Canada's Annihilator's came screaming onto the scene with their brand of technical speed metal. Most people would even argue that this is their best release. I'm not sure I would agree as there is some great stuff to come from Jeff Waters and Co. in the future, but I will say that it ranks at the top of their catalogue. Vocalist Randy Rampage has a great voice, but unfortunately this will be his last disc until the 2000 reunion disc "Criteria for a Black Widow, after which Randy would get the boot for a second time. He has one of those high-pitched, whiney, snake-like thrash voices that bands like Overkill, Exodus, and Ultimatum have. Anyhow, this disc really should be ranked up at the very top of the 80's thrash classics. The guitar sound on this disc, while supposedly being recorded as a demo, is gritty and biting and the guitar work is stellar. Jeff Waters is a thrash metal maniac, no doubt about it. Just about every song on this disc is excellent, with standout cuts being "Alison Hell", "Human Insecticide" and "W.T.Y.D.". "Human Insecticide" is one of the fasted guitar riffs ever written. I'd like to see some of those wimpy black metal bands pull of some of the speed, accuracy, and finesse of this song. This is true speed. On top of this, the music has held up well over time, still sounding as good 10+ years later as it did the day it came out.
Annihilator-Never, Neverland (Roadrunner) 1990
Excellent speed metal disc that parallels Megadeth's early 90's sound. The technical thrash riffing of Jeff Waters is outstanding as are the pipes of new vocalist Coburn Pharr, who replaced Randy Rampage. I would probably say this disc is one of Annihilator's best, if not their very best. Some funny lyrics on this disc, including the ode to macaroni and cheese:
"Kraf Dinner" "Macaroni maniac, a cheddar cheese heart attack. I love, I love, I love, I love Kraf dinner. Boiling water, I can't wait. It's getting hotter, it feels so great. Macaroni maniac, a cheddar cheese heart attack."
Cool packaging as well. Not only are the lyrics included but a small footnote by Jeff Waters on each of the songs. "Never, Neverland" sold well overseas, much better than in North America. It did so well for them that they hooked up with Judas Priest for their European tour. I read somewhere that shortly after this tour, Jeff Waters was offered the second guitar slot in Megadeth, which he turned down. Whether this is true or not, only Jeff and Dave Mustaine know, however, I can only imagine what kind of cool stuff those two guys would have come up with.
"Set the World on Fire" was the first Annihilator disc I had ever heard and because of that it was a long time before I ever gave a listen to another of their discs. I was told that Annihilator were one of the best speed metal bands to come out of Canada, but I didn't see that here. "Set the World on Fire" was probably Annihilator's attempt at commercialism since it was their first major label release after a very successful European tour with Judas Priest. (What is it about big labels that tend to ruin a good band?) Even the raw, tight, crunchy guitar sounds have been smoothed over. "Phoenix Rising" and "Sounds Good To Me" are both ballads and just don't feel natural on an Annihilator disc, although I must admit, I kind of like "Phoenix Rising". Anyhow, it didn't work and most fans were turned off by this disc. The title track, "Knight Jumps Queen" and "No Zone" are cool songs, but it's mostly downhill from there. "Don't Bother Me", a mid-paced rocker, isn't bad either but for some reason it reminds me of Van Halen, especially the guitar playing. Hmmm, I think I much prefer Jeff Waters' fast downpicking style better. The disc finishes off with a bang; a speedy number called "Brain Dance" that incorporates speed, but also a bit of groove. Eventually I discovered that this wasn't the best disc to represent Annihilator and I picked up"Never Neverland." I became a huge fan and have been ever since. Probably for that reason, I have grown to appreciate this disc a bit more over the years. Despite that fact, however, "Set The World On Fire" is still the least played disc in my Annihilator collection.
Annihilator - Bag of Tricks (Roadrunner) 1994
1. "Alison Hell"
At long last, the missing disc in my Annihilator collection. (thanks Kurt) "Bag of Tricks" is a well assembled odds and sods album featuring unreleased tracks, remixes, live cuts, demo versions, etc. This disc covers the period of the band from around 1986, through their first release, "Alice in Hell" (1989) and up through "Setting the World on Fire" (1993). For a casual fan, these types of albums probably aren't to interesting, but to the long-time fans it gives us a deeper look into the machine. On top of having some choice song selections, what also makes this disc nice is the lengthy and detailed liner notes complete with a track by track breakdown written by Monte Conner of Roadrunner Records. The booklet also features plenty of vintage photos of the band, a discography, and a complete list of all musicians that performed with Annihilator. Most of these tracks remain unreleased in this format on any other release, although "W.T.Y.D.", "World Salad" and the AC/DC cover "Live Wire" also appear on the band's "In Command Live" disc. These three tracks were recorded in 1990 in San Antonio, Texas. Personally it's all the demo and unreleased material that I am most interested in.
