Annihilator – Alice in Hell
Today I’m revisiting Annihilators debut classic, ‘Alice in Hell’. I say revisit because I have already written two different reviews for this record, once in the original series in 2013, and another one about 15 months ago, in one of the several failed attempts at a reboot. Rather than trying to come up with even more bullshit to say about this record, I’m just going to repost the second review, which was really a re-write of the first. So, enjoy…again…
I first heard of Annihilator back in 1989 when I was in 8th grade when I saw an advertisement for this record on a back of a metal magazine claiming them to be “Canada’s answer to Metallica” or something to that effect. Though I was a huge Metallica geek at the time, that byline did nothing to make me want to check this band out. I found it a bit insulting to make such a comparison. Even the 14 yr old clueless stoner that I was felt there was something contrive by such a statement, though there would have been no why I could have articulated that to you at the time. Anyway some time further down the road, maybe a month or so later I saw the video for ‘Alison Hell’ and though I wasn’t completely won over at the time, a few of my friends were, and they picked up the CD and or cassette, and I heard the record quite a bit through them, and I really liked it, though I can’t say it was a favorite album of mine, it was still something cool that only my friends and me were into, which elevated it somewhat in my head. But to be honest I think I like this record more now than I did back then.
The thing I think that stood out to me the most about Annihilator back then and even now is that musicianship of the band is amazing, even more so when you realized that this album is all just one guy playing all the guitar and bass parts, Jeff Waters, one of the most underrated and unknown guitarists to come out of the 80’s. The precision that this man plays his rhythms and solos with is incredible. All for a guy that is self-taught, and can’t read a bit of music, and doesn’t know music theory at all. You’d never know it listening to this record. Plus, the production of this record is fantastic. Its sound stands up even by today’s standards, not something that can be said about many other thrash titles of the day, even by the more “popular” bands.
The unfortunate thing about Annihilator was that they came out just a little too late. They sort of caught the tail end of the whole thrash metal golden era, and like almost all metal bands at the time were rendered completely irrelevant when the whole grunge/alternative thing swept through the country. (In my opinion, the worst thing that ever happened to music, but that’s a different post). I think if these guys could have gotten a record out a little bit earlier, and had a little better luck, they would have fared better throughout the 90’s. As it turned out though they pretty much disappeared into obscurity, at least in the US, and never really made their mark in metal history. This is a shame because they were a good enough band that they deserved to better known. But to their and particularly to Jeff Waters credit, they never broke up and have continued to put out music steadily over the last 25 years, and have something like 15 albums out. Not bad for a band that you never heard of.
I’ll wrap this up with a little biographical note; the first club show I ever went to was at the Skyroom in the fall of 1989. The show was Testament ‘Practice What You Preach’ tour, with Wrathchild America (another great band you never heard of) and Annihilator (Alice in Hell Tour). It was awesome! Looking back on that show 25 years later, I think Annihilator put on the best set that night. They sounded the closest to the CD than the other two bands. But to be fair, both Testament and Wrathchild America were quite awesome that night too. But I was 15 yrs old and had only been to a few concerts and it was my first club show, and it was 25 yrs ago and all three bands could have sucked and I wouldn’t have known the difference. But I don’t think that was the case.
So to wrap this up I’ll just say if you love thrash metal, but aren’t familiar with this band, you should do yourself a favor and check out this record, you won’t be disappointed.