• Dear readers,

    I watched this ice hockey game by pure coincidence a few days ago. Well, let's remain positive. It's great that nations like Turkey are playing ice hockey in a globalized world. It's admirable that Turkey didn't give up on the game. At least, they survived the opening minute without conceding a goal. Anyway, watch this extremely unusual game and tell me what you think about it!

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  •  Ladies and gentlemen,

    Annihilator is without a doubt Ottawa's most famous band. The diversified thrash metal band founded by Jeff Waters has released fifteen studio records since its inception in 1984. This article introduces you to the band's early years in Ottawa and Vancouver and covers reviews of Annihilator's first seven studio albums plus video clips and a list of my fifteen favorite songs of Annihilator's first fifteen years. A second part covering the band's records from 2000 to 2015 will follow soon. Enjoy and discover this fascinating but often overlooked local product!

    Alice in Hell (1989)

    Annihilator - Alice in Hell (1989)

    This isn't Wonderland

    Most people will often tell you that a band’s first songs and records are often their best. In Annihilator’s case this is only partially true. On the debut release of the Canadian thrash metal legends, we get to hear the band’s trademark song in form of the phenomenal quasi title track ‘’Alison Hell’’. Until today, this is definitely not only one of the band’s very best songs but also a standout track for the technical and progressive thrash metal genre. This song has so many progressive shifts and changes from slow and menacing sounds over fast paced thrash metal passages to a groovier mid-tempo pace and it all sounds perfectly coherent despite its eclectic contingency. The clever lyrics about a young girl and its growing mental disorder send shivers down the spine and add to the gloomy atmosphere. This song sounds like a mixture of Iron Maiden, King Diamond and Megadeth. Take Iron Maiden’s melodic guitar solos, King Diamond’s piercing screams and Megadeth’s technical skills and this is the masterpiece that you get.

    The record’s problem is that none of the other tracks reaches this high-quality level again. The band’s musicianship remains very technical and has its very own style at times but many tracks sound disjointed. A perfect example is the quasi instrumental ‘’Schizos (Are Never Alone) Parts I & II’’ which features a few fiery thrash metal riffs but which goes nowhere in over four and a half minutes. It’s obvious that two different songs were patched together and they don’t develop any chemistry here and rather sound like demo outtakes. The talent is definitely there but the song writing is lacking and the creative spark of the title track is often missing as well. ‘’Ligeia’’ is a song that features an impressive funky bass guitar part but the rest is North American thrash metal by numbers that sounds somewhat exchangeable. Another minor issue are the vocals that sound a little bit hoarse and limited sometimes. The vivid screams from the title track aren’t used in any other tune and we get to hear angry standard vocals that are missing something memorable and unique. It only takes seconds to recognize the vocals of singers such as Joey Belladonna, Bobby Ellsworth, James Hetfield, Dave Mustaine and the likes but Randy Rampage doesn’t manage to stand out at all.

    While large parts of the second half of the record are lacking in the song writing department, there are a few concise thrash metal grenades in the first half that deliver the goods. ‘’Welcome to Your Death’’ for example is a fierce affair that will tear your head off and this track is still part of the band’s set list almost three decades later for a reason. The band develops a grim urgency and sounds young, wild and free here. Thrash metal records often have pitiless album closers and this is also the case here with the hysterical ‘’Human Insecticide’’ which was inspired by the brilliant movie Papillon. This song blows the audience away with its raw despair and mixes technical ecstasy and emotional intensity on a balanced level.

    In the end, Alice in Hell has a legendary status due to its unforgettable title track that combines a technical and almost progressive song writing approach with a solid dose of youthful energy and a profoundly gloomy atmosphere like it has never been crafted before. The band clearly innovates the thrash metal genre with this song alone on its very first record. The rest of the album is thrash metal by numbers to be honest. Genre fans will like it anyway but anyone else might realize that the album is running out of ideas towards the end. To keep it short, the title track on here is essential but the rest isn’t.

    Final rating: 75%

    Never, Neverland (1990)

    Annihilator - Never, Neverland (1990)

    Initial brilliance on the road to ruin

     Annihilator’s debut album suffered from the fact that the title song was a masterpiece and that the rest of the album couldn’t keep up with it. On its sophomore output, the band doesn’t have the same but a similar problem. None of the tracks is as innovating as ‘’Alison Hell’’ in the first place. On the other side, this album features close to a handful of really great tracks that can all be found in the first half or middle section of the release. The reoccurring problem is once again that the second half of this output is running out of ideas and artificially stretching the listening experience. Overall, Never, Neverland leaves a slightly better overall impression than Alice in Hell. It’s a very good record but still miles away from being a masterpiece.

