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Annihilator is an awesome band, and Jeff Waters is a musical genious and a great guitarist. So when I first started to listen to this band, I always wondered why they never got credit for what they did.
I was able to figure this out once I listened to more of their work past the first two albums, and the conclusion I came to was that, although Annihilator is consistant, and usually puts out material of pretty good quality, every so often Jeff makes an album that is a COMPLETE AND TOTAL PIECE OF SHIT.
I can't stress that enough. If you are new to this band, you need to make sure you pick and album that is one of their better works, because if you hear one of these bombs, you will never want to listen to anything else that Jeff has to offer, and Annihilator is too good of a band for anyone to miss out on because of this.
So, you are probably reading this, wondering why the hell I'm ranting about Annihilator's occasional stinkers? Well.......that's because this album is one of them, and in my opinion, only behind Remains and All For You, is their worst album.
The first thing is the singer on this album, holy shit, this dude's voice is annoying and obnoxious in pretty much every sense of those two words. His voice is so bad, that he sometimes ruins the few good songs on here just with his bad singing. His voice is too over the top, and his voice is so nasally that sometimes it literally sounds like he is singing through his nose. If anything, he doesn't sound like a metal singer, he sounds more like a really bad musical theater singer.
The other part of the album that ruins it is some of the music itself. Alot of the riffs and ideas are very boring, it's as if for this album Jeff was trying to streamline Annihilator's sound. His signature sound is not here; it's kind of hard to explain what it is, but anyone who listen to Annihilator will know what I am talking about. Alot of the complexities, cool riffs, instrumental progressions, and awesome solo's are not here. The ballads, in particular, Sounds Good to Me, are really cheesy. And there are almost NO thrash riffs, except for Knight Jumps Queen, which is a stupid song with lyrics so bad it makes some of Yngwie Malmsteen's song lyrics seem like Dante's Inferno or Paradise Lost by comparison.
Stay away from this album. Pick up Alice in Hell, Never Neverland, or Refresh the Demon if you want to take a look at Annihilator's earlier work.
Could it be that, 3 might be my lucky number? These were probably the thoughts going on inside the brain of Jeff Waters, the leader of Canadian thrashers, Annihilator, before the release of their album. Until then his band was well-known among the metal society but still hadn’t met the success and fame he hoped for. So, what could he do about that? The very first thing that came in mind was to change Annihilator’s style. Instead of thrash, they could easily change it into something more rock/metal.
His first move was to hire a new singer. So, off you go Pharr and welcome Aaron Randal. Two more musicians with hard rock influences came in; guitarist Neil Goldberg and drummer Mike Mangini. Then he found a catchy title for their album; Set the World on Fire, and put his girlfriend on the cover. A guaranteed way to draw attention. Then he focused on the music and the result came out in August 1993.
This introduction was the best way to describe my very first feelings and impressions when I listened to Annihilator’s third release. Only a few things reminded the band we knew in Alice In Hell and Never Neverland. What one will notice right away is how different Randal is from his predecessors. But still he seems as a combination of those two. He shows that he possesses a strong dose of melodic touch in his voice, especially in songs like the cool Sounds Good to Me or even better in the wonderful ballad called Phoenix Rising which by the way, has THE most beautiful acoustic guitar.
Yet, in the self-titled track, a rock/metal blaster, he shows such harshness that even singers like Bush could pay aspect to. He is damn good! Set The World… is the hit of the album, characterized by heavy, sharp guitars and killing drums. The two newcomers have adjusted perfectly to the bands requirements and show that they have the skills to play heavy metal if they are asked.
And they are. In the track No Zone which is very fast and breathe taking. Once again Annihilator deal with nature and how it suffers from man’s greed. Bats in The Belfry is also quite heavy though not as fast as No Zone. Strangely enough, this one could have perfectly been recorded for the Never Neverland LP. The great moments of the disc are completed with a strange song called Knight Jumps Queen. It is built upon the bass and drums section but at the chorus, Waters’ guitar makes things more interesting. Of course, I don’t think that I need to comment on Waters’ playing or his solos. As usual his fingers are on fire, creating fast and complicated themes. The lyrics here are about a man and a woman playing a game of chess. Or something more if bare in mind the sexual innuendo hidden behind them.
Anyway, the remaining songs are not particularly good. The semi-fast The Edge and Don’t Bother Me are tolerable, but the weird one called Brain Dance and the kind of boogie Snake in The Grass are rather unnecessary. They are there just to fill the space.
With this LP Annihilator didn’t manage to set the world on fire or hit the ceiling of fame and success. It was merely a good release with some great, medium and even bad songs. I kind of like it but it would have had better luck if it was a hard rock band’s album. It just kept them on the surface. If you can spare the money, give it a chance, otherwise you might as well borrow it from a friend.
