An unexpectedly melodic and gentle opening gives way to a thundering thrash track overlaid with blistering lead runs and heavy, but not screamed, vocals – it can only mean that the mighty Annihilator are back in town and this time they are packing one hell of a punch.
From the moment ‘The trend’ detonates, Annihilator have a sense of purpose which, while not entirely absent over the past decade, has come raging to the forefront with a renewed vigour. Perhaps Jeff Waters sees the young pretenders to his throne gaining ground, or perhaps it is the inspiring spectacle of the ‘big four’ lining up shows, but whatever magic has been worked it has seriously bolstered the Annihilator sound to the point that they are comfortably competing with Exodus’ latest opus (no mean feat, believe me!) ‘Coward’ maintains the pace with the vocals sounding none-more-venomous and the track recalls the percussive vocal brutalities of Metallica’s ‘Blackened’ coupled with hints of Slayer and a production that sees the solos simply leaping from the speakers. ‘Ambush’ spectacularly ups the brutality stakes and sees the band happily keeping pace with Slayer, with a double-bass-drum attack and frantic solos.
So far, so good and ‘betrayed’ opens with a grinding mid-tempo snarl before igniting once more. The change in pace is refreshing and helps to emphasise the faster elements and give them greater impact. The solos here are the highlight and they are immaculate –even when judged by the lofty standards of Megadeth’s ‘Endgame’. ’25 seconds’ is a bass led oddity that has an unconventional groove to it before a stop-start riff that seemingly takes inspiration from the Botch school of dynamics. It’s a highlight because it showcases Annihilator stepping away from the Thrash mould and creating a monstrous track in the process. Let’s hope they include it in the live set because it’s an absolute belter. Showing no sign of letting up ‘nowhere to go’ opens with sampled sirens and funky bass before breaking into a perfect chugging riff underpinned by Ryan Ahoff’s solid drumming, and if the chorus is a little metal-core for my tastes, well you can forgive the band for a little experimentation when the overall album is so strong.
With the slight misstep of ‘nowhere to go’ it is even more apparent that the rest of the album is a twisted mass of highlights, blistering lead runs and expert song-writing not least when you hear the masterful ‘death in your eyes’ which throws an endless array of elements at what is set to become a modern thrash classic, with impassioned vocals, chugging mid-tempo bridge sections and frenetic solos all thrown into one impressive mix. As one of thrash metal’s longest running (and most under-sung) legends, Jeff Waters has not only created a strong album but exceeded all expectations and created one of the strongest of his already impressive career. Moreover care and attention has been lavished on the package itself by those lovely people at Earache and early purchasers can get a fan box complete with clamshell packaging, pin badges, key ring and stickers – a tasty reward for those who have stood by the band over the years. If you have been attracted by the resurgence of thrash and the seemingly endless parade of top-notch albums that have appeared (Testament, Exodus, Megadeth, Slayer and Metallica are all riding high) then you owe it to yourself to check out this beast of a record. Maybe Annihilator will finally get the recognition they so richly deserve.