If Ballistic, Sadistic (Silver Lining Music), the new album by Canadian speedsters Annihilator, is anything to go by, then relocating to the UK is probably the best move the band’s mastermind Jeff Waters has made for years. Consistency has been an issue with Annihilator for some time, but since the recruitment of English bassist Rich Hinks, the band have not only rediscovered their classic sound but a new lease of life in the process.Continue reading
A former car factory, KK’s Steel Mill sits at the heart of industrial Wolverhampton and is owned, as the name suggests, by former Judas Priest guitarist and general all-round local legend KK Downing. This latest West Midlands rock venue opened its doors last year and, apart from the impressively sized stage area and the massive wall banner showing the artwork to Priest’s 1986 album Turbo, looks to have changed very little from when it was built back in 1903.Continue reading
Though some of their post-millennium releases have been sketchy, Canadian thrash outfit Annihilator have been largely reliable in churning out decent thrash records at a reassuringly reliable clip. For The Demented (Neverland Music/Silver Lining) is the sixteenth album during a thirty-odd year career, and the second album in a row where band founder and guitarist Jeff Waters takes on vocal duty, after Dave Padden’s departure following the release of 2013’s Feast [UDR]. Waters has said he wanted to return to the band’s earlier days, and have a heavier, less hook and chorus-driven sound this time around. By and large, he’s succeeded.Continue reading
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.
Jeff Waters is one of life’s perennial nearly-men. From threatening success with their (his – I think everyone accepts by this point Annihilator is Waters, and Waters is Annihilator) revered début Alice In Hell (Roadrunner) through a career that has risen and fallen but never quite reached the commercial or critical heights of his first three releases, nonetheless, Jeff is a trier.
Left flying solo following a split with Dave Padden, Waters has, as he did for three albums in the 90’s, taken on the role of vocalist on the fifteenth album to bear the Annihilator moniker, Suicide Society (UDR). Vocally, there are nods to contemporaries and inspirations, most notably Dave Mustaine, but all in, it has to be said, Waters turns in a vast improvement on his previous outings on the mic with a decent performance.
While Suicide Society is not without its flaws, it is an album which wears a strong Megadeth influence on its sleeve and, conversely, it’s hard not to be drawn in by its charm. Were it not Annihilator there may be more winces, but as it is you find yourself glossing over the clichéd lyrics, the dime-a-dozen staccato groove riffs, the obvious hooks and the more-confusion-than-fusion clunky segues and break outs and instead nodding along with the cousin of Cryptic Writings (Capitol) ‘Creepin’ Again’, the melodic snap of, um, ‘Snap’ and shaking your head forgivingly at what is, quite brazenly, ‘Damage Inc’ glued to bits of ‘Metal Militia’ repackaged under the title ‘My Revenge’. When Waters snarls “No Remorse!” in a track, ‘Break, Enter’ that looks once again to Kill ‘em All (Megaforce) you’re grinning with, rather than berating, him as you knowingly turn a blind eye because you know this is a guy who genuinely loves his craft and his metal. Interestingly though, it is the less thrashy, more melodic, tracks like ‘Snap’ and ‘The One You Serve’ that work best, and suit Waters’ better-voice-than-modern-day-Mustaine vocals, while balladic closer ‘Every Minute’ has some great sections.
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying an album while acknowledging its several and obvious blemishes, and there’s nothing wrong with having a soft spot for Jeff Waters and Annihilator. Suicide Society indulges both.
Relaxing in London’s Gibson Rooms, surrounded by dozens of very expensive-looking guitars, Jeff Waters is a happy man. The founder, guitarist and occasional frontman of Canadian thrash outfit Annihilator is in Europe at the label’s beckoning filming videos for his band’s new album, Suicide Society (UDR).
“I’m smiling because we don’t usually get two videos,” explains Waters. “Normally I have to call the label and say I’d really like to do a video, and usually argue politely about a video budget and whether we can get one, and sometimes we get a video.” For the Annihilator’s 15th album, however, there was no need for negotiations; UDR & Warner wanted two videos and wanted them quick. “We didn’t have concepts, we didn’t have a video team, director. We didn’t have anything arranged.” While Waters was still worried that these two videos might still be done on the cheap with a skeleton crew, what he found on arrival came as a pleasant surprise: 14 crew, three cameramen with top of the line stuff, and decent hotel rooms (no sharing) to top it off. “We got to the shoot in Hanover, went to the very east of Germany to an old run down building that was around in the war which we probably shouldn’t have been in, and filmed.”
“We were just smiling the whole time, realising that the labels are putting in some money into this thing, and I’ve not seen that since 1995. So that’s what, 20 years ago? 20 years since a label has looked like they’re putting in more than the contracts say, more than I request, more than I would expect.”
Having heard Suicide Society, it’s safe to say the label’s faith in Annihilator is well-placed. Continuing the upward trajectory in quality of 2010’s self-titled effort and 2013’s Feast, it balances the aggressive bite with Water’s soft spot for accessible melody. “It’s a good sign that looks like the labels are supporting us. I am getting a little bit excited about this, more than I normally would.”
While he might be smiling now, the album’s gestation contained more than its fair share of stress. Shortly before he was due to record his part, Dave Padden, Annihilator’s vocalist/guitarist for over a decade, decided to call time on his career with the band. “I don’t know the specific reason, but I know the general reason was he hadn’t been happy in the band for almost four years,” says Waters.