    Things kick off very well with ‘’The Fun Palace’’. It’s an enthusiastic opener based upon melodic mid-tempo riffs and Jeff Water’s high-pitched signature riffs here and there. The track is finding the right balance between the spirit of traditional heavy metal and the energy of thrash metal. New vocalist Coburn Pharr doesn’t sound too different from previous singer Randy Rampage but I like him slightly better. His angry vocals are also a little bit hoarse but develop a raw charm in the more melodic parts that his predecessor wasn’t able to create in my opinion. As band leader Jeff Waters said himself, ‘’Stonewall’’ was the group’s attempt at writing a more commercial single but ended up sounding like a mixture of AC/DC and Exodus. In my opinion, it’s a great melodic rock tune with warm melodies and thought-provoking lyrics about ecological problems. My personal highlight on the album is the title track ‘’Never, Neverland’’ that nearly reaches the quality of ‘’Alison Hell’’. It mixes dreamy, melodic and progressive parts with angrier, groovier and sharper passages. The forgotten pearl on this release is ‘’Imperiled Eyes’’ which manages to build up a gloomy atmosphere and shifts from melodic and sluggish parts with slightly distorted guitar sounds over grooving upper mid-tempo passages to extremely fast parts where Jeff Waters impressively proves that he is one of the very best guitarists in the world.

    Things start to get worse from then on as the last four tunes are generic and exchangeable tracks somewhere between aggressive groove metal and fast thrash metal. These tracks don’t have the ambition, melody and uniqueness of the previous songs. The worst case is probably the silly ‘’Kraf Dinner’’ with its cringeworthy lyrics. I’m aware of the fact that the song was supposed to be a joke but it turns out being a very bad one. The only slightly above average tune among the last four stinkers is ‘’Phantasmagoria’’ thanks to a great melodic guitar solo in between a tiring standard up-tempo thrash metal structure that had already been used many times before by the group at that point.

    In the end, Never, Neverland is more consistent than Alice in Hell but still suffers from similar issues. While the first half is outstanding and features four amazing tracks that stood the test of time, the second half is running out of ideas and stretches the listening experience artificially. Overall, this record is a step forward for Annihilator and more recommendable than the predecessor. I would suggest to purchase this album at a reasonable price or to grab a greatest hits release with this record’ strongest cuts instead.

    Final rating: 79% 

    Set the World on Fire (1993)

    Annihilator - Set the World on Fire (1993)

    Underproduced groove metal and radio rock ballads

    Annihilator’s third record features the third new lead singer in a row. Aaron Randall has a more melodic voice with a strong nasal tone. He sounds more unique than the two predecessors but I preferred their more classic thrash metal style. While the first two releases had its share of similarities, Set the World on Fire is an extremely inconsistent affair. Only Jeff Waters signature guitar sound between short high-pitched progressive metal riffs recalling Voivod, technically stunning thrash metal riffs in the key of Megadeth and melodic solos inspired by Iron Maiden and the likes reminds us of the fact that this is indeed still the same band playing here. The rest of this record is quite unusual.

    First of all, the production is quite cold, simplistic and sterile, reminding me of Metallica’s …And Justice for All. This mastering moves the group away from its thrash metal roots and closer to the groove metal genre that was commercially successful with bands such as Pantera at that time. A more prominent use of lyrics about personal issues including more profanity seems to underline this tendency. Overall, the group presents itself as tough guys with a soft core.

    Secondly, the album is overall much calmer than the two predecessors and includes an elevated number of ballads or half ballads with a dark tone that one would rather expect from grunge bands like Alice in Chains or Pearl Jam. Instead of offering a balanced mixture of both styles, the beginning and end of the album are dominated by cold groovy thrash metal while the middle section revolves around three power ballads. It becomes obvious that the band was trying to jump on two bandwagons at the same time to increase its album sales. While this makes much sense from a business point of view, it becomes obvious that this release is of a much weaker quality than the previous two outputs.

