Months after the adventure began, I continue to work on bringing various records and tape cassettes from my misguided youth into the digital domain. Though I’m certainly ready for the process to be over, it’s been fun to rediscover some forgotten favorites from 20 years ago and more. Today I bring you a track from a band I haven’t thought about in quite a long time: Annihilator.
This Canadian speed/thrash outfit formed in 1984, and is (according to Wikipedia) one of the most successful Canadian metal bands. Their debut album, 1989’s Alice In Hell, spent a fair amount of time running through my tape deck during my junior and senior years in high school. It’s perfect material to annoy and alarm your parents: fast, loud, and aggressive. It’s also skillfully played and musically complex. Annihilator is one of those bands that toss so many awesome riffs into each song that you begin to wonder if they’ll have any material left for the next album. As you might guess from the cover art above, thematically it’s pretty dark stuff; nightmare creatures, various neuroses, and occult imagery dominate the lyrics. The vocals, courtesy of Randy Rampage (née Randall Archibald) alternate between pseudo-operatic histrionics and various throaty screeches and growls; though his approach is wholly appropriate to the music, his singing verges on silly to me today. I’d prefer a more understated approach, but I can certainly appreciate the intensity and musicianship present here. The title track of the album sums up the band pretty well:
One interesting thing for me about Annihilator: like Tom Sholz’s band Boston, most everything we hear on this album is the work of one person – Jeff Waters, who wrote or co-wrote all nine tracks and shares vocal duties on some songs, while both producing and mixing the album. Waters is also an accomplished multi-instrumentalist, playing everything on the album except the drums. Though the liner notes credit guitarist Anthony Brian Greenham and bassist Wayne Darley, their contributions actually came after the album was complete, working with Waters to recreate the Annihilator sound in live performance on tour. I’m assuming that’s Messrs. Greenham and Darley in the video, too. Mr. Waters is the hotshot guitar slinger in the red t-shirt. Something I’ve noticed upon re-watching the video: Waters, by far, gets the most screen time, and though the singer, bassist, and drummer all have a moment or two in the spotlight – the second guitarist gets not even one close-up. You have to watch carefully or you won’t even notice he’s there. Poor guy.