Canada's biggest metal export in the '80s, Vancouver (by way of Ottawa) thrash metallers Annihilator was one of the many classic examples of a band which kicks off with a fanatstic debut that is an instant classic (Van Halen, Exodus, etc.) and deteriorates steadily from there never to fulfill its initial promise. As in most cases, the band, commercial ambitions and record company involvement all play a part. In this case, the worst of the bunch is the blatantly commercial Set The World On Fire. Formed in 1984 and after several very successful underground demos (Welcome To Your Death and Phantasmagoria being the better-knowns) featuring Waters occasionally on vocals while friend and co-founder John Bates would also take care of the vocals, the band's debut (now featuring Rampage) became an instant metal hit. Prior to this, the band had become an underground hit and earned Waters a spectacular reputation. The second effort was almost as successful (and sold more) and featured more topical lyrics, while the third was described above. Rampage was fired first for alcohol problems and later again for similar reasons. The band would also claim he had to stay with his day job for seniority reasons. In 1999 on the road in Europe with Overkill (Comeau's then band) rampage threatened to kill the band and crew while reportedly brandishing a knife. Pharr was imported in the ‘80s by the Roadrunner label to give the band a more commercial angle. The band apparently agreed to the suggestion happily. He would leave after one album and one tour, come abck for some more touring and again be asked to leave. In general though, Waters has been the sole member with everyone else acting as session players. Early on the band was on the verge of demise when Waters was offered the vacant guitar slot in Megadeth. The band has opened for Judas Priest and headlined many times due to its popularity in Europe. The band signed to Germany's AFM Records in 2003. Drummer Randy Black toured with Primal Fear for the Metal Gods' tour in 2003 when the Germans' drummer Klaus Sperrling was not able to make the trip. He later joined the German heavy metallers permanently. Black was consequently asked to leave Rebellion. Several months later, Black was also excused from Annihilator, which resulted in a war of words. The Canadian power metal band brought back drummer Mike Mangini into the fold. Simultaneously, the band and vocalist Joe Comeau went their separate ways due to "non-musical differences." Vancouver-based Dave Padden was the band's new front man. Annihilator did not miss a beat and played at Wacken 2003 even as Waters was busy relocating back to his hometown of Ottawa. The new line-up issued Schizo Deluxe in late 2005. A DVD called Ten Years In Hell, covering up to the year 2000, was issued in 2006 by SPV. Former bassist Russ Bergquist rejoined the band in time for a European tour in 2006. The band’s Metal album was issued in April of 2007 through SPV. The record featured Mike Mangini on drums and guest appearances by Mike Amott and Angela Gossow of Arch Enemy, Jeff Loomis of Nevermore and Alexi Laiho of Children Of Bodom. The group hit the road as support for Iced Earth later in the year. The Metal album was issued in North America several months behind Europe. Vancouver’s Terror Syndrome, featuring The Devin Townsend Band drummer Ryan Van Poederooyen, said farewell to singer Denton Bramley in the autumn of 2008 and replaced him with Dave Padden. The new singer would supposedly front both bands. Annihilator will release a new DVD, Live At Masters Of Rock, this month through SPV. It was recorded on July 11, 2008 at the Masters Of Rock Festival in Vizovice, Czech Republic. This was to be the band’s last release with the bankrupt label. Former touring bassist Dave Sheldon was back on guitar in 2010 and heading his own band called Exes For Eyes. Annihilator, now on Earache, was seeking a bass player. A new record was expected in 2010. Annihilator released its self-titled album in Europe on May 17th through Earache Records. Ryan Ahoff played drums on it. Alberto Campuzano of Toronto band Warmachine joined Annihilator as a touring bassist in April of 2010. He also remained in his main band. Annihilator recruited Cryptopsy drummer Flo Mounier for its summer 2011 shows. Annihilator would release a studio album, called, on August 23rd, 2013 through UDR. The “deluxe eco-book” version would also feature a bonus disc with 15 re-recorded Annihilator songs. The package featured a 3D cover. The band was involved in an accident while on the road in Spain in late 2013. The band’s bus and equipment were damaged. Annihilator’s Jeff Waters invited ex-vocalist Coburn Pharr to participate in the performance for The World's Biggest Heavy Metal Cruise to Jamaica in January 2015. Pharr was the lead vocalist on Annihilator's 1990 release Never, Neverland. Dave Padden remained the band’s vocalist. Annihilator would release a studio album, called Suicide Society, on September 18th, 2015 through UDR Music. Jeff Waters played both bass and guitars. The band has re-signed with UDR Music for two more albums. The band was also planning to record a live DVD in the spring of 2016 and possibly release an acoustic album. On September 17th, 2016 Annihilator performed its first show in Western Canada since 1993. Also appearing were to be the recently reformed and original lineup of speed metal pioneers Exciter at its first Western Canadian performance since 1985. The show would be opened by thrash metal veterans Razor and Sacrifice. Calgary’s Gatekrashör would provide the last call entertainment. 2017’s Triple Threat featured acoustic versions of the band’s songs and a recording from Bang Your Head!!! festival in 2016.