Bands come to end of a golden era of classic albums. Most of the metal greats have such as Metallica after the Black Album, Iron Maiden after Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, and Megadeth after Countdown to Extinction. Unfortunetly for Annihilator, their golden era ended after Never, Neverland with their third album, Set the World On Fire. Once again, the band features an almost entirely new lineup including vocalist Aaron Randall. As much as I like Randalls voice, it still doesn't prevent this album from being a disappointment.
Annihilator guitarist and mastermind Jeff Waters went from writting amazing songs to suddenly falling off a cliff. The guitar playing is nothing special and is merely average at best. The drums and bass don't standout at all. Singer Aaron Randall is a good singer, but his voice just isn't suited for Annihilator.
Jeff Waters decided to go for a more commercial and poppy sound for this album. For Annihilator, that's a direct path to destruction and Set The World On Fire shows it all. When you think of Annihilator, you think of kick ass in-your-face technical thrash/speed metal. The stuff you get from Alice In Hell or Never, Neverland. With this album, you get virtually none of that. Instead, you get boring and stupid songs. While the title track is one hell of a song and No Zone and Knight Jumps Queen are kickass tunes, the rest of the album fails to meet that.
The thrash is almost non existant. It's just lame commercial metal songs and stupid ballads. I love ballads. Never, Neverland was an amazing ballad and is one of Annihilators classics. But Snake In The Grass and Phoenix Rising are just pathetic. Two consistant terrible songs almost ruined the album for me. Thankfully, it was saved by Knight Jumps Queen. When I heard this song, I thought, "THIS is the Annihilator I was thinking of." Unfortunetly after this killer song, the album never recovers. Sounds Good To Me sounds really good opening up, but when the vocals come in, I can already tell it was going to be another awful ballad. It's not a heavy metal song. It's a fucking POP song!! The Edge, Don't Bother Me, and Brain Dance all open up with some promise with the latter having some killer guitar work, but overall they are just mediocer filler tracks.
I knew this album wasn't going to be a masterpiece but I didn't know it was going to be this bad. This was worse than Annihilator's latest album, the average-at-best "Metal". The only thing I can say that is possitive about it is the title track, which when seeing the music video, shows decieving promise. Avoid this album at all costs.
There have been a good number of appeals in favor of this album stating that it is good for what it is, which would be a rather strong argument if one could actually nail down just what this album is stylistically. Although presented in a sort of 80s pop/metal format, this is pretty far removed from your standard pop album, even considering how murky and all over the place the entire concept of pop is when measured against more definable styles like rock, jazz, or blues. The whole album is presented with short time lengths and mostly standard structures, but when married to Jeff Waters’ blend of technical riffing and seemingly capricious lyrics, occasionally morphs into an anti-pop, avant-garde mishmash.
There are a number of obvious influences on here mixing with Waters’ progressive and thrash roots that were quite prominent in the early 90s. When accounting for grooving, repetitive, yet heavy numbers like “Set The World On Fire” and its half-ballad equivalent “Snake In The Grass”, you can’t help but hear the influence of Saigon Kick, Soundgarden, Candlebox and Ugly Kid Joe. A lot of it manifests itself in vocalist Aaron Randall’s vocals as well in the case of the first and last example. Other times there’s this odd mix of Ozzy’s “No More Tears” and “The Ultimate Sin” coming in and out of the shorter, 80s sounding heavy metal anthems “No Zone” and “The Edge”. By themselves, these songs sound fairly standard enough, but a band putting all of these onto the same studio album definitely starts to get a little out there.
The ironic thing is that what occupies the rest of the album gets extremely strange considering the influences already accounted for. The somewhat up beat ballad “Sounds Good To Me” reminds me of Dire Straits classic “Sultans Of Swing”, although presented in a way that also conjures up images of the Gin Blossoms recording a ballad with a late 80s glam rock production. As a song, it’s pretty catchy, but extremely out of character for a band that has allowed all of these 90s alternative/grunge influences to seep in. It starts off with this pretty unrelated intro, before kicking into a fairly consistent soft rock groove. Likewise, “Phoenix Rising”, which is a fairly inspirational and uplifting ballad, sounds like a more technically impressive version of Saigon Kick’s “Love Is On The Way”. It’s oddly effective in a sort of stylistic grab-bag fashion, but perplexes the ears of anyone who would listen to an album from start to finish.
The only thing on here that really carries a consistent remnant of Annihilator’s thrash origins consistently is “Knight Jumps Queen”. It basically flows in a mid-tempo fashion with a low end, bass driven atmosphere that also occasionally showed itself on early 90s Megadeth and Vio-Lence. It rides on a pretty simple riff that varies very slightly from section to section, but ultimately maintains a constant flow, almost like a thrash meets Accept rocker. “Don’t Bother Me” starts off sounding like a return to the thrashing goodness of old, before morphing into a thrash riff drenched, jazzy, swinging, rock anthem. Basically Jeff presents his own version of Van Halen’s “Hot For Teacher”, with about twice as many riffs and a much heavier guitar sound. It’s a weird enough listen, but oddly fitting somehow.
