Annihilator are on record sixteen with For The Demented, a figure very few metal bands can hold claim to. Jeff Waters, who has kept the band afloat for decades through enough line-up changes to fill an entire review, again pulls double duty as guitarist and vocalist after taking over for former member Dave Padden on 2015’s uneven Suicide Society. Though not known as a virtuoso singer, Waters fits the spot that Annihilator finds themselves in; a veteran band trying to keep their thrash metal alive and relevant.
To do that, Waters has injected youthful talent into the band, including bassist Rich Hinks, who had a hand in helping to write and produce For The Demented at various stages of its development. Whatever influence Hinks brought to the writing process reinvigorates Waters, who hasn’t played the guitar with this much of a continuous vicious streak since the group’s underrated self-titled record back in 2010.
That viciousness is transparent on “Twisted Lobotomy,” the first single and savage opening cut. When the band gets in sync for a thrash break about halfway through the song with a vigorous gusto, it’s a “stars aligned” sort of moment. It’s a hell of a start to the album and, with the exception of the sinister ballad “Pieces of You” and moody instrumental “Dark,” keeps going with the same energetic streak.
Even those two exceptions are not as rudimentary as they may initially appear. “Pieces of You” has some wonderfully morbid lyrics, which Waters delivers with an eye wink and a blood-driven hunger. “Dark” is more of an extended intro than a typical instrumental, leading into the technical pizazz of closer “Not All There,” which only stumbles with its out-of-place funk breakdowns queued in at a few random spots.
Whatever opinion of Waters’ vocal style a listener may have, he still finds a way to get some catchy choruses out of all this anger and murder. “The Way,” an anthem that condenses Waters’ mindset after over three decades with Annihilator into three minutes, is a singalong that should find traction in the live setting if the band decides to do so. “The Demon You Know” has a pulsating groove to go along with its quotable chorus, which is another one that could be a live gem.
Waters doesn’t revisit the past on For The Demented, nor does he completely ignore what he’s been doing since the early ’80s. Astute ears might pick up on a riff or melody that could’ve come from either the Never, Neverland or Set the World on Fire era, but this iteration of Annihilator has a visceral manner to its design that makes it deadlier than some of their earlier material. Annihilator have had its high and low points (the less remembered about the Remains album, the better), but For The Demented has its place in the former position.
(released November 5, 2017 on Silver Lining Music)