Carnival Diablos


Metal-Is Records, 2001

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Pity poor Jeff Waters. Every time he thinks he's got a stable lineup for his band Annihilator, something comes up to throw a wrench in the works. Even enjoying success with Criteria For A Black Widow, which featured the reunited lineup - including original vocalist Randy Rampage, could not break Waters's bad luck streak. Rampage ended up being booted off the tour and out of the band, allegedly for erratic behavior.

Sigh - once again, the revolving door of musicians in Annihilator was spinning... and in came Joe Comeau, formerly of Annihilator's labelmates Overkill. The result, Carnival Diablos, has some stellar moments, but does show the band being thrust back into an aura of tentativeness at times. I mean, is it a bad sign that the most notable song after my first listen was the afterthought toss-off "Chicken & Corn," tacked onto the end of "Hunter Killer" as a bonus?my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Comeau might have been best-known as one of Overkill's guitarists, but he proves he's just as capable behind the microphone. Sounding like a cross between Cowboys From Hell-era Phil Anselmo and Udo Dirkschneider, his is a different presence than some listeners might have been used to, at least coming from Annihilator, but it is not unpleasant in the least. After just the first song, "Denied," I began to sit back and think, "You know, Waters just might have pulled this off."

Uh, not quite. At times, it feels like Waters and his bandmates don't know just how to add the right missing ingredient to a few songs. "The Perfect Virus" definitely needed some work on the chorus, while "TIme Bomb" opened with a brief spoken-word that made me think I was listening to the treatment for the next Schwarzenegger movie. A few other tracks fall into this "close but not quite" trap, like "The Rush" and "Insomniac".

But not all is lost for Annihilator on Carnival Diablos - something which is only borne out on repeat listens. I don't think the real positives hit me until the third time through the stereo. Both the title track and "Shallow Grave" sound like a return to form for Annihilator, while the instrumental "Liquid Oval" challenges you to think outside the box and change your definition of what heavy metal can be. (If only the disc had ended so strongly; "Epic Of War" and "Hunter Killer" both are not the strongest tracks on the disc, and sent me off with a bit of emotional letdown.)

The challenge, of course, is not for Waters to hold this version of the band together to do a second album; the challenge is for Waters to consistently write material which is strong enough to kick Jean-Claude Van Damme's ass yet with a hook or two that could even suck in the casual listener. He knows how to do this; there's never been any question of that. But Carnival Diablos does hint that a little more polishing of those skills might be needed.

Rating: C+

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© 2001 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Metal-Is Records, and is used for informational purposes only.