“I thought, “Uh-oh, do you need more money?” Nope, that wasn’t it. Was it something I’ve been doing or some way I’ve been treating or not treating you? No.” At loss as to why, Waters asked for an explanation. “He said, “I don’t like or look forward to going on tour or going to record. I just don’t like the travel anymore.” While it came a shock, it wasn’t entirely unexpected. “Now that I look back, I think I knew. I never said anything because I didn’t want to open something up and have him leave.”
Since he joined in 2003, Padden had been a steady ship in a band with an-ever rotating line-up of members and for a while, things seemed bleak. “I was screwed. I had a whole week of depression.” The original plan would have seen him arrive at Waters’ studio in early December and have everything wrapped up time for Christmas. “I had recorded the entire record, wrote the lyrics, and demoed it on CD. I was scheduled to move house and I also had a deadline for the record. It was supposed to be out months earlier than now. Dave quitting completely destroyed that whole thing.”
But refusing to be deterred, Waters set about looking for a new vocalist. “I looked for a while, couldn’t find anyone. It was either old school guys that were old and out of shape or guys that didn’t have everything Annihilator needed.” Explaining that returning to previous vocalists such as Randy Rampage or Aaron Randall was a non-starter, he looked to some of the younger vocalists, but still couldn’t find what he was looking for.
Eventually Waters – who performed vocal duties for three Annihilator albums in the 90s (1994’s King of the Kill, 1995’s Refresh the Demon, and 1997’s Remains) – had an epiphany. “I said to myself, “I’ve already got this thing done. I could walk in tomorrow and sing it” and then I realised, you idiot, that’d be a great way to get this problem quickly solved.” But not wanting to do a half-arsed job of it, Waters did some prep work. “I pushed the entire thing back – not just the album, my whole life went on hold and I went to a vocal teacher, got vocal lessons, learned how to warm up my voices so I hopefully wouldn’t destroy it on tour.”
“I spent a couple of weeks writing down on those three albums what sucked, what I did and didn’t like. I kind of taught myself to get rid of the things I didn’t like and work on what I might actually be good at.” After ditching the “crappy Waters characteristics”, the focus shifted to a What Would Jesus Do-type scenario, except instead of looking to the son of God for inspiration, he looked to his four favourite singers instead: Layne Staley, Dave Mustaine, James Hetfield and Ozzy Osbourne. “That was the only way I could stay afloat, otherwise you would have got an album like King of the Kill and you would have got some pretty clichéd, barely-cutting-it stuff out of me.”
Despite the trouble, Waters insists there’s no bad blood. “I talk to him every weekend; Facebook or text messages or whatever it is – and in a way he’s like “Dammit I wish I was there with you doing that,” but he knows that he would come back and do it and then in a week he’d be back to where he was.”
Cryptopsy, by Hillarie Jason Photography
Long running Canadian tech death masters Cryptopsy have shared a new teaser video from their upcoming EP, The Book of Suffering Tome 1. You can view the trailer at this link or below:
The trailer has a who’s who of fans of the band who are metal legends themselves such as Jeff Waters (Annihilator), Richard Christy (Iced Earth, Death), Liam Wilson (The Dillinger Escape Plan), Travis Ryan (Cattle Decapitation) and others.
The band just wrapped their first headline tour of America in years in June and the band is winding down their crowdfunding campaign, which you still have time to support: http://igg.me/at/cryptopsy
The band commented on The Book of Suffering Tome 1:
“We hope that every extreme metal fan will be exposed to The Book of Suffering Tome 1. We are extremely proud of the material; it is some of the most brutal, technical and fresh music we have ever created.”
Crowdfund Pitch Video:
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Vancouver thrashers Titans Eve have confirmed new live dates in support of their third full length release Chasing The Devil, out June 12, 2015. The album was engineered by Eric Mosher (AC/DC, Buckcherry) and mastered by Jeff Waters (Annihilator). Stream “War Path” below.
May 30: The Cambie – Victoria, BC (w/ Atrous Leviathan, Scimitar, Ætherion)
Jun 06: Astoria – Vancouver, BC (Titans Eve CD Launch – Chasing The Devil – w/ Titans Eve, Bushwhacker, The Joint Chiefs, Brimstone)
Aug 14: Astoria – Vancouver, BC
Titan’s Eve is streaming “War Path” off of their upcoming album Chasing the Devil due out June 12, 2015. The song was engineered by Eric Mosher (AC/DC, Buckcherry) and mastered by Jeff Waters (Annihilator). Stream it here.
Vancouver, BC thrashers Titans Eve will be releasing their new album Chasing The Devil on June 12, 2015. Recorded at Vancouver’s legendary Warehouse Studio with producer Eric Mosher whose credits for engineering includes AC/DC, Nickelback, and Buckcherry plus mastering done by Canadian metal hero Jeff Waters of Annihilator, Chasing The Devil features eight skull crushing tunes that stay true to Titans Eve’s roots of straight up anthemic thrash.
Stream an album preview below.
Track Listing: Titans Eve – Chasing The Devil
1. We Defy
2. War Path
3. No Kingdom
4. Another Day
5. Chasing The Devil
6. The Grind
8. The Endless Light