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Metal/Prog Metal DVD/Video Reviews

Annihilator

Ten Years Of Hell DVD

Review by Greg Olma

Let's establish one thing right off the bat...Jeff Waters can shred. The Annihilator guitarist (in truth, Waters is Annihilator...a fact anybody who watches this DVD would be hard pressed to dispute) is simply one of the best heavy metal axe-men of the last 20 years. In terms of playing ability, he is right up there with the likes of Hammett, Mustaine and Skolnick.

And watching Waters do his stuff is the chief pleasure in watching this double DVD set. It certainly isn't the tedious and dry rundown of Annihilator's endless line-up changes that dominates Disc 2. Nor is it the frankly unfunny collection of tour hi-jinks that peppers Disc 1. Nope, the best thing about "Ten Years In Hell" is seeing Waters and his band thrash away on classic tunes like "Alison Hell," " I Am In Command" and "Ultraparanoia" in vintage live footage. The sound is atrocious on most of these live recordings which date back to the late 80's and the camerawork is obviously not of professional standard, but still, the energy and ability of Annihilator stands out - especially Waters' melodic soloing abilities and fast-picking rhythm work.

Disc one also offers up some Annihilator videos, including the environmentally conscious "Stonewall" (still an incredibly catchy song today), the complex story-based "Alison Hell," the thrashing "King of the Kill" (with Waters himself quite serviceable on vocals) and brutal "Syn-Kil 1." The sappy ballad "Only Be Lonely" is also included, but all that shows is that Jeff had a soft spot for cringeable "chick metal" ala Bon Jovi.

Both discs trace the history of the band, but disc one is more palatable, as it mixes interviews, live footage and videos to entertaining effect. An ironically humorous interview from the time of Annihilator's first album "Alice In Hell" has Jeff gushing about how he can't wait to let the other members of the band contribute to songwriting so they can be more than just "Jeff Waters' band." Yet by the time the second album "Never Never Land" rolled around, virtually every body from the first record was gone. This was a pattern that repeated itself throughout the band's history.

One of my favorite parts of disc one shows Jeff being interviewed by a clueless host of a Canadian talk show. "Why does your music have to be so gosh-darn loud?" asks the host, following up with "Why do your songs have to have such tough, mean titles to them?"

Disc two is really only for the complete Annihilator fan, as it is Jeff recounting in great and painstaking detail all phases of the band's history. There's some interesting bits here, especially Jeff's tales of how tough things were for him in the days before "Alice In Hell," but honestly, it gets very dull listening to "Well, then Wayne Darley left the band but David Scott Davis came back and we picked up Mike Mangini but then Mangini was out again" and the like for over 50 minutes.

I can't help but compare this to the recent Sodom DVD "Lord of Depravity Part One," which also covered band history in intense detail but in a more entertaining way.

Any fan of Annihilator will certainly be pleased with this package but at the end of the day, Jeff Waters does his best talking when he's on stage tearing the hell out of his guitar strings.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

 
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