Friday, February 11, 2011

Initial Impressions: Annihilator: Alice in Hell/Never, Neverland Two From the Vault

Annihilator is a technical thrash metal band from Ottawa, Canada. The band basically consists of guitarist Jeff Waters and whoever else he decides is worthy enough to be in the band. I am really not sure that that is accurate, but with the amount of turnover in the band, it certainly seems that way. In particular peril are the vocalists, only one of whom has lasted more than four years, and there have been seven of them.

This release is from Roadrunner's Two From the Vault series, in which two classic albums are reissued in one package. I had two of these before finding this one, Exhorder and Gorguts. It is a pretty decent way to get a couple of classic metal albums.

But, back to Annihilator. These two albums were released in 1989 and 1990 respectively and are the first two albums the band released. Annihilator was a little late to the thrash metal scene and this is certainly not extreme thrash, being much more poppy and melodic. Jeff Waters is one hell of an instrumentalist, possessing extraordinary range, riff-writing, and melodic capability.

The debut album from the band included some of their most well-known songs, such as "Alison Hell", "W.T.Y.D.", and "Wicked Mystic". It starts out with the extremely melodic "Crystal Ann", which features some classical sounding acoustic guitar. After that brief introduction, the band kicks off "Alison Hell".

The songs are typically mid-paced or fast riff-fests with frequent examples of Waters's guitar skill either through the riffs themselves or through his soloing. Vocalist Randy Rampage has a style similar to Sabbat's Martin Valkyier, rough and staccato. Since I like that style, I do enjoy Rampage's vocals.

This is one of Annihilator's strongest albums, and probably my favorite from the band. If I had to recommend just one album from the band, this would be it.

Annihilator's sophomore album featured a new vocalist. Coburn Pharr's style is significantly different than Rampage's, it is far more melodic and matches the music a bit more. The sound on this album in general became a bit more melodic and light-hearted. This is definitely not extreme thrash, bearing more resemblance to the more melodic albums by Testament.

Waters still comes up with some faster riffs on this album, despite the more melodic bent, particularly "Imperiled Eyes". Other than the vocals, this album sounds very similar to the previous album. Some of the songs are a bit more humorous, not as serious, but other than that, it is fairly close.

The band's second album is not quite as good as their first, but it is still better than most of the rest of their material. Only the first few albums by Annihilator are really worthwhile, these are the best of them.

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