A little while back I started a review series on hidden gems of metal. The album Never, Neverland (1990) by Canadian thrash metallers Annihilator could never be called such, so since the other review series is currently on hold (hidden gems being just that – hidden) this review will kick off a concurrent series from me: highly regarded albums that for one reason or another it took me hell of a long time to check out. Such a theme, of course, is pretty meaningless to anyone else but me, so alternately think of it as some motivation to get reviews up of some classics.
This was Annihilator’s second full-length. The band had recorded the debut Alice in Hell (1989) as a three-piece but here there is a full line up present. The vocalist has changed from Randy Rampage to Coburn Pharr, this being Pharr’s only album with the band. That’s definitely a shame, as Annihilator has had many vocalists during their career, and I think that Pharr was easily one of the strongest, featuring a varied style ranging from melodic clean singing on the album’s softer parts (such as the title track) to harsh thrash metal style vocals. There’s some real power there in his voice, albeit used in quite a rough style (see tracks such as The Fun Palace and Imperiled Eyes), which combined with some top notch musicianship from Jeff Waters and co results in one hell of a thrash metal album.
This isn’t the most technical sounding thrash metal album I’ve heard but it still gets up there at times, while also featuring some more speed metal orientated parts too. The songs are fantastic from start to finish. Sure, Kraf Dinner is the cheesiest thing you’ll ever hear, but otherwise this is quite a mature and serious album in the lyric department, sometimes dark too. Psychological illness, pollution of our planet, post-nuclear existence and the dangers of drinking and driving are just a few of the themes covered in these ten tracks.
I don't think that there's much to dislike about Never, Neverland even if you have only a passing interest in thrash metal. This is certainly one of the best albums I've heard from the genre. It's not only well written and thought provoking lyrically, but it's also really addictive. I've lost count of how many times I've played it since discovering it and it hasn't lost even a little impact yet. The year 1990 has some big competitors for the best metal album of the year, but even with Blind Guardian's Tales from the Twilight World and Judas Priest's Painkiller released the same year, I really do have to say that Never, Neverland is miles ahead of either. This may even be my favourite thrash metal album all told, though I'll confess that it is a genre that I still have a fair bit of exploring to do in.