Annihilator – Ballistic, Sadistic Review

Annihilator is one of those eternal, inevitable metal acts, and just like country-mates Anvil, they’ll likely be releasing albums 20 years after the end of all life on Earth. I’ve reviewed a ton of their albums for AMG and I’m well past the point where I feel the need to sing the usual song about them never having lived up to the enormous promise shown on their first 2 releases. At this stage of their career they’re playing something like a hybrid of thrash and traditional metal and they’ve been doing it more or less the same way for decades. You know what you’re going to get and you either like it or you don’t. Ballistic, Sadistic is their freaking 17th album, and as with the last bunch, there’s the good, the bad, and the fugly. 2017s For the Demented was a bit of a milestone, as it made for back-to-back albums that were decent to good. I wanted Ballistic to take things up to the next level, but sadly, the slippery slope is easier to navigate than the slippery incline. The Law of Diminishing Recordings is a sadistic mistress.

Let’s deal with the good first. Opener “Armed to the Death” is the kind of easy, breezy, semi-catchy pseudo-thrash tune Jeff Waters can and likely does write in his sleep. His signature riffing style plies the listener like a musical roofy, making one inclined to stick around despite their better judgment, and his wild solos add an extra layer of glue to keep you present for the juvenile lyrics and mediocre vocals. It’s a decent song, but hardly a must hear, yet on this platter it stands pretty tall. “I Am Warfare” is memorable for all its wacky, Voivodian stops and starts and frenetic time shifts. Waters shows off here and it’s fun to hear, even though the song itself is rough around the edges. Closer “End of the Lie” is a bit of a throwback to a better time, with enough slick, interesting thrash riffing and hooks to elevate the song above the mass of mediocrity, if only barely.

Other songs like “Riot” and “Psycho Ward” are passable but nothing one needs to hear repeated. As is usual for a modern Annihilator album, there are a few smoking duds. “The Attitude” sounds like something Waters wrote when he was in high school and wisely kept on ice, unwisely deciding to unleash it now. It’s cheesyball quasi-thrash with simple, generic riffs and incredibly brain dead lyrics. “Lip Service” has even worse lyrics full of cheap sexual double entendres that will make you cringe. It’s a lot like the unwanted follow up to “Knight Jumps Queen” from their Set the World on Fire album, and though Waters uncorks some great playing, the song still goes down the tubes hard and fast.

Annihilator functions as a duo at this point, with Waters doing everything but drums, which are now handled by Fabio Alessandrini. The complete inability to get and keep a band around him is one of Waters’ biggest knocks. At this point in his career it’s clear he needs some assistance with songwriting; the kind a steady, stable group with fresh ideas could provide. It would almost have to be a boon at this point. As per usual, Waters shows he is one of metal’s premier guitarists from a technical standpoint, even as he demonstrates he is not a great crafter of riffs. Many of the leads here are mundane, pedestrian and boring. His solos are usually impressive and he can flash the chops as well as anyone, but the songs themselves lack the necessary hooky leads. He also isn’t a strong vocalist and never was, and his delivery tends to come across as hokey too often. Add to that routinely bad lyrics and you have some issues.

Ballistic, Sadistic is a slide from the past few albums, back to where the band seems most comfortable. Long time fans will be able to find a few moments of fun, but this isn’t going to satisfy many thrash or classic metal peeps. It looks like the Annihilator trend is going south again, and at this point, no one is particularly surprised.


Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Silver Lining Music
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: January 24th, 2020

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