    The best songs can be found right at the beginning and at the end of the album. ‘’Set the World on Fire’’ opens in a sinister and mysterious way before it unloads it energy in a mean and technical groove metal monsters with fierce lyrics and an emotional guitar sound. This is easily the most consistent and focused track on the album and was rightfully chosen as first single. ‘’Brain Dance’’ is one of the band’s most unusual songs even though it goes back to Jeff Waters’ beloved topic about mental disorders. Hysteric guitar riffs, sudden changes of pace and style, contrasting atmospheres shifting between scary, humorous and cool passages as well as weird radio play inspired scenes help portraying the mentally unstable storyteller. Despite being all over the place, the different passages have a clear purpose and end up complementing one another to my surprise.

    Among the mellower tunes, ‘’Phoenix Rising’’ is probably the best. With its smooth acoustic guitars, the harmonious chorus and the emotional lyrics, it’s beyond me why this song wasn’t a massive radio hit single. It’s definitely the most commercial track in the band’s long career and Randall's vocal efforts really shine in this song. 

    Aside from two outstanding songs and one successful ballad which is good for what it is, this release includes a lot of average filler material. Nowadays, revisiting this album might only be interesting for two purposes. First of all, nostalgic minds could rediscover the trends and styles of the rock and metal scenes in the early and mid-nineties. Secondly, a metal fan who wants to prove his girlfriend that metal bands can also have a softer side, can take this release as a good example. For anyone else, this average output can be ignored.

    Final rating: 60%

    King of the Kill (1994)

    Annihilator - King of the Kill (1994)

    Reset the World on Fire

     With its fourth studio record, Annihilator has finally become a one-man project. Founding member and band leader Jeff Waters isn’t only playing the guitar but also playing the bass guitar and performing vocals on this record. The only other person directly involved in the recording of King of the Kill was drummer Randy Black. This record is basically a continuation of the highly inconsistent Set the World on Fire one year earlier. The only differences are that this record here is even more all over the place and has a length that some would describe as extensive and others as agonizing. What we get here is a headless mixture of simplistic groove metal, traditional hard rock, melodic power ballads, technical thrash metal and a few instrumental transitions. Some songs even include several of these elements all at once. The lyrics are also extremely diversified. Some songs talk about Jeff Waters’ childhood, others about his love for fast vehicles and we also get a few standard lyrics about mental disorders as usual. Overall, this album sounds like a recording of leftover tracks from the previous studio album. It reminds me a little bit of Metallica’s ReLoad that followed the experimental Load record. The main difference is that I liked ReLoad better than Load while King of the Kill is slightly inferior to Set the World on Fire.

    The main problem is that the album opens with its worst track. ‘’The Box’’ is a dragging, sluggish, repetitive groove metal track with horribly distorted vocals. That is a solid candidate for the band’s worst song ever. Another major disappointment is the horrible groove metal stomper ‘’Annihilator’’ that offers a drum play that could have been recorded during a repetitive tennis game while the pseudo-aggressive vocals recall Phil Anselmo at his worst. The instrumental track ‘’Catch the Wind’’ is overtly long and going nowhere despite a few nice harmonies here and there. My guess is that the title of this song is an allusion to a fart which would suit the track’s overall quality. Sorry for the cruel joke.

    While true highlights are entirely missing on this output, it includes a few above average tracks that are worth your attention. ‘’King of the Kill’’, ‘’Second to None’’, ‘’21’’ and ‘’Fiasco’’ are the most powerful tunes and have a solid rocking vibe. The title track is clearly the fiercest track and still opens Annihilator shows nowadays because of its speed, precision and energy. This should have been the album opener after all. ‘’21’’ has a smoother vibe and is more like a cool hard rock track with a catchy chorus. This is the only song with single potential on here. ‘’Second to None’’ is somewhere in between those songs and is probably the most creative song in terms of song writing ideas on this output. It meanders from hard rock vibes to modern thrash metal and gets more catchy, melodic and smooth in the second half. Jeff Waters’ outstanding guitar play makes this song the best on this output in my opinion and his average vocal skills also sound surprisingly versatile in this particular tune. The diversified ‘’Fiasco’’ is completely over-the-top and mixes slow and melodic passages with speedy hard rock parts and occasional radio play inspired passages. 

    An honorable mention goes out to one of the bonus tracks in form of the soft, nostalgic and enchanting ballad ‘’Only Be Lonely’’ which is the best of its kind on this release even though it lasts a little bit too long and loses some momentum towards the end in my book. A not so honorable mention goes out to another bonus track called ‘’Slates’’ where the band is simply fooling around in studio and saying random stuff that seems amusing at first and quite creepy as time goes by.

