Not many bands live to release a 16th album, but Annihilator is a testament to persistence through good times and bad (especially bad). Sure, some folks feel they should have closed shop after their well regarded sophomore outing, Never Neverland, but haters be damned. The band is the baby of founder/guitar wunderkind/sometimes singer Jeff Waters, and he seems disinclined to put it out to pasture anytime soon. Their last 3 outings showed a gradual upward trajectory in quality following a deadly mid-career rough patch, and I was happy to see Waters resuming vocal duties for 2015s Suicide Society. However, there were concerns when I saw the band’s notorious revolving door resulted in an entirely new crop of young guns this time, including a session guitarist from Vital Remains. Whatever could this opus, apparently written by and for the demented, bring us, I wonder?

Initially it brings us a dermis peeling courtesy of vicious opener “Twisted Lobotomy.” Starting life with a very “Alice In Hell” esque riff, it quickly becomes an unhinged thrasher complete with blast beats and black metal inspired riffs scattered throughout the blitzkrieging speed. It’s the most vicious thing Annihilator‘s done in years, with Waters’ guitar wizardry center stage. His fret-board mastery is just as impressive now as it was all those years ago when Alice in Hell took the thrash world by storm, and it’s always a blast to hear him run amok. Sadly, they can’t keep this level of maximum Satan going for long, and followup “One to Kill” is a standard Annihilator mid-tempo thrash piece (which makes no sense when written), but it’s decent with some inspired riffs and a fairly catchy chorus.

Pieces of You” is a power ballad with a particularly ghoulish take on the classic break up theme1. This is the kind of emotional wreckage number Waters has proven himself adept at over his long career and though it has a vague Nickelback vibe and some cringe-worthy lyrical slip-ups, it’s still a dark and enjoyable little piece of sleaze. “Altering the Altar” is a throwback to the band’s golden era, mixing speed with melody and allowing Waters to show off his chops in the process. This one could have appeared on their debut or Never Neverland and fit right in.

As if required by some shadowy Canadian music law, there are the expected missteps. “The Way” is a autobiography of Waters and Annihilator executed in a faux-punk way that sounds like The Offspring drunkenly covering The Ramones and that’s not a good thing. Closer “Not All There” isn’t as bad, but it shares that cheesy, tongue-in-cheek style, like Hawaiian shorts era Anthrax without the charm. All that being said, the balance of the material still favors solid, entertaining fare and overall this is a minor improvement on Suicide Society.

With Waters taking on vocal duties for the second straight album, you know not to expect too much, but he’s an improvement over long-running frontman Dave Padden. His guitar prowess is legendary and though he isn’t an egomaniac showboater, he certainly lets his skills shine brightly during solo breaks, especially on the extended midsection jam during “Phantom Asylum.” His backing band is solid and provides a solid foundation for Waters’ manic riffing and wankery. Guitarist Aaron Homma is an especially nice addition who coalesces well with what Waters does and together they’re all sorts of shredtastic.

With For the Demented, the upward trend continues for Annihilator as they dig their way out of the late career doldrums inch by painstaking inch. This is the most lively Jeff and the Expendables have sounded since Schizo Deluxe and some of the writing is significantly better than expected. Waters would do well to keep this lineup intact as long as possible, as these youngins appear to be teaching that old dog some new tricks. Never give up on rediscovering Never Neverland, Jeff. Never!

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps Mp3
Label: Silver Lining Music
Releases Worldwide: November 3rd, 2017

Show 1 footnote

  1. Complete with a wowzer of a video sure to result in many a restraining order.
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  • Retchin’ Rites ov Karhu

    “Mid-career”, don’t you mean career-length?

    • Retchin’ Rites ov Karhu

      Although seriously, I don’t think they’re making any better songs now than they/Water’s have/has for years, but at least the album are getting more consistent.

    • Maybe.

  • AlphaBetaFoxface

    come to brasil !!! m/

    • Antorus

      Summed up the band perfectly

  • André Snyde Lopes

    Waters & co. can write excellent stuff, and there’s one or two cool songs in each of their new albums but they’re so absolutely mediocre (and satisfied with it) it’s frustrating. I mean listen to something like Imperiled Eyes or Human Insecticide and then listen to any of these new albums (self-titled, Feast, this one) and tell me you’re not crushingly disappointed.

    This might be an okay record but, like the rest of their discography after Never, Neverland, it’s just (excuse the pun) treading water.

    PS: Yes, I know I just copied and pasted my comment from the review of their last one but hey – if they can get away with it, so can I.

    • HeavyMetalHamster

      After Alice In Hell and Neverland I just can’t get into their stuff.
      Maybe it’s all too dated or retread ed.

  • Brutalist_Receptacle

    Jimmy left the band in 1980 and they became a country band. Jimmy died 1985 from hepatitis.

  • Eli Valcik

    I’m just going to go back and listen to Alison Hell if thats alright.

    • welyyt

      I love Never Neverland.

  • James Utvandraren

    Jeff Waters will go down in history as the most wasted potential of all thrash guitar players. His guitar playing would elevate any other band out there to their maximum potential, except his own. His song writing is one dimensional, his musical vision has stagnated despite his claimed re-awakening, his voice is mediocre at best, and his lyrics are getting worse… However, his riff-playing is flawless. Stellar. Awesome.

    It’s frustrating hearing the “almost”-tendencies to find the classic Annihilator sound on this record, only to feel it slip through your fingers every time you think he nailed it. Better than last few for sure, but kinda drab in comparison to the old.

