Annihilator are a band I’ve been following for a stupid number of years, since just before I saw them opening for Judas Priest on their Painkiller tour. The Canadian kids were touring on their second album, I think, and said band have changed hugely over the years. These days we have Jeff Waters remaining from that formative group, but that buzzsaw sound is instantly recognisable in anything they’ve released since.
Ballistic, Sadistic was recorded in the UK (Durham, in fact) at a spanking new studio, but the sound from Annihilator remains the same. The moment the first razor edges of “Armed To The Teeth” start to slice into your brain, you know this can be no other band. Rattling along at breakneck speed, the guitar tones and Waters’ spat lyrics are as much a trademark as you can get without tattooing “TM” on the forehead of anyone who hears it.
While Annihilator have dipped their toes into the creepy, the balladic, the middle-of-the-road metal, they’ve settled into the comfortable groove of thrash for the last few releases and this is no different. Hey, if it ain’t broke, right? “The Attitude” continues this theme replete with rip-roaringly simple air-punching chorus: “FUCK! The Attitude!” (and repeat). I mean, who needs deep and meaningful when you can go for something that simple that just gets the point across? Sure the guitar work is more complicated and impressive than back in the day (which is no mean feat given how bloody good those first couple of albums were), but this is old school thrash at its best, reminiscent of Nuclear Assault.
“Psycho Ward” stirs up that haunting feeling again, even including some vocal harmonies, but throws in some madcap guitar solos so that you don’t forget it’s Annihilator here. Buzzsaw blade one first, then the clean/echo one right after. Nobody else does them like this. “I Am Warfare” will have you clenching your fists and wanting to start a pit (go ahead – I’m sure the neighbours won’t mind), “Out With the Garbage” screams along as if it’s trying to play catch-kiss with a Mig-25, “Dressed Up For Evil” contains those meandering tones that once more are a signature of the band (a little too familiar, in fact, sounding almost like they’re lifted from older songs)…
“Riot”, surprisingly, isn’t as chaotic as the name suggests instead opting for the heavier tones rather than the blistering pace of earlier tracks. “One Wrong Move” is similar, but every Annihilator album needs a nice bass-led track with a chance for the musicians to really show their skills. In this case, it’s “Lip Service” which is arguably the most “musical” song on here, layered as it is with great beats, riffs, solos, harmonies… it’s almost a shame it has lyrics as it would be a brilliant instrumental track.
“The End the Lie” wraps things up old-style, shreddingly fast. It leaves your ears battered and bruised and wanting more. Which in my case they got as I looped right back to the start several times for the purposes of reviewing the album. The sacrifices I make for you lot.
In a nutshell, this is nothing new from Annihilator in terms of musical style. It’s not adventurous or mould-breaking… but why does it need to be? After seventeen albums, they’re cranking them out and people are buying them – and seeing the band live. Because it’s good shit. Sure they’ve had their ups and downs, their good albums and not so good. Ballistic, Sadisticis firmly in the “good” camp. Not their best, but absolutely a country-mile-and-a-half from being even close to a disappointment.
Ballistic, Sadistic is out on January 24th – grab it on Amazon and help support this site!