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.
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.