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ANNIHILATOR – The Demon You Know
Anthony Morgan
November 2017

Annihilator (l-r): Jeff Waters, Rich Hinks, Aaron Homma and Fabio Alessandrini

Suicide Society – the 15th full-length studio album from Canadian thrash metal group Annihilator – emerged in September 2015 through UDR Music, marking the first Annihilator outing to feature guitarist and mainman Jeff Waters on vocals since July 1997’s Remains. Suicide Society happened to be a product of the thrasher’s various musical influences through the years.

“A lot of the guitar riffs and some of the vocals were really sort of unfiltered Jeff Waters, fan-influenced,” Jeff expands. “You could hear the really obvious riffs in bands that I like; on the last album, you could really hear a ‘Damaged Inc.’ (Metallica, from March 1986 LP Master Of Puppets) vibe on a song called ‘My Revenge’, and a little Megadeth-y vibe on the title track. Normally, I would try to filter those out and go ‘Ah dammit. It sounds a little too much like this favourite band of mine’ or ‘… that favourite band,’ so I just said ‘Screw it’ on the last one. In 2015, I said ‘Ah, fuck it. I like the riffs. Just do it, it’s fun… We’re having fun.’ Right after I finished that album, it was ironic because it actually did very well for us in most of Europe. When that happens, a lot of people will say ‘Well, keep doing the same kind of thing.’ I was actually like ‘No, I’m actually gonna do my best to try to…’

“It might still sound like a certain era of Annihilator or the first eight years, and maybe a continuation of the last record a little bit as well. I wanted to try to get more of an original, if it sounds right to say, more of a Waters kind of riffing and style that we were mainly known for in the first demo days and the first four or five records, but without going back to one record and trying to rip yourself off or recreate something that you would never be able to do decades later.

“I just basically brought Rich Hinks our bass player from Cambridge in England. I brought him over to sit in with me on the music writing; basically, his job started out being ‘Yes’ or ‘No,’ like ‘Yes, this sounds like Waters of the early period’ or ‘No, this sounds too much like Slayer,’ or Megadeth, or Exodus’ Gary Holt – the stuff that I really like as a metal fan. He was like a filter for me, but at the same time, after the second day of writing here in Canada, he picked up a bass and a guitar and he would start taking a riff idea and saying ‘What if you tried this?’ or ‘What if you tried that?’

“Really quickly, by day two or three, we both realised that… I looked at him and said ‘You realise you’re co-writing the album with me?,’ and he was like ‘Yeah, looks like it.’ Basically, he stuck with me for all of the music writing. He left after the music writing was done and I carried on with everything else – lyrics and the studio work and tracking – but that was the quick shot in the arm that I needed to sort of get back to the more original sounding Annihilator vibe.”

That original sounding Annihilator vibe was more prevalent in the band’s earlier days. “When I sang on the demo that got us a deal, they were more death metal vocals,” the axeman remembers. That was starting as early as ’84, but that was only because I knew I was going to find a singer before our first record. I was just doing temporary vocals on our little cassette demos to get the deal. For example, the first four Annihilator records had four different singers (Randy Rampage, Coburn Pharr, Aaron Randall, and Jeff Waters, respectively), and four different styles of metal. The first one, Alice In Hell (April 1989), is more of a speed / technical metal for the times. The second one, Never, Neverland (September 1990), was more melodic, with a little bit of melody mixed in and more of a fun record. Set The World On Fire (August 1993) is more of a commercial hard rock / heavy metal record, and King Of The Kill (October 1994) was more of a traditional heavy metal record, like Maiden and Priest. That kind of right out of the 80s, more melodic heavy metal – not like a commercial thing but more heavy metal, whatever that means.

Jeff Waters

“Going back to that original Waters style is still playing many different styles of music, of metal, whatever kind of metal it is. It wasn’t being able to go back to one album and recapture that, because they’re all different, and they’re all successful and different. There’s different singers even on those records, which is kind of unique. I don’t think anybody has ever had their first four records with four different singers, where each one was a success in certain areas of the world. That was kind of a really interesting path that I don’t think many bands have been able to do (laughs), or not want to do. Why would you want to keep changing musicians?

