By Jason Lefebvre
CALGARY – “I don’t want to put out another record that is okay, the vocals sounding really much like the Hetfield, Mustaine type singers.”
So begins Jeff Waters, the founding member, lead guitarist and once again, vocalist for the Canadian thrash metal stalwarts Annihilator. Waters has been a busy man. After returning home for Christmas vacation, he decided to hit the studio and start recording Annihilator’s 16th studio album, the name for which has yet to be revealed.
“I have until they end of the summer of 2018 planned out,” says the band mastermind, who has steered the project since their inception in ‘84.
“It is really weird being able to see what you are going to be doing a year and a half in advance.”
But right now, Waters is working on the mixing of the mystery album. Taking the vocal reins once more, it is his second in a row doing so since Dave Padden left Annihilator at the end of 2014. Waters also sang on one of the band’s ‘90s era albums.
“The one thing I did say for the album before I started is that I will try my BEST not to put those singer influences that I really like, and just try to get my own style back like I did on the King of the Kill (1994) album,” he says, referencing the band’s divisive fourth studio album that saw Waters work with only one other member, which was drummer Randy Black.
“Now that it is done it’s like ‘Whoa I did it, Right on.’ I can only find two little Hetfield-isms in the whole record,” he says, chuckling. Despite several decades in the metal scene, Waters is eager to give credit to his metal forefathers.
“It is hard for me as a metal fan to shed those main influences. It is harder for me because I am the main song writer for all these years.”
Annihilator has received mixed reviews throughout their career. As is common with thrash, the general opinion is “older material is best material.” Astounding albums at the beginning of their career utilized progressive and technical benchmarks alongside thrash metal, granting both Alice In Hell (1989), and Never, Neverland (1990) classic status. As time went on, they incorporated slicker grooves and even a drum machine, such as on 1997’s Remains (1997). Recent albums, like the commercial and slick, yet authentically Annihilator sounding Suicide Society (2015), leave big questions on where Jeff will be taking the band next.
“I also said ‘No! Fuck this sort of format song writing.’ It’s still there. It is still choruses and the catchy stuff. Whether it is great or not, it is catchy. In some of our early stuff, I didn’t care about doing ‘now it is time to change to this riff or another and go here with it.’ It was more of a standard approach. This time I kinda said ‘Just go where you want and forget about the end result.’”
Consequently, Waters says the new album will have “more of an Alice in Hell and Never, Neverland vibe.”
As Jeff rounds the last corner to the completion of the album, it is apparently he is excited for a few things – and not just because his band will be touring across Canada for the first time in decades (their previous appearance at Calgary Metal Fest was the band’s first show in Calgary since 1993). In fact, he’s really excited to listen to the newest offerings by Testament, Overkill, and Metallica.
“I swore as I was writing this album I wasn’t going to listen to [them,” he explains. “Because the first thing that is going to happen to me…. [is] when it is time for me to write [the] Annihilator CD, my album is going to be completely subconsciously a rip-off of all of those. I intentionally shut out new bands, old bands, and my favourite bands.”
He finishes, “The first thing I am going to do when this is all over is get in my car, buy the physical copies of the album and crank the shit out of those mother fuckers!“
Annihilator perform June 15 at the Rickshaw Theatre (Vancouver), June 16 at Dickens (Calgary), June 17 at the Starlite Room (Edmonton), June 18 at the Saskatoon Event Centre (Saskatoon), and June 19 at the Exchange (Regina).Annihilator, Dickens, Rickshaw Theatre, Saskatoon Event Centre, Starlite Room, The Exchange