Annihilator is a Canadian thrash metal band founded in 1984 by vocalist, guitarist, bassist, songwriter, engineer, producer, mixer and mastering engineer Jeff Waters and former vocalist John Bates. They are the highest-selling heavy metal group from Canada in Canadian 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 4" of Canadian thrash metal.
Since its inception, Annihilator has released 17 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, For the Demented, was released on November 3, 2017.
Early career (1984–1988)
Annihilator was formed in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada by Jeff Waters 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 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) with singer John Bates. This original version of "Annihilator" was released on the special edition of the 2005 album Schizo Deluxe.
Jeff Waters and John 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. They embarked on their first world tour, opening up for Onslaught in Europe on the In Search of Sanity tour, and along with Wrathchild America, they opened for Testament in the United States and Canada on the Practice What You Preach tour, after which singer Randy Rampage quit the band 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. After opening up for Judas Priest, and then little-known Pantera and headlining tours around the world, Hartmann and Pharr left the band and were replaced by Mike Mangini (Dream Theater) (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. 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.
Brief hiatus and later years (1994–1998)
The line-up then 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. 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, of course) 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.
Reunion with Randy Rampage and Joe Comeau era (1999–2002)
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 triumphant thrash metal masterpieces. 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; the first time the band has played live in North America since 1993. On July 10, 2011, Annihilator headlined the Quebec City Imperial Theatre to a sold-out crowd. Annihilator played the main stage (along with KISS and Motörhead) on July 24, 2011 at Montreal's Heavy MTL Festival.
Annihilator released their fourteenth studio album entitled Feast on 23 August 2013.
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 bands bassist from the classic early 90's 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 local maniacs, 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 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 will be 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 (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 Hinks, 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.
On August 14, 2018, former Annihilator vocalist Randy Rampage (who sang on the albums Alice in Hell and Criteria for a Black Widow) died of an apparent heart attack, at the age of 58.
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.
In a 2013 interview with music website Photogroupie.com, Jeff Waters talks about his influences and states: "I started listening to Elton John, Kiss, The Sweet, AC/DC then it evolved from hard rock with electric guitar to Black Sabbath and the heavier stuff, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Loudness, Van Halen was coming in. Then I get turned on to the thrash stuff, so then it was Razor, Exciter... Those first albums were a huge influence on metal bands." Elsewhere in the interview Waters talks about the impact Iron Maiden had on him and the band saying.
"They'll all great... but Bruce Dickinson is one brilliant, unique, gifted, talented person...the guy's a genius."
Alice in Hell (1989)
Never, Neverland (1990)
Set the World on Fire (1993)
King of the Kill (1994)
Refresh the Demon (1996)
Criteria for a Black Widow (1999)
Carnival Diablos (2001)
Waking the Fury (2002)
All for You (2004)
Schizo Deluxe (2005)
Suicide Society (2015)
For the Demented (2017)
Ballistic, Sadistic (2020)
Jeff Waters – lead guitar, backing vocals (1984–present), lead vocals (1985–1986, 1994–1997, 2015–present)
Aaron Homma – rhythm guitar, backing vocals (2015–present)
Rich Gray (formerly Hinks) – bass, backing vocals(2015–present)
Fabio Alessandrini – drums (2016–present)
Dave Sheldon – bass (2007–2008)
Ryan Ahoff – drums (2007–2008)
Flo Mounier – drums (2011)
John Bates – lead vocals (1984–1985)
Dennis Dubeau – lead vocals (1988–1989)
Randy Rampage – lead vocals (1988–1989, 1998–2000) t 2018
Coburn Pharr – lead vocals (1990–1992, 2015)
Aaron Randall – lead vocals (1992–1994)
Joe Comeau – lead vocals (2000–2003)
Dave Padden – lead vocals, rhythm guitar (2003–2014)
K.C. Toews – rhythm guitar (1987–1988)
Anthony Greenham – rhythm guitar (1988–1989)
Dave Davis – rhythm guitar (1989–1991, 1993–2001)
Neil Goldberg – rhythm guitar (1992–1993)
Curran Murphy – rhythm guitar (2002–2005)
Dave Scott – bass (1984–1985)
Wayne Darley – bass (1989–1993)
Cam Dixon – bass (1994–1995, 2015)
Lou Bujdoso – bass (1995–1997)
Russell Bergquist – bass (1999–2003, 2005–2007)
Sandor de Bretan – bass (2004)
Brian Daemon – bass (2007)
Alberto "Al" Campuzano – bass (2010–2014)
Oscar Rangel – bass (2014–2015)
Paul Malek – drums (1984–1985, 1986)
Richard Death – drums (1985)
Ray Hartmann – drums (1987–1992, 1999–2001)
Randy Black – drums (1994–1996, 2002–2003)
Mike Mangini – drums (1993, 2004–2005, 2007)
Dave Machander – drums (1996; died 2010)
Rob Falzano – drums (2004)
Tony Chappelle – drums (2005)
Alex Landenburg – drums (2007)
Carlos Cantatore – drums (2010)