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ANNIHILATOR - Alice in Hell cover
4.38 | 72 ratings | 6 reviews
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Album · 1989

Filed under Thrash Metal


1. Crystal Ann (1:40)
2. Alison Hell (5:00)
3. W.T.Y.D. (4:56)
4. Wicked Mystic (3:38)
5. Burns Like a Buzzsaw Blade (3:33)
6. Word Salad (5:49)
7. Schizos (Are Never Alone), Parts. I & II (4:32)
8. Ligeia (4:47)
9. Human Insecticide (4:50)



- Jeff Waters / guitars, bass, background vocals
- Randy Rampage – vocals
- Ray Hartmann – drums

- Wayne Darley – bass, background vocals
- Anthony Brian Greenham – guitars
- Dennis Dubeau – background vocals

About this release

Roadrunner Records, April 17th, 1989

Re-released in 1998 with three demo version bonus tracks
Re-released in 2003 along with Never, Neverland, in "Two From The Vault".

-"Schizos (Are Never Alone) Parts I & II" was originally titled "Fuck the Dead."
-Alice in Hell was Roadrunner's largest selling debut at the time, selling over 250,000 records.
-Although original singer John Bates left Annihilator in 1985, he is credited as the co-writer of "Alison Hell", "W.T.Y.D.", "Burns Like a Buzzsaw Blade" and "Human Insecticide".
-The sleeve pictures a five-member line up. However, in interviews, Jeff Waters revealed that this was at the behest of the record label, while actually he played the guitars and bass himself.

Music videos:
-Alison Hell

Recorded and mixed at: Live West Productions Fiasco Bros. Studios, New Westminster, B.C., Canada.
Mastered at Frankford / Wayne.

Thanks to Time Signature for the addition and graphix, adg211288, UMUR for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

siLLy puPPy
Very few albums catch the second wave of thrash metal better than the Canadian band ANNIHILATOR did with its debut album ALICE IN HELL which came out in 1989 and set the world on fire. The band was formed in 1984 in Ottawa, Canada by guitarist / bassist and creative director Jeff Waters and the dark cabaret vocalist / metal guitarist Big John Bates although Bates would take off the next year but continue to contribute lyrics and songwriting efforts on the first six albums. After landing Randy Rampage on lead vocals and Ray Hartmann on drums, ANNIHILATOR jumped onto the scene with this debut and quickly became one of Canada’s best selling metal bands. ANNIHILATOR is considered one of the Big 4 of Canadian thrash metal along with Razor, Sacrifice and Voivod.

While ALICE IN HELL certainly fits into the world of thrash metal with rambunctious lightning fast guitar riffs and rampaging bass and drums, the album was quite different than anything else that has ever been released even by the band itself. This idiosyncratic quirky album not only was inspired by the Bay Area thrash legends such as Metallica, Forbidden and Death Angel but also added bizarre unexpected segments at the most off kilter moments with elements from progressive rock and particularly classic 80s metal which added excellent melodic and even epic song structures fortified with extremely fast tempos and the flamboyant vocal style of the appropriately named Randy Rampage.

The album even starts off strangely. While 80s thrash metal was no stranger to acoustic intros, ALICE IN HELL kicked off with an entire acoustic instrumental in the form of the minute and a half “Crystal Ann” which offered incredibly precise arpeggiated guitar chords crafting a sublime melodic performance. The brief yet dynamic track sets the tone for the entire album and blends perfectly into the title track with features a bit of Bates dramatic cabaret moves in how the song plays out. It also takes a full minute of instrumental prowess before the first vocals appear some three minutes into the album. The mix of styles offered one of the most unique thrash metal tracks of all time that has never really been matched. While the rest of the album focuses on speed metal with thrash riffs, surprises pop out of nowhere in seemingly straight forward performances such as the trippy guitar riffing sequence that suddenly appears towards the middle of “W.T.Y.D. (Welcome to Your Death)”

The incessant riffing gives this an energy level beyond anything Metallica or Megadeth were doing with jackhammer riffing and lightning fast solos. Randy Rampage’s vocals are probably the most operatic of any thrash metal singer with sudden octave leaps at unorthodox moments. Add to that Waters’ interesting juxtaposition between guitar and bass lines which add to the creepiness of the dark subject matter generated in the lyrics and title tracks. The album touches on paranoia, insecurity and insanity, all themes which are perfectly executed in the musical performances. The unexpected moments when the music drifts into another dimension for a brief period of time really does make you question reality and the nature of the unexpected!

