Archive for the Pages of the Past Category

PAGES OF THE PAST: Annihilator – Alice In Hell

Posted in Pages of the Past with tags , , , , , , , on 29th October 2013 by Nico Solheim-Davidson, the North Sea Poet

Who would’ve thought Canada could produce one of the best thrash bands on the planet. Annihilator is the brain-child of Jeff Waters, and the band are recognised the world over for two albums in particular, Alice in Hell and Never, Neverland.

Alice in Hell is one of the most technical thrash albums of its generation, with dynamic guitar work, intense drumming, groovy bass-lines and banshee like vocals. While the original release of the album featured the nine tracks listed, the 1998 re-release featured three bonus tracks, two of which were demos of songs from this album, and the other being a demo of a song to be heard on Never, Neverland. But that is a tale for another time, let us now visit Alice in Hell.

The opening instrumental, Crystal Ann, is a classical guitarist’s nightmare of intricate passages. Its twin guitar harmony performed by Waters has given many players chills at its technical prowess. It has also opened every Annihilator show since the album’s release. As soon as that intro hits, the hairs on the back of your neck will stand to attention, and salute the metal you are about to graciously receive within the confines of this 38 minutes of thrash metal mastery from Mr Waters and company.

From an amazing classical intro, to the second track, opening with the chilling bass intro, Alison Hell takes you on a musical journey through the torn mind the character of Alison. The guitars weave a tapestry of torment with their harmonies and relentless rhythmic chug. Vocalist Randy Rampage adds a menace to the song with his dark lyrical content, and Water’s piercing shriek and proto-death-grunt of Alison Hell make the title track an aural assault.

Welcome to Your Death takes the technical approach, and reins it in slightly. This is by no means a detriment to the song, it is in fact quite refreshing. The addition of the clean passage allows the listener a short break from pounding rhythms. The harmony part that Waters leads over sounds much more technical than it actually is, and leads into a good old fashioned thrash attack. For these reasons, fans have considered it an anthem, and it has been featured heavily in the set-list for many years.

The same can be said of Wicked Mystic which takes a more straightforward approach to thrash. Rampage’s vocals are the perfect ally for the guitar work. The un-ending battering of this song shows great stamina from all the players, and shows what thrash metal should be made of.

Burns like a Buzzsaw Blade is the real dark horse track on the album, lyrically it sounds like it shouldn’t work, but fits perfectly within the albums track-list. Water’s goes for an all out divebomb attack for his lead, like the whammy bar is going out of fashion, but still sounds good to this day. To cap it all off, the end of the song is heralded by Rampage emulating a Buzzsaw with his scream. I bet his voice burned like a Buzzsaw blade after that one, ey?

The misleading intro to Word Salad is quite dark for a clean passage. It works at distracting you while the main chug theme sneaks up on you to deliver an injection of distortion. The riffs are intricate, and have been a big influence on a lot of guitar player’s song writing styles. Yet another example of a straightforward thrash tune that would fit in with any set-list that comes out of Jeff Water’s brain.

They say that Schizos (Are Never Alone), and to an extent this is true. Is it? Yes it is, now can I please get on with the song review? Oh sorry, yes, please continue. Thank you, now where was I? This song is brutally fast and relentless in its barrage of speed metal riffs. Most thrash bands have fast songs, or fast sections to songs, but these riffs break boundaries between speed and all out thrash. As the song weaves in two parts, it is in its own way schizophrenic, with its slow parts being almost doom-like compared to its faster, more aggressive side.

Ligeia is one of the other darker horse songs on the album, with constant tempo and feeling changes, featuring nods to AC/DC in the riff ideas. The insane fast solo is a brilliant example of Jeff Waters as a young guitarist with a mis-spent childhood, which just proves that practice makes perfect, or very fast guitar solos. You thought I was being rude didn’t you?

In total contrast Human Insecticide shows more thrash potential. Though the riffs are meaty, the speed is the defining factor of how to make a thrash metal album sound completely awesome. The middle section takes a tempo dive and adds a total groove section, with yet another divebomb fest, that returns us to the true thrash speed. As an album closer, it leaves you satisfied, yet wanting tonnes more material.

There are few bands that can write material that stands the test of time as well as this album. The material is ageless, and still manages to scare even the most hardcore guitarists into wanting to improve their abilities, or just give it up altogether, and they would be right in doing so. This is an outstanding piece of thrash history.


Dan Eastwood