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Kings and Demons, and Failed Pyromaniacs - 70%

bayern, August 13th, 2017

After the godawful “Set the World on Fire” whatever Jeff Waters would have produced was going to sound like a masterpiece; and it did, to some extent, on the first few listens. I was by no means planning to buy the guy’s next instalment; I was hoping to borrow it from someone who had already bought it… but here it was, this sinister king, staring at me from the shop window one day, at least looking a bit promising, and I had to buy the cassette, but only after I extensively reviewed the content in the shop beforehand…

So after the deplorable failure which the last showing was, Waters had decided to take things in his own hands, without interference from any other fellow musicians save for the drummer Randy Black (later Duskmachine, Primal Fear, Rebellion, etc.). The apprehension in my case wasn’t very big as the band never managed to win me fully for their cause as I found their repertoire good, but hardly too striking with the exception of one song (the colossal title-track from the debut). And when the creepy opener “The Box” started rasping forward, the minimalistic musical approach accompanied by the not very convincing synthesized, semi-whispered vocals of Waters, I was relieved by at the same time anticipating worse things to come, but the title-track safely puts things “in the box” with its sprightly thrashy rhythms even offering a nice memorable chorus. “Hell is a War” won’t do much for the hard-boiled thrasher with its tender balladic beginning, even less so during “godforsaken” times like the mid-90’s, but its mid-paced semi-intriguing groovisms should do the trick, not without the help of Waters’ more convincing performance behind the mike. “Second to None” jumps up and down pouring more energy into this mixed classic/modern thrashy carnival, the melodic/lyrical deviations a welcome change from the prevalent, somewhat mechanical delivery which gets even more rigid on the following “Annihilator”, a friendly groover that could have been dropped from the previous recording.

Not much faith restored by the next “21”, a frolic heavy metal hymn with cheese sticking on the sides, but “In the Blood” surprisingly delivers, a cool romantic ballad Waters pulling himself together for some of his finest vocal exploits. “Fiasco” tries to follow the same melodic line initially, but two ballads in a row would have dragged the album too far down, and Waters is only too well aware of that, turning this cut into a brisk speedster later. “Catch the Wind” would hardly help anyone catch even a slight breeze, let alone a whole wind, being a soothing all-instrumental ballad which at least shows Waters as a capable guitar player; not too many signs of the latter on the rest of the album… “Speed” should have been speedier to justify its title; now these jumpy optimistic riffs don’t make too much of a speed metal, staying firmly within the heavy/power metal confines, a niche heavily occupied by the closing radio-friendly quasi-groover “Bad Child” as well, another undeserved leftover from the “fiery” coming.

Waters wasn’t sure what to do in order to stay afloat during those uncertain times; should he carry on churning out dubious crowd pleasers along the lines of “Set the World on Fire”, or should he return to retro thrash territory and eventually restore some of his lost dignity… The album reviewed here is the answer to those wonderings, a blend of the two sides that definitely works better than its predecessor, but leaves quite a bit to be desired as for those who left their hearts with “Alice…” this effort would be the last temptation, and leaving the Annihilator camp seemed like a logical, if a bit premature for the time being, decision. Still, even Slayer’s same year’s “Divine Intervention” could be considered closer to the technical/progressive thrash roster than this opus: Waters had either made some huge compromises with his initial flamboyant, flashy style, or he had simply exhausted all his interesting ideas on the first two works, having nothing more intricate to offer to the seriously misled audience. At least here there’s still something fresh to be heard, this mildly entertaining alternation of softness and aggression has its naïve charm, but the sense of deja-vu was already too strong mere two years later on “Refresh the Demon” which was rather “Rehash the Demon” as from that moment onward Waters entered a perennial cycle of self-repetition lasting up to this day. Certainly, there have been more or less appropriate modifications witnessed along the way, but those who were expecting a second “Alice…”, or even a second “Neverland…” must have long since realized that this “innocent”, fairy tale-like period is irrevocably gone… Childhood’s end came a bit too early in the Annihilator saga, somewhere in the late-80’s/early-90’s.