While the first few tracks draw you in instantly, the album’s strength is in that each and every track generates a totally different feel and although rooted in extreme thrash metal offers a bit of psychedelia in how it’s strewn together. Another quirk of this album is that five members were listed in the liner notes as playing on the album but in fact guitarist Anthony Brian Greenham and bassist Wayne Darley didn’t play on the album despite the credits. This is one of those touched by God albums for me as i loved it the very first time i heard it and never get tired of it. I can literally play this any time, anywhere and love the hell out of it. ALICE IN HELL has not only stood the test of time quite well but remains one of Roadrunner Records best sellers ever. While some may prefer the lest schizoid followup “Never, Neverland,” personally it’s the bizarre psychotic features of this album that give it that extra something that puts it in a world all its own. This truly is one of the best metal albums ever! Masterpiece.
"Alice in Hell" is the debut full-length studio album by Canadian thrash/heavy metal act Annihilator. The album was released through Roadrunner Records in April 1989. Annihilator was founded in 1984 by guitarist/main composer Jeff Waters and the band released three demos before being signed to Roadrunner Records for the release of "Alice in Hell". About half of the tracks on "Alice in Hell" were culled from the demos. "Alice in Hell" made an instant impact on the heavy/thrash metal scene and with 250.000 sold copies it was up until then the best selling debut album on Roadrunner Records.

Stylistically the music on the album is a combination of traditional heavy metal, speed metal, and thrash metal. While it´s both raw and aggressive when that is needed there is also a strong emphasis on melody throughout the album. The album opens with the beautiful acoustic guitar piece "Crystal Ann" and seques right into "Alison Hell", which is one of the highlights of the album. Other standout tracks are "W.T.Y.D." and the fiercely fast-pased "Human Insecticide". There´s nothing sub par on the album though, so the rest of the material are of a high quality too.

The musicianship is on a high level on all posts. The drumming by Ray Hartmann is solid, Jeff Waters delivers one memorable and powerful riff after another, and also plays blistering melodic leads throughout the album (and his bass playing is decent too), and lead vocalist Randy Rampage has a raw voice which compliments the instrumental part of the music well. While the band picture on the sleeve features five guys, the album was actually recorded solely be the three members mentioned above. Jeff Waters handles all guitars (rhythm and lead) and bass on the album.

