Annihilator is a Canadian thrash metal band founded in Ottawa in 1984 by guitarist Jeff Waters and vocalist John Bates. They are the highest-selling Canadian thrash metal group in history, having sold more than three million albums worldwide, although most of their sales have been generated outside the band’s home country. Along with Sacrifice, Voivod and Razor, Annihilator is credited as one of the “big four” of Canadian thrash metal. They are also considered to be part of the second wave of thrash metal bands from the late 1980s and early 1990s, along with Sepultura, Sacred Reich, Flotsam and Jetsam and Dark Angel as well as Bay Area thrash metal acts Testament, Forbidden, Death Angel and Vio-lence.
Since its inception, Annihilator has released seventeen studio albums and has undergone many line-up changes. Waters is the only remaining original member left in the band, and usually assembles touring or session musicians to perform with him. Annihilator’s first two studio albums — Alice in Hell (1989) and Never, Neverland (1990) — are considered to be influential Canadian heavy metal records. Many of their later albums — including their third, and only major-label, album Set the World on Fire (1993) — also received high praise from critics, and enjoyed some success in Europe and Japan. Their recent studio album, Ballistic, Sadistic, was released on January 24, 2020.
Early career (1984–1988)
Annihilator was formed in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada by Jeff Waters and John Bates in 1984. Waters later wrote on his Facebook page that he named the band after the tank that Eddie Murphy‘s character rode on in the 1984 film Best Defense. Waters and singer Bates wrote and recorded the song Annihilator (not to be confused with the song of the same name released on the 1994 album, King of the Kill). This original version of “Annihilator” was released on the special edition of the 2005 album Schizo Deluxe.
Waters and Bates then recruited drummer Paul Malek and bassist Dave Scott. This lineup lasted a year, producing a demo titled “Welcome To Your Death” during their time together. The demo received worldwide recognition and became highly sought after. After John Bates and Dave Scott left the band before its release, citing “artistic differences” and “personality conflicts”, Jeff Waters and drummer Paul Malek recorded another successful demo titled Phantasmagoria in 1986. This was said to be the third most-traded metal cassette tape in the 1980s, behind Metallica and Megadeth’s demo tapes. Some songs written at this time, by Jeff Waters and John Bates, ended up on Annihilator’s first two official studio albums (Alice In Hell and Never, Neverland).
A third demo was recorded by Waters and Malek in 1987 and was sent only to labels. It included more songs that would end up on the first two Annihilator studio albums. Waters relocated to Vancouver in 1987, where he assembled an entire line-up, including drummer Ray Hartmann and former D.O.A. bassist Randy Rampage on vocals. In 1988 and 1989, Waters was in and out of a recording studio recording guitar and bass tracks and producing what would become the band’s debut album. Once the album was finished, he hired bassist Wayne Darley and guitarist Anthony Greenham.
Rise to fame (1989–1993)
Annihilator gained more recognition in the metal community with the release of their debut album, Alice in Hell, in 1989. The band embarked on their first world tour, opening up for Onslaught in Europe on their In Search of Sanity tour, and along with Wrathchild America, they supported Testament in the United States and Canada on the latter’s Practice What You Preach tour. The band also opened for Exodus and Metal Church. After the tour to support Alice in Hell ended in December 1989, frontman Randy Rampage left Annihilator to retain his seniority at a job on the shipping docks in North Vancouver.
Without a singer, Jeff Waters found ex-Omen singer Coburn Pharr and the band released their second album, Never, Neverland, in 1990. The album’s sales surpassed Alice in Hell, becoming the band’s only album to chart in the UK at No. 48. Annihilator spent half a year touring with such bands as Reverend, Pantera and Xentrix, and opened for Judas Priest on the latter’s Painkiller tour in Europe. After the Never, Neverland tour ended in the spring of 1991, Hartmann and Pharr left the band and were replaced by Mike Mangini (though the band would find a more permanent replacement in Randy Black) and Aaron Randall, respectively. The band was signed to Sony USA by this point.
The band’s third studio album, Set the World on Fire, distributed by Epic Records, was released in 1993 and was successful in Europe and Asia, but did poorly in the United States. It saw Annihilator drastically change the sound of their music, toning down the speed and thrash elements of its predecessors in favor of a more radio friendly sound. Bassist Wayne Darley had to leave the band in August 1993 as he was unable to enter Japan, where the band was touring in support of the album. Annihilator was among the many metal bands dropped by Roadrunner Records (and most other labels) that year. Nonetheless, the band embarked on extensive tours to promote Set the World on Fire, touring in Europe with Coroner and in North America with Lillian Axe, and appearing at the Dynamo Open Air festival in the Netherlands.