“King of the Kill” hasn’t aged particularly well; I remember listening to it quite a bit back then. I gave it a listen the other day, and I have to admit it still pulls out a few condescending smiles out of an old cynic like me. It’s a product of its time, and it should be considered in the 90’s context for both its merits and flaws. “Annihilator” this is not, maybe not even “a king of the kill”; but it by all means fulfils the criteria (and not only for black widows) for an acceptable “inside the box” recording.

Reset the World on Fire - 55%

kluseba, December 19th, 2016
Written based on this version: 1994, CD, Music for Nations

With its fourth studio record, Annihilator has finally become a one-man project. Founding member and band leader Jeff Waters isn’t only playing the guitar but also playing the bass guitar and performing vocals on this record. The only other person directly involved in the recording of King of the Kill was drummer Randy Black. This record is basically a continuation of the highly inconsistent Set the World on Fire one year earlier. The only differences are that this record here is even more all over the place and has a length that some would describe as extensive and others as agonizing. What we get here is a headless mixture of simplistic groove metal, traditional hard rock, melodic power ballads, technical thrash metal and a few instrumental transitions. Some songs even include several of these elements all at once. The lyrics are also extremely diversified. Some songs talk about Jeff Waters’ childhood, others about his love for fast vehicles and we also get a few standard lyrics about mental disorders as usual. Overall, this album sounds like a recording of leftover tracks from the previous studio album. It reminds me a little bit of Metallica’s ReLoad that followed the experimental Load record. The main difference is that I liked ReLoad better than Load while King of the Kill is slightly inferior to Set the World on Fire.

The main problem is that the album opens with its worst track. ‘’The Box’’ is a dragging, sluggish, repetitive groove metal track with horribly distorted vocals. That is a solid candidate for the band’s worst song ever. Another major disappointment is the horrible groove metal stomper ‘’Annihilator’’ that offers a drum play that could have been recorded during a repetitive tennis game while the pseudo-aggressive vocals recall Phil Anselmo at his worst. The instrumental track ‘’Catch the Wind’’ is overtly long and going nowhere despite a few nice harmonies here and there. My guess is that the title of this song is an allusion to a fart which would suit the track’s overall quality. Sorry for the cruel joke.

While true highlights are entirely missing on this output, it includes a few above average tracks that are worth your attention. ‘’King of the Kill’’, ‘’Second to None’’, ‘’21’’ and ‘’Fiasco’’ are the most powerful tunes and have a solid rocking vibe. The title track is clearly the fiercest track and still opens Annihilator shows nowadays because of its speed, precision and energy. This should have been the album opener after all. ‘’21’’ has a smoother vibe and is more like a cool hard rock track with a catchy chorus. This is the only song with single potential on here. ‘’Second to None’’ is somewhere in between those songs and is probably the most creative song in terms of song writing ideas on this output. It meanders from hard rock vibes to modern thrash metal and gets more catchy, melodic and smooth in the second half. Jeff Waters’ outstanding guitar play makes this song the best on this output in my opinion and his average vocal skills also sound surprisingly versatile in this particular tune. The diversified ‘’Fiasco’’ is completely over-the-top and mixes slow and melodic passages with speedy hard rock parts and occasional radio play inspired passages.

An honorable mention goes out to one of the bonus tracks in form of the soft, nostalgic and enchanting ballad ‘’Only Be Lonely’’ which is the best of its kind on this release even though it lasts a little bit too long and loses some momentum towards the end in my book. A not so honorable mention goes out to another bonus track called ‘’Slates’’ where the band is simply fooling around in studio and saying random stuff that seems amusing at first and quite creepy as time goes by.

