Review Summary: Remains is an album that will be nearly unrecognizable to fans, and decidedly uninspired to boot.
Remains may have been Annihilator’s first blemish of their long illustrious career. The music contained on this album will be nearly unrecognizable to fans of the band’s earlier works. Remains is probably the best example of an ageing thrash band trying to reinvent themselves, and failing miserably. As with many of their thrash counterparts, the late 90’s saw Annihilator changing with regards to their sound and style. Gone are the technical thrash elements and progressive structures that made the band huge in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Instead, we are subjected to Jeff Waters’s take on industrial metal, and what a bland take it is.
It is probably unfair to really consider Remains a group effort, because by 1997, the only remaining full time member of Annihilator was guitarist and founder Jeff Waters. He would be handling Vocal duties, guitar, bass, and drum programming. (That’s right; this album has a drum machine) And while this isn't necessarily a bad thing on paper, the singularity is very much apparent when listening to the album, as it ends up sounding forced, lonely, and all around uninspired.
The industrial metal contained on this album sounds like something Trent Reznor would have pulled off in the early 90’s, just slightly more guitar focused. Keyboards are a new factor, as is the use of distorted vocals, which succeeds in giving the album an almost machine-like feel. And while I’m not necessarily opposed to a little experimentation, these new aspects fall flat behind repetition, boring riffing, bland drums, and an uninspired vocal performance. There is little catchiness or style variation, with Remains focusing almost entirely on its exhausted industrial element, with only slight exception given to a couple songs near the tail end of the album that pay homage to the bands earlier works.
The guitar tone if fine, as is the overall production of the album, but this does little to really improve this album’s staying power. While Jeff Waters will remain hands down one of the best metal guitarists of all time, Remains really shouldn't be the ideal first introduction to this man’s talents. Far too often the same riff will be used for minutes on end with little change, and when a small solo or spasm of shredding peaks through, it only makes you realize how repetitive the rest of the material is. The vocal are much the same, with little variation in regards to pitch and tone, leaving much to be desired.
If you like simplistic riffing, boring vocals, and drum machines, then this is your album! But for the rest of us, this will undoubtedly be seen as a low point in this great band’s career. Jeff Water’s should be given props for trying something new with his sound, but this was the wrong way to go about it. Remains has a lot of good ideas, but they are muffled by uninspired mediocrity. Still, you can do a lot worse than late 90's Annihilator.