The general public always thinks about Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax and Megadeth when talking about great thrash groups, and no one is arguing there. Some fans make it down to Exodus and Testament as well and again, they are certainly on the right path. But talk to industry people, and Annihilator will almost certainly come up.
Annihilator never really got its proper due, and that could be attributed to many different things. The first is an ever-rotating lineup that frequently saw vocalists come and go, and let’s face it, most people identify a band with the voice. The other is that they’ve had issues with distribution in the US over the years, and thus have focused their efforts overseas, where the band is huge.
The band was, is and always will be Jeff Waters – a true thrash mastermind on guitar. Easily one of the top guitarists ever, since the late ‘80s he’s been relentless in coming up with some of the fastest and most brutal thrash riffs you’ve ever heard – and at the same time, never compromising his sound and forcing himself to go commercial. That’s not to say the man has been perfect (1997’s Remains is less than stellar) but you definitely know when you’re listening to an Annihilator record.
Annihilator marks something of a milestone for Waters, as vocalist Dave Padden has now stuck around for four consecutive albums – a rarity after constant turnaround throughout the career of the band. Of all the vocalists he’s used (Randy Rampage, Coburn Pharr, Aaron Randall, Joe Comeau and even Waters himself) Padden is the best fit and it seems that Waters realizes that. Padden can get fierce when he needs to, like on the rippin’ “25 Seconds,” and can pull off the melodic side as well on great songs like “Coward.”
But make no mistake at all, this is Jeff Waters and friends and always will be. Annihilator records are not made on the vocals (though the lyrical content of Annihilator is far better than I’m used to) — they’re made or broken with Waters riffs (listen to “The Trend” to hear him tear it up). He’s always been a Flying V guy, which has given him a unique sound in his career and there’s even an Epiphone Annihilation-V in the works, where you too can try (and surely fail) to recreate the Annihilator sound.
I assumed it was going to be hard to follow up 2007’s excellent Metal with another really good album. That album had guest players on every track and although it’s worth every penny, when you’re talking like a dozen or so guest stars it’s inevitable to think that maybe the original ideas are running a bit cold and the ringers were brought in to add excitement to an otherwise dull record. Annihilator definitely proves that wasn’t the case. It isn’t quite as good as Metal, but ranks up there with the other Padden records in terms of quality. If you’ve heard any of the last three with him (the aformentioned Metal, 2005’s Schizo Deluxe or 2004’s All For You) or even the two Joe Comeau records (2002’s Waking the Fury and 2001’s awesome Carnival Diablos) you should definitely like this record, as it sounds pretty much the same as any of them and it even includes a kick-ass cover of Van Halen’s “Romeo Delight.” After a long string of albums that sound very much alike, usually I’d wish for something different next time around, but when an artist kicks ass like Jeff Waters, you simply say “thank you sir, may I have another?”