In the end, this album is only interesting for two types of people. Firstly, die-hard Annihilator fans that have bought anything from the band and want to complete their collections. Secondly, this album might be interesting for the few chosen ones that really adored the predecessor Set the World on Fire since this follow-up has a very similar artistic approach. Anyone else should ignore this rather underwhelming release.

I offer you scandal. - 55%

Diamhea, March 6th, 2014

Waters has made it clear that he was stylistically torn after the release of Set the World on Fire, which sold extremely well overseas despite being much more melodic and in a blatantly commercial vein. Despite being a big seller, it naturally rubbed Annihilator's older fan base the wrong way and promptly divided the fans down the middle. Said confusion was only supplemented by the dissolution of the Set the World on Fire lineup, a sickness that began to spread before the touring even began with Darley being forced out of the group due to VISA issues. Annihilator was one fine, hot mess around this period, and in hindsight it is easier to give Waters some leeway regarding his decision to continue as a one-man band with a revolving door of guest musicians. He certainly has the chops to deliver on his own, but the truth is that he never convincingly pulled it off. Even with King of the Kill being the most coherent and digestible of the three solo Waters records, it still falls prey to many of the then-modern aesthetics that historically plagued many thrash bands as they fought tooth and nail through the cesspool of genre ambiguity that was the early-'90s.

While much of this material isn't too far removed from Set the World on Fire's heavier cuts like "Knight Jumps Queen" and "Don't Bother Me", the lack of Randall's silky-smooth cleans does a lot more damage than you would expect. Waters has the mid-range gruff barking down pat, but his cleans (which would admittedly improve later on) are a little thin and unsure of themselves here. It puts unnecessary pressure on the riffs, which aren't really up to the task on their own, embodying an amalgamation of faceless half-thrash grooves ("The Box", "Annihilator") and phoned-in faster numbers ("Speed"). The entire first half of King of the Kill is in the vein of the former, inducing heavy eyelids well before anything of marked value occurs. The overacted, gruff vocals are unreasonably highlighted due to unbelievably faceless and angsty lyrics. "The Box" is easily the worst song here, which is quite confounding with it being the opener. The entire song just sort of sputters along, never getting animated enough to craft a decent groove, but also not going anywhere on the whole either. The lyrics are complete swill, and there are constant sound effects in the background that are akin to people talking in a movie theater. "21" is also really unconvincing, proving that Annihilator wrote an awful song about card games eleven years before Overkill did it on ReliXIV.

The first signs of life come around in the form of "Second to None", which has some fun riffs, a well executed solo, and moves along at a decent pace. The short acoustic interlude "Bliss" is nice for what it is, as Waters always crafts some truly enthralling acoustic passages, but it is kind of pointless as an individual track being less than a minute long. "In the Blood" is enjoyable enough, embodying the second coming of "Sounds Good to Me". I can't believe I am isolating the power ballads as the highlights on an Annihilator record, but that is the meager hand King of the Kill leaves you with. "Catch the Wind" is similar, joining the acoustic passages with some weaving leads and a grooving bass line. It reminds me of "Liquid Oval" off of Carnival Diablos, which while not a bad thing by any measure, is still wholly out of character for the band.

Despite Annihilator maintaining the high production values off of Set the World on Fire, the entire concept is a bit gutted this time around due to stagnancy and confusion on Waters' part. Black is a suitable replacement for Mangini, but he wouldn't show his true colors until Waking the Fury. While some of the swifter numbers like "Fiasco" and the aforementioned "Second to None" wouldn't sound out of place on Set the World on Fire or even Never, Neverland, the rest is just way too offensive to be approached without wearing at least a level A hazmat suit. Props to Waters for forging on without a stable lineup behind him, but this is just too much to swallow.

A true classic! - 93%

ShadeOfDarkness, March 6th, 2009

”Hey there Jeff Waters! Have you finally decided to be the vocalist? Well, that’s awesome!!” This is Annihilator’s fourth studio album, and it is very underrated. It is a true classic indeed! Well, let’s get on with the godamn review then!

