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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Annihilator

Feast

Review by Mike Korn

Jeff Waters and Annihilator have had the epitome of an up and down career. The Canadian thrashers started out white hot in the late 80s with two great albums, Alice In Hell and Never Neverland. Many compared them to Megadeth and Testament at their best. After that, though, things got a little rockier and at one point, Annihilator was basically just Waters and a drum machine. In recent years, they've been quite prolific and their profile has been on a steady rise.

With Feast, they might be ready to hit the heights of Alice In Hell and Never Neverland again. This is their best produced and most consistently satisfying release since those ground-breaking releases. Waters has always been a phenomenal guitarist, but his songwriting has been erratic. Not here. This is stainless steel thrash rooted in classic metal, with plenty of aggression and melody. His lead vocalist Dave Padden also comes into his own here and turns in his best performance ever. One of the best things about Feast is that each song retains its own identity and the album never falls into a shapeless mass.

If you pick up the deluxe edition, not only do you get a cool 3-D version of the cover but an additional disc containing reworked version of old Annihilator standards with Padden on vocals. Deluxe or not, Feast is a thrasher's delight.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2013  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Deadlock
You want thrash, you got it! A killer way to kick things off, this is Annihilator at their fastest and most aggressive. The riffing sounds like the best of old Metallica and Slayer, delivered with machine-like precision. The lyrics are bitter, to the point, and absolutely true: "We take what they give/ Complacency, the masses content to consume/The idiots outbreeding twenty to one/Ensuring our future is doomed.The solos are ripping and Padden's gruff vocals bark out some catchy lines.
No Way Out
Not quite as volcanic as "Deadlock, this is still pretty pummeling. It's got more of a groove to it, like a mixture of classic Annihilator and Pantera. Again, the vocal lines are insanely infectious and add to the tune's memorability. There's a part in the middle where a more "regular" metal vibe comes in and the timing of it is perfect, leading up to another fret-burning solo. This is one great song.
Smear Campaign
A pointed jab at modern media manipulation and online trash talking, this is another aggressive tune with an edgy, nervous feel to it.  About a minute and a half in, they hit the gas big time and unleash a thrash blast that will put your neck muscles to the test. There's a crazy, almost nursery rhyme vocal hook that will also stick in your mind. When the high speed lets up, the song returns to its original groove.
No Surrender
Mr. Waters has been known to throw some twists and quirks into his metal and this song is a fine example. This starts with pure funk, featuring slap bass and a psychedelic guitar sound that's almost reggae-like. Then it suddenly turns into a hammering staccato riff that reminds me of Fear Factory. Then the song turns into some super down-tuned chugging thrash. There's also a very slow spooky break in the middle with spoken words that sound like they come from a junkie This all sounds like a mess but the song actually works and provides some good variety.
Wrapped
This sucker is pure straight up metal, based on upbeat catchy riffing that isn't quite thrash metal. The cheerful sounding metal is a contrast with some pretty evil lyrics that drip with murderous contempt. I would hate to be the person this song is meant for. Padden's vocals are huskier and smokier and Jeff's guitar work is just amazing. . . a shredder's delight!
Perfect Angel Eyes
Annihilator has always had a softer, more balladic side and here's an example. Im afraid this is just too saccharine and sappy for me. I'm not opposed to ballads per se, but when we get lyrics like "You're beautiful inside and outside, too/A new beginning for me and you,I bow out.  A mostly acoustic song like this does show versatility, but I can't imagine anybody picks up an album by a band called Annihilator with a picture of a vampire eating a beating heart on the cover to hear stuff like this.
Demon Code
Things heavy up considerably with this cut. It follows in the footsteps of "Smear Campaign" by starting with a kind of Pantera-ish groove but then veers off in a couple of different directions, including some very dark sounding thrash metal. A growling vocal approach changes to something a bit more accessible and melodic.
Fight the World
Starting very gently with acoustic guitar, this evolves into pure Annihilator thrash. It reminds me a lot of material on the band's first two albums. After the soft opening, a jagged blast of speed comes ripping in with drumming on overdrive. At certain points, this song is as fast and raw as anything the band has ever done. It's also rather progressive, shifting tempos and riffs frequently. This is the kind of Annihilator that grabbed the metal world's attention back in the late 80s.
One Falls, Two Rise
The record closes with this epic, which begins in very balladic style comparable to "Perfect Angel Eyes, complete with very commercial vocals. Unlike that previous song, though, this one gets heavy pretty fast, but without getting real thrashy. Again, I draw a comparison to the classic "Alison Hell, as the song builds in a similar way. When the thrash does kick in, though, it does it with a vengeance and rivals "Fight the World" for sheer speed. This is a song with peaks and valleys and quite a bit of dynamics, as well as more of Waters superb lead guitar work.
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