    In the end, this album is only interesting for two types of people. Firstly, die-hard Annihilator fans that have bought anything from the band and want to complete their collections. Secondly, this album might be interesting for the few chosen ones that really adored the predecessor Set the World on Fire since this follow-up has a very similar artistic approach. Anyone else should ignore this rather underwhelming release.

    Final rating: 55%

    Refresh the Demon (1996)

     Annihilator - Refresh the Demon (1996)

    Rock and roll will never die 

    Refresh the Demon is another experimental Annihilator record of the nineties that is all over the place in terms of quality and style. The only constant is Jeff Waters who once again plays all instruments except the drums and performs vocals. This album is comparable to the two predecessors King of the Kill and Set the World on Fire but there are two important differences. The first difference between the new output and the former ones is that the new release has a more rocking tone and sometimes drifts away from the band’s usual thrash and groove metal style which adds a refreshing note to the release. The other difference is that the experimental side of this release sounds a little bit more focused and less directionless than before which increases this release’s overall quality. Refresh the Demon might not be an extraordinary output but it’s an entertaining fun ride that convinces much more than the two confusing predecessors.

    It helps that the record starts on a truly great note with the title song. It kicks off with a simple yet memorable overture that evolves into a powerful tune on the thin line between thrash and grove metal. The song sounds like a concise and engaging summary of the styles practiced on the last two outputs. Another highlight is ‘’The Pastor of Disaster’’, a bass-driven tune with a gloomy atmosphere enhanced by hypnotizing riffs. The song reminds me of ‘’Knight Jumps Queen’’ with a more atmospheric vibe. The album’s best song might be the underrated ‘’A Man Called Nothing’’ which is also its most inspired tune. The track starts with melancholic sounds and a spoken word passage before it evolves into a playful track that mixes groove and thrash metal elements in a balanced way. The track reminds me of a modernized version of ‘’Alison Hell’’ and nearly reaches the creative peak of said milestone. 

    The second half of the record has a more rocking vibe. ‘’City of Ice’’ is an excellent light-hearted rocker that feels refreshing after the more sinister groove and thrash metal tracks. This instrumentally uplifting tune offers a quite unusual contrast to its gruesome lyrics. ‘’Anything for Money’’ quickens up the pace and turns out being an energetic hard rock track with what might be this record’s greatest guitar solo. The rocking trio is completed with the grooving ‘’Hunger’’ that offers some energetic swagger. These three tracks offer completely new soundscapes by Annihilator’s standards and represents three diversified and entertaining hard rock soundscapes.

    As usual for Annihilator’s experimental records of the mid-nineties, Refresh the Demon also includes some failed experiments and fillers. Unfortunately, the worst two cuts are actually closing this record and end this album on an underwhelming note. ‘’Voices and Victims’’ offers a terrible combination of uninspired groove metal and distorted vocals in the key of the band’s worst album opener ‘’The Box’’ from the previous output. The record then abruptly changes style and ends with a lazy radio rock ballad entitled ‘’Innocent Eyes’’ which is as exciting to listen to as watching paint dry.

    If Annihilator had cut off the final two tracks from this release, Refresh the Demon would have been a very solid record with a running time of thirty-nine minutes and could have been on one level with the debut record Alice in Hell. As it is now, Refresh the Demon is a small step forward after two average predecessors and can be described as a slightly above average release that convinces with its mostly concise interpretations of eclectic and entertaining styles. If you wanted to buy one representative record that summarizes the band’s experimental phase of the mid-nineties on a rather positive note, this is the album you should buy. Occasional Annihilator fans should rather stick to the band’s first two outputs and the group’s more recent material and could skip this record without any regrets.

    Final rating: 70%

    Remains (1997)

    Annihilator - Remains (1997)

    Soul striptease

     Jeff Waters was in a very dark place when he created the controversial Remains. This is immediately obvious when you listen to this weird record where Annihilator's founder and sole constant member sings, plays the guitar as well as the bass and programmed a drum machine. Cold and clinical start-stop riffs in the key of groove and industrial metal meet highly distorted guitar solos giving this release a depressive and dystopian atmosphere. The low and unspectacular bass guitar sound and the clinical and dry drum sound add to these sinister soundscapes. Occasional electronic sound elements increase the mechanic vibe of this album. The lyrics blend in very well and just a look at the song titles reveals how desperate, frustrated and isolated the creator of this release must have felt.