Brief hiatus and later years (1994–2002)
Annihilator temporarily dissolved, but Jeff Waters kept the band name going when he, along with drummer Randy Black, recorded and released King of the Kill in 1994. This album was more of a solo album for Waters, as it featured himself performing all instruments and writing most of the album’s material apart from playing the drum tracks, which were recorded by Randy Black. Musically and lyrically, King of the Kill was a considerable improvement from Set the World on Fire, which not only saw the band return to the thrashier sound of their first two albums, but saw them lean towards a groove-oriented vein. Bassist Cam Dixon later joined the band followed by Lou Bujdoso from Meatwagon who went on to tour and perform during the King of the Kill and Refresh the Demon tours. Jeff Waters continued performing lead vocals until 1997. The band released Refresh the Demon, which was, for the most part, a return to the speed and technicality of the band’s earlier days, in 1996 and Remains, a more industrial metal-oriented album which turned out to be the biggest flop of the band’s career, in 1997.
By the time Remains was being recorded, Waters was the sole remaining band member. The album featured an electric drum machine (programmed by Jeff Waters) and there was no tour in support of it. At the time of its recording, Waters was going through a rough divorce and a custody battle for his children which helped lead to Annihilator’s hiatus.
Inspired after seeing Slayer perform in Vancouver in the summer of 1998, Waters decided to reunite the Alice in Hell line-up to record another album. All members apart from Wayne Darley, who had health problems, agreed to reunite. Bassist Russ Bergquist joined the band in Darley’s place. This lineup released Criteria for a Black Widow and toured successfully. However, Rampage was fired following the tour for his erratic and often drunken behaviour. Then-Overkill guitarist and former Liege Lord frontman Joe Comeau requested to replace him during the tour, while Curran Murphy replaced Davis on guitar and Randy Black rejoined on drums.
During the early 2000s, Annihilator released the albums Carnival Diablos (2001) and Waking the Fury (2002), both very critically successful. After considerable success, the band’s lineup once again dissolved.
The Dave Padden era (2003–2013)
Following years of line-up changes, Jeff Waters decided to work with a touring-only lineup so he recruited Dave Padden as a permanent vocalist/rhythm guitarist, while Waters recruited touring bassists and drummers. Annihilator’s first two albums in this three-man band format as Waters played both bass and guitar, with Padden on vocals and a hired drummer were All for You (2004) and Schizo Deluxe (2005). Mike Mangini rejoined for the former album in 2004 and Tony Chappelle was hired for the latter’s recording in 2005.
In 2007, Annihilator released their twelfth album Metal. It features several guest performers, such as Corey Beaulieu (Trivium), Willie Adler (Lamb of God) and Jeff Loomis (Nevermore). The band’s self-titled thirteenth album was released in 2010, coming to be in a more modern thrash metal-styled sound.
Annihilator returned to Canada for two live shows, making it the first time since 1993 that the band had played live in North America. On July 10, 2011, Annihilator headlined the Quebec City Imperial Theatre to a sold-out crowd. They played the main stage (along with KISS and Motörhead) on July 24, 2011 at Montreal’s Heavy MTL Festival.
Departure of Dave Padden and Suicide Society (2014–2016)
In the summer of 2014, Oscar Rangel replaced Al Campuzano, their bassist since 2010. Jeff Waters said on his Facebook that he had actually contacted Wayne Darley, the band’s bassist from the classic early 1990s lineup, about having him rejoin, although once again he declined, in Jeff’s words “Wayne wanted to do it but couldn’t … personal reasons.” The band has continued their touring cycle since then.
Dave Padden left the band sometime in December 2014 via a phone call to Jeff Waters, informing him of his desire to step away from the constant touring in order to spend more time with his family. Waters unsuccessfully attempted to persuade Padden to remain in the band, offering him a pay rise. He later admitted in a German radio interview to being emotionally shaken by the departure. After a number of weeks searching for a replacement vocalist, Waters decided that he would handle vocals himself once again, in addition to doing everything but play drums in the studio. Padden’s departure was not made public until six months later, in June 2015, when Waters made an announcement on Annihilator’s Facebook page, but attaching a YouTube link directly below of audio snippets from various songs on the band’s then-upcoming album, Suicide Society.