Annihilator - King of the Kill (Music For Nations) 1994
1. "The Box"
"King of the Kill" is not really a band album but more of a Jeff Waters' solo project as he wrote all the material, sang, and played all the guitar and bass parts. A drummer is listed but it sounds as if a drum machine was used to me, or perhaps the drum kit was triggered. "King of the Kill" is a good speed metal album, none-the-less, with loads of speed, aggression, good hooks, a bit of groove and even some clean guitar parts where needed. This disc is kind of tough to get, I had to ask a friend in Germany to find it for me. I sure ask a lot of my friends, huh? (Of course within a year of writing this, the disc was reissued in the US on CMC International.)
Annihilator - In Command (LIVE 1989-1990) (Roadrunner) 1996
1. "W.T.Y.D. "
"In Command (LIVE 1989-1990)" sports a superb recording and mix. The disc is broken up into two shows: Tracks 1 - 5 were recorded live on November 11, 1989 at The Ritz in New York, NY with original vocalist Randy Rampage. Tracks 6-14 were recorded live on November 2, 1990 at The Showroom in San Antonio, TX with vocalist Coburn Pharr. "Live Wire" is an AC/DC cover.
Annihilator - Refresh the Demon (Music for Nations) 1996
1. "Refresh the Demon"
During the darkest of days for heavy metal, and especially speed metal, Jeff Waters continues to stick to his guns cranking out speedy riffs, laid on top of quick double bass. The cover art reminds me of Uriah Heep's "Abominog." Despite the fact that Jeff continues to use the cliche 80's imagery for his cover art, his music continues to impress. "Refresh the Demon" sounds musically as tight, or possibly even tighter, than "Alice in Hell" and "Never Neverland." This is perfect driving music, but you better watch your speed. My copy is a German import digi-pack. The U.S. version, which didn't get released until four years after it was released everywhere else, has a slightly different cover and track listing.
Annihilator - Remains (Music for Nations) 1997
1. "Murder" (4:27)
"Remains" has an industrial edge to it, mostly because the drums are programmed. This disc, like most of Annihilator's mid to late 90's cds, is another Jeff Waters solo project as he writes all the music and lyrics, sings, and plays all the instruments. Up until 1999, this disc was only available as an import, but Century Media re-released several of Annihilator's discs with bonus tracks.
Annihilator - Criteria For a Black Widow (CMC International) 1999
After almost three years off, Jeff Waters' reunites most of the original Annihilator to release their 9th official album, and manage to keep the speed-metal torch burning bright. According to the spoken part at the end of the cd, Jeff was going through a whole lot of personal problems including a messy divorce, which is why his band was inactive. After going to see Slayer in concert he was again inspired to get back in the studio. However, it seems Slayer inspired more than just his motivation as a few of these new songs sound very Slayer-like, especially the opening, which Jeff says is a tribute to Slayer. Overall, however, Annihilator 1999 sounds like a rejuvenated Annihilator from 1989. Few bands in the late 90's have this much aggression, speed and fury. Annihilator simly refuse to go down the road of trends and continue to put out high caliber speed metal and thrash. The other cool thing about "Criteria" is that this is probably the most consistent release since "Alice in Hell." The only song I don't particularly care for is the title track. Original vocalist Randy Rampage and drummer Ray Hartmann return for this "reunion" record and contribute a lot to the aggressive sound. This is also the first release in years that is readily available in the U.S. Past releases were only available as pricey imports but many have recently be reissued by CMC.
Jeff Waters and company inherit a legend from the underground metal scene. Former Liege Lord vocalist and Overkill guitarist is the next to fill in the ever changing vocalist spot for Annihilator, and what a fine job he does. At times I would have swore it was Rob Halford singing. I mean, I really searched through the liner notes after hearing some of the high pitched wails in "Time Bomb." Even some of the lower vocal stuff on songs like "The Rush" and "Epic of War" sound a bit like Painkiller-era Rob Halford. This is not to say that the entire album sounds like a Judas Priest rip-off. The disc starts of with a traditional Annihilator speed metal number then sways off into different directions, pulling in metal influences from many different types of metal. The tight musicianship and quality songwriting add to the appeal. The only real negative is some of the dark stereotypical lyrics of death and destruction. For example "Time Bomb" is a song of chemical warfare and total destruction, "Epic of War" is self explanatory, and "Hunter Killer" is a about a stalker murderer. Jeff has always come up with some unusual lyrical themes, and there are a few on this disc as well. "Insomniac" is a insane tale of sleeplessness. This song is humorously written and much more interesting than hearing another tale of death. "Chicken & Corn" is a joke song hidden at the end of track 11.
