Annihilator – Archer – Harlott: Live at 02 Academy Islington


They may have never quite made it to the same level as Metallica, Megadeth et al but Canada’s Annihilator represent all that is good about thrash metal. They’ve been (relatively) consistent without selling out, they play it fast and loud, and founder Jeff Waters seriously knows how to shred.

Opening act Harlott are an Australian outfit cut from the same cloth as many other thrash-revivalists. Recently signed to Metal Blade, they’re more on the Exodus/Kreator end of the spectrum; fast and relentlessly rough-as-a-dogs-arse, with a penchant for Hanneman-inspired solos and the occasional guitar harmonies. They’re a tight unit with an engaging frontman when between songs, but once the music starts they just get their head down and rock.

California’s Archer, however, are more blessed with more hair than quality. The Californian power trio put a lot more effort towards audience participation than the previous band, but the lack of quality songs really let them down. They put plenty of energy into their performance, but their mix of recycled NWOBHM riffs and occasional squealing solo fail to get the blood pumping, especially after such an aggressive opener. A half-decent cover of Megadeth’s ‘Tornado of Souls’ was about as good as things get.

Despite losing longtime musical partner Dave Padden, Annihilator seem stronger than ever. The band’s musical ability and back catalogue quality was never been in question, so it was just a case whether Waters could find a decent replacement guitarist and step up to the plate himself vocally. But fans could rest easy. Being the sole vocalist allows Waters to take centre stage and run the whole show. Clearly enjoying himself, he plays with a smile on his face, does a more than decent job on the mic and has an easy patter with the (admittedly adoring) audience. New additions Rich Hinks on bass and Aaron Homma on guitars also look like they’re having fun on their maiden tour and seem right at home.

2015’s tour may be to promote new album Suicide Society (UDR) but Waters & Co. are wise enough to give the people what they want; old school thrashers. The band get the triple whammy of new single ‘Snap’, the title track and Metallica-esque ‘Creeping Again’ out the way early on, leaving plenty of time for the 80s classics and some lesser heard gems from the band’s darker days.

There’s a fair few tracks taken from the Waters-fronted era (1995-1997); the high-octane joy of ‘King of the Kill’ and ‘Refresh the Demon’ make an appearance, along with Remains’ ‘Tricks and Traps’ and the one-two of ‘Bliss/Second to None’. Waters basically ran the band solo during this period, but the songs were still straight-ahead thrashers. It seems the departure of Padden means there’s no room for more recent numbers from Metal, Feast or 2010’s self-titled effort.

It’s no surprise that it’s the early classics that get the audience most excited though. Mosh pits and singalongs break out during the slow aggression of ‘Set the World on Fire’, the pure shred of ‘W.T.Y.D’ and the creeping ‘Alison Hell’. There’s even time for a drum solo and a medley of food-based songs in ‘Chicken and Corn’ and ‘Kraf Dinner’.

2015 might be a new Annihilator, but they still know how to shred.