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Alice in Hell

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  • 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 it’s cover. The grooves within contain pure class.The pretty intro piece “Crystal Ann” is a well executed classical guitar passage, merely whetting the appetite for some thrash action. And thrash this does! “Alison Hell” sets the standard for the rest of the album to follow. There are tasty guitar licks by the truckload. Annihilator main man and guitar slinger Jeff Waters wrote just about everything on the album, played all the guitars and bass, and threw in some backing vocals. Lead vocalist Randy Rampage (as if THAT was his real name…) looks like he’d just escaped from the introductory class at the Motley Crue School of Big Hair and Bad Makeup, but when the guy opens his mouth, the hair crimes are 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” EllsworthThe 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.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 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.Waters’ lyrical bent was rather refreshing for the time. Each song has a quick explanatory note with the lyrics. 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 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 it’s 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.

    Posted on December 7, 2009