Annihilator - Waking the Fury (SPV) 2002
Disc number two with consummate vocalist Joe Comeau. Of course in the never ending line-up changes of Annihilator, this disc is no different. "Waking the Fury" is appropriately titled as this disc simply shreds from beginning to end. Randy Black takes over the drummer's seat for Ray Hartmann, and guitarist Dave Scott Davis is replaced by guitarist Curran Murphy. Of course Randy Black is not really new to the band as he was the drummer on "King of the Kill" and "Refresh the Demon". But line-up changes aside, "Waking the Fury" is an appropriately titled disc, as this is probably one of the most aggressive discs Jeff Waters has unleashed yet, if not the most aggressive. From beginning to end the thrash metal never lets up. As with the band's recent discs there are several hints of Judas Priest and Slayer, but then again, that is exactly how I would describe Annihilator to begin with. Priest meets Slayer. Album opener "Ultra-Motion" open things up with a fury of insane speed. "Torn" and "Striker" have the vintage Annihilator groove with Comeau sounding a bit like Rob Halford. "Nothing to Me" is another vicious assault soundling a bit like AC/DC. "Fire Power" tears things up like aa jet liner coming in for a crash landing. Throughout this disc both guitarist unleash a fury of guitar solos as well. I only have two real complaints about this disc. The first is that Jeff Water's tight guitar crunch of the past has been changed to a fuzzier/buzzier tone, giving the disc a slightly thinner sound than I am use to hearing from Annihilator. The second complaint is that this disc was a pain in the butt to obtain. Apparently either the band's American label is no more or they are doing a horrid job of distribution since I had to go to a friend outside the U.S. to get this disc. Despite these things, Annihilator have released yet another thrash metal monster. There are only a handful of bands still doing this style of thrash metal, and few that do it this good, making Annihilator the kings of the scene.
Annihilator - Double Live Annihilation (AFM) 2003
Double Live Annihilation! Perfect title for a rock solid live disc from Annihilator. Unfortunately, as seems to be the case with many live albums, Double Live Annihilation will be the end of an era for Annhilator as this will be the last album for vocalist Joe Comeau. Too bad as he was certainly a competent and extremely well fit vocalist for the band. Everything is in place for this live disc. Great packaging - mine happens to be a limited edition digi-book version, excellent song selection spanning the bands entire existence, and an excellent recording to boot. Personally, I like the guitar sounds on this live disc a bit better than their last studio CD. I prefer the tight crunch sound over the fuzzier tones on "Waking the Fury." Drummer Randy Black is truly an impressive drummer. I was wondering how well he would pull of some of that fast double bass stuff in a live setting. He doesn't miss a beat. Of course Jeff Waters tears it up. I swear he has got to be one of the fastest and most accurate rhythm players in metal history. Just take a listen to some of the insane downpicking he pulls off on this disc. The digi-book version also includes a couple of multimedia video clips, including a full length video for "The Blackest Day".
Annihilator - All For You (AFM) 2004
This album is taking a beating from reviewers, and while I can see some of their points, it's really much better than people are making it out. OK, I will be the first to admit that I am disappointed with the new vocalist. Certainly Joe Comeau could have done a better job here. Unfortunately Dave Padden makes Annihilator sound a bit like a modern, mall-metal band at times. This is especially true when singing the chorus of the title track or the semi-cheesy ballad "The One." However, I really don't think the vocals make or break this album. There is plenty of meaty, crunchy thrash metal to digest on this album. There are several tracks that are bombstic thrash assaults, reminding me of Slayer at times, especially on "Rage Absolute." Another complaint I have read is that people think the riffs sound recycled from past Annihilator albums. To this I say, SO WHAT! I find it amusing that these same reviewers are praising the new Motörhead (an album I also like), yet it sounds like vintage Motörhead. Annihilator sound like Annihilator. However, I also think that Jeff Waters stepped out a bit on this one and experimented a bit with some newer sounds and styles. Personally, I like some of these elements. As a matter of fact, I think All For You is a nice blend of Setting the World on Fire and more recent Annihilator outputs. So while the reviewers are sitting around and complaining, I will be cranking All For One to eleven and banging my head.
