Annihilator - Set the World On Fire
Annihilator is known for their speed/thrash metal and their revolving door policy regarding vocalists and band members in general. Centered around guitar god Jeff Waters, who has influenced a large array of current guitar scene guitarists including Alexi Laiho (Children of Bodom) and the guys from Trivium, and been invited to join Megadeth (and turned it down), twice... Waters is obviously a guitarist of remarkable talent. However, Annihilator as a band has been as hit and miss as they come.

"Alice in Hell" and "Never, Neverland" were their two first discs, each having a different singer ("Never" had Coburn Pharr of Omen), and either spawning superb slices of thrash or else... "Kraf Dinner". The classic status of which, is still debatable. Not exactly happy with album sales, Waters completely cleaned house by replacing, the entire band other than him, and cranked out a very different album. This disc was "Set the World On Fire" and after all these years, it remains the only melodic bent output. Vocalist Aaron Randall was brought on board, who had a very solid grasp on melody. As for the fuzzy vocals at times, that was once attributed to having a poor mic during recording because they spent their budget on other things. If you hear Aaron's work in the one off Speeed album, you can hear just how solid of a vocalist he is. As for Waters, his guitar playing is virtuosic and spot on, and the songs he spun out are a vast array of very different sounding tracks.

Very little here sounds similar to one another, so you get rip roaring thrashtastic tracks like the burning punkish opener "Set the World on Fire" and the blazing "No Zone" that leaves no doubt about their origins. Stellar guitar riffs and rife with aggression, these are two tracks that just sizzle, burn and race forward like a cheetah on fire. Others have the strange twisted touch of insanity done so well by Crimson Glory such as "Brain Dance", which knows it is weird and just revels in the offbeat broken mental state, by celebration with serious shredding and a few theatrical Savatage-like moments. Creepy from the very start with the sounds of bats..."Bats in the Belfry" has the same mind damaged theme as "Brain" and is a trip in its own right.

The smooth laid-back dreamer piece of "Sounds Good To Me" could be an AOR song with a little extra meat thrown into the package. The "throw your cares away" overall positive attitude and strawberry sweet melody give it a summery, carefree feeling. The sneaky revenge track called "Snake in the Grass" slithers up on your unsuspectingly, luring the listener in with acoustic guitars and then strikes with ferver for the chorus. The snake may seem tame and nearly dead at first, like the relationship it so describes...

The highlight however, is the biggest oddity of them all. When one thinks of "thrash bands" they usually do not equate soft, fluffy ballads to the name. While "Phoenix Rising" is not exactly fluffy, more like magificent and spread winged, it is still a ballad, given rich voice by Aaron and lovely guitars by Waters. It sucks your breath away upon first listen and doesn't really give it back very easily, leaving your lungs quite flat, and your pulse pretty sluggish. An unexpected gem lying at the bottom of the Annihilator pond, "Phoenix" would appeal to anyone with its twist on the Icarus story, and lush atmosphere.

The quirky and quite strange, chess themed "Knight Jumps Queen" deserves a mention for its unique singing style (and that casually tossed out there, tongue-in-cheek "if you know what I mean" after the main chorus), and unusual lyrics, force it out the door as another standout piece.

An addictive disc that reveals many layers as your listening time increases, "Set the World on Fire" remains a classic to this day, and one that many are still just discovering. It stands the test of time easily, with its quirky song selection, outstanding vocals, interesting production and amazing guitar playing. Of course this assembly of musicians was quickly dismissed and Waters reverted back to the straight up thrash from the first two albums (and continues trudging in that same direction today). Thankfully you can't erase the past, so Annihilator's crowning jewel will likely be the offbeat album that no one can forget, and everyone keeps hoping it is a formula they will revisit someday. Until then, there's re-releases of the album to uncover and some demo material.

With so many people agreeing that this is the best of Annihilator, perhaps Jeff should re-think the melody + thrash strategy again, afterall. 

Written by Alanna
Sunday, April 10, 2011
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Ratings

Alanna: 8/10

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Review by Alanna

Released by
Roadrunner - 1993

Tracklisting
1 - Set the World on Fire
2 - No Zone
3 - Bats in the Belfry
4 - Snake in the Grass
5 - Phoenix Rising
6 - Knight Jumps Queen
7 - Sounds Good to Me
8 - Edge
9 - Don't Bother Me
10 - Brain Dance


Style
Melodic thrash

Related links
Visit the band page

Annihilator - Official Website

Other articles
Set The World On Fire - Re-release - (Steen)



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