“That’s what a lot of people would tell me, but that was kind of what I liked to do. I liked trying different things and different styles, so going back to the Annihilator riff sounds and all that stuff, it depends on what everyone likes. Some fans like our biggest record called Never, Neverland, some like our second or third biggest, King Of The Kill, Alice In Hell was our classic debut, and Set The World On Fire did well in Japan and other places. When fans have so many different opinions, you find one fan going ‘I think this is the best album’ while the other fan will go ‘That sucks’ (laughs).”

Each album arguably has their own merits, depending on what mood the listener is in. “I’m kind of lucky, because I’ve had that career where you’re not so big that you have to be pushed, or you’re pushed into doing certain things musically, image-wise, and different things,” Jeff reckons. “I’ve been able to be more artistic than business, which has prevented us from getting bigger. At the same time though, it’s also given us a long, consistent career. When you’re around for a long time and you’re trying to do good stuff, some people start jumping on and noticing this decades after you’ve started.

“I think that’s what’s kind of happening; people are catching up to us, and going ‘Hey, I thought they had one or two albums, but they’ve got 16’ (laughs). Then they find albums that they like and singers and styles of metal that we do that they like, and then they find the ones that they don’t like. I think that’s kind of cool. I’d say the average metal fan could probably find four or five albums that they like, if they really listened to all of the records. I can see why some people wouldn’t like another four or five though, because they’re different styles of metal. We’re not that band that plays the same sound and same style every time.”

The interviewer conducting this feature never understood as to why Annihilator sought out a separate individual to handle vocal duties. “I appreciate that,” the axeman replies. “I think obviously my number one thing that I can do that might be good is gonna be guitar, but I was kind of forced to do vocals after the fourth record. I thought ‘I sing on all of the demos for the singers when I’m writing this stuff,’ which was on sort of a cassette back then. In the studio producing the vocals and the albums, I would say ‘Okay, well sing it like this. Here’s the demo, and here’s the words and where you sing,’ and all that stuff. I knew what I wanted out of each singer, but I think I surprised myself when the King Of The Kill record – the first one I sang on – did so well. I did a few more after that and then a couple now, so it’s five records.

“The problem for me has been that the music I like has usually had the most amazing singers in the history of music, from (Bruce) Dickinson (Iron Maiden), especially (Rob) Halford (Judas Priest), to everybody from Bon Scott to Brian Johnson (both AC/DC), to David Lee Roth (Van Halen) – David Lee’s Roth blues feel – to (Ronnie James) Dio, to Tom Araya (Slayer) and (James) Hetfield (Metallica). All these guys have their own sound and their own style. I think maybe if I had started out as a singer when I was a teenager and just focused on singing, and that’s all I did, maybe I would be pretty good by now (laughs).

“I’m sort of an off and on singer. I went through a couple of decades where I wasn’t singing on the records and touring; I was relaxing and having fun just playing guitar, with good singers like Dave Padden singing for me. Yeah though, I appreciate the compliment. I’m getting more confidence back, but when you’re 51 years old and you’re singing… I was actually 49 years old when I did the Suicide Society record in 2015 and it was the first album I did singing on since 1997, so it sure takes a lot of work to try to pull that off live. The studio is one thing, when you’re relaxing and there’s no-one around. You can get confidence and do as good as you can do, but live when you play guitar and sing at the same time, it’s so much harder than fans realise.

“People like Dave Mustaine (Megadeth) and James Hetfield are so incredibly more talented than a lot of people realise, because they play guitar parts that are difficult in a certain time signature, a certain timing, and then their singing goes over that in a different timing. Those two guys are the best in the business at being able to do both live; it’s just something that unless you try to do that yourself, play guitar and sing, you just couldn’t appreciate how amazing those two guys are. I’ve got lots of work, but I’m having fun.”

