November 6th, 2013
CLUB NOSTURI, HELSINKI
REVIEW AND PHOTOS BY MARKO SYRJALA
Annihilator is a Canadian thrash metal band that was formed in 1984 by guitarist/vocalist Jeff Waters. The band has sold over two million albums worldwide. Their debut album, ALICE IN HELL, is considered to be one of true classics of the thrash metal genre and Waters’ “extraordinary guitar playing skills” are widely recognized. Since formation, Annihilator has released thirteen studio albums and gone through many line-up changes. The band now consists of two official members, with Waters and rhythm guitarist/vocalist Dave Padden, who joined band ranks in 2003. The line-up is now completed with touring bassist Alberto Campuzano and drummer Mike Harshaw who also performed on the band’s latest album FEAST. Annihilator has enjoyed a strong upswing in Europe during the last few years. FEAST is their best-selling album since the late 80’s glory days and Annihilator concerts have been mainly sold out. Tonight’s show in Helsinki made no exception when over 600 metalheads find their way to witness Canadian’s finest performing in Club Nosturi. Welcome to the show!
For schedule reasons, I didn’t make it to the venue when support band The Generals were performing, so I have nothing to say about them here. In fact, I didn’t make it there until five minutes before the main act was taking over the stage. At that time, the front row was already filled with fans of all ages. It was striking how different audiences that Annihilator now attracts to its gigs. Amongst fans, whom like myself, a long term of fan who have listened Annihilator since the 80’s, there were also lot of teenagers who have just found their first exposure to the band through FEAST.
The show opened, more than surprisingly, with “Alison Hell” from bands legendary debut release. I’ve witnessed Annihilator several times before and this song has always been played as an encore, but what the hell. The song worked out extremely well as an opening song and the crowd went completely wild. Another ALICE IN HELL classic “W.T.Y.D.” was played next. It sounded great, and an old school “mosh pit” was present in the audience like in good old days. And the following song …let’s say it this way. I’ve been Annihilator fan since ALICE IN HELL was released but my all-time favorite album from the band is the third one, SET THE WORLD ON FIRE. “Knight Jumps Queen” was just phenomenal and it was for sure one of those tracks I wasn’t expecting to hear live, ever. For the set list, this was close to perfect for an old school fan like me. I’ve always preferred the first four albums as their best and now the band played the best tracks from each album. Altogether they did 2 songs from ALICE IN HELL, 3 songs from SET THE WORLD ON FIRE (plus another three on acoustic medley), 4 songs from NEVER NEVERLAND and 4 from KING OF THE KILL. How much more can we ask for, really? But it wasn’t just the first four albums. The band smartly picked the best songs from their later albums also, and so they covered finely their entire career. It was great to now hear rarely played gems like the title track of REFRESH THE DEMON. Personally, I’ve never heard current line up performing any songs from the Joe Comeau era, but this too was now fixed. “Time Bomb” and ultra-heavy “Ultra Motion” sounded extremely good and the later was definitely one of the show highlights.
When the classic “King of the Kill” closed the set, everybody seemed to be more than happy. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting this much from the show but I was gladly wrong. It’s not a secret that I’ve never 100% loved Dave Padden, and in my opinion he’s been the weakest link since joining the band back in 2003. The albums released after that haven’t been that great and Padden has always been lacking charisma on stage. But fortunately things do sometimes change! FEAST is definitely Annihilator’s strongest album in years and it’s easily the best Padden era album. Something has also changed with his stage presence. It’s not just about the beard he’s now sporting, but somehow Padden looks more self-confident and credible than ever before. Maybe I can finally accept him as lead vocalist of Annihilator from now on.
The band’s current rhythm section was really solid as well. It can’t be easy to fill shoes of Ray Hartman, Randy Black and Mike Mangini but youngster Mike Harshaw did a great job behind his drum kit. Bassist Alberto Campuzino not just played great but he also presented good vocalist skills during the acoustic set. And then there’s the one and only Jeff Waters. In brief, the man was in excellent shape. It was just amazing to follow his virtuoso playing and energetic performance throughout the show. It’s a fact that Waters has undergone many difficult times during his career but he has never given up. Knowing the history, it was great to see how his face is now reflected satisfaction with the current state of the band which is really strong.
As mentioned in the beginning of this review, it was really unusual that the band opened show with the classic “Alison Hell”. But it wasn’t the only unexpected thing today. FEAST was released in August 2013, and for sure many fans were a bit abashed when there wasn’t any new songs included for the first 75 minutes of the set. But this was fixed soon after. The latest single/video “No Way Out” opened the string of three FEAST tracks and especially “Deadlock” got a great response from the crowd. The song was presented by Jeff as a tribute to “old school Metallica” and that’s what it really sounded, in a good way.
This indeed was an evening of great, true metal at its best. Period.
Knight Jumps Queen
Reduced to Ash
Set the World on Fire
Refresh the Demon
The Fun Palace
Second to None
I Am in Command
Phoenix Rising / Sounds Good to Me / Snake In the Grass
No Way Out
King of the Kill