Just when this orgy of stylistic crosspollination couldn’t get any stranger, we are left with “Brain Dance” to close things off. I’ve listened to this song dozens of times and to this day I have no idea what Waters was thinking or what he was smoking when he came up with this. The vocal presentation goes back and forth between 80s singing and odd, novelty vocalizations that would probably find a home on Dr. Demento’s radio station or Weird Al Yankovic’s discography. The intro riff is basically a combination of speed metal and a series of harmonized note clusters that would maybe only require a blast beat and some primal shrieks to become the world’s first mathcore riff. The verses sound NWOBHM influenced, while a couple of interludes sound like outtakes from “The Nightmare Before Christmas”. If you can listen to this song and not get the sneaking suspicion that someone left the door open at the twilight zone, your threshold for strangeness far surpasses mine.
If you treat each of these individual songs as their own entities and not as a collection and you exclude the last two, you can define this as something relatively commercial. In some respects, this album is fairly mainstream oriented when accounting for the stylistic vacuum that took hold of metal at this point in history and how it reflects everything that the public was gravitating to from one moment to the next. Now as to who might this album be geared to at present, you’re guess is as good as mine. This is not something that I’d recommend listening to from start to finish at all, but rather something you’d skip through and look for songs that might fit your particular mood. I can find a use for most of these songs, but it’s tough to see any fan of thrash, speed or progressive metal really getting into the entirety of this.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer) on September 30, 2008.
With Set the World on Fire, Annihilator axeman Jeff Waters has managed to craft one of their most inconsistent and commercial sounding albums to date. With very little thrash left on the table and a lot of apparent ballad/pop metal influences rearing their heads, StWoF was a disasterous release, on paper anyway. Somehow, Waters managed to make it work, giving us a very mainstream, but still respectable Annihilator release.
The song types are very divided in sound. The best ones are the Annihilator standard thrash classics. "Don't Bother Me" and the title track are heavy as hell, while "Knight Jumps Queen" delivers some enjoyable Testament worship and "Brain Dance" impresses with its ridiculousness. The problem songs are the ones that try and incorporate the pop influences. Sometimes it works. The all-out acoustic ballad "Phoenix Rising" is actually quite memorable, if not a great Annihilator song. But then there's some that just reek of 80's glam/hair metal. "The Edge" and "Sounds Good to Me" couldn't be lamer if they tried, mixing generic riffing with stupid lyrics and bad vocals. New vocalist Aaron Randall is actually a decent singer, but in the context of Anniihilator, his performance is most unwelcome, adding to the already "poppy" sound.
Despite this, Waters' playing is still phenomenal. Even when he's playing shitty pop songs, he plays them with conviction. His solos are outstanding. Unfortunately, his self-declared role as Annihilator's sole creative force would eventually send the band's albums into the darkest depths of mediocrity, with this album acting as the first step in that descent. For what it is, it's not terrible. I enjoy listening to it now and again; marvelling at the awesome tracks and how odd it is that they share an album with some terrible ones. Definitely not the place to start looking into the band, but a decent release anyway.
It's 1993 and Jeff is about to die completely. Grunge and watered-down Heavy Metal dominate the music scene. Many metalheads who were still interested in thrash around that time hoped for Jeff Waters to fulfil their thrashy desires.
Sadly, Jeff realized that playing Thrash metal the way he did it before would not exactly help him with being recognized among the new crowd. So he wrote "Set the World on Fire" - a heavy metal album, including the obligatory ballads and somewhat reminiscent (in the commercial sense) to Metallica's "Black Album".
What Metallica's copycats achieved was mostly the end of their own burial. Reasons were either commercial breakdowns (because no one would buy a bad copy of a beloved original, right?) or the loss of a loyal fan base and the bashing and displeasure that followed.
While Annihilator didn't quite differ from all the rest in terms of commercial success or fan loss, he had one thing that others didn't:
Buried under a shallow coat of commerce whoring, there's a flawed, but still good heavy metal album to be found.
The first three songs still share their fair share of thrash aesthetics (mainly rapid riffing and blazing solos) but the new vocalist Aaron Randall (who's strange lisp is a producting failure, according to Jeff) indicates a turn to more melodic and accessible music.
When "Snake in the Grass" kicks off, things get clearer. It starts like your typical campfire ballad. Is this Annihilator? It takes more than a minute until some riffing appears.
Is it thrash? No. Does it turn into the ballad again after a few seconds? Yes.
