With all the talk of 80’s thrash classics and arrows pointing to such illuminaries as Slayer, Megadeth, Metallica and others, there is one album that seemingly gets forgetten and may be one of the most enjoyable of all: Annihilator’s Alice In Hell. Though the album was purportedly recorded as a demo, the stellar guitar sound and absolute speed frenzy of Jeff Waters’ excellent guitar ability make this a fist pumping thrash dynamo. Nearly every song here is top notch, with highlights being “Alison Hell”, “Human Insecticide” (one of the fastest songs I can think of as the guitar retains such clarity in the accelerated playing), “Burns like a Buzz Saw Blade” and “W.T.Y.D.” Waters has an uncanny ability to create guitar rhythms that carry songs immensely well and also immediately give Annihilator a singular, unique sound. Sure, Randy Rampage (who lasted through this album and the tour afterwards) isn’t exactly what I would call a dynamic vocalist, but his sneering growls are perfect for the album. If, for some odd reason, you like thrash and don’t have this in your collection, you will most certainly join Alice.
Annihilator’s second album featuring new singer Coburn Pharr something of a dual headed dragon. The first half was absolutely top notch throughout while the second side nearly disemboweled itself on weak songs and joke tracks that would have been more at home on a Descendents record (“Kraf Dinner”). Though I just said that, I still catch myself smiling at its lyrics every once-in-a-while. Nevertheless, Never, Neverland featured remarkably stylish production from Glen Robinson and again showcased guitarist Jeff Waters’ sparkling ability. As songs like “The Fun Palace”, “Stonewall” and the title track all aptly demonstrate, his sense of rhythm and grand control over picking patterns should have placed him amongst the thrash elite of the time. For the songs that clicked, his style is simply phenomenal and even on the weaker songs, he still plays better than most. I think the biggest problem Never, Neverland (and perhaps Annihilator as a whole) suffered from was the lack of a true band feeling. Coburn Pharr is a capable singer and much more talented than his predecessor, Randy Rampage, but Rampage had a bigger presence overall. Pharr sounded more like the hired hand than a singer giving his heart and soul to the band. Yet, even with all its flaws, Never, Neverland is a great record that really deserved more attention than it ultimately received.
Both of these albums are gems in the thrash metal genre and we all can graciously thank Roadrunner records for re-releasing these tems together for the price of one.