March 1996 effort Refresh The Demon – Annihilator’s fifth studio jaunt – signalled a shift. “I think the fifth one was more sort of underground,” Jeff critiques. “That’s when we started dipping down a bit in our sales in mainland Europe and other places, for about I guess ten years or so, around ’97. ’96 was kind of a good album for us, though. Refresh The Demon was a decent one, our fifth one, but I think in ’97, I just got really bummed out with traditional 80s heavy metal and thrash metal. It was kind of run out of North America, and there was nowhere to play. A lot of the bands here that were playing that kind of music weren’t even able to play or keep their bands together over here, because there was no support for it.

“Germany and a lot of the countries in southern Europe and eastern Europe kept it alive. Scandinavia went in a different direction, and went to more of the… They started their own scenes. They had that amazing sort of technically talented new sound coming out of Scandinavia, and the UK went in a different direction after 1993. They went into more of a… It seemed like at the time, in ’93, that it was more image-based stuff, so it changed around the world. I think for me as a traditional heavy metal and thrash fan, I thought being in the business side and as a fan that it just sucked.

“For me, it was a horrible time unless you were into this nu-metal kind of stuff, or new scenes. I just couldn’t get into it. I just stayed in the old school and was pretty disappointed, so I did a record called Remains in ’97 (July). That was like a turning point for a short time, where I almost quit. I almost just said ‘Fuck it.’ It just wasn’t what I wanted to do; it just seemed like nobody over here wanted to hear this kind of music, and nobody was signing it. No promoters wanted you to play. We still had a European following which was lucky, but it was just a bummed out time for me.

“I did the Remains album, which was more just me sitting in the studio; experimenting with studio equipment in my own studio, having fun making noises and playing some metal but just having the drum machine, drum computer, different sounds and noises and effects and stuff. It should’ve been like a solo record, but I guess within a year and a half, I quickly got out of that slump when I saw Slayer play in Vancouver. It was a concert where I saw one of my top favourite three bands in Slayer. They were always playing in arenas, big venues for so long. I saw them in the late 90s, and they ended up playing a club in Vancouver. I thought ‘Wow, this is just a sad state of the music business.’ You had Slayer who was playing in arenas, playing in a club called The Commodore Ballroom. Then you had Judas Priest with ‘Ripper’ Owens playing 86th Street Music Hall, which is a club in Vancouver. You’re like ‘Wait a second. These bands were playing friggin’ arenas and small stadiums just years earlier,’ so I got really bummed out.

“Then I actually saw Slayer onstage and play to 1,500-1,600 people, like they were playing in a stadium. It was like the most energetic, positive Slayer show I’ve ever seen, or of any show at that time. I realised I had to get my shit together and stop moping around, and being all bummed out and depressed about this scene as a fan and a musician, and just kick my own ass and say ‘If Slayer can get out there in front of 1,800 people and kick ass like that, I need to get off my ass and just play because I love it.’”

The mid-to-late 90s were dark years for thrash metal, a time in which the genre’s popularity dwindled. “The one thing I appreciated about looking back over all those years…,” the vocalist begins. “Besides Slayer, because I think they were the most important band for metal… I really actually think that… Of course, okay, you had the new school stuff coming in, with Pantera becoming huge in the 90s. That was important to get people into aggressive music, but they were part of the wave that influenced more of the new style – the groove stuff. They got it from Van Halen, (Black) Sabbath, Metallica, and stuff like that, but they started their own sound and had their own huge following, and became so influential.

“However, you also saw a lot of bands going off into a different direction influenced by those bands that became nu-metal, where people would do the Lars Ulrich tom shots (Metallica) and then just think because they’re doing that and they’re tuned down, they must be heavy and they must be good. It was sort of a trend for a long time, but Slayer just kept slaving away through that whole scene and, sure, they must’ve been a little depressed about the scene, but they never stopped. There’s a small group of bands under Slayer, in the middle, that were bands that never broke up. They never stopped for 10 or 20 years and came back when it was popular, and said ‘Hey, it’s a reunion. We’re back again.’ There were some bands that were 100% in the blood and kept going, and never stopped.

