Annihilator - For The Demented - (7.5/10)
Published on November 11, 2017
Few things sadden me more than having to write harsh things about my all-time favourite bands, and thankfully there will only be a minority of them here. A new Annihilator release is no longer a monumental occasion, rather it’s become a mildly anticipated package of familiar fun. It’s akin to the feeling of visiting the house of an old friend who you don’t see often, but always have a barrel of laughs when you do. Since losing vocalist Dave Padden back in 2014 (I’m still not over that – forever my favourite Annihilator frontman), guitar god Jeff Waters soldiered on, taking the mic duties upon himself, King Of The Kill style. And you know what? There are plenty of similarities between that 1994 classic and the brand new For The Demented. The one big change in the Canadian’s camp is that he’s finally sharing songwriting duties! Bassist Rich Hinks’ thrash credentials can be seen peeking occasionally out of his prog project Aeon Zen, so it’s a pleasure to have him fully involved in the Annihilation process.
The songs on For The Demented sort themselves into three categories. We have the all-out thrash assaults (“Twisted Lobotomy”, “One To Kill”, “Phantom Asylum”, “Altering The Altar”) which the old-school die-hards will be happy to hear Jeff can still pull off. We have the fun, quirky rockin’ numbers (title-track, “The Demon You Know”, “The Way”, “Not All There”) which will whet the appetite of the ’90s lovers. Then we have the out-there tracks (“Pieces Of You”, “Dark”) which were just asking to divide fans – and it worked! One thing’s for certain: the traditional Annihilator themes of psychosis, paranoia and general psychological issues are fully intact, maybe even dictating the slightly schizophrenic feel of the whole affair. But try and find one Annihilator release that doesn’t explore a more quirky side at some point. That’s why we love Jeff and his goofy mind!
Releasing “Twisted Lobotomy” as a single was an ingenious move. It hooked absolutely everyone in by being one of the fastest tunes in the Canadian’s discography. Rapid-fire riffage, gang shouts, blast-beats, and a middle section featuring Jeff’s trademark stop/start riff work. Bliss. On par with the fiery opener is track six “Phantom Asylum”. Truly harkening back to the late-’80s glory days, this is the most ‘Annihilator’ Annihilator have sounded in years. Verses which thrash you to hell and back; eerie clean guitars which echo over the clamour and are genuinely haunting; and a stomping chorus which will force your neck into submission – featuring some incredibly effective layered vocals. Almost on par with these instant classics, there’s the pounding “One To Kill” and the galloping “Altering The Altar” – which both exhibit wonderfully cheesy choruses and psychotic riffage straight out of Never Neverland territory. Not to mention the weird-ass keyboards in the latter!
On the next shelf down, there’s Jeff’s token anti-alcohol/drug ode “The Demon You Know” – which bears a striking resemblance to 1993’s “Knight Jumps Queen” – and the groovy title-track that takes everything that was bad about 2015’s “Snap” and makes it ten times more fun. Along with the punk-esque “The Way”, these are the songs recommended only for die-hards who understand Jeff’s songwriting style. Just don’t blame me if you find yourself saying ‘uh-huh, uh-huh!’ in “The Way”…you’ll know what I mean… Beyond this, third single “Pieces Of You” is what will either turn people away or immerse them more. A six-minute semi-acoustic balladic song about murder and cannibalism. Whether it’s your thing or not, the irregular time signatures and freakishly thumping middle section are nothing if not unique. Yeah, lyrically this is no ‘meaning of life’ level philosophy, but once again, if you’re at all familiar with the anomaly of Jeff Waters, this will come as no surprise. It’s at least laudable, and admirable, that he’s addressed the stigma about mental health issues.
Production qualities are through the roof, and guitar solos are phenomenal – but these factors are two-a-penny when Jeff is involved! As a lifelong fan, I’m beyond pleased that the deranged, angular melodies bring the atmosphere back to that ‘insane asylum’ vibe of the early records. Even though the eccentricities come across as light-hearted, they add to the demented tone when necessary. For example: the closing track “Not All There” may seem wacky with its bass licks and funk/disco section (seriously, what?!) – but once the crushing riff at 1:42 slams your face into a brick wall, you can still tell Jeff knows what he’s doing. For The Demented is a definite step up from the rather scatterbrained Suicide Society, but I feel Annihilator still needs a tad more consistency – not too much, or we’ll lose that schizophrenic spirit! When this album thrashes, it thrashes to hell and back – and that’s definitely potential worth hinging hopes on for future releases.
‘This is for the demented.
You are now represented.
It’s good to be demented!”