Released: 2005, AFM Records
It’s hard to believe it’s been 6 years since Annihilator’s “comeback” album, CRITERIA FOR A BLACK WIDOW. That album basically put the band back on the map, at least for North American fans that hadn’t been able to get many of the post-SET THE WORLD ON FIRE releases unless one was able to find them at ridiculous import prices. In that, albeit short, amount of time Annihilator re-established themselves as a somewhat viable act but quickly lost that status only two albums later in WAKING THE FURY when the album was import only for quite a long time (as a matter of fact, I’m not even sure if the album was properly released in North America). Not only that but many reviews for WAKING THE FURY were mixed, mainly due to Jeff Water’s new production and guitar sound. For many it was too industrialized and processed, for others it was a much needed change for the band.
Then came last year’s ALL FOR YOU, which was the debut for new vocalist Dave Padden. ALL FOR YOU wasn’t like WAKING THE FURY in that it didn’t split the fan base in half, it just about annihilated (still unsure whether that pun is intended or not) the band’s fan base. I know a few die hard Annihilator fans will still yell and say that it was a good album, but when it was released I found it hard to hear anyone say anything even remotely good about it. It was hard to get into for the simple fact that a song or two seemed to pander towards metalcore plus some of Padden’s singing was just plain ridiculous (“Demon Dance” for example). Also add to the fact that there were two pretty soft ballads (actually, the only two songs I liked) and some absolutely horrid lyrics and I think the album was doomed from the beginning. So now comes SCHIZO DELUXE which guitarist/band leader Jeff Waters has labelled as the return to form, the one with mega riffs and solos… which is exactly what I’ve heard about every single album Annihilator have released since CRITERIA…
So did Jeff return to form with another revamped lineup? I think the definite answer is up in the air but there have been strides to rectify many of the issues people had with ALL FOR YOU or at the very least, the issues have been minimized and stuck in the background (I’ll get to that later). Is this a return to form like I’ve been hearing? No, certainly not. This isn’t ALICE IN HELL part 2 nor is it even CRITERIA FOR A BLACK WIDOW part 2. This new album sits somewhere between CARNIVAL DIABLOS, WAKING THE FURY, and ALL FOR YOU. The heavy, thrashy Annihilator is still very much here but there’s also some more traditional stuff and there are also some very modern leanings. One thing that’s extremely good to hear is that Padden has been reigned in on vocals this time. I felt that Padden’s vocals were the main problem with ALL FOR YOU as it was obvious he had a good voice and could probably do just about anything he wants with it, but what he did with it on that last album was just a joke and couldn’t be taken seriously. Most of the vocal choices here are pretty straightforward, not really mean to be humorous like before (though there are a few little jokes here and there, but thankfully they aren’t really part of the songs).
Opening with the ass kicker, “Maximum Satan” was a good choice. It has a lot of that Annihilator stomp that Jeff usually uses for a lot song intros (think of the opening of “Hunter/Killer” or “Bloodbath”). At the 2:30 mark the bridge kicks in, which might be a turn off for some with stop/start riffing and Padden’s shout taking over in a way similar to the new Exodus. When it comes to track 2, “Drive”, most fans will instantly think of “King of the Kill”, why? Because the opening riff sounds like it was lifted from that song. Though when the verses and chorus kicks in it becomes more evident that the song is based around speed and Padden’s vocals than, what I find to be, the bland riffing. The bass solo during the instrumental section may seem a little “tacked on” to some, but I feel it is a nice touch.
With “Plasma Zombies” Waters was able to find a way to fit in his obligatory militaristic marching snare/guitar section. Aside from that though, I don’t find too much to get excited about here aside from the riff underneath Padden’s vocals when he screams the song’s title. What’s missing from this song is a lot of speed which is why the aforementioned section works cause it’s pretty damn fast but the rest of the song is pretty clunky sounding. Both “Invite It” and “Pride” bring the sorely lacking speed though both don’t really come off as overly aggressive as they are pretty catchy and melodic, especially during both song’s choruses where Padden breaks out some very clean vocals. “Pride”’s chorus is surprisingly strong for being so clean and almost 80’s hard rock sounding.
I find that come the last two tracks, that’s when the album just hits a brick wall. In “Claire” and “Something Witchy” the band brings out more of its less appealing features from ALL FOR YOU. In “Claire” it’s a pretty straight modern hard rock song with “moody” guitar and rather catchy chorus. It does try to add some heaviness during the chorus with an almost modern metalcore slant of a moshable drum/guitar sync up. Then for “Something Witchy” things go the “All for You” route of a rather random riff with even more random shouting overtop. It’s really not that appealing at all. One thing I do have to say is that I think the song placement is perfect for the band and is what has led this new album to get many of its glowing reviews. Where as the last album threw its least Annihilator sounding track at the audience in the beginning, which automatically turned everyone off they through them on at the end so that after most fans have become accustom to the sound they are thrown the curveballs. For some it might work, but for me they’re still rather crappy sounding tracks.
SCHIZO DELUXE is a strong step forward after the dismal ALL FOR YOU. Is it a masterpiece or classic? Certainly not, but it is rather enjoyable and I think it hits its stride with repeated listens.