    Just once, before you hang the guitar up on a nail on the wall, get Jens Bogren to produce you, Ripper to sing for you, DiGiorgio to play bass for you and Hoglan to drum for you. Re-record that one good song from each of your last ten studio albums, then call it a day. Just leave that one lasting epic thrash legacy of what you could have been truly capable of all these years.

    • Antorus

      that first paragraph was more brutal than anything on this record

    • The Akerstache

      I was gonna say something negative about Waters too, but you penned it better than I ever could.

    • HeavyMetalHamster

      Has he become the Yngwie of thrash?

      • Digital Violence

        That’s pretty much what I was going to say. The parallels are spooky.

        • HeavyMetalHamster

          Yep ego issues.
          Too bad….if they only got along with others we could’ve had some great albums.

    • Josh Cotton

      Summed it up perfectly, he should have joined megadeth when given the chance,it would benefit both bands greatly. On his own he has written mediocre thrash which doesn’t sound particular melodic or heavy either, it always sounds tame and just… werid like the title track of suicidal society. This hasn’t been helped by his lyric writing and failure to ever get a somewhat decent singer

    • Nukenado

      I’ll echo Metal-Fi though.
      Otherwise… yep.

    • Here’s Johnny

      Wasted potential? guy has sold 3 million albums worldwide, with a couple of them being outright classics.

      • RuySan

        I’m sure many people have Testament, Slayer, Megadeth or Exodus as their favourite band. Is Annihilator anyone’s favourite band?

        I saw them in 2000 headlining a festival. They played after Nevermore and it was kind of depressing to watch a band in it’s nadir just after a band at their highest. It was also visible the lack of interest from the crowd.

        • Here’s Johnny

          New UK tour package announced for next year in pretty big clubs; Testament, Annihilator and Vader. So yes, a lot of people still care and are a fan of the band(especially Europe/Rest of world).

          Cradle of Filth’s new album has a cover of Alison Hell on it.

        • ToddRob64

          At one point they were my favourite band, but two classic albums followed by some terrible career choices changed that. Agreed with the above poster, biggest waste of talent perhaps in metals history

    • KilledByDeath

      I think he could be a good replacement for Kirk.

    • Danny

      I feel the same way about Alexi Laiho. Great guitarist, Good songwriter, bad vocalist, awful lyricist. Could be part of an amazing team, but will never get far beyond mediocre steering the ship by himself. If COB had a high-quality lead vocalist who wrote lyrics and helped with songwriting, they could be one of the best melodeath bands in the world, and Annihilator could be one of the greats of thrash with the same approach.

    • The Unicorn

      ‘DAT LINEUP!!!

  • welyyt

    So did you get the promo or you reviewed this one on your own?

    • We got it late.

      • welyyt

        Annihilateor amirite? I’ll see myself out. Seriously though, I’m glad you reviewed this one Steely, and your writing is on point as usual.

  • Lucas Lex DeJong

    How many other tracks on the album are thrashers like Twisted Lobotomy? The review seems to indicate that after this opener they go into a series of half-decent mid-tempos, but i dont care for mid-tempo thrash. Do many or any other songs pick up the pace again?

    • Not to the extent of “Twisted Lobotomy” but some cuts are pretty speedy. It’s not an all out thrasher of an album by any means though.

  • SoLeftISeeRight

    Waters has been based in Europe for decades now- so only the early albums can really be considered “Canadian metal”. Annihilator just played it’s first shows in Canada in twenty years this summer!

  • Here’s Johnny

    Bit of a meh album for me this one and I’m an Annihilator fan. I thought Feast was the best one in years and Suicide Society and now this one are just kinda average. Some really cool tracks and some mixed ones, nothing really bad and still enjoyable.

    2.5/5 i’d say. If he gets Ripper Owens in next time and writes a full thrash album from start to finish, then would be a 5.

  • Yolo Swaggins

    Everything about this screams uninspired. The lack of energy in the embedded track gets my brain all twisted.

  • Me

    I actually like his vocals. He’s like a better Mustaine. As for his music…..can I dream he’d get Jeff Loomis away from AE?
    You want an epic, timeless classic?

  • Despite the slight misstep of the title track, Criteria for a Black Widow is an excellent thrash album and the only Annihilator album that I listen to. It’s a shame that that was 17 years ago and it’s been downhill since there, but Waters is capable of writing great songs. Perhaps he just needs someone to edit the shit out of the bad ones?

  • My feelings toward the cover art reflect my feelings toward the band exactly: I want to like it, I know I should like it, and I kinda sorta almost maybe might possibly vaguely just about like it, but… Meh.

  • James Hensler

    With the exception of the embedded track, this record is very disappointing. I’d give it a 2.0 – at best.

  • Dan

    Seems Annihilator is not very loved around these parts.
    I think they had a great run between King Of The Kill up to Schizo Deluxe.
    Indeed, most of the time afterwards they seemed embarrassing…

  • Piet

    The embedded track sounds like an even more uninspired Megadeth.

  • Gena Gorin

    Waters’ vocals is an improvement over Padden’s? You got to be kidding me.

    • Here’s Johnny

      Padden actually became really good, could do a number of styles very well.

    • The Genuine Guy

      Agreed. Sure, Padden had the misfortune of debuting with “All for You”, but the dude has a great voice. Great guitar player too. Nailed Alison Hell. Jeff by comparison is far more one dimensional.

    • I just never took to Padden. He could do more but I never liked his voice.

  • Moth

    It bothers me that no-one seems to care the album name is stated incorrectly at the top of the last paragraph.

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      I hadn’t even noticed it until I read your comment.

  • Mach

    Is that the Metal Gear Solid font?

  • Lee Schofield

    Only just discovered Annihilator and I really fucking love this album, dunno what everybody is moaning about.