Released: 2010, Earache Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
Annihilator has had a tough run over the course of its 25 year existence. The band came out of the gate swinging in ‘89 with the classic ALICE IN HELL and followed up with the equally impressive NEVER, NEVERLAND, but it seems that everything else after 1990 was well, not so much? Persistent lineup changes, shifting musical climates, poor distribution, and some generally ill-conceived releases haven’t done much to help Jeff Waters and his entourage of the moment, but you have to give the guy credit for persistence. And that persistence seems to have paid off in the form of lucky album no.13, simply titled ANNIHILATOR. The most consistent batch of songs in years, ANNIHILATOR shows that there’s still some fire left after all.
ANNIHILATOR keeps the formula simple this time around – a guitar focused thrash record that doesn’t pretend to be anything that it’s not. There’s no kitschy innuendo (“Knight Jumps Queen anyone?”), no unnecessary pretense, just lots and lots of tasty riffs. “The Trend” opens with some tasteful licks that segue into a stomping indictment of the new generation of bands that tend to “borrow” from the past. The band tackles a variety of topics, ranging from spousal abuse, kids on the streets, betrayal and revenge, but it never gets preachy. The tempo is upbeat and ferocious, with a natural energy that kept me listening and banging my head blissfully. But the real star of the show is the plethora of guitar solos, courtesy of Mr. Waters. Waters has often been the first person to compliment himself on his six-string ability, but he puts everything on the line throughout ANNIHILATOR. There are some truly stunning solos throughout the disc (especially on the latter half of the disc), but it’s never self-indulgent or “wanky.” Rather, they’re strategically placed and executed with the skill of an assassin.
Long-time vocalist Dave Padden gets a lot of guff for not having the vocal prowess of his predecessors and unduly takes a lot of the flack for some of the band’s recent releases, but he’s on point here. He’s got a peculiar lower-register delivery that gives the tunes some extra bite and delivers the songs in a way that a Randy Rampage-type couldn’t. The songs are aggressive and so is Padden’s bark, it’s almost like they planned it that way…The inclusion of Van Halen’s “Romeo Delight” is a treat, as it ends the disc with some levity. It’s a fun song, and you can tell from the performance that the guys had fun recording it.
While Annihilator will always live in the shadows of those first two classic albums, this disc reaffirms the band’s relevancy in 2010. It may have taken a while to get here, but it was worth the wait. Check out ANNIHILATOR and become a believer again.