Saturday, January 27, 2024

Annihilator - Ballistic, Sadistic (2020)

Ballistic, Sadistic is another power-play that carries the dauntless Jeff Waters and Annihilator forward into yet another decade, a positive show of force that exhibits the guy's excellent chops and studio abilities to their current extremes. Every now and then I get a pleasant surprise when I check out a new album from this act and here is yet another one, their best since the s/t exactly one decade prior, and surely one that should be ranked among their most potent works. Not from the angle of it being super catchy, but just for the maintained level of heaviness and the technicality, instrumentation, and production, which eschews so many of the flawed choices he's made in the past for something that is unfiltered modern thrash with no hint at age slowing him down.

No bullshit ballads to be found on this album, it's one of the most straightforward beatings you could hope for, with lots of riffing rooted in the band's 80s output but grafted on with modern muscle, sometimes busting out into a trad heavy metal riff (briefly in "Armed to the Teeth"), and sometimes using that essence of 90s groove, but never laying that on too thick as it transitions back to the thrashing, neck jerking anthems of which there are plenty. Waters' vocals have become this nasty amalgam of James Hetfield, Dave Mustaine and Chuck Billy and it's a 'why fix what isn't broken?' sort of approach that complements these tracks just as it did on the masterworks of all those bands. In fact, I think some of the more modern Testament albums like Titans of Creation or Dark Roots of Earth are a great parallel to this record, if you enjoy those then throw this one into your shopping cart because it would pair up nicely with either.

A few of the lyrics can get a little cliche and cheesy ("The Attitude", 'FUCK YOUR ATTITUDE!'), always an issue for this band and never quite their forte, but that doesn't diminish the aggressive charisma he puts into them. His leads are awesome here, maybe not spitting out the sorts of melodies that cling to your ears but wild and frilly and entertaining above the solid riff-set. Some tunes also have some subliminal ties back to older Annihilator works, like "Psycho Ward" brought me back to Never, Neverland with its opening melody. Again, some goofy lyrics there but the delivery is awesome, and I'd also add that the bass playing throughout the album is quite good, doesn't always take center stage but has a good tone to it and occasionally plays around. He's got a drummer here which offers a mighty improvement over the solid prior album For the Demented, and a few guest vocals like John from Raven that are welcome if you can spot them.

If someone's asking me where to start with this band, you start at the beginning with Alice in Hell or Never, Neverland, but if you're curious beyond that, I'm pointing you straight at the eponymous 2010 disc or Ballistic, Sadistic. Sure, this doesn't have the charm of the old stuff, but it's a modern thrash album you can cruise to in your electric vehicle and probably cause lots of accidents. Few complaints, and it's impressive that Waters in his 50s can mete out such punishment.

Verdict: Win [8/10]

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