically proven to be its own worst enemy, as every time they’ve gotten a good idea going, they seem to jam on the brakes and reassess what is going on around them before punching the gas again. After releasing two certifiable thrash powerhouses, Jeff Waters looks at the groove craze going on and decides its time to make some changes, paving the way for the disastrous “Remains” debacle. Later on after recovering a bit with “Criteria For A Black Widow” and doing almost the exact same thing as the first two albums, but with a more modern sounding set of speed metal albums in “Carnival Diablos” and “Waking The Fury”, metalcore became the thing to sound like so once again our favorite metal weathervane jumped ship and gave us the horrid “All For You”.
The question is where does that leave this latest offering “Schizo Deluxe”. The answer is actually something along the same lines as “Criteria For A Black Widow” in terms of quality, but with a stronger riff assault and a weaker vocal delivery, and stylistically a bit closer to “Carnival Diablos“. There’s a little bit of weirdness lifted from “Set The World On Fire” smattered here and there, but basically this album amounts to Waters responding to a backlash to the last album by piling on as many technical riffs as he can throw together. The results are a mixed bag, depending on how strongly Dave Padden’s voice manages to pull everything else down, but this is basically the best of the three albums that said metalcore oriented vocalist has been present on.
There are a good number of solid speed/thrash crushers on here that ride that cliché mid tempo double bass rumble in the mode heard on Judas Priest’s “Jugulator”. “Maximum Satan” and “Like Father, Like Gun” follow this model quite effectively, with a little bit more of a consonant melodic contour than what you’d get out of Priest during that era. Padden’s vocals manage to remain strong by sticking to a semi-dirty, albeit bellowing Thrash character and mostly avoiding those decrepit hard core screams that sound like a goat choking on a dildo-spaded piece of barbed wire. But the real meat and potatoes comes blazing out with “Plasma Zombies”, which goes back to that crazed, riff happy mayhem that was heard on “Alice In Hell”. It’s a little bit more technical than classics such as “Human Insecticide” and “Ligeia”, but vocally not quite as catchy and hard hitting.
For the most part, things stay relatively strong for the first 4/5ths of the album, barring the occasional fit of vocal ridiculousness out of Padden like that really annoying 15 second whiny shout at the end of “Warbird”. But by the end Jeff feels the need to appease some of the newer fans of the band who ate up “All For You” and threw in two crappy Trivium inspired songs at the end. “Clare” would be fairly decent if it wasn’t for that really comical sounding chorus and those failure at tough guy shouting moments in between. “Something Witchy” is an all out failure, essentially taking all of the worst elements of “All For You” together into one lyrically idiotic shout fest that comes close to hitting overt “Far Beyond Driven” levels of redundant groove plodding in the riff department.
As a whole, this is fairly good by recent thrash standards, but this doesn’t really stack up to certified classics like “Alice In Hell” or solid later efforts such as “Waking The Fury”. If you own one album by this band with Dave Padden on vocals, this would be the one to get. It has a little bit of a Killswitch Engage feel to it a lot of the time, so I think that people who go for that vocal approach will like this. Otherwise, I’d think twice before blowing more than $10 on this.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on May 12, 2009.