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Thursday, May 06, 2010

DVD/CD Review: Annihilator - Live at Masters of Rock

Annihilator - Live at Masters of Rock
2010 SPV/Steamhammer
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Welcome back, SPV!!!

Live documents are, for all intents and purposes, contract fillers. Yes, a true fan of an artist is going to want all the bootlegs and official live documents available...well, just because.

Some metal bands ride the live train harder than others, i.e. Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Ronnie James Dio, yet people are going to buy live recordings out of loyalty, but also because some bands are meant for the stage as much as they're meant for the recording studio. Particularly in the video realm, you can nearly charge what you want if you're that damned good onstage.

Had Jeff Waters kept his cool in the early years of Annihilator, there's no telling how huge they might've become. They were on a hell of a roll in the beginning with Alice in Hell and Never Neverland. Of course, if you speak with Waters today (and this writer has twice, enjoying both conversations immensely), you'll find a gentle guy who keeps the past to his back and veers towards an uncertain but optimistic future. It's to the point Annihilator is coming forth with a new self-titled album later this month (with a creepy zombie head on the cover), a maneuver suggestive of a rebirthing process.

Fans and critics have torched the poor guy more than necessary in the 2000s, even if the 2007 Metal album was largely praised by the community. Criteria for a Black Widow, Carnival Diabolos, All for You and Schizo Deluxe have their share of rejecters as much as fans, yet the proof positive for Waters and particularly his saddle rider Dave Padden is past lessons are aced and Annihilator is as much a band today as they were in late eighties/early nineties.

Live at Masters of Rock is a combo DVD and CD pack, which is really the way to go in the modern age of music marketing. Used to be each were sold individually, but this is a hip trend which gives the buyer the best of both of worlds, particularly since the CD in this package doesn't cheat by omitting songs due to space constraints.

Expect a heavy lean of Alice in Hell and Never Neverland on this set as they dominate more than half of Live at Masters of Rock. What you're craving is all there: "Fun Palace," "Phantasmagoria," "Wicked Mystic," "I Am in Command," "W.T.Y.D." and of course Annihilator's lauded masterpeice "Never Neverland." Fielded vocally by Waters and Dave Padden, this set flies and floats because both men are dominant on the mike. More so Padden, who is so poised front and center he looks born to it. He's also using a plug-in amp instead of remote, howza!

You really won't miss Randy Rampage on "Alice in Hell," no disrespect to the brother, who did leave an iconic imprint upon the entire Alice in Hell album. Annihilator's back catalog is played deftly and Padden nails a smidge of Rampage's falsetto shrieks on "Alice in Hell" without going over-the-top. Waters plucks a high-tweaked note to assist Padden on those choruses anyway, so the effect is right there.

Dave Padden's been such a trusty helmsman for quite some time in Annihilator, and whether or not you like All for You, some of his most inventive and alluring chops are all over that album. Here on Live at Masters of Rock Padden also plays rhythm and shares solos with Waters. They're magic together. Bassist Dave Sheldon and drummer Ryan Ahoff keep a tight rhythm themselves and you'll marvel how relaxed Jeff Waters is because of the competence surrounding him.

Performed in the Czech Republic at the 2008 Masters of Rock festival, Annihilator pounds a sweaty set including "Shallow Grave" from Carnival Diabolos, the title tracks "Set the World On Fire" and "King of the Kill," plus "Operation Annihilation" and "Clown Parade" from Metal.

By now most people are off Jeff Waters' back about the past, which is fabulous, because he remains one of the scene's most charismatic-sounding guitarists (and he whips out a Tron-esque red neon guitar to further tantalize his audience) and Annihilator is playing like they have something to prove. Revolving doors or no, Waters and Padden are brothers in arms and Annihilator freaking rawks.

Rating: ****

1 comment:

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