    That's exactly what I like about this album. It feels absolutely authentic and you can definitely feel a liberating negativity in every single song on this quite consistent effort. This is Jeff Water's most personal, most intense and most atmospheric record and it really sucked me into a gloomy atmosphere right from the start and never let me go until the very end. It definitely is a record for special occasions on your own only but it definitely has its unique charm. Despite its surprisingly coherent structure, this record still features slightly diversified soundscapes and offers creative little surprises from start to finish that work out very well most times but also fall flat here and there. Among my favorite tracks, I would mention the heavy anti-racist statement ''Never''. In addition to its honest lyrics, it convinces with its dystopian and uneasy guitar soundscapes and a stoic rhythm section. One of the most unusual and yet successful experiments on here is the floating and progressive rock tune ''Wind'' with its multiple vocal layers, relaxing guitar melodies and smooth keyboard sounds which all work as counterparts to the record's overall aggressive direction. The song was described as very Canadian by Jeff Waters himself and it reminds me indeed of a mixture of Rush and Voivod in their smoother moments. Finally, the vivid ''I Want'' mixes classic heavy and thrash metal with crossover elements. The track almost sounds like it could come from a manic-depressive Red Hot Chili Peppers clone of the late eighties. 

    A special shoutout goes to the reconciliatory and warm bonus track ''It's You'' which is a truly profound ballad transmitting a feeling of smooth liberty that fits so well with Canadian culture. You can really picture yourself driving on endless highways through the nature of the true north strong and free and despite this reference, the song isn't flat or stereotypical but beautiful and diverse. ''It's You'' is probably the most underrated track in Annihilator's entire extensive discography.

    Even though I adored this album, it's easy to understand why most people can't relate to it and felt negatively surprised by Annihilator's new lyrical and musical style, the cold and underproduced mixing and the seemingly uninspired cover artwork. Only a few tracks include classic Annihilator trademarks like the energizing ''Tricks and Traps'' with its more melodic guitar solo reminding of the group's first four records or the extremely fast dystopian thrash metal attack on ''Reaction'' which are both forgotten pearls in Annihilator's discography.

    On a side note, the rhythmic ''Dead Wrong'' has clearly inspired ''Death Scent'' from Annihilator's latest studio album since lyrics, melody lines and song structures are very similar. Even though ''Death Scent'' is probably my least favorite track on an excellent record, this shows that Remains is one of the most important records in Annihilator's history and deserves more attention and respect than it gets.

    To keep it short, Annihilator's Remains is another record showing a darker side of a veteran group in the nineties. This is basically Annihilator's equivalent to Iron Maiden's The X Factor, Judas Priest's Jugulator or Voivod's Phobos. I loved all these three albums because of their direct, gloomy and uncompromising atmosphere and it's the same case here. If you like this particular type of atmosphere, you should give this release a fair chance. It's a perfectly imperfect record that feels so intense because of and not despite its obvious flaws. Those looking for vivid thrash metal from the old days will only find two or three interesting tunes on here and should ignore this release.

    Final rating: 85%

    Criteria for a Black Widow (1999)

    Annihilator - Anal Eater (1999)

    Anal Eater

     Jeff Waters is always making the same boring jokes when Annihilator's playing a show in his hometown Ottawa. Maybe it's because he doesn't feel strong enough to play twenty songs a night anymore and prefers to tell repetitive anecdotes for half an hour to only play fifteen tunes. One of his favorite jokes is about making fun of international fans who aren't able to pronounce Annihilator's band name correctly which shouldn't be a surprise since it's a rather complicated word. While Japanese fans call the band An-ni-hi-la-tô, Jeff Waters seems to be most amused about a crowd that once called his band Anal Eater. Why do I mention this? It's obviously because of the ridiculous cover artwork. On the positive side, the young lady could actually look attractive in real life. On the negative side, we see her taking a shit in a hole with a removed sewer cover that seems to be the entrance to hell in some sophisticated back yard while four ugly puppets catch her in flagrante delicto and menace her with knives, pitchforks and scythes. Whoever had the inspiration for this cover artwork and honestly thought that would be a cool idea was either high or a complete idiot. As if the terrible artwork representing an improvised shithouse weren't laughable enough, most of Criteria for a Black Widow was actually recorded in Jeff Water's bedroom and that's not a joke.

