17 May 2010
By Tom Dare
Like a number of genuinely great thrash bands – Testament being a prime example – Annihilator suffered with poor timing. Emerging and releasing their finest records in the late 80s and early 90s meant they missed the scene’s peak, and missed out on the wider attention they should have got as thrash went underground again. Unlike Testament, Annihilator haven’t yet capitalised of the recent rekindling of interest in the genre by releasing a record which recalls their finest days.
Opener ‘The Trend’ suggests this is about to change. The opening riff high up the fret is soon joined by a more beefy, bass-heavy number before the drums kick things up a notch, and for nearly two solid minutes one of Jeff Waters’ finest shredding lead lines dances above a stirring, steadily rising rhythm guitar line. Eventually the vocals kick in and signature thrash riffs of varying tempos back them, before once more wailing leads dual with the chugging rhythm parts. The vocal hook is none too shabby either. Epic in duration and content, varying from the melodic and mid tempo to the furious, it sets things up for what looks to be a genuinely stunning record.
Unfortunately, that record never comes. Next track ‘Coward’ changes direction completely, turning into much more standard thrash territory. While some of the riffs are good enough – and with Jeff Waters playing them, the leads are invariably great – it does nothing particularly inspiring or original. Dave Padden has some nice vocal rhythms and there are some hooks here and there, but both ‘Coward’ and following track ‘Ambush’ are merely good thrash songs – and following that opening, they sound a little bland. ‘Betrayed’ is better, the riffs and leads combining nicely and with plenty of that crunch this style of metal does so well and Padden injects real snarl into the vocal refrain, but it fails to lives up to the immense opening.
There is nothing to actively dislike with Annihilator, and if you are a fan of band or thrash in general, this is more than worth a listen – but there’s just not much that really gets you out of your seat unless you are a huge fan of shredding. There are some highlights later in the record, such as the galloping rhythms of ‘The Other Side’ and the chorus of ‘Nowhere To Go’, which sounds more like it was recorded by an American radio rock band than legendary thrash destroyers, but somehow works and is great.
Watch Jeff Waters play one of his band’s classics, ‘Alice In Hell’, at Musikmesse 2010:
The inclusion of a cover of Van Halen’s ‘Romeo Delight’ to close the album initially feels a little odd. It does not match the rest of the album in mood or style (it’s cheerful, for a start). On repeated listens however it works better, and while it does not really add anything to the original it certainly does nothing wrong, and it provides a more concrete end to the record than the fading solo of the last original track ‘Payback’.
Most of the material on Annihilator is good but there simply are not enough stand-out moments to make this the record that brings Annihilator the attention that their back catalogue demonstrates they really deserve. ‘The Trend’ is a stunning track that shows exactly how good Annihilator can be. It’s simply a pity the rest of the album isn’t quite as strong.
Sounds like: Megadeth, Testament
Top tracks: The Trend, The Other Side, Nowhere To Go
Annihilator – Annihilator tracklisting:
Nowhere To Go
The Other Side
Death In Your Eyes
Romeo Delight (Van Halen cover)