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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Annihilator

Carnival Diablos

Review by Arnold Hablewitz

Honestly, I've enjoyed all of the offerings that have come from Jeff Waters and co. They all are unique in their own way, yet they are all so closely related to each other that you can instantly tell two things…number 1, that it is definitely an Annihilator record, and number 2, that Jeff prefers to stay true to his thrash metal roots.

This disc shows a much-needed return to proper form for the band. While "Criteria for a Black Widow" was alright, it wasn't really meeting the standards set by the band's past efforts. "Carnival Diablos" is a brutal showcase of what true songwriting, talent, and skill can do to the thrash metal sound. Featuring new vocalist Joe Comeau, whom you may remember as guitarist for Overkill, but who true metalheads remember as the one-time vocalist for Liege Lord, this album is a breath of fresh air in a quickly-dying sub-genre of metal. Except for the upcoming benefit concert for Testament vocalist Chuck Billy (expected to see the reunions of Laaz Rockit, Exodus, Heathen, and countless others), thrash metal is a seldom-seen and seldom-welcome genre now, but this disc proves it can be as powerful an viable of a music force as ever!

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2001 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Denied
The trademark Jeff Waters riffing style gets this thing rolling right from the get-go; brutal, technical, and with the perfect tempo to remind you that this is thrash metal. Joe Comeau proves to us right away that he is an able vocalist, as he just lets loose on some "not-quite-Halford" screams. Also has an awesome dual guitar harmony in the middle of the solo, not unlike vintage Maiden.
The Perfect Virus
Beginning with a guitar-harmonic-based riff and with brash, electronically-filtered vocals, this is a continuation of Water's solo-Annihilator disc, "Remains." Definetely not the best song on here, and while still an Annihilator song by any means, it's just not that good of a song in it's own right.
Battered
Here we Go!!! This is definite Annihilator! Technically brutal and musically-challenging riffs, and truly showcasing Jeff's rhythm skills if not his tasteful lead work.
Carnival Diablos
Wow!!! Who knew that Jeff could write such a melodic and cool song as this!!! This is the song that will roll during movie credits; it is so good, and so catchy! Shallow Grave: This is what the man himself (Jeff) describes as his tribute to AC/DC, one of his all-time favorite bands. It's not a cover song, but rather a covering of the style of the aforementioned band, in not only songwriting, but also in vocal style (Joe proves his versatility on this one, showing he can sound like a dead-on Bon Scott match).
Time Bomb
This song is just heavy, no ifs, ands, or buts, about it. The riffing is tight and precise and is meant to make this the perfect head-banging song on this album, much in the spirit of "Holy Diver" and "Balls to the Wall". It even has some brief Halford-screams, which is always cool.
The Rush
Like "City of Ice" off of the "Refresh the Demon" album, this song just has a cool mid-tempo groove to it, like when you watch those movies and during the opening credits it shows the hero driving his car on the highway with a slightly faster song playing to symbolize the speed of his car. That's what this song is.
Insomniac
This one starts off slow but then hits with a brutal fury reminiscent of Joe's days with Overkill, only to quickly get back to the softer moment. It makes a nice contradiction that is very effective here. I'd say this is the 2nd best song on here, and second only to the title track.
Liquid Oval
Instrumental, imagine a tender love song as only Jeff Waters could right, just sans vocals and with some beautiful guitar harmonies throughout the course of the song.
Epic of War
An excellent thrash song featuring well-placed gang vocals in the choruses, and vocal harmonies in the verses, this is almost reminiscent of Primal Fear or Sinner. This is what happens when Annihilator tries to do a power metal song, and as you can see it turns out pretty well.
Hunter Killer
Right off the bat this one comes in with a brilliant display of riffs and counter-riffs, following by a building up to your standard, basic Annihilator riff, with enough staccato just to make it interesting. It takes forever for the vocals to kick in, but when they do they are accompanied by a seriously fast thrash riff not far off from vintage Slayer. Not the best way to close such an excellent album, but it works.
Hidden Track
(I assume it's called "Chicken and Corn"): Ok, this is way better. Following in the tradition of "Kraf Dinner" on the "Never Neverland" album, Jeff writes and performs an ode to one of his favorite meals. Absolutely hilarious!
Napster, LLC
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