An Update from the Analog Archives

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 looks promising: babe in nightgown who looks too old to play with dolls - check. Staircase littered with discarded Raggedy Ann dolls - check. Full moon outside - check. Demonic Raggedy Ann in silhouette lurking menacingly - check. Yes, it's all here!

This looks promising: babe in nightgown who looks too old to play with dollies – check. Staircase littered with discarded Raggedy Ann dolls – check. Full moon outside – check. Demonic Raggedy Ann in silhouette lurking menacingly – check. Yes, it’s all here!

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.

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Why Play Guitar?

I’ve reached the time of life where “doing the math” can be a little scary. I recently calculated that I’ve now been playing guitar for about 26 years – most of that time, mind you, without any kind of discipline, consistency, or regularity. Thus I still consider myself very much a beginner, even though I’ve been at it a long while now. In all that time, somehow I’ve never managed to consider why I started (and continue) to play.

In a previous post, I mentioned that I didn’t become interested in music until my early teen years. The first two albums I ever bought (on cassette, in 1986) were the Bangles’ Different Light and License to Ill by the Beastie Boys – an early indication of the “eclectic” tastes I’ve continued to develop over the years. However, I think my interest in making music has its origins just a bit later, and was rooted in a somewhat different genre.

Among other things, the1980s are remembered as the decade of the so-called “hair metal” bands. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, you should pause to check out this article on the subject – as always, Wikipedia has all the answers. Suffice it to say that “hair metal” is a classification so broad as to be almost useless, and there are more than a few bands frequently lumped into the category – Tesla, Cinderella, and Guns n’ Roses, for example – that (I believe) have too much substance to stand alongside your average leather-n-spandex clad, copiously hair-sprayed, pointy-guitar-toting glam metal group. That was the state of contemporary, mainstream rock at the time, though, and for better or worse I was captivated. These guys played loud, catchy music – plus they dressed cool, grew their hair long, dated supermodels, and generally raised the middle finger to society-at-large. How could I not want to be a part of that?

I’ll have more on this topic in a future post, but in the meantime, I’ll leave you with this – one of the most profound creative statements of 1986: