Sabaton / Kreator / CyHra at The Fillmore Silver Spring

On a Wednesday night, on the outskirts of Washington D.C., a flood of people packed into The Fillmore Silver Spring for a night of metal mayhem.  Camo pants were being sported by a great many, and I even noted one individual wearing a pauldron.  Everyone was fully prepared to rock out this Wednesday evening, March 7, 2018, and rock they did to sounds from European soils: CyHra, Kreator, and Sabaton.

CyHra: Official Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube

The opening act was one I had only begun to hear about: the part Swedish, part Finnish, part German conglomerate known as CyHra.  Formed of former members of In Flames, Amaranthe, Shining, and Annihilator (as well as a concurrent member of Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody), the mere thought of this band peaks the interest before any music hits your ears.  Described by vocalist, Jake E, as “really catchy metal,” you can totally understand what he says from the opening notes of their debut, Letters To Myself.  After listening to this release, which truly doesn’t copy any of their previous acts, I was surprised, wondering how they could possibly pull off this material in concert without losing some aspect of the studio magic.  But you know, they made it work surprisingly well!  In fact, the band was extremely animated and had the audience in the palm of their hands.  “Pretend you’re at a 70s Scorpions concert!” Jake E shouted, answered by the glow of hundreds of cellphones waving in the air, screens ablaze.

For whatever reason, bassist Peter Iwers couldn’t make the North American tour.  Regardless of this unfortunate occurrence, the veteran foursome who were present put on one hell of a performance, and fans were saddened when they had reached the end of their set.  I heard at least one person who hadn’t heard them prior to this proclaim, “I’ve got to get a copy of this album” after the music had ceased.

 

Kreator: Official Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

The thrash legends, Kreator, were up next.  Personally, I thought this would be a jarring change from the melody-driven music of the opener, and I wasn’t wrong!  The night took a left turn from its existing direction and entered a world claimed by the Flag Of Hate.  This world was full of staccato stage lighting (not recommended for those with epileptic episodes), circle pits, crowd surfing, and headbangers in the rafters.  Frontman Mille Petrozza pronounced “We heard Maryland is known for one thing…its moshpits!” much to the chagrin of the security in the room.  Not less than a few times were myself and other photographers moved aside to catch impending crowdsurfers.

The German metallers pulled out songs from nine albums of their catalog, going all the way back to their 1985 debut, Endless Pain, though the majority of tracks came from their two most recent albums, Phantom Antichrist and Gods Of Violence.  Needless to say, fans were overjoyed.

 

Sabaton: Official Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube

Sabaton, I am sad to say, is another failure on my part of not being familiar with them sooner.  The name has rung a bell for years, but I had never sat down and listened to their material.  I was surprised to find myself in the realm of anthemic, military heavy metal.  Caught between dueling guitars, war helmet mic stands, and goofing off…I was caught filled with joy.  This is what I imagine happens when every member of the band is an extrovert.  I swear, every word of every song was sung by the audience, mirroring Joakim Brodén’s lead vocals, to the point where it was difficult to differentiate who I was actually hearing.  Every so often the crowd would be moved to the point of leaping in unison, and I felt the building trembling by the combined force of their return to Earth alongside the reverberating speakers.

But I think the point where I really realized this band is truly amazing was when, mid-verse, guitarist Tommy Johansson came over to Joakim, who was kneeling down, and literally knocked him over. “What the—?!“ sputtered the frontman, before Johansson sat on him, all while continuing to play guitar and Brodén struggled to get up.  After a couple of seconds the guitarist ceased his assault, and Joakim returned to his feet, singing while attempting not to laugh, and throwing the bird at Johansson.  The crowd ate it up, and so did I.  In the words of Frank Zappa, “shall we take ourselves seriously?”  The answer, my friends, is clearly no.

With each brief intermission the band took, whether to get a drink of water or to change guitars, chants of “SA-BA-TON!” echoed through the venue.  From my vantage point, I could see the band members laughing each time it occurred, because it arrived so quickly after they ceased playing!  “We should tour here more often,” Brodén stated, “because you all, on a WEDNESDAY, are a more lively audience than some places we’ve played on the weekend.”  And it’s true.  I’m not sure I’ve ever witnessed a more energetic crowd, here or at any other venue.  There was a remarkable electricity running through the building, and it was one I was sad to see come to an end.  And while the North American tour has come to an end as well, you should do your darndest to catch any of these bands in concert, wherever you might find them.  You will not find disappointment.

