CD Review: Annihilator - Feast

CD Review: Annihilator - Feast
All Access Rating: B+

Annihilator - Feast 2013
The great Feast of Annihilator is upon us, and it is quite a spread. On the menu, served Manson family style of course, is aggressive, in-your-face thrash-metal mixed with ivy-covered passages of dark, melodic beauty, an occasional nod to traditional metal architecture, frenzied punk and classical influences and some rather serious, no-bullshit lyrics.

And then there's that gory, zombie apocalypse artwork that makes the "Walking Dead" seem like a trip to Disneyland. 

Emphasizing blistering speed, searing guitar leads that track their targets like heat-seeking missiles and sucker-punch changes in direction and atmosphere, album No. 14 from these versatile Canadian thrash veterans goes on a brutal rampage through "Deadlock," "Demon Code," "Wrapped" and "Smear Campaign," all of them swallowed whole by voracious, all-consuming riffs or beaten into a coma by the kind of brutal rhythmic assault and battery Prong might commit.

With its scissoring, mauling guitars ripping and tearing at whatever they can get their claws on, "No Way Out" would be included on this list of violent offenses, except for Annihilator suddenly, and rather seamlessly, slowing down and bursting upon a pretty, almost dream-like setting. Were it not for its treacly song structure and bad romantic poetry, the predictable ballad "Perfect Angel Eyes," might also be lauded for painting an expansive and well-defined Gothic aural picture, but instead, it just seems out of place on Feast, a record where virtuoso chops, seething rage and strong, intimidating vocals are the order of the day.

Some might say the same thing about "No Surrender," a jazzier, funk workout in the spirit of 24-7 Spyz, but its pummeling chorus really cracks some skulls, like so many sonic beat downs on Feast. Led by Jeff Waters, Annihilator doesn't mind doing the dirty work, but they also have a sophisticated palate, and it's this contradiction that makes Feast, and past Annihilator LPs, so intriguing, as Waters pulls no punches in tackling subjects like drug addiction, apathy, self-victimization and suicide without pity. And yet, Annihilator occasionally leaves all that ugliness behind, escaping into lovely, carefully plotted melodic scenes that disappear all too quickly.

While a dearth of "stick to your ribs" tracks leaves Feast wanting, it still offers breathtaking, hard-hitting action and lots of it, not to mention its monstrous metal riffs. In that way, Annihilator can take pride in being The Great White North's answer to Metallica or Anthrax, with Feast settling in somewhere a notch or two below Master of Puppets and Among the Living.

Those who shell out a little extra money for the lushly illustrated limited edition eco-book version of Feast, with its fearsome 3D cover, will encounter a sprawling bonus disc titled Re-Kill, where Annihilator updates 15 past classics with a more visceral, modern sound and fresh surprises. It's here that the nightmarish fairy-tale world of "Alison Hell" recalls King Diamond, the progressive-metal maze of "Set the World on Fire" grows more intricate and the chariots of thrash-metal fire "Nozone" and "Bloodbath" blaze anew, as does "Welcome to Your Death W.T.Y.D."

Annihilator has killed before, at least musically they have, and, in all likelihood, Waters and company will kill it again. And when they do, maybe Feast will be remembered not as the quiet, mannerly neighbor nobody knew very well, but rather as an articulate monster with a dual nature that valued art and intelligence but could erupt into volcanic anger at the slightest provocation.
- Peter Lindblad

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