Jeff Waters and Annihilator have been a Canadian metal institution for many years now, with classic releases like Alice In Hell, King of the Kill, Never, Neverland, and Schizo Deluxe all recoginzed as thrash classics in the eyes of many metal fans. On their latest release Metal, the band has enlisted a slew of close friends in the industry to make this an almost 'all-star' collaboration more than simply a new Annihilator album. For the most part it works, and it's interesting to hear some of these famous players sharing the mix with Waters, drummer Mike Mangini, and singer Dave Padden.
Kick off track "Clown Parade" is an uptempo thrash anthem that sees Nevermore guitarist Jeff Loomis trading scorching solos with Waters, the two axe-men going for the juggular on what is an exciting track save for some uninspiring vocals from Padden. "Couple Suicide" fares even better, this one a catchy yet heavy modern metal gem, with clean vocals from Danko Jones and potent growls from Arch Enemy belter Angela Gossow. Perhaps the most memorable and fun song on the whole album. "Army of One" doesn't fare as well, as this one comes across as Annihilator doing their late 80's Anthrax crossover thing, and despite the presence of Lips from Anvil and a red hot Waters solo, the lyrics and arrangements just come across a tad silly and cheesey. Children of Bodom's guitar god Alexi Laiho shreds with Waters on the killer thrash cut "Downright Dominate", a real tight number that also sees some acrobatic drum work from Mangini and Padden's best vocal performance on the CD. Anders Bjorler can't help the boring and drawn out "Smothered", a tune with generic riffs and silly lyrics, and despite some inspired fretwork from Arch Enemy's Michael Amott on "Operation Annihilation", the song just never really goes anywhere thanks to a weak lead vocal from Waters and unmemorable riffs.
The raging "Haunted" however is a smoldering inferno of churning thrash guitar riffs and manic drum fills, the guest on this one the legendary In Flames virtuoso Jesper Stromblad. He and Waters trade off an impressive array of whammy bar excursions, legato lines, and two hand tapping on this one, surrounded by moments of bone crunching riffs as well as bleak atmosphere. Padden puts in a decent performance on this one, especially his clean melodic vocals and upper register screams, but I still have a problem with his mid-range delivery which sounds at times like a hardcore singer who is talking through the lyrics. "Kicked" is a fairly unmemorable song, saved only by some hot solos from Waters and Trivium's Corey Bealieu, and "Detonation" is a Black Sabbath styled dirge led by some amazing Mangini fills and plenty of crushing riffs. Lamb of God's Willie Adler pumps out the intricate riffage on the closer "Chasing the High", a high energy thrash piece with some lethal vocals from Padden and smoking lead work from Waters.
The problem with Metal is that it seems like the songs were written to fit in guitar solos and guest vocals, instead of just written to be good metal songs. Not that there aren't some hot tracks here, cause there are, but there's a certain generic factor permeating much of this CD that's hard to ignore. If you wanted nothing but amazing guitar solos, you've come to the right place, but in the end I kind of expect more from a veteran band like Annihilator.
1. Clown Parade -w/Jeff Loomis
2. Couple Suicide -w/Danko Jones and Angela Gossow
3. Army Of One -w/Steve 'Lips' Kudlow
4. Downright Dominate -w/Alexi Laiho
5. Smothered -w/Anders Bjorler
6. Operation Annihilation -w/Michael Amott
7. Haunted -w/Jesper Stromblad
8. Kickend -w/Corey Beaulieu
9. Detonation -w/Jacob Lynam
10. Chasing The High -w/Willie Adler