Never, Neverland singer, Coburn Pharr surprised audiences when he returned for a short time on 70000 Tons of Metal concert in January 2015. Pharr performed the songs Reduced to Ash, The Fun Palace, I Am In Command, Road to Ruin and Stonewall.
By April 2015, Annihilator had begun work on their fifteenth studio album. Waters stated that the album’s musical direction would be “something quite different.” The album, titled Suicide Society, was released on September 18, 2015.
Drummer Mike Harshaw announced via his Facebook page in May 2016 that he had parted ways with Annihilator amicably after four years in order to spend more time with his family as well as to pursue other musical interests as he continued work with his own band, Prismind. Fabio Alessandrini joined Annihilator shortly thereafter.
In September 2016, Annihilator played Calgary Metalfest alongside fellow Canadian speed/thrash metal pioneers Exciter, Razor, Sacrifice and a local band Gatekrashör.
In late November 2016, the band announced a compilation album, entitled Triple Threat, which was released through UDR Records on January 27, 2017. The album consists of three discs, including one containing Annihilator’s Jeff Waters, Aaron Homma, and Rich Gray (formerly Hinks) along with other artists playing an acoustic set of the band’s most well-known ballads and acoustic songs, all done in single takes. The second and third discs were released as Blu-ray DVDs, one containing Annihilator’s full set at Bang Your Head Festival in Germany, and the other containing a documentary profiling the band’s extensive career.
For the Demented and Ballistic, Sadistic (2017–present)
By the end of 2016, Annihilator had begun working on their sixteenth studio album. Waters stated, “On the next one, the changes I’m gonna make… I only said two things. I’ve got all these people telling me, ‘You’ve gotta go back to this album,’ or that album, or that album, or that album. ‘You’ve gotta do this,’ ‘You’ve gotta do that.’ So what I do is I block it out. But I’ve decided that I’m going to not worry about catchy, commercial choruses — ‘commercial,’ as in you remember it, where you intentionally make that chorus the most important part of the song and you want people to remember that one every time. That kind of is the opposite of what I used to do in the earlier days. In the earlier days, I would go, ‘I don’t care about the chorus being the main part; I want the whole song to be cool.’ So therefore the choruses were not as commercial or catchy. And they remained heavy back then; the choruses would end up being heavy. Whereas on my Suicide Society record I just did, you could have a heavy song, but then you hit the chorus and you go, ‘Woah, that’s pretty mainstream stuff in the choruses.’ And the other thing was, since I’m such a fan of so many bands, I let myself go a little bit on the last album with being too blatantly obvious with my influences and my musical loves as a fan. So you really heard a song that had a lot of the Master of Puppets era of music from Metallica, and you really heard a Megadeth-y song on there, and you really heard in my vocals some Hetfield and Mustaine-isms. And I think that was great, as a fan, to get it out, but I think I need to do more of my own thing on the next record.”
In February 2017, Jeff Waters said that the sixteenth Annihilator studio album was being co-produced and co-engineered by bassist Rich Gray, making it the “first time I’ve actually had somebody else in the studio since 1990 (Never, Neverland) working with me on stuff.” On September 12, 2017, it was announced that the album, now titled For the Demented, would be released on November 3; more details on the album, including track listing and artwork, and the music video for “Twisted Lobotomy” were released on the same day. In support of For the Demented, Annihilator (along with Death Angel) opened for Testament on the European Brotherhood of the Snake tour, which took place in November and December 2017. The band toured Europe twice in 2018; first with Testament and Vader in March and April, and toured there again from October to December.
In September 2018, Waters reported that Annihilator would release their seventeenth studio album in 2019. He later confirmed that it would be released in January 2020. On October 10, 2019, Annihilator released “I Am Warfare” as the lead single of the album, now titled Ballistic, Sadistic, which was released on January 24, 2020.
