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Sympathetic ups and downs for faithful collectors - 72%

kluseba, March 21st, 2017
Written based on this version: 2017, 2CD + blu-ray, UDR Music (Digipak)

Triple Threat is a package made for faithful fans and with some reserves also for potential new followers. It introduces the current Annihilator line-up that has been around for less than a year. This release exists in different versions but the most complete ones offer three different auditory and visual experiences. This package offers a regular concert recorded at Bang Your Head!!! festival consisting of eleven tracks and a running time around one hour. The second threat comes in form of an acoustic set filmed and recorded at Jeff Waters' home studio close to Ottawa with guest singer Marc Lafrance and guest guitar player Pat Robillard who played ten tracks for a running time slightly below forty-five minutes. As an additional gimmick, there is also a comment section where Jeff Waters discusses each of the ten acoustic tracks for about thirty minutes in total. The last chapter offers a documentary including interviews with former and current band members, friends and musicians as well as fans from all around the world for a running time around one hour.

Let's take a look at the three different parts of this release. The regular concert is what you can expect from such a festival recording. The cuts are a little bit too fast in my book but the sound is overall massive apart of a section in the final track ''Phantasmagoria'' where the sound is off for a few short seconds on two occasions. It's possible that this is only the case for my copy but since I have read about the same issues concerning the same but also other songs in other reviews, I guess it's a general problem that couldn't be fixed. That definitely rates this section of the release down as it is a lack of attention, professionalism and quality but since it's only a minor problem, it will not reduce the overall quality of an overall strong concert. The new line-up has great chemistry and the four musicians clearly enjoy themselves on stage but still manage to play very professionally and nearly technically perfect. Rich Hinks and Aaron Homma are running around the stage like there's no tomorrow, Fabio Alessandrini nails his performance on the drums and Jeff Waters delivers his own triple threat by entertaining the audience, playing the guitar and singing all songs. The German festival audience is audibly enthusiastic which makes the show even more immersive. The set list focuses on the band's first four and current two records only but is rather satisfying for such a festival appearance. However, those who already have the special edition of Feast including the band's festival appearance at Wacken Open Air three years earlier, don't really need this new recording. Half of the set list is the same, the atmospheres are equally great and the bands delivered the goods on both occasion. A recording of a full regular Annihilator concert with some rare material would have been much more interesting. My final verdict is that this part of the package is very solid but not essential.

The acoustic set is something Annihilator has never tried out so far in its long career. The band chose ten calmer tracks which consist mostly of ballads or half ballads. While all these songs are great in their own way and performed very well, they also end up sounding quite alike and the set gets a little bit redundant after a while. It would have been interesting to transform a few of the heavier tracks into acoustic cuts to have a more diversified selection. The performances of the bass and guitar players are compelling and guest singer Marc Lafrance, who does lead vocals on all songs, are appeasing and enchanting. On a few occasions, he struggles with some higher notes here and there but his overall performance is surprisingly solid. It's questionable whether this experience needed to be filmed. While the audio version makes sense to me, it's not exactly entertaining to watch five guys sitting on chairs in a basement for forty-five minutes. The additional comment section by Jeff Waters proves two things: Jeff Waters is a sympathetic guy who has been through a lot of interesting things but he also talks way too much. While some of his comments were interesting enough, others were repetitive and could be skipped. In the end, this section delivers outstanding music with boring visuals and an ultimately unnecessary comment section.

The last part consist of a documentary that is all over the place. We get to hear interview segments with current and former band members, colleagues and partners of old date as well as fans from all around the world. Jeff Waters also answers fan questions in between and takes us on a ride through parts of his home town from downtown Ottawa over Dunrobin to Constance Bay. While Canada's capital region looks gorgeous and this documentary inspired me to go swimming at Constance Bay next summer, I wonder what the point of this documentary is. Jeff Waters probably wanted to put as many different aspects and ideas as possible in a running time of about one hour but the final product is lacking structure and includes both quite interesting parts as well as less compelling sections. Even the quality varies from cheap and shaky webcam sections with fans to very professional interview sections with the three new band members where images and sounds are crystal clear. After all, this documentary section is for very faithful fans only and has many ups and downs. On the other side, its unorthodox approach also has a sympathetic side to it.

To keep it short, Triple Threat is an above average package with several highlights such as the acoustic songs and the energizing festival performance, some average material in form of the documentary and an unnecessary part with comments on the acoustic songs. Faithful fans should absolutely get their hands on this overall entertaining package. Occasional or new fans should only purchase this release for a low and reasonable price and should otherwise stick to one of the band's numerous compilations included as bonus discs on several regular albums or purchase the excellent Japanese greatest hits release Welcome to Your Death which came out less than three years ago.

A fun experience for Annihilator fans. - 78%

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

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.