Annihilator has always been essentially the one-man band of guitar hero / producer / singer / songwriter Jeff Waters, and it is rare for someone to be still inspired and stay fresh after so many years in the business. And at 53 years of age, it’s difficult to come up with ideas as easily as you did when you were in your 20s anyway. This is the band’s 17th album and it’s just… another Annihilator record.
Having been around since 1984 and with a revolving door of countless musicians, this is the only instance I can remember Waters keeping the same line-up for two consecutive albums. Not that it matters much, the other members are only there for the promotional band photos and the live performances since Ballistic, Sadistic was written, performed, engineered, and produced by you-know-who, with bassist Rich Hinks offering some additional engineering and editing.
Waters is undoubtedly a very gifted musician – the soloing on this record is at times mindblowing – but it’s been ages since he last wrote more than two or three good songs for an album. And, frankly, he has never been the best songwriter. Even Alice In Hell, one of the most iconic speed/thrash releases ever, has achieved legendary status mainly because of the truly insane guitar work and not because of the songwriting. From Set The World On Fire onwards, I can’t find a release by this band that I would re-listen in its entirety again today with the exception of the ones he recorded with Joe Comeau, Carnival Diablos and Waking The Fury.
Thrash – or heavy/thrash as Annihilator promote themselves – is meant to fill you up with its energy, and while some of the riffs/songs on Ballistic, Sadistic manage to do that up to a point, they also sound uneventfully similar either to each other or to stuff that the band has presented before. I mean, seriously, listen to “Dressed Up For Evil” and “Word Salad” back to back and then tell me I’m wrong. As a result, the album gets tired fairly quickly and really peters out halfway, despite the fact that the penultimate track, “Lip Service”, features exquisite lead guitar work and the closer, “The End Of The Lie”, is a furious thrasher and possibly the best song on the record.
Annihilator have a history of bad album covers and this is no different. They have a history of naïve lyrics and this is no different. Jeff Waters has never been a good singer and in this album he’s no different. While promoting Ballistic, Sadistic, he claimed that it’s the best he has made since Schizo Deluxe, but it doesn’t really matter because it’s still not good enough to actually make any notable difference compared to whatever came before it during these last 15 years.
Annihilator is a fantastic live band and I wish they could muster some of the energy of their live shows and bring it in the studio. But maybe this is where the problem lies; in the studio there is no band, just one man …
Annihilator – Ballistic, Sadistic (Neverland Music)