Review Summary: An album that proves a change in style isn’t always a bad thing.
After several turbulent years with a rotating cast of band mates and more than a few tours, founding guitarist Jeff Waters decided that it was time to disband his group and start anew. King of the Kill can be seen as more of a solo album, as Waters wrote and handled guitar, bass and vocal duties for the entire record. Only drummer Randy Black remained for the recording of King of the Kill, as he laid down drum tracks for the record. Released at a time when thrash metal had reached near extinction, Waters saw fit to modify the sound of his music even more in order to appeal to a dwindling metal audience.
The album continues the transformation of the band’s sound started on 1993’s Set the World on Fire; showing even more variation from the technical thrash found on earlier releases. The album ranges in styles as it has its pop-like ballad moments, its grooving moments, and still maintains some semblance of heavy thrash on tracks like “King of the Kill” and “Second to None”. Despite a clear effort to move away from early styles, the music is still nonetheless compelling. Backed by clear production, Jeff Waters continues to deliver quality guitar riffs and solos, and this time around he aims to write catchy and memorable material that will get lodged in your brain for days. Even the completely un-heavy moments on tracks like ballad “In the Blood” and the instrumental “Catch the Wind” showcase a seasoned and veteran-like musicianship with compelling lyrics and music that will undoubtedly please even the most stubborn thrash fan. Surprisingly enough, Jeff Waters handles vocal duties quite well, as he has a good voice that ranges from rough metal vocals, to clean singing.
Moving right along, the album still has the attitude and energy we’ve come to expect from this band. Though most of the band was absent from the recording, Jeff still manages to make the music sound lively and aggressive, and it is backed by some superb production that enables every instruments to be heard quite clearly, and the tracks flow together seamlessly. Subject matter is much the same as Set the World on Fire, with topics ranging from war and violence, to more personal matters on the ballad tracks.
With all that being said, not all is so perfect here. While I personally struggle to take issues with the record, others may be completely turned off from the change in style presented here. Though the first half of the record is heavy enough for the average metal head, the last half can be bogged down by the various different musical styles on the album, which makes for a sometimes confusing listen. There are also a couple tracks that may fall flat, and an occasional riff or two can become repetitive. However the negatives are so small in comparison to the positives that I refuse to spend time floundering for some non-existent issue.
Despite alienating some fans with a change in style, and despite a dying metal scene, Annihilator came out swinging with their fourth album. This album is certainly nowhere near as ground-breaking as the first two albums, but still great in its own right. Listeners beware; the change in style isn’t for everyone, but more accepting fans of the band will certainly find this album a compelling listen.
- King of the Kill
- Hell is a war
- Catch the Wind (Instrumental)