Jeff Waters has been kicking the Annihilator thrash can down the back alley since 1984. In that time they’ve had plenty of ups and downs, rarely disappointing fans, but their artistic career peaked with 1990’s Never, Neverland, a Canadian thrash classic. Ballistic, Sadistic is the band’s seventeenth album, and represents a welcome return to the glory days of the band’s first four records.
Ballistic, Sadistic is Annihilator’s first album with the current lineup of Aaron Homma on guitar, Rich Hinks on bass (and co-producing again, as he did on For the Demented), and most recent addition, Fabio Alessandrini on drums. As always, the band is tight as hell, and their styles all gel nicely here.
Old-school thrash metal is the recipe for success here, and Waters and his cohorts go all-out, with blazing riffs, searing solos, and thrash’s trademark anti-establishment lyrics. The vitality present on nearly every song is welcome to the ears of long-time fans, as Waters sneers his way through songs like “The Attitude” (where the f-bomb is dropped thirteen times per chorus) and “Out with the Garbage.”
Throughout all the spat rage, which admittedly can lean towards the cartoonish at times, Hinks and Alessandrini remain in lockstep rhythmically while Waters and Homma shred their way through track after track of fresh-sounding riffs. Waters in particular is in fine form throughout, both vocally and when it comes to his solos. Wanna-be thrashers half the man’s age will be taken to school when they listen to Ballistic, Sadistic.
None of the ten songs here are weak, although at times adult me groans at the lyrics that fourteen-year-old me would absolutely love. And while not every song is going to stick with the listener, there are a few absolute scorching gems here. “One Wrong Move” opens with a sick groove before dropping into an eerie clean bridge, and then back again. Waters’ most enjoyable vocal comes on “Lip Service,” another groovy number where Waters’ vocals ooze character.
The more pure thrash songs have their moments as well, including de facto title cut “Armed to the Teeth,” where the “ballistic, sadistic” chorus comes into play, and the closing screamer “The End of the Lie,” all of which are razor-sharp thanks to modern production and taut performances that my ears can barely keep up with.
In the lead-up to Ballistic, Sadistic, Waters stated that he thought this was Annihilator’s best work since 2005’s Schizo Deluxe. I would agree with him there, and in fact put this album in the band’s top six, right up there with Schizo Deluxe and their first four. Fans of the band, or thrash in general, will not be disappointed.
(released January 24, 2020 on Silver Lining Music)
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Watch Annihilator – “Armed To The Teeth” Video