After witnessing the unleashing of new track (and album opener) “Twisted Lobotomy” at Bloodstock this year, I was very much looking forward to getting my ears battered by the forthcoming release from Jeff Waters’ Annihilator. Needless to say I cried editorial privilege when it landed in our mailbox and dived headlong into this psychoanalytically-themed Canadian melodic thrash-fest.
While not a concept album as far as a story or collection of linked tales goes, For The Demented has an overarching theme of “the human mind and all of its glory, complexity, diversity, weaknesses and insanity!” according to Waters. With tracks about addiction, behavioural disorders, and other intrapersonal issues, it’s an added bonus that – as ever – the lyrics are clear throughout. This is one of Annihilator’s many trademarks and something other bands should take on board more often. There’s no point in writing great lyrics if the listener has to look them up to find out what they are.
Joining Waters in songwriting duties for the album is Rich Hinks, who’s been playing bass in the band for a few years. It’s almost ironic that in trying to recapture the original few albums, new blood has been drafted in but Hinks’ background in “math metal” acts has paid off. Looking back, with the occasional off-kilter rhythm and bolted-on mad fretboard flurry, it’s not unfair to say that Annihilator could well have influenced that genre as well as many thrash names.
The resulting collection of tracks is as eclectic a mix as Annihilator has ever presented to its baying throng of fans. There are some on here which, while great on CD probably won’t go down too well live (“Phantom Asylum”, “Not All There”), whereas there are others which are destined to be rubbing shoulders in the setlist with classics from now on (“Twisted Lobotomy”, “Altering The Altar”). Then there’s oddballs like “The Way” which could be encore material with its roots set firmly in 50’s/60’s rock and roll, not the primordial thrash ooze of the 80’s.
“Dark” is another odd one, a two-minute instrumental that would have made more sense plopped at the start of the album as a scene-setting instrumental (if the tail end had been truncated). Having said that, it leads in well to closer “Not All There”, a song which is overall superb… but with a schizophrenic ending of funky bass. I just think this last section would be a little odd to hear live, tacked on at the end as it is.
Title track “For The Demented” kicks off reminding me of Eminem’s “Lose Yourself”; a chunky, staccato rhythm with slight echo. What follows is influenced more by Alice Cooper and Force of Habit-era Exodus (just listen to the words “…just to find out what was wrong with me” and tell me that doesn’t sound like Zetro from back in ’92).
And there we have what makes this album so good. Has Annihilator truly recaptured the spirit of the original demos and first couple of albums? Well… yes. The spirit, but not really the sound. It’s there – and more than it has been in recent outings – but it’s wrapped up in a selection box with a load of other sounds, too. Rather than just go back and try to create album number “4a”, Annihilator have given us a “what if…?” – an alternative fifth album; what could have happened if they’d drifted in a different direction. Many acts have said that Annihilator influenced them – something that Waters is quoted as being very flattered by, and who wouldn’t be – but with For The Demented I feel he’s turned the tables and allowed many outside influences in, while at the same time keeping that unique, influential Annihilator sound.
While this isn’t the best Annihilator record of all time, it’s probably the best in recent times and definitely the most unique.
For The Demented is out on November 3rd. Pre-order on Amazon.