Annihilator. Ani-heel-ator. Anal eater. However the hell Jeff Waters would like us to pronounce it. The Canadian bastards with a thrashin’ mission are back for another round in the ring with “Ballistic, Sadistic”, their 17th studio effort!
Since I’m a relatively new-ish fan of the band, I had heard Annihilator back in 2017 when I was on my own thrash adventure. Being an excited little hormonal teen craving the thrash fluids, I eagerly awaited new Annihilator material. Then they hit me harder than I would have ever expected with what I consider to be one of my favourite songs of theirs (and an all-time favourite to be honest), “Twisted Lobotomy”. My god, it was everything a lil’ thrash-head needed and more! Thus, my infatuation with Annihilator began and I pre-ordered the accompanying album “For the Demented” with the final remnants of my iTunes wallet. Fast forward 2 and a bit years later, and here we are! It’s aboot time to dive right in, eh? (Canada references).
Right out of the gate, it can be said that Annihilator are on somewhat of a hot streak since 2013’s “Feast” (some argue that 2015’s “Suicide Society” is one of their worst, and to that I say a resounding “no”). The way “Armed to the Teeth” begins with that Judas Priest-esque heavy-metal thrash thing that Jeff Waters has to put at least once on every Annihilator record is always welcoming and a great way to start the album. But the throwbacks are not the highlights of the record in my opinion. It’s the deep cuts that really get me rooting for the band. They manage to show Annihilator adding elements that have either been rarely heard in one of their albums or not heard at all. Subtle nods to death metal (see “The Attitude”, “I Am Warfare”), odd chord progressions (see “One Wrong Move” in the clean bridge section) and odd rhythmic phrasings (see “The End of the Lie”) give “Ballistic, Sadistic” and Annihilator a breath of fresh air. There’s a quote from a Jeff Waters interview promoting the announcement of “Ballistic, Sadistic” saying that it features “the best guitar work I didn’t know I still had in me”, which I’d say no statement is truer for the album since the whole album is very much full of supporting arguments for that.
My gripes with “Ballistic, Sadistic” come with those classic-style Annihilator songs that appear on every album. Songs such as stone cold “Stonewall” clone “Psycho Ward”, the straight-edge “Lip Service”, “Riot” and “Dressed Up for Evil” (not so much the latter two) all manage to sound like other songs by the band and don’t have as much personality as the other songs. Even the aforementioned “Armed to the Teeth” and “I Am Warfare” showcase Annihilator hanging onto their past instead of looking toward their future.
So, in summary, it’s those deeper cuts that really see “Ballistic, Sadistic” show Annihilator’s true potential and possible sight into their future. While those classic style songs are good, it feels like it’s become a norm for the band. For a band that released “Alice in Hell” as a debut record, they shouldn’t be falling into any norms!
Here’s a link to their website:
And here’s a link to their store: