Let's face it, ANNIHILATOR is Jeff Waters. The mainman, founding member, guitarist and vocalist of the Western Canadian thrashers has had a revolving door of members, and he has trudged through trends as well as the trials and tribulations that any long-running band endures. The band's apex had arguably come at its onset a whopping three decades ago with the monumental, traditional metal-centric thrash banger "Alice In Hell", a delightful melding of ravaging thrash metal with MERCYFUL FATE and KING DIAMOND-like heavy metal. The fact that he's arguably had to "compete" with or hit the high watermark of such an early peak speaks volumes about Waters's tenacity. The majority of ANNIHILATOR's releases have been winners, and while new album "Ballistic, Sadistic" isn't likely to be deemed a classic down the road, it's certainly an enjoyable album for "true" metal aficionados.
There is no pomp nor pretense. Waters has toyed with contemporary metal aspects for years, but it seems that he's become aware that his forte is the early metal magic that fueled his desire to start ANNIHILATOR in the first place. "Ballistic, Sadistic" is utterly savage from the get-go. While the odd ANNIHILATOR album has encompassed experimental tracks, or ones that seem clearly geared toward contemporary, popular heavy music appeal, "Ballistic, Sadistic", the unit's seventeenth (!!!) album, spits out ten jackhammering thrash songs overflowing with ripping solos and jagged, fiery riffs.
At the heart of it all, "Ballistic, Sadistic" stands out because of the prominent classic spirit woven deep into the fabric of the entire release that's augmented with a clean, modern production aesthetic. It spins forward that classic ANNIHILATOR energy in a way that will comfortably make sense to young metalheads who were born this century, and it's done in a way that doesn't sound as though a bunch of old men are trying to sound relevant. Case in point, "Dressed Up For Evil" sounds like it could have been pulled from the eighties with its galloping, thrashing mayhem. The clear difference is that Waters is obviously much more seasoned as a musician due to the passage of time and his perpetual devotion to the craft.
There is a common approach of thrashing belligerence throughout, with only a few minor deviations from the standard. "Psycho Ward" is undoubtably one of the release's standout cuts, offering a somewhat punk-fueled energy and approach that's likable and upbeat in terms of tone. Elsewhere, and true to its name, "Armed To The Teeth" stomps away with such unabashed, Neanderthal-like guitar riffing that you can easily picture a mosh pit erupting.
Longtime followers of the revered Canadian thrash band will surely rejoice, but for many thrash fanatics and ANNIHILATOR heads alike, the monotony and generic elements will likely grow tiresome quickly. On the flipside, Waters's choice to focus on the band's strengths makes sense. Sure, it's "playing it safe" to the market at hand, but in terms of artistry alone, it's simply where ANNIHILATOR shines. At the end of the day, "Ballistic, Sadistic" is far from being essential, but it's most definitely enjoyable.