The first track “The Box” is a strange one. It isn’t bad, but not something you’d like to listen to again and again. Jeff Waters sounds ok on this song. The mixing on his voice is actually pretty cool. However, the second track which is the title track is a LOT better! This is one of my favourite Annihilator songs of all time actually. It may not be as good as “Alison Hell” but it is a true classic! The guitar riff is the main part of the song, and that is the reason why it is so fucking good. Jeff Waters voice suits perfectly in as well.

There are many other good tracks on this album as well. “Hell Is A War” starts off as a ballad, but suddenly it changes dramatically. It get’s a lot heavier, and in the end, it changes back to the ballad it started as. A very interesting song indeed! Then there is the song “Annihilator” which is really good as well. On this song, the guitar is also surprisingly good. The only thing is that after I’ve listened to it a few times, it gets boring and I have to wait a while before I listen to it again.

However, not all songs on this album is that good. The song “Second To None” is really nothing special, and neither is the instrumental “Bliss.” It isn’t a perfect album. But since there are songs on this album that are great, it drowns the worse songs.

The album “King Of The Kill” is a true classic, and it shows what Jeff Waters is capable of. He really knows how to make devastating riffs and incredible solos. Of course, it isn’t really comparable to albums like “Peace Sells” or “Rust In Peace” by Megadeth, but it doesn’t really matter. The album isn’t really thrash metal either, but I don’t really care. Although I am a hardcore thrasher, I can listen to different music without crapping my pants. So if you want a creative album, then check this one out!

Goodbye Annihilator, hello Jeff Waters. - 68%

hells_unicorn, October 1st, 2008

Annihilator ceased to exist as a band circa 1994, and instead became something of a laboratory for Jeff Waters, resulting in a trilogy of experimental albums that turned out different malformed and inferior versions of what we know as heavy metal. The first of these 3 is not so much a grotesque groove metal nightmare, but more of a watered down version of the musically confused predecessor to this album “Set The World On Fire”. You’ve got your fair share of genre variance between groove metal, speed metal, and 80s power ballads from song to song, a general lack of cohesion in the album’s pacing, and the saving grace of Waters’ proficiency as a lead guitarist.

Where the last album was loaded with hooks and memorable ideas, in spite of the odd stylistic meandering going on, “King Of The Kill” just fails in keeping things interesting throughout its near 50 minute duration. The most blatant example of this is the really dull and uninspired groove song that opens things up “The Box”. Like much of Pantera’s material at the time, the overall feel of the song is consistent in its plodding and flatness, refusing to kick things up a notch when it would be most welcome. In a similar fashion to the sleep inducing yet annoying as hell archetype of the genre “Walk”, it just hangs on to one riff for almost the entire time, perhaps hoping to induce hypnosis in the listener to get him to think better of this album.

Other groove songs fair a little better and play off the dense atmosphere of the production to keep things interesting. “Annihilator” has a principle riff that sounds remarkably similar to Pantera’s “5 Minutes Alone”, but with a multi-guitar layering to give the song some dimension and a vocal performance that is far more listenable than what Phil Anselmo was doing at the time. Jeff Waters’ vocals are slightly reminiscent of Aaron Randall’s, but without the high range, and a little more jagged edges in line with Randy Rampage, although not quite as throat oriented. “Hell Is A War” works okay for a half-ballad/half-groove song, but suffers a little due to excessive repetition and uninspired riffs. Things get better when the song speeds up before the guitar solo, but largely this qualifies as average Pantera worship with some decent quiet sections in line with standard Annihilator ballad work.

The place where the album really starts to shine is when the speed/thrash elements come into play. Although extremely formulaic and repetitive, “21” completely gets the job done in the catchy department and puts forward some solid Judas Priest sounding riffs with plenty of punch and crunch. “Second To None” and “Fiasco” get even faster and really showcase Waters shinning as a vocalist, although both songs seem to be using very similar principle riffs. The really important difference between these songs and the groove ones isn’t merely that the songs are faster in tempo, but that they don’t dwell upon one idea for so long. Some ideas may be interesting enough to be repeated over and over, but they tend to be few and far between, and usually work better playing off an atmospheric quality rather than being a mechanical sounding, homogenous mixture of guitar drones and repetitive rock beats.

