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A fun experience for Annihilator fans. - 78%

Left To Die, February 16th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2017, 2CD + blu-ray, UDR Music

Annihilator makes music for Annihilator fans, and either you like it or you don’t. Sounds like a dumb cop-out but it really is the truth; if you’re not on board by this point then chances are you never will be. For those of us who enjoy Annihilator for what they are, which is simultaneously silly and serious, and enjoy their diverse output from the heavy speed of “Human Insecticide” and “Hunter/Killer” to the pondering melodicism of “Carnival Diablos” and “Sounds Good To Me”, from vocalist to vocalist (to vocalist, to vocalist…), “Triple Threat” should be an enjoyable experience. I have to say right off though that the marketing leading up to the release was very confusing. The press release talked about “three completely different experiences” yet only detailed two discs worth of material: the acoustic album and the live album. There are also two versions that can be purchased, one containing only these two discs. The title only makes sense when considering the Blu-ray/DVD included in the three disc version, housed in a very cool four-fold digipak, which itself contains the promised Triple Threat: a live concert, an acoustic performance, and a tour documentary. The accompanying CDs of the same live concert and acoustic performance are really secondary.

The live concert is really standard fare visually: frequent cuts, lots of closeups, etc, but when the band is fun to watch then it doesn’t matter. It captures the band very well in their element, even though it is during the daytime. They all run around the stage a lot and Jeff Waters runs down the ego ramp a few times to engage the packed Bang Your Head crowd a bit closer. Everyone in the band (currently bassist Rich Hinks, guitarist Aaron Homma, and drummer Fabio Alessandrini) is energetic and plays as tight as you’d expect from Annihilator. With only an hour-long set it’s impossible for them to play every song the crowd probably wants to hear, but they do a good selection of songs mostly from the first four and most recent two in their catalog, and the German bangers are very much into it. The audio is recorded and mixed very well, although there are some audio dropouts for a few seconds at a time on a couple songs on the Blu-ray that play without an issue on the CD, so perhaps it is a quirk of my Blu-ray player, although it happened at the same places each time I watched and none of the rest of the program experienced that issue. The live CD isn’t as great without the visual aspect but still sounds excellent and raw like it wasn’t heavily doctored in the studio later..

Annihilator fans have seen or at least heard them onstage before on this and previous live CDs and DVDs. Annihilator fans have heard them displaying their softer side on songs like “Phoenix Rising” and “The One”. But never before has Annihilator released an all-acoustic performance, until now. Minus drummer Fabio Alessandrini but bolstering the lineup for these performances with guitarist Pat Robillard and vocalist/percussionist Marc LaFrance, who Annihilator aficionados will recall being credited as a background vocalist on “Phoenix Rising” from “Set the World On Fire” and “Perfect Angel Eyes” from “Feast”. Having LaFrance as lead vocalist for most of the songs allows Waters to focus on guitar and doing harmony vocals, though he does step back to the lead vocalist role during some songs. For the most part they stick to songs that would make sense to strip down such as “Sounds Good To Me” and “Innocent Eyes” rather than trying to reimagine some of the heavier songs, although they do exactly that with “Stonewall” and do it quite well. Because of the song selection though you’re not going to hear an acoustic version of “Alison Hell” or “Refresh the Demon”, although I bet they could have pulled off “Fun Palace”. It’s also nice to hear “Fantastic Things”, a hidden gem from Annihilator’s past. The visual aspect of the performance is very cool, but I really like the audio CD for this one where, due to the excellent panning to put each musician in their space, I really got absorbed into the music more than watching the video where, despite several camera angles, it felt more like I was watching a performance from the front row 15 feet back instead of sitting on the floor right in front of the musicians. Still good, but not as intimate. Sounds great with headphones. Having heard many of these songs dozens of times over more than two decades in some cases it was slightly annoying that there were changes to some of the melodies, such as on “Phoenix Rising”, however the changes are fairly minimal and don’t completely ruin the experience. The only real gripe I have with the acoustic performance is that because each song is a single take with no overdubs Waters congratulates the band immediately after some songs which interferes with the emotional nature some of them convey. They smartly edit those out of the Blu-ray though.

Finally is the “mini-documentary”. It’s mostly interviews where you get to know the new faces in the band, see some rehearsal footage, and interviews with other well-known musicians such as Mike and Schmier from Destruction, David Ellefson from Megadeth and Chris Jericho from Fozzy who talk about what they like about Annihilator. There are also similarly-themed interviews with metal fans from around the world proclaiming their love for Annihilator, and a segment where Jeff Waters reads and answers fan questions. He also takes us on a drive around the area where he lives near Ottawa and talks about some of his personal history, such as when and why he moved from Ottawa to Vancouver in the early 80s and then moved back in the late 90s. None of it is super essential but it’s fun and at just under an hour it doesn’t overstay its welcome or beat its point (Annihilator rules) into the ground too badly.

Metal fans in general would be able to enjoy the live concert, and some may also enjoy the acoustic set. I don’t see anyone except diehard Annihilator fans enjoying the documentary, but that’s who it’s for anyway. Triple Threat is not necessarily a crowning achievement in Annihilator’s storied history, but it’s a great signpost to mark this point after more than thirty years. They’re loved by their fans, respected among their peers, are accomplished and diverse musicians, and have endured and thrived longer than the vast majority of bands around today.