    So, what's new with Annie Hi Later? After the controversial solo effort Remains, Jeff Waters decided he needed some real-life friends around him after a nasty split with his wife and got back in touch with former drummer Ray Hartmann and former singer Randy Rampage. It's no surprise then that Criteria for a Black Widow goes back to Annihilator's roots and the legendary Alice in Hell record ten years earlier. There aren't many bands that have successfully gone back to their roots or recorded convincing sequels of their early classics and Annihilator is another example that living in the past is generally an awful idea. Instead of only going back to the aforementioned release, this new output also pays homage to Never, Neverland and rehashed the riffs of ''The Fun Palace'' in rather uninspired ways on at least two different occasions.

    Criteria for a Black Widow is Annihilator's most aggressive record and also one of the band's least imaginative outputs. The mixture of aggressive Exodus and Slayer riffs, low bass guitar tones and dry drum sounds with a sterile modern production might work once or twice like in form of the pitiless opener ''Bloodbath'' but after a while, this strategy reminds me of a misled rebellious kid trying to show off how cool and brutal it is. Tracks like ''Nothing Left'' are aggressive but nothing else and are as pleasant to listen to as getting beaten up by a crowd of angry hooligans. On a positive note, one could say that this record's oppressive atmosphere and clinical tone is more consistent than the past few albums that felt more like compilation albums but to be honest, Criteria for a Black Widow is quite annoying and exhausting.

    What the hell happened to Randy Randall? He had delivered a quite charismatic, diversified and entertaining performance ten years earlier but the only quality remaining ten years later is that he still sounds charismatic but not in a positive way. His throaty and raw vocals fit to the aggressive instrumental side of the record but also get quickly annoying. He never even remotely reaches the vivid quality of a song like ''Alison Hell'' ten years earlier.

    What does it tell us when two out of ten songs and actually one fifth of the album consists of instrumental tracks? It shows us that a band is running out of ideas and might not have enough quality material for a legitimate full length release. While this is definitely the case here, the two instrumental songs are among the better tracks because they offer more than angsty shredding and mean vocals. ''Schizos (Are Never Alone) Part III'' has a title that doesn't even try to hide that the band is trying to copy itself but it's actually a quite dynamic song that evolves from a calmer and more atmospheric section and transitions fluidly towards an angrier swagger. ''Mending'' is a calm coda that ends a record that is quite hard to digest on an almost dreamy note.

    Ironically enough, the worst song on here is actually the title track ''Criteria for a Black Widow'' that sounds like a nu metal track with limited instrumentation and extremely repetitive and redundant lyrics. To make matters worse, the track even comes back haunting us as reprise in a short hidden track. The band at least tried out something new with this tune instead of living in the past but it sadly is a failed experiment. On a side note, Jeff Waters first wanted to call this record ''Sonic Homicide'' which is actually an equally terrible track with its nerve-firing distorted vocals that are way too loud in the mix. 

    Even though Criteria for a Black Widow is an overall underwhelming release, there are still a few positive points. As mentioned before, the brutal ''Bloodbath'' is a potent opener that takes no prisoners. ''Punctured'' has a sinister atmosphere that reminds me of a more aggressive and revamped version of a track in the key of Alice Cooper that would fir perfectly on the soundtrack of a horror movie or video game. This song is probably my favorite on here. ''Loving the Sinner'' is probably a nasty rant against Jeff Water's ex-wife lyrically but the track has its moment with some technically excellent guitar play and a few chilling breaks with a pleasingly smooth atmosphere. The two instrumental tracks are unnecessary but still enjoyable as I mentioned before which means that half of this album is okay and the rest is rubbish in my opinion.

    In the end, Criteria for a Black Widow is not utterly terrible and certainly has its very own aggressive and oppressive atmosphere but it's clearly one of Annihilator's least imaginative releases. If you feel like banging your head against the wall and are looking for a contemporary interpretation of extreme thrash metal in the key of Exodus or Slayer, then you can give this release a chance. If you are looking for creative, diversified and intelligent song writing or a quality return to the Annihilator's first two albums, you might get disappointed and should rather skip this effort. Even regular Annihilator fans should know that this album really is for die-hard collectors only.