The sound production is raw, powerful, and overall well sounding for the time. It´s not perfect but it suits the music very well. So upon conclusion "Alice in Hell" is a strong and very promising debut album by Annihilator and they were clearly on to something great and relatively unique with this release. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.
Vim Fuego
Uh oh, what's this? A dodgy thrash album? Well, it has all the trimmings to set off the average detector- a logo which looks like it's stolen from Blade Runner, five bemulleted denim-clad warriors trying to look tough on the back, a pretty girl being stalked by a demonic dolly on the front. This should really set alarm bells ringing. It almost makes Anthrax's 'Fistful Of Metal' look classy. But never judge a book, or an album, by its cover. The grooves within contain pure class. The first track almost falls into the trap of cliché, in that it’s an acoustic classical guitar piece. Thrash bands often hid short tracks such as this just to show their range, often overdoing what is really little more than a guitarist’s warm-up exercise. However, the beauty and execution of ‘Crystal Ann’ merely whets the appetite for some thrash action. And thrash this does. ‘Alison Hell’ sets the standard for the rest of the album to follow. The music is second to none when it comes to riffs and solos. OK, so it's more polished than the likes of Slayer or Possessed, but both of those bands would have cleaned up their sound if they could have written melodies and solos like Annihilator main man and guitar slinger Jeff Waters Waters. There is something new to discover on almost every listen, with the odd thing still hitting the ear more than a decade after first hearing it- a quick fill here, an unnoticed counter-melody there. However, it's not Malmsteen-esque guitar wankery. These are songs which will have you playing air guitar and compulsively banging your head, so be careful listening to it while using public transport if you don't want to attract funny looks. The recording of the album took over a year, as it was done a small piece at a time, but there is excellent flow throughout, with no sense of anything being disjointed. There are tasty guitar licks by the truckload. Waters wrote just about everything on the album, played all the guitars and bass, and threw in some backing vocals. While Annihilator’s line up has never been very stable, perhaps Water’s best recruit on this album was vocalist Randy Rampage. Rampage looked like he'd just escaped from the introductory class at the Motley Crüe School of Big Hair and Bad Makeup, but when the guy opened his mouth, the hair crimes could be forgiven. Limited vocals were often a stumbling point for thrash outfits, but Rampage lets rip with a gutsy, tuneful shout reminiscent of a more restrained version of Overkill's Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth. Unfortunately, alcohol addiction saw him replaced after this album. Waters' lyrical bent was rather refreshing for the time. Each song has a quick explanatory note with the lyric sheet. He explored themes of mental illness and altered states of mind ('Schizos Are Never Alone Part I & II', 'Human Insecticide', 'Alison Hell', 'Word Salad'), and even classic American literature, with a retelling of Edgar Allen Poe's twisted supernatural story of love lost and found in 'Ligeia'. On any normal album, 'Ligeia' would be a contender for the best track on the album. It has an addictive crushing main riff, excellent guitar and bass interplay in the bridge section, intelligent, thoughtful lyrics, solos to die for, and a driving thrash pace to get even the most jaded toes tapping. But this isn't any normal album. Last track off the ranks is the storming 'Human Insecticide'. It pushes the standard just that bit further. It rips straight into the main riff, a high-speed thrash classic- simple, memorable and irresistible for the air guitar enthusiast. Rampage puts in his most er… rampaging performance of the album, spitting out the lyrics as if he were the delusional psychotic subject of the song. Blasting out of first one speaker, then the other, then both, the fretboard frenzy seems to pick up speed as the song progresses. It thrashes its way through several themes of the original concept, continuing to gain momentum until it all collapses in an exhausted, satisfied mess, like a slow motion train crash in a 1970s disaster movie. Jeff Waters set the standard so high for himself with this stunning debut he has never even remotely approached such greatness again.
Annihilator play a style of thrash metal leaning more to the fast-but-not-Slayer-fast pace of Anthrax and Megadeth, with sufficient experimentalism and progressive leanings to take the music into Annihilator's own unique territory. Perfectly balancing thrashy aggression with a prog metal affinity for complex time signatures and intricate song structures, Alice In Hell is a sonic avalanche which begins with the mid-tempo title track and doesn't let up until the fast-paced Human Insecticide rounds things off. I wouldn't go so far as to call it an outright masterpiece, but anyone interested in thrash will find it a very rewarding listen indeed.
Time Signature
Burns like Water's guitar...

Genre: (progressive) thrash metal

There's something about this album. Just something. It's not as great as "Never, Neverland", but it's almost there. On this album Jeff Water's genius just blasts out through your loudspeakers, showcasing his talent for writing complex, technical - almost progressive - thrash metal with both melody and aggression to it.

As with "Never, Neverland" - Jeff Waters' (first) masterpice - the music is challenging to listen to, full of twists and turns and changes of time and tempo and other wonderfully weird things. Yet, the music is never inaccessible because of the incorporation of melody and a certain power metal sensibility and flair for epicness. On topf othat that, there is plenty of both humor and heavy metal klichés on the album.

It's a really strong album with near-masterpiece status, and one can do nothing but throw oneself in the dust in worship of the musical prowess and talent displayed on this album.

Members reviews

This is my first review for Metal Music Archives. Why I decided to start from Annihilator’s ‘Alice In Hell’? Maybe because it is has starts from letter ‘A’? Joking… To be serious for me it was the first thrash metal album which I was amazed of. It was long time ago, back in 1989 or 1990 when I had the luck to find this record. By that time I already had some idea about thrash, mainly based on Metallica/ Slayer / Megadeth, and I should say my attitude to thrash was then mainly negative…

And then came ‘Alice in Hell’… It was like a breath of fresh air. Even now 20 years later I see no other choice but to call it essential masterpiece.

5 stars.

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