ANNIHILATOR — Alice in Hell (review)

ANNIHILATOR — Alice in Hell album cover Album · 1989 · Thrash Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
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.
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siLLy puPPy wrote:
34 days ago
Agreed. My fave but i love every track on this one. Fuck this is probably a top 100 album of all time.
Vim Fuego wrote:
35 days ago
This is still Annihilator's best as far as I'm concerned. I love the insanity of "Human Insecticide".

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