No metal band has managed to frustrate and baffle me as consistently as Annihilator has over their long career. Their 1989 debut album Alice in Hell was a classic in the thrash genre and showed a band brimming with talent and energy. Founder, lead songwriter and guitarist Jeff Waters was hailed as a rising star and someone to watch closely. Since then, Annihilator has struggled mightily to live up to the hype garnered by their debut, and their subsequent albums have come nowhere near that level of quality. In fact, many of those albums were either complete disasters (Refresh the Demon, Remains, All for You) or near disasters (Set the World on Fire, Metal). Each time a new Annihilator release was set to drop, I would pray for greatness and a return to form but mostly get mediocrity. Now it’s 2010 and we get their thirteenth album, simply titled Annihilator, and again the goods are not delivered.
Annihilator squarely falls into the disaster camp of bad albums by the once proud Canadian unit. With nearly three years in which to write new material since 2007’s Metal, Mr. Waters has seen fit to deliver track upon track of speedy yet utterly bland, boring and empty new-age thrash. Although Mr. Waters is known for his guitar wizardry, the bulk of Annihilator is composed of standard issue, reheated thrash riffs without much in the way of originality or impact.
Adding insult to injury, Annihilator features some of the most unimaginative and uninteresting vocals possible by returning frontman Dave Padden. Although a decently skilled vocalist who performed well enough on past albums, all Padden does on most of the songs is shout in a monotone style and it gets boring before the first track is over.
Ironically, lead track “The Trend” is deceptively promisingly and contains some very well done lead guitar work by Waters. Even Padden’s ultra-bland vocals don’t totally destroy the song, though it sure seems as if he is trying. From there however, Annihilator sets out to bore the listener to death. The next four tracks drift by with nothing to remember them by except the same repetitive riffing and irritating vocal work. Not until “Nowhere to Run” is there anything resembling an interesting song and even then, it’s no show stopper.
Of the ten tracks, only three contain interesting and compelling moments. None of the songs are classic Annihilator (if there is such a thing outside of the Alice in Hell album) and none will make people sit up and take notice. This album just feels like a collection of filler or B sides that never should have seen the light of day. Putting the final nail in the coffin is a pointless cover of the Van Halen song “Romeo Delight,” which only seems to confirm that this album should not be taken seriously at all.
Much as one may wish otherwise, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Mr. Waters has run out of interesting ideas. While his talent at guitar is indisputable, he has simply failed to write consistently strong material for years. If you want to hear a quality Annihilator release, track down their debut. After that, it truly becomes an exercise in frustration and diminishing returns.