Annihilator - Schizo Deluxe (Locomotive) 2005
1. "Maximum Satan"
I have read a number of reviews stating that Annhilator have returned to their thrash roots. To me "Schizo Deluxe" sounds "Alice in Hell," "Never, Neverland," and "All For You" thrown into a blender. In other words it still retains the modern feel of the past few albums and combines it with their classic sound for something truly amazing. The CD starts out with "Maximum Satan," a midpaced song with a rather nice chorus. However, I am not sure I would have picked this as the album's opening track as it doesn't represent the fury that will begin to unfold with "Drive", a song I think would have been a better album opener. "Warbird" is another mid-paced song that picks up the pace at points thoughout the song. This song reminds me of more modern Overkill. The scream at the end of this song is annoying! However, the song is very cool. After this, for the most part the mid-paced groove is left behind in favor of pure thrash metal. "Plasma Zombies" and "Invite It" respectively are both some of the finest songs to come from this metal machine. Fast riffs and insane solos as only Jeff Waters knows how to deliver. "Like Father, Like Gun" is a slower song with and takes issue with religious groups who raise their children to hate and kill. (ie. extreme muslums) "Pride" in another raging speed metal number with a scream at the end by Exciter's Dan Beehler. The last three songs are no less amazing. On the band's last album, I read a lot of negative reviews on new vocalist Dave Padden. However, other than some annoying metalcore/screamo type singing here and there, he has a very versitile voice. For most of the album Dave uses a very cool thrash vocal style, mixing in some clean parts here and there, as well as the occassional metalcore scream. As usual, Waters guitarwork is outstanding, from his fast, clean downpicking to the insane guitar solos. The CD finishes off with some bizzare noises that sounds like umpa lumpas or something. The Locomotive version also contains three bonus tracks. "Weapon X" was an exclusive track from "The One" EP from '04. "I Am In Command" and "Annihilator" sound like rough demo tracks. No information is given inside the liner notes about these tracks.
Annihilator return in 2007 with their 12th full length studio album. Jeff Waters is still Annihilator's main man. He is to Annihilator what Lemmy is to Motorhead, or Dave Mustain to Megadeth. For some odd reason Jeff felt it necessary to bring in a host of guest musicians, many of which are from modern rock and metal bands. I think this may have been a bit detrimental to the band as many long-time fans wondered if Annihilator would move even more into a modern direction than they did on "Schizo Deluxe". All over the internet cries of "sellout" and "bandwagon jumping" were popping up. However, on his new CD, simply and aptly titled, "Metal", Waters' continues in the same direction that the band has been doing since 1999's "Criteria for a Black Widow". Personally, I think Waters just wanted to use some of the big names in metal to help gain him a bit of exposure, and why not? This is some good stuff. Perhaps not as fast or furious at times as some of the band's past thrashers, but still 100% heavy metal. That is not to say that "Metal" is full of modern rock riffs. Far from it. "Clown Parade" is a straight up thrasher with some amazing soloing by Nevermore's Jeff Loomis. "Army of One" celebrates the old school of heavy metal, with Anvil main man, Steve "Lips" Kudlow lending some lead work to the song. Can you get any more metal than Anvil? OK, the name checking of classic metal bands in the lyrics is probably a bit cheesy. I say, "so what!" Who doesn't like a little cheese every now and then. Shoot, was "Kraf Dinner" any less cheesy? It's all just part of the fun. "Downright Dominate" contains some incredible guitar riffing as well. Had this song been on "Alice in Hell", thrash fans would have been touting it as one of the band's best songs. "Operation Annihilation" is a mid-paced metal song complete with some precise, stacatto, guitar riffs and a sweet lead break by Arch Enemy's "Michael Amott". "Haunted" is another thrasher and features In Flames' Jesper Stromblad ripping through some guitar leads.
On the downside, there are some less than stellar moments. "Couple Suicide" sounds like Jeff was shooting for a modern, almost metalcore sound. It doesn't really work as well as the tracks where Jeff just sticks to what he does best. Also, I still don't think that Dave Padden is the best vocalist for Annihilator. I'd welcome the return of Joe Comeau. Yes, the list of guest is a bit daunting. Trendy flavor-of-the-month bands like Lamb of God and Trivium aren't what most fans of classic thrash and metal are after. However, those are only names who lent a hand with a solo or two and don't really have much to do with the overall sound of "Metal". Thus, "Metal" may not be Annihilator's best album, but it is a good album and far better than most are making it out to be. For a complete listing of guests, see the list below.
Annihilator (Earache) 2010