Annihilator - LIVE: Islington Academy, London 2015

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Europe In The Blood Tour
October 4 (21:15 - 22:50)
Capacity 800

It's been a little while since Annihilator have undertaken a headlining tour of Europe, preferring a few festival appearances for each of the last two Summers, plus the significant issue of recovering from the departure of vocalist/guitarist Dave Padden. The time away, trepidation over band leader Jeff Waters re-taking the microphone, and the unusual situation of three heavy metal shows happening in London on the same night (Paradise Lost at The Forum and Xentrix at The Underworld), put a few extra doubts over attendance for their return to the capital.

In the end, by the time Annihilator came on, the crowd was only fractionally smaller than the last time they played the same venue, so they fared reasonably well in what could have been a difficult situation. Brilliant Australian thrashers Harlott, despite dropping several less-than-subtle hints that this tour was not financially beneficial for them, easily edged Canadians Archer in the performance and material stakes, although both bands received a strong reception from the crowd, who were no doubt pleased to have a thrash undercard with Annihilator this time around.

Any fears over Waters' vocal abilities should have mostly been allayed when the excellent new album Suicide Society arrived in September as Jeff showed that he's really stepped up in that regard, leaving only the question of how he'd manage with songs written for other singers. As for the band, only drummer Mike Harshaw remained from the last time Annihilator came to the UK, and although Suicide Society heralded the return of former bassist Cam Dixon, he didn't actually make it onto this tour, with Aeon Zen's Rich Hinks stepping in at short notice alongside new guitarist Aaron Homma.

After taking far too long to come on (using the entire Rock You Like A Hurricane by Scorpions as an intro tape) Annihilator opened with King of The Kill, one of the few songs over which Waters has been retaining lead vocal duties at live shows anyway, and three tracks from Suicide Society, allowing Waters to get into the groove of the show quickly by starting in safe territory. Longer-term fans will however have immediately noticed how much better his singing on King of The Kill was compared to before. It was a good early sign that he had carried his greatly improved voice over from the new material to the old very successfully. The new band sounded tight immediately as well, and with good sound conditions in the Academy, this was all a good sign.

And so it continued. Waters ably tackled his first Padden-fronted song No Way Out, before dipping back into classics Set The World On Fire, W.T.Y.D., and the ever-popular Never, Neverland, all handled brilliantly, before plucking some extra songs Waters sang in the first place out of obscurity. Homma proved to be an excellent guitar foil, and Hinks looked exceptionally comfortable playing thrash. Strangely, for the second tour running, The Fun Palace was conspicuous by its absence from the setlist, but they made up for it with a superb Brain Dance, bringing back Phantasmagoria, rare song Tricks And Traps, Second To None and a slightly disjointed medley of comedy songs Chicken And Corn and Kraf Dinner, plus a little of 21 and Reduced To Ash.

A couple of planned songs were dropped, including the rarely played Ultraparanoia, another old one originally sung by Waters, and Alison Hell was moved from its planned place before the medley to the end of the set in place of Human Insecticide, which is probably something they should do permanently as its the perfect closer.

Annihilator fans should have no fears over the new make-up of the band. As always Jeff has assembled a tight group of players around him, and has stepped up his vocal game immensely. Dave Padden was a big part of the band's sound for the last ten years, but the band have moved on in the best way possible and are sounding as good as ever.

“ greatly improved voice ”

Setlist: King of The Kill / Snap / Suicide Society / Creepin' Again / No Way Out / Set The World On Fire / W.T.Y.D. / Never, Neverland / Tricks And Traps / Bliss / Second To None / Refresh The Demon / Drum Solo / Brain Dance / Phantasmagoria / Chicken And Corn / Kraf Dinner/21/Reduced To Ash / Alison Hell

Photo(s): Andy Lye

Written by Andy Lye
More: 2015, Gigs, Thrash Metal,

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