Annihilator (l-r): Rich Hinks, Jeff Waters, Aaron Homma and Fabio Alessandrini

“Those are the bands that I appreciate the most, besides Slayer, is absolutely going to be Overkill, Exodus, Testament, Annihilator, Kreator, Destruction. There’s a few others, but the five bands I just mentioned kept changing line-ups, having lots of line-up changes, and lots of different members. When the economics of touring and CDs and all that stuff were shitty, you can’t keep some of the musicians you want. They have to leave for other, better jobs or make money in a real job so to speak.

“It’s really hard to keep people when you can’t pay them that much, and these bands I just mentioned… I’ve got to say their names again; Overkill, Testament, Exodus, Destruction and Kreator. We just kept going on, and never stopped. Times were tough; we just kept fighting on and having a whole bunch of turmoil in our personal lives and our band lives, because of the scene not being very accepted anywhere really. The bands just now, if you listen to the last couple of records from bands like Exodus… Man, Overkill’s last album was amazing (The Grinding Wheel, February 2017). Testament’s Brotherhood Of The Snake (October 2016) was incredible, and anything Exodus does is going to be good now and at the top of the game.

“So, I’m totally excited that these bands that we tour with overseas all the time and hang out with… We just kind of laugh a little bit because we’ve been here the whole fucking time, then other bands come back after 20 years and take a shot at it and that. There’s nothing with that; if they’re good and they’re practising, and they’re in shape and they’re doing a good job, that’s amazing for the scene. Finally though, this mid-level of bands is getting the credit for not stopping.”

Those not familiar with thrash beyond The Big Four are arguably neglecting themselves some other sonic treats, with the likes of the thrashers Jeff cited treading the boards as it were. “The Big Four though, it was right,” he clarifies. “They are The Big Four because of sales in that genre of music, and I think some of the band members even acknowledge that – that that was how it came together. I know a lot of people involved in that and everywhere else were saying ‘Wait, Exodus was a part of that,’ that there should be a Big Five, and that’s true. Exodus was definitely part of the Big Five; they were probably in fifth place, but they were still in there. They were influential as hell. You did have the next wave, too. I mean, Overkill were kind of there at the beginning, from the New York, New Jersey area – they were kind of starting out, too. You had Legacy, turning into Testament, and then you had Annihilator. We all started in the mid-80s.

“We all kind of got our inspiration from Metallica and the first compilation that ‘Metal Militia’ was on, and ‘Death From Above’ by Anthrax (from January 1984 debut Fistful Of Metal). And you had the first Slayer stuff, like the EP Haunting The Chapel (June 1984). A lot of us, we had that inspiration really quickly in the 80s, but the Big Five – maybe Six with Overkill – they were the originators. Then though, you also have to look at it and go ‘Hang on a second. Back up here.’ There’s a couple of bands here you’ve got to think about – Venom – and look at the time schedule on when they came out. You absolutely have to look at three bands that are the most underrated bands in the world right now for the start of all this, and that’s Razor, Anvil, and Exciter.

“Yes, Anvil had a movie out (Anvil! The Story Of Anvil, January 2008), but that’s not what I’m talking about. The first record or two records from those three Canadian bands, a few of those influenced the Big Four big time. You saw a young Lars Ulrich at a Los Angeles or San Francisco show, watching Anvil when he was a kid. He watched Anvil and watched Robb Reiner play drums and you can hear the influence on that, so there are bands before the Big Four that were the beginnings of it, and so it’s not just the Big Four. There’s the Big Five in my mind, and you’ve got to put Overkill in there, and then you can go back further than that and say the pre-Big Five, and so you have to go to Razor, Anvil, Exciter, and all of these bands, right?”