The ballads and the novelty ideas that sort of filter in and out of the groove/speed dichotomy going on here tend to sound either completely out of place or suffer from a mixed performance between the vocals and the instruments. “In The Blood” is fairly similar to the ballads put forward on the last album, it’s memorable enough, but the vocal delivery lacks the power necessary to work in the exposed environment of a power ballad. “Bad Child” is the same story but in a half-ballad format, going back and forth between sounding like Winger and Saigon Kick, and not really getting beyond just going through the motions of both contrasting sounds. “Speed” basically goes the exact route of “The Edge” and puts forth a swinging rock tune in the “Hot For Teacher” mode, but aside from its catchiness, doesn’t come off as much more than a rehash of the latter with a smaller vocal range and a bunch of car noises filtering in and out.

If you were a fan of “Set The World On Fire” this will likely also appeal to you, although it comes up a little short in the idea department. It’s still within the realm of heavy metal, but it’s definitely flirting with leaving the genre completely at times, foreshadowing the inevitable harm that would be reaped on the band’s credibility. Personally I wouldn’t spend more than $7 for it, but a lot of it hinges on what you look for in an album, and given that a lot of people tend to listen to releases in small doses rather than all the way through in one shot, it may be worth your time.

Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on October 1, 2008.

The Jeff Waters Variety Hour - 71%

DawnoftheShred, April 15th, 2007

This is the album where Jeff would officially take over every aspect of the Annihilator sound, recording all instruments and vocals save the drums. For those uninitiated in Annihilator's rocky history, this would be the first of three experimental albums that would sully the otherwise good name of the once innovative thrash metal band. King of the Kill was Jeff's most diverse foray, attempting to showcase the broad nature of his influences, yet only proving that without a proper supporting band, Jeff is merely a jack of all trades and a master of none.

It's hard to begin describing the album's sound, as it really does go all over the place. There's some leftover speed metal numbers, a bunch of ballads and half-ballads, a few instrumentals, some slow groove songs, and even some bluesy songs with more in common with classic rock than heavy metal. Well naturally its the speed metal ones that are the best here. "King of the Kill" and "Second to None," though weak lyrically, are quick as hell and peppered with Waters' magnificent lead work. Then there's those ones that fuse speed metal with the classic rock/bluesy influences, such as "Fiasco," "21," and "Speed." Not as good, but still quite listenable. The rest go from mediocre to bad. "Annihilator" is pretty cool for a groove song, though the old demo song of the same name is a lot better. "Only Be Lonely" and "In the Blood" are ballads that while being quite well-written musically, come off as cheesy because of the lyrics. Lyrics were always one of Jeff's weak points and that comes across quite blankly on here. "The Box" is a perfect example of the dregs that this band is capable of wallowing in, a long drawn-out groove song that suffers from poor lyrics and repetitive riffs. It's almost not worth suffering through the weaker songs on here to get to the good ones, but that's at the listener's discretion.

As for Waters' vocal work on here, he's actually not bad. He can maintain a gruff tone for the heavier parts and still manage some nice melodic singing, sometimes even in the same song ("Hell is a War"). Of course it is his lead guitar work that is his true talent. While his riffs are repetitive here, his solos are not, and its clear that he was one of the only thrash guitarists still shredding it up in the early-mid 90's.

So in conclusion, KotK is a mixed bag. A very mixed bag. You can't go into it expecting any single sort of sound or you'll end up liking a handful of songs and hating the rest. Think of it as you would say, Megadeth's Risk, as a solo project of Jeff Waters and not as an Annihilator album. You might just find this rewarding.