    Final rating: 50%

    Bonus: The fifteen best tracks from Annihilator's early years

    1. Alison Hell

    2. Stonewall

    3. The Fun Palace

    4. Never, Neverland

    5. Brain Dance

    6. Wind

    7. Phoenix Rising

    8. It's You

    9. A Man Called Nothing

    10. King of the Kill

    11. Punctured

    12. Set the World on Fire

    13. Refresh the Demon

    14. I Want

    15. Human Insecticide

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  • Overkill - The Grinding Wheel (2017)

    With the release of The Grinding Wheel, Overkill extends its streak of high-quality thrash metal records to four. Even though this album is slightly inferior to its predecessors, it's an early year highlight for genre fans. If compared to other American thrash metal bands, Overkill's new album might not be as spectacular as some other recent genre releases but the quintet from New York has established itself as the most consistent genre band since the beginning of the decade.

    Still, there are a few differences between this output and the previous one. First of all, the tracks on here are a little bit longer than usual. This doesn't mean that the tunes have become more progressive. The instrumental sections have been extended and the lyrics have gotten some more content. Secondly, the drum sound has become slightly better and sounds more organic than on the direct predecessor that had a rather dry production. Thirdly, the record has a few less impressive guitar solos than usual and rather works with transitions from up-tempo passages to either groovier breaks or some early doom metal influences.

    The rest is business as usual on a constantly high level. Overkill still is one of the thrash metal bands with the most charismatic and dominant bass guitar sound and the instrument also has its shining moments on this output. The riffs are still heavy and sharp and take influences from genres such as hard rock and doom metal of the seventies as well as heavy and thrash metal of the eighties. The vocals sound as energizing and juvenile as ever. The Grinding Wheel has the same vivid spirit as Overkill's first five studio outputs.

    Among the outstanding songs, one has to mention the rebellious anthem ''Goddamn Trouble'' that represents the angry spirit of thrash metal best on this album. The lyrics and the video clip are spot on while the thunderous rhythm section, the aggressive riffs and the pissed vocals are highly efficient. Along with the new band anthem ''Our Finest Hour'', Overkill delivers two memorable tunes that have the potential to become classics and should find their righteous spots in the set lists for years to come. Another track that sticks out is ''Red, White and Blue'' because it might be the most aggressive and fast track on the entire album while the middle passage convinces with a mean groove and rebellious gang shouts you won't get out of your mind. This is the perfect track to give you a jolt in the morning to see whether you're really awake or not. If you don't feel like banging your head, raising your fists and shouting along to this track, you're either deaf or thrash metal just isn't your cup of tea. The final highlight is the rhythmic closing title song ''The Grinding Wheel'' with an almost epic length of eight minutes that ends with some majestic symphonic elements and sinister choirs to end a ferocious release on a more atmospheric coda. It's probably the most creative and unusual song on the album with the most diversified vocal performance but it's still one hundred percent Overkill alright. The title song is my personal highlight on this record.

    In the end, The Grinding Wheel is a mandatory purchase for anyone who loves thrash metal or wants to discover this genre. Die-hard fans should get their hands on the Japanese edition that features two strong cover songs honoring Iron Maiden and Thin Lizzy as well as a bonus DVD with eight excerpts from a festival performance recorded two years ago. Who in his right mind needs the eighties back if a band like Overkill has been on such an impressive roll over the past seven years and counting?

    Final rating: 82%

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  • Mesdames et Messieurs,

    Les Têtes à claques font partie intégrale de la culture de l'humour au Québec. Le site a été créé le 16 août 2006 par l'ex-publicitaire Michel Beaudet et est rapidement devenu un phénomène national et ensuite international. Des centaines de capsules créatives ont été créés avec des personnages inspirés de la société québécoise qui se débrouillent dans des situations farfelues. Par la suite, les Têtes à claques ont conquis la télévision avec plus de trente épisodes pour l'instant.

    La première fois que je suis entré en contact avec les Têtes à claques était lors de ma première année au Québec en 2006 quand j'allais en cinquième secondaire. Un ami allemand récitait des passages du clip ''L'Halloween'' avec un ami et je ne comprenais absolument rien. Je voulais en savoir davantage car mon ami et moi avions le même sens de l'humour et c'est ainsi que j'ai découvert les Tëtes à claques. Bientôt, je connaissais bien des épisodes par coeur et allais régulièrement sur leur site afin de découvrir de nouveau clips.

