Annihilator: Birmingham 02 Academy
A rare appearance on UK shores from Canadian old school thrash merchants Annihilator was sufficient to whet the appetite of six of the Musipedia crew back in June when their five dates were announced and eventually the date arrived.
Arriving at the air conditioned (and rather chilly) smaller 02 Two venue shortly after 8pm it was surprising to see a very sparse crowd gathered. We missed the first support band (sorry Harlot but getting to Brum on a work night is always a challenge) and quickly wished we missed the second lot too. As a few more bodies drifted into a pretty subdued atmosphere, there was the farcical sight of Santa Cruz thrash outfit Archer (5) sound checking, hiding behind the amps and then stomping out to their stirring intro music. Unfortunately the stirring music fizzled out there and then and we were treated (if that is the right word) to 40 minutes of pretty tepid thrash. Now, these guys can play their instruments, and I hate being negative because they get up and give it some but the bottom line is that their songs were just average. A few tracks from their new release Culling The Masses and a few tasty guitar solos from Zakk Wylde wannabe Dylan Rose was about all I can remember. Oh yes, a minor and very pointless bass solo from Derek Smalls, sorry David De Silva and a bland cover of Megadeth’s Tornado Of Souls too. If you are playing in Birmingham, you really don’t have to tell the crowd that you are at the home of heavy metal. We get the picture. Oh, and a final comment … stop saying “fucking A” six times in a row. It just makes you look limited. Sorry.
A good 40 minute wait, and the venue had swollen to maybe 250 hardy souls by the time Rock You Like A Hurricane blasted out of the PA. Yep, Annihilator (7) let the whole bloody song play out before hitting the stage. Yawn. Anyway, this being the first night of their European tour, I suppose it is expected that there will be the odd technical hitch. And so it proved, with some very ponderous change overs during the lengthy set. Opening with King Of The Kill, remaining original member Jeff Waters shredded and gurned for Canada whilst his assembled musicians for hire did a sterling job alongside him. It is no secret that Annihilator have an almost revolving door policy with band members joining and leaving at a rate of knots. Still, as Matt noted, the multi-talented Rich Hinks from Aeon Zen was pulling excellent base duties whilst Aaron Homma delivered solid support on rhythm guitar and wind milling.
What is it about Canadian rockers? Just like his fellow countryman Devin Townsend, Jeff Waters is absolutely bonkers with insane ramblings between songs and after a while you can clearly see why Annihilator’s songs are a little bit chaotic – take Brain Dance as an absolute concrete example of an absolute nut job of a tune. Putting aside the clunky change overs, Annihilator demonstrated how far bands like Archer have to go in terms of both quality and delivery. Finely tuned and cohesive, the band cruised through an eclectic set which went on for ages. Getting the new stuff out of the way before playing “the old shit” is an interesting ethos when you are touring to promote your 15th album but that’s what Mr Waters said. So after blasting through Suicide Society and Creepin’ Again it was time for heads down thrash with Set The World On Fire and finally, the first pit of the night as W.T.Y.D received a warm reception as Waters showed that he can riff and shred with the best of them.
And then we had to have it. A fucking drum solo, all seven minutes of tub thumping from Mike Harshaw. Canadians and drum solos eh? Who’d have thunk it? Ironically, having started relatively late and bloated the bill with two support bands, Jeff then stated that the band had six more tracks to play but had to cut it to two. A quick straw poll resulted in some violent pit action for Alison Hell (and I mean violent with punches thrown in earnest) before set closer Phantasamagoria. 11:20pm and we headed for the cars and a two hour drive home. I'm no party pooper (although a good night for me most days is getting into bed by 10pm) but if you want to play a two hour set, drop a support band, start earlier or at least kick the bleeding drum solo into the long grass. A decent night out although I won’t be rushing to see them in a hurry if it means having to travel across the country mid-week again