ANNIHILATOR - ALL FOR YOU - AFM
The latest Annihilator follows tradition and follows earlier tradition. The former refers to the band's revamped line-up for the new album while the latter refers to All For You's attempt to return to and recapture the glory of Annihilator's debut album, the praiseworthy Alice In Hell. The music, lyrics and even the cover artwork all point to this fact.
The song All For You starts the album in fine form with a power reminiscent of the aforementioned debut. The lyrics come across as heartfelt and the music belts it out. There is a certain SYL influence here. Dr. Psycho is even more powerful with Dave Padden putting in an impressive performance. The dual-vocal execution narrates two perspectives and seem like an idea out of a King Diamond album. The aggression, the samples and the pounding music really come together here. Waters' guitar acrobatics have scarcely ever been better. It is worth noting how the bass sound is also like the band's early days. Demon Dance is a thrashing metal tune. The song could have come from Overkill. Jeff Waters delivers phenomenal rhythm and stimulating leads. How many guitarists wish they could manipulate the guitar like the Canadian axeman? Having said that there is a techno medley bubbling underneath part of this song and the vocals are unnecessarily exaggerated. The One is up next and is the one to ruin the album. The band is either acting out its dreams of playing a soulless banal pop song or the track is the result of Jeff Waters losing a bet or a dare. Puke cleared up and the stomach (and ears) cleansed the album continues with Bled which is weak vocally, but has some soaring guitar work. The backing vocal harmonies and the band's impression of a soul ensemble towards the end are less effective though. Both Of Me continues the album's downward slide with its sappy start, but soon picks up on Annihilator's whirlwind scary tactics. Is it getting schizophrenic in here? The eight-minute song's mid-section has a classic metal feel to it which is cool. Rage Absolute has some of the album's best guitar work in multiple layers and is a heavy pounder. Quite why the songs fades out instead of burning up is not clear. Holding On is another bizarre pop song probably designed for the band to grab Matchbox 20's opening slot in its tour of Alabama or something. The Nightmare Factory is, you guessed it, heavier again although the monotonous guitars and heavy and hoarse singing do add an air of amusement. The album ends with The Sound Of terror and its nightmarish and haunting samples leading to a guitar rhythm like Slayer's South Of Heaven. The instrumental is slick and the drums, like the rest of the album, don't quite rise to the occasion like the guitar, bass and the vocals.
Sure, All For You is an inconsistent album quality-wise, but there is enough quality fast and heavy material here to make it worth the investment. In fact, this album is probably the second best thing Jeff Waters has ever recorded. - Ali "The Metallian"
ANNIHILATOR - SCHIZO DELUXE - AFM
Let me be a wimp and get this out of the way: the new Annihilator album, Schizo Deluxe, offers great guitar playing, machine gun drumming and one of the few speed metal releases in the last few years.
So, why is the new album of Waters and company mostly a non-starter? The reasons are fundamentally two-fold, with the first having to do with the album's singing and vocals; the second with the industry's cancerous attempts at fighting digital music.
Tackling the latter first, AFM has dubbed several interruptions on the CD in order to throw off on-line dissemination of the disc's music. Jeff Waters' voice repeatedly butts into the music and lets the listener know how he is hoping the music is enjoyable and how the guitarist would like to meet the reviewing party. This method of safeguarding the songs from digital music rippers is as constructive as Waters is sincere with his repeated hope that he and the press will get together soon. This method of constantly interrupting the reviewers is so annoying that I personally almost went out and bought a full copy of Schizo Deluxe and propagated it online myself! The scheme is probably concocted by some moronic marketing ass who has been isolated from the real world too long and during one of his self-defeating boardroom sessions figured a way to further screw the record company and the artist by insulting the media. At a guess, that is the marketing guy's voice acting as the album's outro.