Annihilator is currently writing new material for their next album, which is expected for release in 2022.
|Dave Scott||Bass (1984-1985)|
|See also: ex-Ligeia|
|Paul Malek||Drums (1984-1985)|
|See also: ex-Ivory Knight|
|John Bates||Vocals (1984-1985)|
|See also: ex-Bates Motel, ex-Ligeia, ex-Big John Bates & the Voodoo Dollz|
|Richard Death||Drums (1985)|
|Ray Hartmann||Drums (1987-1992, 1999-2001)|
|See also: Random Damage, ex-Assault, ex-Nemesis, ex-Speeed, ex-Stress Factor 9, ex-Live She Cries|
|Dennis Dubeau||Vocals (1987-1988)|
|Anthony Greenham||Guitars (1988-1990)|
|See also: ex-Stress Factor 9, ex-Dirty Rhythm|
|K.C. Toews||Guitars (rhythm) (1988)|
|Randy Rampage||Vocals (1988-1989, 1999-2000)|
|(R.I.P. 2018) See also: ex-Requiem, ex-Iron Gypsy, ex-Stress Factor 9, ex-D.O.A., ex-Fake It Big Time, ex-Ground Zero, ex-Rampage, ex-Riff Raff, ex-The 45s|
|Wayne Darley||Bass (1989-1993)|
|See also: ex-Agent, ex-Messenger, ex-Raid, ex-White Hot|
|Dave Scott Davis||Guitars (1989-1990, 1993-2001)|
|See also: ex-Meatwagon|
|Coburn Pharr||Vocals (1989-1992)|
|See also: ex-Prisoner, ex-Omen|
|Aaron Randall||Vocals (1992-1994)|
|See also: ex-Speeed, ex-Randall Frost Project, ex-Wreck-Defy|
|Mike Mangini||Drums (1993, 2004-2005, 2007)|
|See also: Dream Theater, John Petrucci (live), ex-Mullmuzzler, ex-James LaBrie, ex-Stygia, ex-Extreme, ex-Steve Vai|
|Randy Black||Drums (1993-1996, 2001-2003)|
|See also: Destruction, Duskmachine, Level 10, ex-Deception, ex-Primal Fear, ex-Rebellion, ex-W.A.S.P. (live)|
|Neil Goldberg||Guitars (1993)|
|Cam Dixon||Bass (1994-1995, 2015)|
|See also: Magnetic, ex-Metalist|
|Lou Bujdoso||Bass (1996)|
|See also: ex-Meatwagon|
|Russell Bergquist||Bass (1999-2003, 2005-2007)|
|See also: Duskmachine, Lalu, White Wolf (live), ex-Freaks by Nature, The Thick of It, Touch the Sun, ex-Don Wolf|
|Joe Comeau||Vocals (2000-2003)|
|See also: Duskmachine, Liege Lord, ex-Ramrod, ex-Overkill, ex-Tad Morose, ex-Tyrant, ex-Warhead|
|Curran Murphy||Guitars (2002-2005)|
|See also: Shatter Messiah, ex-Faustus, ex-H.A.T.E., ex-Sunless Sky, ex-Aggression Core, ex-Nevermore (live)|
|Dave Padden||Vocals, Guitars (rhythm) (2003-2014)|
|See also: Third Ion, ex-Silent Strain|
|Sandor de Bretan||Bass (2004)|
|See also: Sudden Thunder|
|Robert Falzano||Drums (2004-2005, 2005-2007)|
|See also: Shatter Messiah, Tenebrae, ex-Fires of Babylon, ex-Hellspeak (live), Blood for Blood, Ramallah, Sinners & Saints, ex-Alientropy, ex-Blind Billy and the Spectacles, ex-Brittany Gray, ex-Dr. Humble, ex-Ebenezer Blood, ex-Legacy Uprising, ex-Liquid Nerve, ex-Monkey Pox, ex-Mortifera (USA), ex-Room 237, ex-The Orphans of Chaos|
|Tony Chappelle||Drums (2005)|
|Alex Landenburg||Drums (2007-2008)|
|See also: Angels Cry, CyHra, Kamelot, Light & Shade, Mekong Delta, Starchild, Universal Mind Project, Timo Tolkki (live), ex-Broken Grace, ex-Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody, ex-Symfonia (live), ex-Broken Glass, ex-At Vance, ex-Axxis, ex-Bonfire (live), ex-Masterplan (live), ex-Sandalinas (live), ex-Stratovarius (live), ex-21 Octayne, ex-Blind Faith, ex-Jamie’s Gone, ex-Meera Fé, ex-Memento, ex-Philosophobia|
|Dave Sheldon||Bass (2008-2010)|
|See also: Exes for Eyes, ex-Man With Target|
|Ryan Ahoff||Drums (2008-2010)|
|Mike Harshaw||Drums (2013-2016)|
|See also: Mortal Annoyance, Prismind, ex-Nexus, ex-Malacoda, ex-Mastery, ex-Profaner, ex-Philosofear|