Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Annihilator: Feast - Review

Let's face it, a good portion of Metal fans have a preferred style within the genre, whether it be Black, Progressive Death, etc. Although within our particular favourite we try to listen to every band we can there is always someone that slips by unnoticed. For me that style has to be Thrash Metal and although I have gone through all sorts from The Big 4, Testament, Exodus, Sepultura, Kreator and even the revival bands like Municipal Waste, Evile, Warbringer and Lazarus A.D., I have managed to go all these years without really giving Canadian thrashers Annihilator a real go. My experience with the band really goes as far as hearing the track "Alison Hell" (which I think is ace) and so I thought that, 
as they had just release of their 14th album, "Feast", it was time to really give Annihilator the time of day. 

To very briefly sum up my opinion on "Feast" before I delve into the details, I would say that it is the epitome of a mixed bag. There are so many elements that the band gets right and yet there are so many other elements that totally ruin the record for me and stop it from achieving its full potential.  

I'll start off by talking about what Annihilator get right on "Feast". As they predominantly play Thrash it is to be expected that the band can write good, fast and aggressively heavy riffs and this is indeed the case. Tracks like opener "Deadlock", "No Way Out" and "Fight The World" have a real old school, Testament-esque feel to them, which I absolutely loved. Any good Thrash album should make me want to start headbanging on the spot and make me wish I was in a circle pit somewhere and in many ways this feeling is achieved on "Feast". I can only imagine what it is like live when Annihilator play "Fight The World" live, with its maniacal riffs and Anthrax-style chorus and I think that a lot of the tracks present really would sound absolutely incredible live.

Along with the great riffing the album also features some immense lead work. The solos feel very well placed and always enhance the songs whenever they are used and again this is to be expected given Annihilator's Thrash background. A good example of the calibre of lead playing on show from Guitarist Jeff Waters is about two thirds of the way through "No Surrender", this solo is long and frantic, like all good Thrash solos should be, and when it is played over the cracking rhythm work from Dave Padden that section of the track comes alive. There are also some nice twin leads in tracks like "One Falls, Two Rise", which add a little variety to things and overall work really well.   

Whilst "Feast" does, in my opinion, feature many positives, there are numerous times throughout the record where Annihilator deviate from their Thrash roots and things start to go a little wayward and that is both from a musical and vocal perspective. 

Starting with the musical side of things and, to be quite honest, Annihilator don't sound the least bit coherent on this record. There are Thrash songs ("Deadlock", "Fight The World"), Hard Rock songs ("Wrapped") and ballads ("Perfect Angel Eyes") and this variety is fair enough to a degree but then there are tracks like "No Surrender" and "Demon Code" that try to fuse all these elements together and things start to get very messy. In many ways the songs all sound totally different from each other and that's not in the "ooh there's a nice bit of variety" way, it's more like "what the fuck is going on here!?". 

To further describe the song structure on the record, "No Surrender" has a Red Hot Chili Peppers-style verse, a Five Finger Death Punch-style pre-chorus and then a Slayer-esque chorus. As it can be imagined these riffs don't blend together so seamlessly and so portions of the track are, quite simply, horrible (I say portions because, as I already mentioned, the solo section is really good and it is this inconsistency within songs that really bothers me). Another example is "No Way Out", which is 90% pure Thrash and then drops into a groovy, Hard Rock bridge, which again feels out of place. There are so many sections in each song that are really damn good, featuring great riffs and ideas and then other sections where you question what exactly Annihilator think they are doing. This has the effect of making it hard to fully like everything about most of the tracks on the record and in fact it's only "Deadlock" and "Fight The World" that I really enjoy, the other tracks feature good parts that are totally overshadowed basically by poor song construction.    

As for the vocal, all I can say is that I found Dave Padden's voice incredibly irritating most of the time. I run the risk of sounding like a broken record but again things are all well and good when the music is kept Thrashy but then begin to fall apart elsewhere. Padden clearly tries to be a diverse vocalist but this attempt fails miserably. At some parts, such as in "Perfect Angel Eyes", he reminds me of Ivan Moody of Five Finger Death Punch (this is not a compliment) and at other times he sounds like a mix of Axl Rose and Dave Mustaine such as in "Wrapped". There is even what I assume to be an attempt to become Jesse Leach on part of "No Way Out"! Arguably Padden's vocal approach varies more than the riffing styles do and that really helped to put me off "Feast" because I don't think he is that good at singing in any other vocal style than Thrash (is that a vocal style?) and his bad vocal deliveries are all over the album. The best way to highlight this issue is during the chorus riff to "No Surrender". When Padden sings over it the riff sounds average and boring and yet when it is played underneath a solo is sounds incredible and really heavy. Maybe I would like this album a little more with a better vocalist, maybe. 

I would be hailing "Feast" as a great album if Annihilator had stuck to their Thrash roots. When they do the album really comes alive but unfortunately things are totally ruined by a total lack of coherency. It feels as if Annihilator are too trying hard to please too many different groups of people, attempting to appeal to the fans of bands such of A7X and FFDP (and maybe the great successes of these bands influenced that thought process, who knows?) and to garner more radio time, whilst still trying to show that they are an old school Thrash band and stay somewhat true to their original fan base. To a degree, I can appreciate that Annihilator, 14 albums down the line, don't want to churn out the same record again and again but the direction that they have gone with "Feast" just tries to cover too many bases and that is its downfall. There is no factor that really ties "Feast" together and so the record feels like a total, incoherent mess. For an album that shows so much potential and some genuinely good passages of play I still feel the need to recommend that this album be avoided because nigh on every song has been butchered by this apparent desire to please everybody.




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