A Strong Annihilator Offering - 83%

CannibalCorpse, October 18th, 2006

In 1994, everything but Black Metal was pretty much dead. By that time, many respectable Thrash bands either died or tried to gain enough influence of the (at the time) current pop culture to survive. Jeff Waters and his brainchild Annihilator also had a failed commercial experiment with "Set the World on Fire" released a year earlier, so should he try it again?

Luckily, he didn't. While I'm not one of the STWoF haters, it was definitely not a real Annihilator album and still undeniably subpar compared to the two classics "Alice in Hell" and "Never, Neverland". So Jeff turned into the opposite direction. Don't get me wrong, "King of the Kill" IS Thrash, but it's different to what he's done before. "King of the Kill" does incorporate a light Groove influence, is overall "heavier" bit a bit slower and more vocal-oriented than the early classics. When KotK gets going, it's a rapid, groovy and very headbang-friendly riff-fest without any fucking around (unlike the many interludes in the songs themselves - often happened on the two classic albums).

Jeff Waters does everything but the drumming on his own, that's why this Annihilator era is called the "one man era" (King of the Kill - Remains) and he really gives a damn great performance, like we're used to, but even his vocal work is impressive and I rank him far above Randy Rampage (i really disliked his frog barking) and dare to think of him in the same league as Coburn Pharr.

The album kicks of with the often critisized "The Box". Yes, it has distorted vocals and samples, but they fit very well over some great mid-paced riffs. A great intro to the album. The highlight comes right after this one, and it's the title track. "King of the Kill" has one of the catchiest main riffs in the complete Annihilator catalogue, with awesome vocal delivery and simple, yet lethal drumming.

"Annihilator" completely differs from any other song Annihilator have released before. It's total groove dominated, but without sacrificing riffs and solos. There's even clapping in the song! For some strange reason, it's working quite well.

"King of the Kill" also features a few great ballads and semi-ballads. While "Phoenix Rising" is probably the greatest ballad Annihilator have under their belt, "Bad Child" and "In the Blood" come very close. Again, Jeff Waters' vocals surprise.

Another plus is the album's variety. It has it all, raging headbangers, mid-paced rockers, powerful ballads and two great acoustic songs (especially "Catch the Wind has some very nice classical guitar work).

One thing that the reviewer before me already mentioned, is the fun factor on this album. "King of the Kill" is not an album with a very serious approach, but it's hard to explain, so you better listen to it yourself.

So, in the end, we got a very good Annihilator release with some career highlights
(King of the Kill, Second to None), a lot of above-average to good material and only one filler (Speed).

I recommend "King of the Kill" to any fan of Thrash and Heavy Metal. Not the best Annihilator album to get, but a strong release anyway.

Definately the kings of the kill. - 80%

CallerOfTheCthulhu, July 12th, 2004

When you mention the band "Annihilator", many different albums come to mind to any you ask. However, there is definately one that is overlooked, and remembered primarily for it's title track.

King Of The Kill is one of the lesser known "Annihilator" albums for some odd reason. But if you ask the die hard fan, this is one of the first albums out of their mouths. The album is a change from what the band is use to doing.

The music on the album isn't quite as fast as many are use to, but rather somewhat toned down and vocal and lyric orientated. Take 'The Box' for example, which is a song about television, and how it can control our lives. And the track 'Annihilator' is so diverse from many of the tracks that have been released previously. Sure the war influence still remains, but that's one of the very few similarities between this and previous releases.

Some of the tracks hold that old-school heavy metal feel to them. If you actually sit down and listen to them, songs like '21' and 'Fiasco' are just somewhat fun to listen to while being aggressive.

So, definately give this one a spin. Though it may not be the heaviest album, it is somewhat of a fun one to listen to. It may hold a few traditional "Annihilator" signatures here and there, but the fact that the album is somewhat diverse from it's predecessors. While some songs may not be able to hold your attention the whole time, it's definately one that will keep you listening no matter what.