Jeff Waters and company rebound nicely once again from the second controversial departure of vocalist Randy Rampage. “Criteria For A Black Widow” was solid, personal release (for Waters) and “Carnival Diablos” may be the finest effort of Annihilator’s career.
Enlisting in former Liege Lord vocalist Joe Comeau proves beneficial in replacing Rampage. Comeau’s vocals on the lead track “Denied” hint slightly at his past and bear a striking resemblence to those of Perry McCarthy of Warrior.
“The Perfect Virus” has the machine guns riffs much like Pantera and actually makes good use of a distorted vocal. “Battered” is an all out assault that would please Overkill and Slayer fans with a very cool time change into the guitar solo. The title track “Carnival Diablos” is a beautifully structured composition that highlights the assets of all the players involved. “Shallow Grave” would sound right at home on an Accept (vocally) or AC/DC (musically) record with Waters paying homage to his Australian heroes. At first, I thought Savatage vocalist Jon Oliva was a guest vocalist on “Time Bomb”. Later in the track, Comeau unleashes sonic, high pitched wails similar to Rob Halford.
Throughout the release, the guitars of Waters and Dave Scott Davis are aggressive and thick with the solos displaying an attitude all their own. Especially impressive the killer shredding on the track “Insomniac”. “Epic Of War” comes off like a missing Iron Maiden track from the bass/guitar gallop to Comeau’s Dickinson-like assault on the lyrics. After the final track “Hunter Killer” hang around for a hidden food-related track.
Annihilator has recorded the nearly impossible merger of millenium metal with a tip of the guitar to the past metal soldiers without sounding dated or contrived. Hopefully, the partnership of Jeff Waters and Joe Comeau will last for many more releases. The compositions are well structured and should satisfy the toughest critics palette.