Thursday, August 12, 2010

Annihilator - Alice in Hell

Annihilator's brief glimpse of glory

Because everything went downhill extremely fast after this. Those new to metal may have heard good things about Annihilator, but grabbed albums that weren't this one, thus disappointing themselves greatly. To me, the only album after this that has even the slightest bit of merit would be Waking the Fury, but even that still doesn't even come close to holding a candle to this 1989 masterpiece of thrashing insanity.

This is usually labeled technical thrash, and that's not a bad description. It's not uber technical in the sense of Watchtower or Coroner, but it has a heavy emphasis on melody as opposed to brutality, unlike most thrash bands. There is also a fair share of acoustic melodies throughout the record as well (Crystal Ann, Alison Hell, Word Salad), so I guess you could make a case for attaching "melodic" onto their genre as well. There are thrash beats aplenty (just for clarification, whenever I use the term "thrash beat", I am referring to the drum pattern with the snare being hit on the off beat, thus making the music seem a lot faster), with a healthy dose of double bass patterns sprinkled in for good measure. Jeff Waters, before he became a pretentious tit widget, shreds out some excellent leads and solos, as well as a fresh set of creative and fun riffs. Most riff-centric albums do this quite well, but I find that Alice in Hell does an exceptional job with them. The vocals are kind of reminiscent of Blitz Ellsworth from Overkill, which is obviously a good thing.

The individual songs are kind of interchangeable, but I mean this in a good way. Some records can be described as "samey", while others can be described as "consistent". The former is when all of the songs are similar, so it's cool to have it playing on shuffle, but you get bored after the first few songs. The latter is when all of the songs are similar, so it's cool to have it playing on shuffle, but every song continues to sound awesome throughout. Alice in Hell is clear practitioner of the latter category.

There are a few problems unfortunately. Wicked Mystic is cool, but it's one of the only tracks I can't recall from memory... it's the only one that's not memorable. Some of the songs do this annoying random stop false ending thing that confuse and irritate me. Ligeia does this before the solo, and Schizos (Are Never Alone) does this in the middle of the song as well, and it's annoying. Apparently the latter song is a two part song, but it transitions very poorly and horribly breaks the flow.

Overlook those shortcomings, and this is a top notch thrash record from right around the time bearing the height of acceptable mediocrity in the genre. The weaker tracks (Burns Like a Buzzsaw Blade, Wicked Mystic) are few and overshadowed by the monstrous thrash classics (Alison Hell, Human Insecticide). Overall, a highly recommended album by a band that nailed it once and then never returned to form. A fluke, if you will, but a very glorious fluke.

RATING - 93%

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