By Bryer Wharton
Seasoned metal fans with an interest in the realm of thrash or speed metal know all to well the plight of Annihilator. Possibly one of the most underrated North American thrash bands born in the mayhem of the 80s, Annihilator has combated label problems and survived the grunge years of the 90s with a plethora of multi-faceted releases since 1989 with demos originally stemming in 1983.
Annihilator (courtesy of myspace.com/annihilatorofficial)
Catching up with the man behind the band and guitar virtuoso Jeff Waters was a treat. Exploring aspects of the band old and new, Waters offered many insights.
Amongst many members entering and exiting the band throughout the years, Annihilator as far as songwriting, recording and production, is basically all Waters. “It’s a solo project and a band. I partner up with a singer and hire a drummer. Usually I play all the guitars and all the bass and do most of the writing… It’s kind of more lopsided as a solo project when we’re getting the cycle going, at the end of that is when I decide I need to find other members. I had to learn this from the beginning. It’s absolutely the most abnormal, strangest way to do it… It’s rare how many people have had this many people and singers and still have a career, it’s normal to me, just abnormal to people who don’t know the band in North America,” explains Waters.
If you haven’t seen Annihilator live anytime recently, in the states or anywhere in North America, you haven’t missed any tours. Waters is strict about where he tours and why. “For the average metal fan we haven’t even played a show in our home country since 1993, so the states can’t think they’re a target of my own ignorance. What happened is back in 89 we started putting out three records for Roadrunner, the first two were pretty darn big records for North America, then as everybody knows, traditional 80s metal just dropped in popularity in about 1993, and yet the album was big for us overseas and from then on we just stayed overseas. We didn’t want to change our musical style. Not much point in touring here, the metal trends changed, then we lost our deal, even if we did have a good record we wouldn’t have had a shot here,” Waters said.
Waters went on to explain his disdain and frustration with the labels he has worked with. In 2005 Annihilator released the record Schizo Deluxe on the German label AMF. “The label itself was a joke… They took Schizo Deluxe and basically tanked, they manufactured a small amount of records, very little promotion and no tours. That was a piss off for me and a real good kick in the ass, because one of the best records for me was said album, and to watch something that you really like and worked hard on and know is good and have a label intentionally tank the record, that’s like somebody torturing their kid.”
As frustrating as it may be, Waters has put the past events behind him and is fully behind the new record aptly titled Metal to be released this January. The album features a slew of guest appearances from popular guitars from around the globe.
“When I did this record it was mostly finished and I got a call from Corey (from Trivium) and he asked about my album and it got thrown out there, would he be able to do a solo on our record, and I thought that would be awesome to have somebody from a younger generation that likes the same music that I like… Then Michael Ammot from Arch Enemy called later that day about something totally different, I thought well in the back of my mind, Corey wanted to do a solo so what if I ask Michael? So one day I’ve got two cool friends of mine to do a guest solo. That night I remember going to my studio and stripping off the guitar solos and sending the parts to those guys.” This idea flew forward and Waters sought out his metal friends recruiting guitarists to fill out the album.
As for the many guest appearances on the new Metal record featuring names such as Jeff Loomis, Danko Jones, Angela Gossow, Alexi Laiho, Anders Bjorler, Jesper Stromblad, Willie Adler among others, all big artists in their own right popular in the current metal scene, one might think that Annihilator is trying to appeal to a newer audience or say it is “Selling Out.” Such is not the case as Waters as further explains, “It’s a double edged sword, some fans might check out the band because the guest bands suggest listening to the band. Then the other side is you get a lot of criticism people will turn around and say ‘oh they’re just trying to appeal to this, no, their career is over and they just needed a jumpstart.’ In the end all you need in the end is to just Google Annihilator and do a bit of reading for two minutes and just find out that these are just friends of mine.”
If you’re a hardcore Annihilator fan, you already know the catchiness and power of the band and undoubtedly will continue your love for Waters and his troops. As a newcomer to metal or just a fair-weather fan, each record from the band has its own appeal, it might take some searching to find the great records of the late 80s, early 90s and 2000. Regardless, Annihilator is one of those bands to cherish and relish in the fact that you love metal.