Annihilator - Metal 1/5
1. Clown parade
2. Couple suicide
3. Army of one
4. Downright dominate
6. Operation annihilation
10. Chasing the high
Annihilator are one of those bands that have somehow acquired the tag 'legendary' despite having put out very little of any worth during their lengthy career. That the band's debut, 'Alice in hell', is a timeless thrash metal masterpiece is not in question, but ever since the good-but-a-little-disappointing follow-up 'Never, neverland', they have been in almost terminal state of decline, with only a couple of flashes of their former glory punctuating a sea of CDs that have ranged from frustrating to downright embarrassing.
Guitarist and songwriter Jeff Waters – who basically is Annihilator – has gone through as many changes in style over the course of his career as he has band mates. The man is an astonishingly talented guitarist, but apparently has no motivation to do anything remotely innovative, or even to just pick a style he likes and stick to it.
From the dawn of the 90s, Annihilator have been hopping from one trend to another, with a brief mini-renaissance (featuring first the return of original vocalist Randy Rampage and then the brilliant Joe Comeau) being cast aside with the hiring of Dave Padden. Padden, a sad nu-metal leftover, ranks not only as the easily the worst Annihilator vocalist, but one of the worst ever to get behind the microphone on a metal CD. His range goes from tough-guy Pantera worship to laughably bad growls and emo-style whining. Thankfully the latter has been kept in check on this CD, but his performance really has to be heard to be believed.
Waters has always been a follower rather than a leader, with the only difference being the music he followed in the old days was actually worth a damn. 'Metal' is at least the 3rd CD released by Annihilator that has been promised as a 'return to the roots', and, just like 2005's 'Schizo deluxe', nothing could be further from the truth. The only difference is that, as awful as the predecessor was, there were some very good thrash riffs to be found here and there. 'Metal' tones everything down to an identity-free blur of songs that fade in and out of one another. Padden's vocals are thankfully a little less bad than on the preceding CD – they really couldn't get any worse – but he still doesn't even come close to convincing that he should be involved in a metal band in any way.
The biggest selling point for this CD – at least, what the adverts have been bombarding us with – is the milieu of guest musicians that feature on each song. With the exception of one, every track features a solo from a guest guitarist, with everyone from Jeff Loomis of Nevermore to Corey Beaulieu of Trivium getting in on the act.
Loomis provides the highlight of the CD – one of very few up points – in the opening track "Clown parade", playing a lengthy solo duel with Waters that actually saves the song from Padden's woeful vocals and provides a brief, doomed hope that 'Metal' might actually be at least a decent effort from Annihilator. All this is immediately dashed with the 2nd and 3rd songs, both of which will be strong contenders for the worst of 2007.
"Couple suicide" features 2 completely out-of-place vocal performances from Danko Jones and Angela Gossow of Arch Enemy. A very radio friendly (and also very bad) song, but Jones' alt rock crooning, overlaid with Gossow's growled backing vocals makes for an utterly baffling listen. Quite what Waters was hoping to achieve with this one is difficult to fathom. Track 3, "Army of one" is maybe the most pathetic attempt at a metal anthem I've had the misfortune to hear. The song would be completely forgettable if it wasn't for the hilariously bad lyrics, all about keeping it true and not giving in to the masses – and hearing "Hell bent, ignoring the trend" being half-rapped by a late 90s remnant by Padden after being written by a perpetual sell-out like Waters is beyond insulting.
Reviews that only specifically mention a few tracks from the start of the CD are generally pretty worthless, but, hand on heart, these first 3 songs are the only ones (for whatever reason) to stand out in from the others in any way. The rest of the CD is a homogenous mesh of easily digestible metal-by-numbers efforts, with the odd good riff here and there thoroughly stamped out by any number of idiotic attempts at sounding 'edgy' or simply by virtue of Padden's uniformly awful performance.
The rest of the guest performances – including a session job from legendary drummer Mike Mangini - are all good. Very good, in fact. There is no doubting the talent of the musicians that Waters has assembled. But what sort of credit is he due for being anything other than a good producer for having an assortment of excellent lead guitarists drop a solo into the middle of a terrible song and paying one of the best drummers in the world to keep the beat going? As usual with Annihilator, the songwriting seems to have been the last thing on the agenda.
'Metal' is just another collection of half-assed populist songs with the only plus points being that the vocalist is not quite plumbing the depths he has in the past and a bunch of guest performances perking things up here and there. If all you want to do is listen to an assortment of excellent guitar solos, don't waste your money to sift through the rubbish gathered here – go buy a Steve Vai CD instead and forget this one ever existed.
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