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Alice In Hell

Annihilator - Alice In Hell ©1989 Roadracer
1. Crystal Ann
2. Alison Hell
3. W.T.Y.D.
4. Wicked Mystic
5. Burns Like A Buzzsaw Blade
6. Word Salad
7. Schizos (are Never Alone) Parts I & II
8. Ligeia
9. Human Insecticide

You know what? With all the talk of 80's thrash classics and arrows pointing to such illuminaries as Slayer, Megadeth, Metallica and others, there is one album that seemingly gets forgetten and may be one of the most enjoyable of all: Annihilator's Alice In Hell. Though the album was reportedly recorded as a demo, the stellar guitar sound and absolute speed frenzy of Jeff Waters' excellent guitar ability make this a fist pumping thrash dynamo. Nearly every song here is top notch, with highlights being "Alison Hell", "Human Insecticide" (one of the fastest songs I can think of as the guitar retains such clarity in the accelerated playing) and "W.T.Y.D." Waters has an uncanny ability to create guitar rhythms that carry songs immensely well and also immediately give Annihilator a singular, unique sound. Sure, Randy Rampage (who lasted through this album and the tour afterwards) isn't exactly what I would call a dynamic vocalist, but his sneering growls are perfect for the album. If, for some odd reason, you like thrash and don't have this in your collection, you will most certainly join Alice.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 01/1999

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Never, Neverland

Annihilator - Never, Neverland ©1990 Roadracer
1. The Fun Palace
2. Road To Ruin
3. Sixes And Sevens
4. Stonewall
5. Never, Neverland
6. Imperiled Eyes
7. Kraf Dinner
8. Phantasmagoria
9. Reduced To Ash
10. I Am In Command

This is totally an aside, but I was looking at the running cheetah icon that Annihilator's label Roadracer (now known as Roadrunner) used back in 1990. Back then the label had a lot more character and was on the cutting edge of metal. Such as metal was right around that time, since the style was just about ready to capsize back into the underground.

Regardless of all that, Annihilator's second album featuring new singer Coburn Pharr (who sang for Omen for a bit) was something of a dual headed dragon. The first half was absolutely top notch throughout while the second side nearly disemboweled itself on weak songs and joke tracks that would have been more at home on a Descendents record ("Kraf Dinner"). Nevertheless, Never, Neverland featured remarkably stylish production from Glen Robinson and again showcased guitarist Jeff Waters' sparkling ability. As songs like "The Fun Palace", "Stonewall" and the title track all aptly demonstrate, his sense of rhythm and grand control over picking patterns should have placed him amongst the thrash elite of the time. For the songs that clicked, his style is simply phenomenal and even on the weaker songs, he still plays better than most. I think the biggest problem Never, Neverland (and perhaps Annihilator as a whole) suffered from was the lack of a true band feeling. Coburn Pharr is a capable singer and much more talented than his predecessor, Randy Rampage, but Rampage had a bigger presence overall. Pharr sounded more like the hired hand than a singer giving his heart and soul to the band. Yet, even with all its flaws, Never, Neverland is a great record that really deserved more attention than it ultimately received.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 05/1999

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Set the World on Fire

Annihilator - Set the World on Fire ©1993 Roadrunner
1. Set the World on Fire
2. No Zone
3. Bats in the Belfry
4. Snake in the Grass
5. Phoenix Rising
6. Knight Jumps Queen
7. Sounds Good to Me
8. The Edge
9. Don't Bother Me
10. Brain Dance

By Annihilator's third album, Jeff Waters had already earned the distinction of having a revolving door line-up for his band. Set the World on Fire featured yet another change in vocalist, Aaron Randall. As a result, the album finds the project shifting in style yet again. By 1993, Annihilator retained only some of the fluid thrash of the 1989 debut, Alice in Hell, and Randall's singing style was very, very far removed from the rasping of Randy Rampage. In fact, one could say Annihilator was trying to join the ranks of melodic hard rock bands with Set the World on Fire.

To be clear, this is a pretty bad record. The lyrics are genuinely trite and silly throughout while many of the songs veer dangerously into the power ballad realm occupied by far too many eighties hair metal bands. Although there are many signature Jeff Waters riffs on the album, the move towards a more commercial, hard rock sound is a major blunder for the band. It simply doesn't work. "Snake in the Grass" makes me nauseous during its introduction, featuring some absolutely horrible lyrics. "Knight Jumps Queen" is actually a pretty decent song, but it's hilarious to hear thrash metal gang vocals muse about the game of chess. "Don't Bother Me" has a Van Halen drum beat, which mostly sounds out of place.

Despite the positive aspects of the album (the production is great and yes, there are a lot of good riffs sandwiched between the mediocre hard rock elements), I find this to be a rather wretched record that falls miles short of Annihilator's first two excellent albums. Their take on thrashy hard rock is just not a workable hybrid, particularly with a vocalist who couldn't convincingly deliver the rotten lyrics provided for him. I can't see any reason for anyone to want this in their collection.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 03/2009

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King of the Kill

Annihilator - King of the Kill ©1994 Music For Nations
1. The Box
2. King of the Kill
3. Hell is a War
4. Bliss
5. Second to None
6. Annihilator
7. 21
8. In the Blood
9. Fiasco ("The Slate")
10. Fiasco
11. Catch the Wind
12. Speed
13. Bad Child

By 1994, Annihilator quit putting pretenses of being a full fledged band. Although it had been acknowledged in the past that mainman Jeff Waters recorded most of the instruments in the studio, King of the Kill was the first to eschew the "band photo" in the liner notes and simply credit Jeff Waters and Competent Drummer #3 (er, Randy Black). This album also happens to be part of Annihilator's least noteworthy era, which also coincides with the era where many metal bands were lost in the weeds.

Annihilator's previous album, Set the World on Fire, was a lackluster stab at a more mainstream, less thrashy sound. King of the Kill fortunately veers back away from the abundance of mindnumbingly dull, slower numbers, though not entirely. It does feature Waters on vocals, something that works far better than one might have expected. In fact, one must wonder why Waters ever bothered having a vocalist take up space on the tour bus, what with their array of potions, liquids, lozenges, and throat spray necessary for their delicate singing voices. The album has its fair share of good guitar riffs, something Jeff Waters has always provided. But it lacks a sharp edge and sense of urgency. The songs just seem tepid and lacking the spark that made the first pair of Annihilator albums rather good. It serves as passable heavy metal but not exactly the kind of thing that would inspire a fan to take a razor and carve the Annihilator logo into the side of a barn. King of the Kill just doesn't warrant that sort of fanatacism. In fact, it's safe to say that if King of the Kill is still a "lost" album to you, you can let it remain that way and not be missing out on much of great importance.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 04/2010

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