‘For The Demented’ by Annihilator

Canada’s thrash mastermind, Jeff Waters, is back again with Annihilator’s 16th studio album, For The Demented. Without attempting to imitate past work, but with a desire to recapture the “thrash-meets-melody” aspect that die-hard Annihilator fans love, Waters brought bassist Rich Hinks to the writing table. Hinks, a long-time Annihilator fan himself, was able to weigh in on riffs and song ideas, helping Jeff discard those that just didn’t belong. This resulted in 10 tracks, focused around the theme of the human mind and “all of its glory, complexity, diversity, weaknesses and insanity!”

Following up their last studio album, 2015’s Suicide Society, the new album continues the trend of Waters role as vocalist, which began on that previous album following the departure of long-time singer, Dave Padden. However, unlike the last LP, Waters has made an effort to avoid letting too much of his metal fandom show through in his vocals, noting in interviews that Suicide Society saw him displaying quite a few Hetfield- and Mustaine-isms. The new album, he says, harkens back to the 1995 release, King Of The Kill (which saw him as lead vocalist), as he once again tries to bring his own voice to the music. I suppose your enjoyment of this release (and the last one), will largely depend on whether you like his voice. While certainly not possessing a range akin to a Halford or a Dickinson, Waters carries himself admirably, with the ability to handle the spectrum of soft to aggressive, as well as Annihilator’s tendency to fluctuate from serious to silly, without missing a beat. I mean, it’s not often you hear a song about cannibalism which provides you condiment recommendations.

You may also be interested in our 2015 interview with Jeff Waters:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

While one of the key selling points on any album is the vocal performance, I find most fans are more concerned with what’s going on musically. In this case: “Is it thrash?” After all, the trailer that came out for the album in late September had that word plastered all over it. And the answer to that is by and large, yes. Tracks like, “Twisted Lobotomy,” with its rapid fire riffs; “One To Kill,” which has a pace greatly reminiscent of “King Of The Kill”; and “For The Demented,” a mid-tempo rallying cry for metalhead culture, are great examples of what people can expect from this album – though by no means an exhaustive list. “Pieces Of You,” the cannibal’s ballad; “The Way,” a thrash-punk-12-bar-blues amalgamation; and the bi-polar thrash-funk closer, “Not All There,” show Annihilator going out on a limb. But I feel this plays excellently with the theme of the album, the human mind in all of its diversity and insanity, and the fact that this group of individuals are talented enough to pull each of these added styles off so convincingly is a testament to the band.

I was reading a fan review of a separate Annihilator release not too long ago, and he pointed out that you either love their music, or you don’t. With 16 studio albums under their belt, unless you’re only just discovering them, you’ve probably already made up your mind whether this album is worth your time or not. So this review is really for those who are just now discovering the band. If you like thrash metal, and you can appreciate a little diversity thrown into an otherwise hard-hitting release, you should absolutely pick up this album. I really loved Suicide Society, and I believe I love For The Demented even more. In the words of the title track: “highly recommended.”

Purchase For The Demented.

For more on Annihilator, visit:
Official Website
Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
YouTube

Interview: Jeff Waters of Annihilator (3/3)

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Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the final segment of my interview with the wonderful Jeff Waters of Annihilator.  As you may have caught in my first, or even second, interview segment, we’re talking about the band’s new album, Suicide Society.  In my personal opinion, it is a marvelous example of modern day thrash metal with the ability to run amok every now and then with a softer, more melodic side.  But in case you’d like a second opinion, my fellow contribute Jerel Johnson has written a review of the album.  Give it a peak!

In this final segment we discuss Jeff’s time as a musician’s advocate, getting them out of crappy record deals and contracts; a spat he had with a former bandmate over the release of Annihilator’s “Ten Years In Hell” DVD; as well as delving into whether he’s ever ghost-written any pop or country tunes.  Tune in to find out!  And just a reminder that there is a convenient Table Of Contents available in the Youtube description to help you jump around.