As said, the album is fantastic in its soloing and rhythm delivery. Waters has went back to the well that inspired Alice In Hell and bashed out a powerful mix of speed and six string shredding. What ruins the album is David Padden's insistence that he must mix singing with boy band-ish pop vocalizing. The song Plasma Zombies is almost a joke. The song Invite It is great, but Waters in his wisdom has decided to copy his debut as a contingency The singing is almost incredulous and funny and the backing vocals is surely a conscious sabotage of the track. Pride contains a concession to mallcore, given the retarded vocals which chant in the N Flames style. The drums are straightforward and boring and one is thankful for the fast and strong guitar work. Like Father, like Gun gets political, while the vocals ruin things again. Clare is slow to start, but soon turns into a shred fest that is even a little bluesy. The song is almost a mix of Van Halen and Gary Moore from his metal days. The guitars will knock you out.
Schizo Deluxe is rare in style, rare in the brilliant guitar attack and rare in that so much potential is scuttled by a band whose vocalist insists on trying to be in Nickelback or some such Much Music band. Couple that with AFM's antagonizing scheme and the band and label have worked themselves out of a good review. - Ali "The Metallian"
ANNIHILATOR - TEN YEARS IN HELL (2DVD) - SPV
Comprehensive, thorough and running close to fours hours over two DVDs, Ten Years in Hell focuses on the pre year 2000 Annihilator and brings together a whole lot of what one might expect. Backstage footage, live clips and all the bands promotional videos on the first DVD and a long, biographical story of the band, told mainly by Jeff Waters, on the second DVD. The live recordings are not always the best quality but nevertheless provide many glimpses into the band and its various members and shows throughout the years. With a good portion of the material shot in Japan, it is not surprising that many of the footage and apparent support for the band seems to exist outside of the borders of Canada. Fans of Annihilator and thrash metal in general will find this a really complete story of Annihilator, a band that has been around for 20 years now. - Anna Tergel
ANNIHILATOR - METAL - SPV
A partial list of guest musicians who appear on Annihilator’s Metal reads like a who’s-who of the current scene. Children Of Bodom’s Alexi Laiho, Arch Enemy power couple Angela Gossow and Michael Amott, Anvil’s Lips Kudlow, Nevermore’s Jeff Loomis and many others all appear on an album that sets itself up with an almost impossible task given a title like this. Bands have had a hard time living up to album titles like Black Metal (a definitive statement), Death Metal (indeed the sub-genre’s first outing), Thrash Metal (rubbish), etc. and thus living up to ”˜Metal’ is hard to imagine. Annihilator fails in the task. Perhaps, like Pat Boone, Annihilator leader Jeff Waters - who is supported here by “drum legend Mike Mangini” (yeah right!) was in a metal mood!
Metal is not bad, but is overall a flat outing, which is far from spectacular. Jeff Waters puts in a good effort and includes respectable rhythms and several impressive, if short, guitars solos, but the annoying vocals of Dave Padden and incredibly uninspired and monotonous drumming courtesy of our drum legend ultimately leave the listener cold. The album title is gutsy, but Waters and co. clearly do not have what it takes to live up to the standard and end up drawing attention to the flaccid singing and boring drumming. While Mike Padden imagines himself into metal, while subconsciously auditioning for a mallcore band with complete dispassion, Mangini sounds as if he was inducted at the last minute and told he has three hours to compose, arrange and perform his drumming. Would it have killed him to employ a drum roll, like, once?
On the individual song front, Detonation rips off Black Sabbath. Clown Parade and Chasing The High are impressive with the latter song clearly copying the height Annihilator achieved with its Alice In Chains debut before crashing with a slow section and keys. The Haunted’s Anders Bjorler guests on the song Smothered leaving Jesper Stromblad to guest on the song Haunted. Hmmm”¦ Coordinating all these guests must have been a logistical nightmare. Still eat your heart out, Avantasia.
Perhaps naming this album Metal was not such a good idea because aside from Waters’ occasional flourish the album hardly cuts it. Perhaps Metal refers to some scrap in the middle of the road instead of a musical style? - Ali “The Metallian”