Criteria For A Black Widow


CMC International Records, 2000

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


My previous experience with the Canadian heavy metal band Annihilator has been brief. I remember when their album Alice In Hell came out, and that the metal DJs at the radio station I worked at absolutely freaked over the disc. About two years later, I came across a used copy of the record, plunked down my money... and wasn't as impressed.

Fast forward to 2000. Our hero (now older and wiser) receives Criteria For A Black Widow, Annihilator's latest disc, in the mail. The disc is groundbreaking in that it's not only a reunion of most of the original band, but it's Jeff Waters and crew's first release in the States in over five years. Most importantly, it left me wondering why Annihilator never made it to the upper echelon of the metal world.

Annihilator could be rightfully compared to bands such as Overkill and Testament, groups who aren't afraid to break from normal rhythm patterns to make a point in their music. Annihilator - guitarist/vocalist Waters, vocalist Randy Rampage, guitarist Dave Scott Davis, bassist Russell Bergquist and drummer Ray Hartmann - is no exception to this, though I also would dare to say that you can hear a bit of modern-day Megadeth in their sound as well.

Criteria For A Black Widow seems to try and tie up some loose ends with songs like "Back To The Palace" - suggesting there were some recurring themes from albums like my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Alice In Hell and Never Neverland laying around. In a way, I don't know if this was the best move for Annihilator, but at least they get these flashbacks out of the way quickly and continue to look into the future. (Those paying close attention to detail will note that "Schizos (Are Never Left Alone) Part III" also could fall in the "flashback" category, but it's such a powerful instrumental that I'd argue it holds its own very well.)

Musically, Annihilator are just as brutally melodic as some of the older-school metalheads will remember them to be. Tracks like "Punctured," "Bloodbath" and "Loving The Sinner" all make it sound like the band has been putting out this kind of quality material all along with the same line-up. And while it may have been some time since some of the members performed with each other, there is a tightness to the music that suggests otherwise - and makes you wonder what ever happened to cause rifts in the first place. For the band's sake, here's hoping this lineup stays together for some time.

The only weakness with Criteria For A Black Widow is that the pattern starts to fray near the end. "Double Dare" doesn't seem to be of the same mold as the more solid songs on the disc, while "Mending" doesn't do much to separate itself from its albummates. Some may question the inclusion of a second version of "Loving The Sinner" featuring Waters on vocals, but as Waters explains, he wanted this bonus track to give the listener an idea of how the song developed.

The final ten minutes or so features Waters talking to the fans explaining how Criteria For A Black Widow came to be, as well as a track-by-track explanation of the album. Waters is able to make this engrossing, and one almost wishes that this special inclusion had been longer. In fact, Waters comes off sounding like someone you could easily sit down and have a beer with.

Criteria For A Black Widow is the kind of album that should please the long-standing fans of Annihilator as well as win them a whole new legion of fans. There is very little rust contained within this disc, and even the one or two weak moments are covered by strong songwriting and performances. This is the kind of disc that makes you wish that you had the band's entire backcatalog crammed into your multi-disc player. Criteria For A Black Widow is a return to form, as well as to the music bins, for Annihilator, and is welcomed with open arms.

2000 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 CMC International Records, and is used for information purposes only.

Rating: B+

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© 2000 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 CMC International Records, and is used for informational purposes only.