There’s an age old question about what is metal and what albums define the music. The usual responses throw up titles like Slayer‘s “Reign in Blood”, Judas Priest‘s “Painkiller”, Pantera‘s “Vulgar Display of Power” and, more recently, Megadeth‘s “Endgame” as albums that you could play to somebody who has no clue as to what metal is and they would give an instantaneous example of metal in its purest form. Well, there’s another title to add to that list and it goes by the name of “Feast”, the fourteenth studio album by Canadian thrash veterans Annihilator.
Originally released in 2013, “Feast” consists of nine tracks of the kind of no-frills metal that immediately perks the ears up with its directness, a bone-dry production stripping those mighty riffs down to their most punchy and potent. Tracks like the full-throttle ‘No Way Out’ and the weighty ‘Smear Campaign’ recall the classic late-80s thrash era but without the irony of Municipal Waste or any other ‘retro’ metal bands trying (desperately in some cases) to evoke something they grew up listening to but weren’t a part of. Annihilator were a part of it and the material on “Feast” sounds as vital and relevant as anything you care to name from the height of thrash metal, and also as brutal and energised as any recent output from peers like Testament or Overkill. It also goes without saying that this also shits on anything that the Big Four have put out in at least two decades, including “Endgame” and “Worship Music”.
Not every song is a bona-fide belter, as the ballad ‘Perfect Angel Eyes’ proves by feeling completely out of place amongst the attack of all the other songs, but one song that doesn’t quite hit the spot on an album isn’t bad going. The final part of the album doesn’t slouch either, with the excellent ‘Demon Code’ bringing Trivium to mind with some pacey thrash drumming and sweeping runs up and down the fretboard… and then you remember that Annihilator mainman Jeff Waters was doing this kind of thing before Matt Heafy was even an idea, thus hammering home where this kind of music came from.
But this being a reissue, there are a few bonus goodies thrown in. Not content with giving you a spanking new album full of modern metal excellence there is also a bonus disc entitled “RE-Kill”, containing fifteen – count them if you like – re-recorded Annihilator classics. Now, before all you purists put your head in your hands and weep those metal tears at the thought of those classic anthems redone without the energy and spark of previous line-ups, remember that Annihilator have never actually had a solid line-up so it isn’t quite the same thing as, say, Slayer going and re-recording all of their 80s albums with new members. Vocalist/guitarist Dave Padden has been with the band since 2003, and bassist Alberto Campuzano and drummer Mike Harshaw are quite possibly one of the tightest rhythm sections around at the moment, so with a new generation of younger fans latching onto the band a ‘best of’ recorded by the current – and probably best – line-up of the band makes some sort of sense, and at the end of the day, hearing greats like ‘Alison Hell’ and ‘Set the World on Fire’ with a crunching, modern production job really is quite a delicious prospect.
But that isn’t all, as there is also a bonus DVD featuring the video for ‘No Way Out’ plus the band’s show-opening performance at Wacken Open Air last year, proving that they can whip up a perfectly performed metal frenzy on a festival stage as well. As if that wasn’t enough, these three discs come housed in special Ecobook packaging with an awesome 3D cover that expands on the zombie theme of the original album’s artwork, so it goes without saying that if you like ‘proper’ metal, live DVD’s and zombies then “Feast” is pretty much an essential purchase that’ll give you hours (well, at least three) of total metallic pleasure.