Released: 2003, AFM Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
All hometown biases aside, Vancouver’s Annihilator got a raw deal. Jeff Waters is one of the premier thrash guitarists EVER, yet Annihilator is virtually unknown in North America. Maybe it’s because they are from Canada? I live in the same city the band is from, yet I am forced to buy their CDs as imports because they can’t get a North American deal. Maybe because there has been a revolving lineup for much of the band’s career? Five vocalists, numerous guitar players and a reputation for being “difficult” may have been their downfall. I can’t explain it, but the band released their classic ALICE IN HELL debut in 1989 and have released 8 other studio albums and now, 14 years later, have finally delivered a (double) live album with DOUBLE LIVE ANNIHILATION.
The songs from this set were gathered from the band’s 2002 summer European tour. New vocalist Joe Comeau, who was the guitarist in Overkill before joining Annihilator, is able to handle all the songs done by other vocalists (including Waters himself) respectably. His voice is reminiscent of Rob Halford’s lower range and Comeau does a great Metal God imitation on “The Blackest Day.” Of course, Waters’ flawless riffs are the highlight of any Annihilator material (it is essentially a Waters solo project anyway) and he shreds on such classics as “Murder,” “Ultra-Motion,” “I Am In Command” and “Phantasmagoria.” Not to be outdone, second guitarist Curran Murphy absolutely rips on the intro to “The Blackest Day.” Randy Black is a double-bass monster and shows why Primal Fear snatched him up in 2003. Listen to the drumwork on “King of the Kill” and your jaw will be on the floor. Naturally, the thrash metal element is at the forefront despite Waters’ experimental tangents (most notably on 1997’s industrial-tinged REMAINS, where he utilized a drum machine) over the years. The best-known Annihilator track, “Alice In Hell,” is a thrash classic and even newer tracks like “Ultra-Motion” from 2002’s WAKING THE FURY CD epitomize all that is great about this genre of metal.
As far as live recordings go, it takes a pretty special record to impress me. It is very difficult to bring the experience of being at the show into the home stereo and not many have done so successfully. The production on DOUBLE LIVE ANNIHILATION is clean, but not too much so. The audience is mixed low, which takes away from the live feel, but at the same time, there’s nothing worse than the blatantly obvious beefed up cheering that some bands use during the songs to feign enthusiasm. For that I commend Waters production ear. The band that he has assembled on this tour is remarkable to say the least and many of the songs actually sound BETTER than the originals do (the REMAINS album being the most glaring example). Nice beefy guitars and drums are mixed evenly but with plenty of crunch.
My biggest fault with this CD is the curious exclusion of ANY tracks from 1999’s CRITERIA FOR A BLACK WIDOW. The double CD covers every aspect of the band’s career yet that one CD (and one of their finest) is completely forgotten! That unforgivable omission aside, DOUBLE LIVE ANNIHILATION is the perfect compilation for the Annihilator die-hard and an excellent starting point for anyone who wants to see what real thrash is all about.