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Gloomy thrash metal to start a successful decade - 77%

kluseba, January 9th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2010, CD, Earache Records

Annihilator's inconsistency continues with this solid self-titled output that abandons the band's recently employed modern metal soundscapes and goes back to a more basic thrash metal sound with a cold production one would rather expect from an industrial metal band. This partial stylistic return to the roots might be the reason why the band went for the rather unimaginative self-titled option here.

This album stands out with great melodic guitar work that sounds fresh and not rehashed as on numerous occasions on previous records. The dreamy introduction to the strong opener ''The Trend'' stands out immediately for instance. The fast and melodic solos in the otherwise pitiless ''Coward'' add a much-needed emotional side to the track. ''Ambush'' offers some of Annihilator's fiercest and most technical riffs ever. It quickly becomes obvious that Jeff Waters and Dave Padden harmonize perfectly five and six years after the somewhat inconsistent Schizo Deluxe and All for You records while the previous release Metal should rather be considered a collaborative compilation effort between Jeff Waters and his friends and idols than a genuine Annihilator release. Jeff Waters and Dave Padden have obviously put a lot of thought into each and every single song of this new output that was worth the wait.

In several songs such as the desperate ''Twenty-Five Seconds'' or the opening moments of the melancholic ''Nowhere to Go'', the bass guitar plays a more prominent role than before as well. The use of this instrument suits the industrial production rather well and increases the album's oppressive atmosphere.

The vocals vary successfully between angry screams in the key of Over Kill and the likes, hoarse and almost spoken-word-like efforts not unlike Megadeth and a few more melodic efforts in the choruses like Metallica use to employ. Dave Padden switches from one style to another within moments in a single song without sounding misguided or overwhelming. His transitional efforts sound smoother than in the past. While Padden was often criticized by fans of old date for his first efforts with the band, most people agree on him becoming better with each effort and leaving the band on a high note. Up to that point, this was Dave Padden's best vocal performance on any Annihilator record as he constantly expanded and improved his skills during his stay with Jeff Waters' band.

On the negative side, the production is a little bit too cold and dry in my opinion. This has a particularly negative impact on the drum sound which is very artificial. It almost sounds as if a drum computer were used instead of a real musician. In a few songs, Annihilator overuses a stop-and-go technique with sudden moments of silence and abrupt breaks when I would have preferred smoother and less technical transitions. While the record has its own flow and style in form of gloomy thrash metal soundscapes, the album might be missing one or two truly experimental or outstanding tracks as several tunes are slightly similar or even exchangeable.

Among the highlights of this record, one has to point out the epic and melodic opener ''The Trend'' that coherently evolves into a furious thrash metal track. The vivid ''Coward'' is one of the fastest songs in the band's career but doesn't sound stupidly aggressive and comes around with a few minor surprises in form of a technically stunning extended guitar solo, a short drum solo and a somewhat catchy chorus. The desperately aggressive ''Twenty-Five Seconds'' successfully meanders between slow bass guitar rhythms and incredibly fast guitar solos that almost make think that Annihilator has become DragonForce's deranged twin.

In the end, Annihilator's self-titled album is a coherent and focused effort that sees the band go back to its fast thrash metal roots by adding a dry and gloomy sound to it. The group sounds energizing and hungry again as this release's dynamic and menacing vibe feels truly infectious. In hindsight, this release would start a decade that would surprisingly turn out to be the band's most consistent one as this album was followed by Dave Padden's excellent swansong Feast and the successful transition to Jeff Waters returning to vocal duties on the diversified and vivid Suicide Society and the gloomy and melancholic For the Demented.