After a long and fun collaboration, Dave Padden says goodbye to Jeff Waters and ANNIHILATOR. Padden moves on, reportedly having grown tired of touring and being away from his family and obligations. Whether you were a fan of Padden or not, he will be greatly missed, as he was effective in keeping ANNIHILATOR afloat with his dynamic (and sporadically looney) vocals and rhythm guitar. Padden and Waters delivered four quality albums in this eleven-year span together: “All for You” , “Schizo Deluxe”, “Metal” and “Feast” . All were entertaining slabs of thrash and power metal yielding a few quirky experiments. Yet even the out-of-nowhere pop ballads were easy to digest, subjectively speaking, due to Dave Padden’s malleability.
As he did on “King of the Kill” , “Refresh the Demon” and “Remains”, Waters takes on vocal duties in addition to laying down all the guitar and bass tracks, as well as production and mastering for the band’s fifteenth album, “Suicide Society”. Mike Hershaw returns on drums, while the live faction of ANNIHILATOR finds Cam Dixon returning on bass, he’d played here before from 1994 to ‘95, and a new second guitarist, Aaron Homma.
The good news about “Suicide Society” is that Jeff Waters, as ever, knows what he’s doing. While most masterminded projects suffer from mixing issues and/or too many ideas swarming without proper glue, Waters is a production maestro. Thus, the new album is professionally written, mixed and assembled. Business as usual in that respect, also in the fact that “Suicide Society” is damned good and frequently awesome.
As the title track opens the album, the mid-tempo jive leaves a slight question mark as to the direction Jeff Waters intends “Suicide Society” to take. His vocal performance is just fine as he tends to hit somewhere between Chris Caffery and Dave Mustaine. A thrash burst toward the end of “Suicide Society” should give ANNIHILATOR fans cause to exhale as the next song, “My Revenge”, is a straightforward speed demon. The thing with “My Revenge”, however, is parts of it are written and delivered a bit too close to METALLICA’s “Damage, Inc.” Those are similar plots of brisk, fret-ripping chords until Waters dumps in a whirligig progression in the middle of the track. Jeff Waters even mimics James Hetfield’s snarling enunciations as he does on the album’s finale, “Every Minute” . To the plus, it never grows old hearing Waters scale his guitar and bass like a madman amidst Mike Hershaw’s capable double hammers. His outro solo on “My Revenge” is freaking sick.
Proving it wasn’t just Dave Padden pushing ANNIHILATOR to write crisp, accessible tunes, Jeff Waters summons some of his best-ever vocals on the marching melodic rocker, “Snap”. There’s a dormant thunder rumbling behind the elevating choruses and an agreeable shake to the snazzy, bass-led verses and “Snap” becomes a modest but contagious sing-along. Though it goes on for nearly six minutes and it’s far heavier, “The One You Serve” has a ton of swaying verve. For the record, “Every Minute” is a quasi-ballad, perhaps dropped by Waters as a bow of gratitude to Padden.
Fans of Waters’s trickier progressions will be satisfied with the busy-as-hell “Creepin’ Again”, a song that does very little of that—save to set up the havoc-flung verses and choruses. Waters’s sinister cackling on the fadeout is amusing as he keeps the gas pedal slammed on the manic “Narcotic Avenue”. Waters does a sharp job blending his growls, higher pitched than Dave Padden’s, with congenial cleans on the few places “Narcotic Avenue” catches its own breath. Otherwise, Waters is relentless in how he tailors the song; he expertly shifts his parts and tempos where it would all be way too much if crammed by lesser-skilled performers. The skidding, dreamy outro of “Narcotic Avenue” conveys a purposeful drowse after all of the chaos preceding it, and one has to applaud his brilliant arrangement. Ditto for the encompassing “Death Scent”, which chugs and plows for much of the ride, yet gives way to a grand center section that sounds like an entire ensemble instead of one man’s dexterous layering.
He’s been criticized as often as praised as a lone-wolf architect operating under a banner some people think should’ve been retired after “Never Neverland”. Call Jeff Waters a maverick boss man or a metal god; he’s a specialist of his craft and a master at fending off adversity. No matter what gets in his way or leaves him presiding over a sporadically empty court, Waters remains one of the greatest metal performers the genre has ever seen. “Suicide Society” is further proof that this guy is superhuman.