    Ce phénomène a bientôt franchi les limites de l'internet. Je me suis acheté des figurines et un sac à dos des Têtes à Claque et ma blonde à l'époque m'a offert des boissons gazeuses des Tëtes à Claque ainsi que des chandails qui se vendaient dans plusieurs magasins comme le Dollarama ou le Zellers.

    Les blagues des Têtes à claque faisaient partie de ma vie de tous les jours. Tout d'abord, les capsules m'ont aidé davantage à apprécier l'accent québécois et les expressions typiques de la province et surtout les sacres qui sont uniques au monde. Inspirés du clip ''L'anniversaire'' où le personnages principal reçoit des cadeaux un peu gênants, mes amis allemand et brésiliens m'ont offert des cadeaux ridicules pour Noël tel que des paquets de vice et des lames de bâton de hockey. Je me souviens même d'une discussion avec une mère qui rendait visite à ma famille d'accueil et qui disait qu'elle be voudrait pas que son garçon regarde ces capsules car elles donneraient le mauvais exemple aux jeunes et à ma réplique surmotivée que ces capsules devraient être visionnés par les enfants pour s'identifier à la culture québécoise.

    Même si je ne suis peut-être plus aussi fanatique à propos des Tëtes à claques que quand j'avais dix-sept ou dix-huit ans, je les suis encore et j'ai toujours mes quatre DVDs, mes chandails et mon sac à dos quelque part. Cette série m'a aidé à m'initier à la culture québécoise, à m'intégrer dans ce qui est devenu mon nouveau chez-moi et à passer bien des soirées amusantes avec des amis qui m'ont permis de rencontrer de nouvelles connaissances et plus encore. Encore aujourd'hui, je montre cette série aux nouveaux arrivants au Québec pour leur donner un exemple de la culture diversifiée de la belle province.

    Cela fait un peu plus de dix ans que les Tëtes à claques existent maintenant et je voulais tout simplement vous partager ces souvenirs et vous présenter mes capsules et épisodes préférés de la série. Si vous ne connaissez pas encore la série ou si cela fait longtemps que vous ne l'avez pas vu, je vous recommande de (re)tomber en amour avec cette partie intégrale de la culture québécoise contemporaine. 

    Voici mes cinq capsules préférées:

    Le pilote II

    Le Willi Waller:

    La pénalité:


    On sort III:

    Voici mes cinq épisodes préférés:

    La soirée inoubliable: 

    Les chasseurs chassés: 

    Le Harem de Raoul: 

    Love Académie:


    Boni: Voici deux photos avec mon premier chandail des Tëtes à claques en 2007. 

    Vive les Tëtes à claques

    Vive les Tëtes à claques

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  • Hae-jeok: Ba-da-ro gan san-jeok / The Pirates (2014)

    "The Pirates" is an entertaining and epic South Korean comedy-action film in the key of "Cutthroat Island" and "Pirates of the Caribbean". It tells the fictional tale of several groups looking for the precious and significant Ming Emperor's Seal of State which was swallowed by a giant whale. A group of mountain bandits led by a former soldier and rebel, a righteous group of pirates led by the smart woman Yeo-wol and an evil group of pirates that teams up with a pitiless army clash on their quest for fame, redemption and wealth.

    Even though the story is rather predictable, the acting performances are spectacular enough to get the viewers emotionally involved. Especially Son Ye-jin convinces as tough female pirate with a strong moral compass. The various settings from spectacular fight scenes in a military camp over vivid chase sequences in a coastal village to spectacular naval battles make this movie a gripping roller-coaster ride. The colourful costumes only add to this and bring the fourteenth century to life in a mostly genuine way. The special effects are slightly exaggerated but nevertheless well-executed and the deep-sea sequences involving whales are beautiful and ethereal. This potpourri of stunning elements makes this film one of the best pirate movies in a very long time without reinventing the genre but rather focusing on its strengths in form of spectacular settings, breathtaking effects and solid acting performances.

    Genre fans should ignore the uninspired sequels of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise that are childish and hollow slapstick spectacles. "The Pirates" is a creative, diversified and energizing film that offers something for every taste including spectacular fight scenes, dramatic and emotional passages, romantic relationships, some sinister suspense and a balanced dose of humoristic elements. Get your rum ready, get together with some of your friends and enjoy this stylish blockbuster with a smile upon your face.

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