ANNIHILATOR has always had a problem. They’re known for blazing fast, technically bewildering thrash metal, but when they write any other kind of song, it rarely goes over well. For example, new track “Snap” is the kind of sleazy-sounding, ode-to-a-crazy-bitch rock song you could easily hear at any hour on rock radio. If that appeals to you, it’s not a bad thing, but it’s not the sort of thing I put on an ANNIHILATOR disc for. But can you blame a guy for wanting to write more than one kind of song?
2013 brought us Feast, an album that both I and The Maestro enjoyed immensely, but since then vocalist/rhythm guitarist Dave Padden has left the fold, and Suicide Society,out September 18 via UDR Music, finds the band with Jeff Waters once again on lead vocals. While he’s noted that he tried to write songs that played to his vocal strengths, the opening title track is a terrible first impression. Waters’ vocals sound way too processed, as though compensating for a weak performance, and it distracts from the few cool riffs, such as in the chorus. In the end, the song sounds way too much like an attempt at a radio single to be very palatable. Oddly, the vocals are pretty great on the rest of the album, so the excessive processing stings even more for how unnecessary it is.
Honestly, I did love “Creepin’ Again”, and it remained stuck in my head from the first promo video. It’s also one of the few songs from this disc I’d anticipate seeing live, if only Jeff knew about the existence of the USA. However, it’s hard to ignore that from the bass intro to lyrical theme (murderous insanity), to the chorus which is basically a catchier version of “Clown Parade”, it feels like ANNIHILATOR by numbers. But it’s still a great song and a highlight of the album. By the same token, “Narcotic Avenue” is in the same vein (pun intended) as “Chasing the High” in terms of being another grinding thrasher about drug addiction. But in the middle of yelling along “FIGHT! FOR SURVIVAL! DEATH! ON ARRIVAL!” and appreciating Jeff’s darkly humorous lyrics, I found myself forgetting, if only for a while, that I don’t really like this album.
I’m quickly reminded again with “The One You Serve”. It starts out with what I’ll call an unintentional cover of “The Hellion” by JUDAS PRIEST and slogs through a plodding riff and a chorus that falls flat for half of its six-minute length before picking up a bit momentarily and showing off a couple of cool vocal moments. Ultimately, however, it revisits the same elements from before in reverse order, by which time I’ve completely lost interest.
“My Revenge” is a good example of how just writing aggressive, galloping songs does not a good CD make. It has a tantalizing blend between aggressive speed in the verse and a poppier approach in its chorus, in addition to having some great solo work, but it, like so many songs on Suicide Society is bogged down by repetitive, uninspired riffs. Even the classic ANNHILATOR melodic noodling only contributes to the phoned-in feel of the songwriting. Plus the verse sounds like “Damage, Inc.” Did I mention that it has the SAME “FIGHT! FOR SURVIVAL!” refrain as “Narcotic Avenue”? Come on, man! I’ll admit that it appears earlier on the album so technically it’s the original one. “Break, Enter” is basically the same as described above except for the parts that stood out or were interesting.
At this point it looks pretty grim for Suicide Society, and I felt pretty grim about it too. With the intro of “Death Scent”, featuring a full 30 seconds of shredding, I started to perk up. This is where all the inspired guitar playing ended up! The chorus is catchy too, although I think the pre-chorus is even better, but the song is largely given over to guitar pyrotechnics. As I scoop my freshly-melted face off of my laptop, my jaw drops down to rejoin it upon hearing the next song. “Every Minute” starts out reminiscent of “One Falls, Two Rise”, one of my favorite ANNIHILATOR tunes, and serves as the culmination of what that song had threatened…positive lyrics?? My God, ANNIHILATOR has an anthem! And it rocks! From the chorus begging to be sung along with live to the blistering solo, Suicide Society ends on a spectacular high note for me, with a grin on my face and hope for the future…the future of ANNIHILATOR, anyway.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Creepin’ Again”, “Narcotic Avenue”, “Death Scent”, “Every Minute”