Well, don't get me wrong, it's Jeff on the axe, so it's still somewhat listenable, if just quite lacklustre compared to the usual Annihilator thrash.
So, the Annihilator fan sits in front of the stereo, hoping that the album will pick after this weird little misstep when "Phoenix Rising" starts. If you thought "Snake in the Grass" was calm and slow, listen to this. "Phoenix Rising" is a purely acoustic ballad, but this time with Jeff on vocals and Aaron doing the background singing.
I don't know what it is, but this ballad, even though it's really accessible and calm, works for me. It's one of the greatest ballads I heard so far.
But what's with our typical Annihilator fan? I'm sure he's teared out his hair already.
"Knight Jumps Queen" is a weird little track, the main verses contain bass lines only and it's just the chorus that's plastered with some nice heavy riffing, sounding like a crossbreed of "Never, Neverland" left overs and "King of the Kill" riffs. Experimental would describe it best.
Oh, what's that? Another ballad? The metalhead is about to crush the CD into pieces, but accidentally hits the "skip" button and finds himself in a Judas Priest influenced Heavy/Power/Speed track called "The Edge", a track generally mentioned as one of the few worthwhile songs on the album. It indeed features some incredible lead work and a nice rhythm. Very catchy stuff.
The last two tracks somewhat award the average listener for his patience. They're the closest to thrash and older Annihilator (especially "Brain Dance") and utilize strong lead guitars and staccato rhythms here and there.
So our metalhead still sits in front of his stereo, dazed and confused. "Brain Dance" is about to fade out and Aaron Randall spits out only three words over and over again (in the harshest way he can possible sing):
"Alice ... in Hell... "Alice... in Hell".
For our metalhead, it sounds as if Randall was laughing at him hysterically, because he was expecting another Thrash record....
Get the album if you're curious of what Annihilator sounded like in 1993. But don't have any expectations. You might enjoy it.
Set the World on Fire
It was bound to happen. In the wake of “The Black Album”, thrash acts were either falling apart or streamlining their sound to make it more accessible to the radical changes in the public’s taste. Annihilator also made an attempt at commercial success with their third album, and as it would happen they failed miserably in that respect. However, despite this territory being almost universally a disaster zone, Jeff Waters pulled it off safely.
Its schizophrenic design looks horrendously bad on paper and shouldn’t work at all. But strangely, Jeff Waters (plus new line-up) found ways to make this machine work. Not that I would ever suggest that this compares to the first two classic albums, for how could this endeavour possibly hope to beat them. It mingles songs which polish the surface of the established Annihilator sound, with self confident roadside hard rockers and some surprisingly competent power ballads. I can’t believe I’m actually listening to Annihilator sometimes while listening to this.
“Phoenix Rising” and “Sounds Good To Me” are alike in quality to some of the amazing Skid Row ballads: fluid and unforced. The title cut partnered with “Brain Dance” throw the clearest nods to the old Annihilator sound and technicality, with a poppier sheen glistening on the rampaging “Bats in the Belfry” and “Knight Jumps Queen”. The new vocalist has a kind of sneering lisp, but is fairly tolerable and adapts well to fit the various styles of songs.
Not the sort of follow up I really wanted for “Never, Neverland”, but it doesn’t warp the band’s framework so much trying to appeal to a different audience. Some bands were slow to pick up that a more pop approach to their material just wouldn’t cut it in the early 90s. It’s still a nice departure for Jeff Waters, who would rebound to the style of old shortly.
It is hard to imagine "Annihilator" doing some kind of bad album at this point. However, it appears it has happened. Considered one of the worst albums to date, is it really as bad as everyone says?
Pretty close, unforunately. The album starts out well enough with the title track 'Set The World On Fire', which is quite possibly one of the few good tracks on the album. This vibe will last up until 'Snake In The Grass'. After that it kind of goes down hill, except for 'Knight Jumps Queen', a rather smart song about chess.
However, the biggest shocker on the album, and what makes it almost worth while, is the song 'Brain Dance'. The song itself is rather hysterical and not meant to be taken seriously (atleast we hope). But the end is the best part, when the vocalist starts shouting the title of an older album over and over, and mentioning his friend Alice, whom he spends a lot of time with in the insane asylum.
Aside from the sometimes poppy ballad-esque tracks, the other annoying part is the vocalist. Unfortunately, he either has a speaking impediment, or it's just shotty production quality that makes it sound that way.
So, if you are looking for a more light rock orientated album, then you might find some entertainment out of this album. It just simply isn't what we have all come to know and love. The album, while it holds a few key songs on it that are actually good, the rest of the album is slow, tacky, and not like the band at all. Unfortunately, it is simply not impressive at all.
This one is definately worth a listen for the few good tracks, but not really worth shelling out a great deal of money for, unless you are an avid die hard fan of them.