Annihilator - Alice in Hell
On April 17, 1989, "Annihilator" released their debut album "Alice in Hell" and entered the second wave of thrash metal bands scene, in a big storm.
This album is the epitome of one man's dream come true. A hyperactive child with ADHD who discovers music and guitar at age 7 and founded "Annihilator" in 1984, a and that would later turn out to be the largest thrash metal band in Canada, which he still leads to this day.
1984 is the year that Thrash Metal began to establish itself as one of the leading sub-genres in metal. 3 of the 4 big bands in Thrash have already released their debut albums ("Metallica" even a second album) and to the hyperactive kid named Jeff Waters, it was already clear where he wanted to lead his band. He joins forces with singer John Bates, drummer Paul Malek, and bassist Dave Scott, and the quartet enters the studio and records their first demo "Welcome To Your Death".
But just then, even before the band had time to dream of a recording contract, bassist Dave Scott and singer John Bates leave the band. Jeff Waters does not give up, he takes on the roles of bass and vocals, and together with drummer Paul Malek, he records another demo called "Phantasmagoria", which was released in 1986. This demo became highly sought after and aroused interest among record companies, who at this time already recognized the potential in the subgenre of Thrash Metal.
In 1987, Paul Malek and Jeff Waters enter the studio and record a third demo called "Wicked Mystic"/"Word Salad". But the troubles keep falling on Jeff Waters, who at the worst time for him suddenly becomes a one-man band, following the departure of drummer Paul Malek.
But nothing will stop Waters from fulfilling his dream of creating a Canadian Thrash Metal alternative, which like the "Annihilator" (the tank on which actor Eddie Murphy rode in the movie "Best Defense"), will "Annihilate" everything that stands in its way. He moves to Vancouver and begins to form the new line-up that will accompany him, which includes drummer Ray Hartmann and bassist Randy Rampage who move into the vocalist position. In the years 1988-1989, Jeff Waters begins to record on his own, what will become the band's amazing debut album.
Waters recorded all the guitar and bass roles for the album and also sang background vocals and produced it. Only after the recording of Randy Rampage's vocal roles, did Waters recruit bassist Wayne Darley and rhythm guitarist Anthony Brian Greenham, who received credit on the album cover, even though they were not part of its recording.
The songs on this album consist of the three demos recorded by the band, all of which were written by Jeff Waters, some in collaboration with the band's first singer John Bates, who will continue to receive credit for writing on the band's next albums as well.
A short piece of acoustic guitar called "Crystal Ann" leads us to the excellent song "Alison Hell" whose title corresponds with the name of the album. This is a psychological murder thriller based on a true story of a young and disturbed girl who grew up in Montreal, Canada, and suffered from nightmares. She would wake up at night screaming and her parents did not pay attention to her instead of helping her they locked her in her room. This led her to a mental institution. Musically, there is no doubt that the acoustic opening and relative complexity of "Alison Hell" draws its influence from "Metallica" mainly the way the albums "Ride The Lightning" and "Master Of Puppets" open up. Much has been written and said about Randy Rampage's singing, but even his opponents will admit that while listening to this song you can actually hear what the main character Alison is going through, mainly thanks to his crazy singing that adds to the atmosphere.
The rest of the first side of the vinyl is steeped in fast and edgy thrash metal songs. "W.T.Y.D. (Welcome to Your Death)", with an opening riff that very much reminded us of the sound and style of "Megadeth" on the debut album "Killing Is My Business... and Business Is Good!". In a song of fewer than 4 minutes where Jeff Waters manages to become complex, when in the 2:00 minute area we get a rhythm break and a relatively quiet instrumental section. "Wicked Mystic" continues with the fast Thrash with Waters' amazing guitar work, both on the excellent riff and in the solos. "Burns Like a Buzzsaw Blade" ends the first side in a storm with a powerful speed Metal drumming by Ray Hartmann and excellent bass work by Jeff Waters.
The other side of the album presents a more complex and creative side with a purposeful display of technical playing, especially of Waters. "Word Salad" is very dynamic and includes quite a few rhythm changes that serve as a basis for refreshing humor flashes in the lyrics. "Schizos (Are Never Alone) Parts I & II" really feels like a "schizophrenic" piece that never ceases to amaze. "Ligeia" was influenced by Edgar Allan Poe which starts as a mid-tempo section but after the funky bass explodes at the speed of light, before returning to the basic rhythm. The album ends with a purposeful display of speed and power with "Human Insecticide".
"Alice In Hell" received rave reviews and brought "Annihilator" and Waters (albeit a little late) to the consciousness of the global Thrash Metal scene. It was undoubtedly an opening shot that set a high standard for the band's marvelous career. The album introduces the sound and initial style of "Annihilator", before more elements enter it and the sound will evolve and change.