 

Check out Annihilator on tour if you get a chance!
Annihilator - 2015 Tour


For more on Annihilator, visit:

Official Website
Buy Suicide Society from: iTunes | Amazon
Facebook – Annihilator
Facebook – Jeff Waters
Twitter

Interview: Jeff Waters of Annihilator (2/3)

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Hello again, friends and fans!  Today we continue a journey which we embarked upon last week.  Jeff Waters returns to give you further insight into the process for creating Annihilator’s new album, Suicide Society, as well as giving you his thoughts on the new Slayer and Iron Maiden albums (with a little look to the future for Judas Priest).  We discuss cookie monster vocals, as well as touch on the new(er) metal scene with artists like Trivium, Children Of Bodom, and Lamb Of God.  We round out our 20-plus min. segment by talking about the advent of digital recording and the pros and cons of being able to create songs while being thousands of miles apart.

If you haven’t done so already, check out a review of Annihilator’s new album, Suicide Society, by a fellow contributor.  The album is available now, so what are you waiting for?  Pick it up!

For more on Annihilator, visit:
Official Website
Buy Suicide Society from: iTunes | Amazon
Facebook – Annihilator
Facebook – Jeff Waters
Twitter

Interview: Jeff Waters of Annihilator (1/3)

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I’ve been a fan of Annihilator and Jeff Waters for a number of years by now.  I don’t remember precisely when I first heard the music, but it must have been just before their self-titled album arrived in 2010.  It’s safe to say then that I’ve had some time to develop a taste for this Canadian thrash band’s blend of brutality and melodic repose.  So when I heard that the group was about to release their 15th album, entitled Suicide Society on September 18, I knew I had to get my hands on it.  Though a colleague had beaten me to a review of this record, I received a great honor in the opportunity to interview Annihilator mastermind, guitarist, and now vocalist, Jeff Waters.  He’s quite a sociable fellow!

Please join me in Part 1 of my interview with Jeff (we spoke for over an hour!) as we discuss the new album; the departure of former vocalist, Dave Padden; and the development of metal through the 1990s!  There is a “Table Of Contents” in the YouTube description for those of you who wish to skip around.

 

 

For more on Annihilator, visit:
Official Website
Buy Suicide Society from: iTunes | Amazon
Facebook – Annihilator
Facebook – Jeff Waters
Twitter

CD Review: ‘Suicide Society’ by Annihilator

Annihilator founder and guitarist Jeff Waters has made it to album no. 15 with Suicide Society. Not only is this the band’s 15th release, it is also to first album since 1997 where Waters handles lead vocals. This is not a plus or a negative, as Annihilator is known for stellar guitar work and off the wall thrash rather than vocals. The title track is a bleak commentary about the state of the world. Waters channels his inner Dave Mustaine as this track could be on a Megadeth record. The main riff is simple and grooves along before Waters rips a wild solo over a trashing tempo. Things speed up quickly on “My Revenge” with its meat hook riff and pulsating drums. This is old school thrash done right, with a melodic break in the middle. “Snap” slows things down with a swinging beat and eerie bassline. The urgent chorus and heavy guitar makes this a standout track. The manic “Narcotic Avenue” fits the song title as it deals with drug addiction and its effect on a person. The song twists and turns with off beat time signatures and distorted guitar effects.

Suicide Society’s production is very crunchy. Although Annihilator is a guitar oriented band, the bass and drums also share center stage. The effects are minimal, as the group prioritizes musicianship over mood. This works, as all four members are accomplished musicians and the songwriting is solid. There is a slight sense of cheesiness though, as the album has an 80s feel to it. However, there is nothing outdated about Suicide Society.

Die-hard Annihilator fans will enjoy the record. It has the thrash and top notch guitar work the band has been noted for since 1984. Suicide Society is also a great starting point for those unfamiliar with Annihilator. The songs are heavy and the musicianship is tight. The world may be on the brink of collapse, but Annihilator is going on strong.

For news and tour dates check out the band’s website: http://www.annihilatormetal.com/