The Canadian contingent are often overlooked. “An interesting point to make my point,” the axe-slinger continues. “I mentioned Lars Ulrich going out to see Robb Reiner and Anvil, and this and that, but if you go on the internet, you’ll find that the support band for Exciter on one of their tours was Megadeth. The support band that was supposed to go out with Exciter but didn’t was an unknown band called Metallica. If you look back at the history of this stuff, the Big Four is the biggest selling, most influential – that’s clear – but you’ve got to get Exodus in there and you’ve got to get Overkill in there, if you’re looking at artistic and timelines. Then you have to go back to Razor, Anvil, and Exciter, and then Venom and a few others, just to see where it came from. The good news is that with the internet, anybody who actually wants to spend the time to look at the timelines of when these bands came out, you can track it down.”

Jeff Waters

YouTube is a medium which listeners can use to discover bands, unlike the days of trading tapes. “I’ve been having so much trouble getting back into the United States with my band, for many reasons,” Jeff responds. “One, we’re playing music that’s a little diverse. It’s not all full-on aggression, and one style. It’s goofy and fun one minute, and the next it’s serious and thrash. Maybe it’s instrumental, maybe it’s commercial – melodic hard rock, or whatever – so it’s hard to latch onto. Also, I didn’t stay touring the States after 1993. I slogged everywhere else, but not North America. I thought ‘People will probably discover us on YouTube at some point’ when the internet was getting big and all that, and the thing is, you would think so.

“If you wanted to find something, if you have something in your brain that you want to search for, then you’ll find it, but I didn’t realise that there are so many choices and people only have so much time in their lives. They’re not gonna sit there for days on end searching for certain things, when you only have limited time in your life like everybody does and limited time on the internet as far as what you need to be on there for. It doesn’t mean that just because the information and these early bands are on there, that people will find it. If there’s no reason for them to go and look for something, they won’t look for it.

“It’s not gonna hit them in the face, so a lot of these things like Razor, Anvil, and Exciter and their first albums, a lot of people won’t think to look at the timelines and look at those records, and listen to them. Another example is that I assumed people in Canada and the United States would figure out that we’ve been going non-stop since 1989 in Europe, and we play everywhere from 500 people to 100,000 people. I figured that at some point, people would automatically discover this in North America. It doesn’t work that way; unless there’s some promotion out there to point people to something, most people just don’t have the time to sit down and think ‘Let me look for a band that might be doing well overseas but not doing well here so we can listen to them and support them here.’ It just doesn’t work that way; it’s the big internet world, and time is limited.”

Returning to the topic of For The Demented, this was the first occasion the songwriter benefited from a sparring partner, the sparring partner being in the form of Rich Hinks. “Dave Padden was in the band for about 12 years, who was an amazing singer and guitar player,” he notes. “He didn’t really like to write; I had to push him to write maybe one song or even two sometimes for a record, just to write lyrics. It was almost like he’d get to the studio, and I’d almost have to force him to leave a few songs off until the end of the vocal recordings, and say ‘Listen, here’s the music. You’ve got to write these songs – you have a week and a half to write them.’

“I wanted to include him, because he’s a very talented guy. Some people just don’t have that drive or will to do it, whereas with Rich, it was the first time I had sat down and co-written a whole album. I’ve never done that with anyone before. That was just the music, but at the same time, just the music is probably the most important thing for Annihilator, so that was pretty cool.

“It was very informal and relaxed, and we just did it as fans and having fun – fans of metal. We were just having fun writing riffs and writing stuff, like ‘Do we like this?’ ‘No.’ ‘Do we like this?’ ‘Yes.’ It was not even a thought-out process, but it sure gave me the notice. It gave me the warning here, that if he’s available for the next record… We’ve already talked about getting together and writing a few songs. He’s actually on a plane now; he’s coming over here to Canada now, from England, to rehearse for this Testament tour coming up. Yeah though, I’ll probably tap him for the next one too. If not, maybe I’ll find a guitar player or drummer to sit in with me and stuff. It’s more fun, actually.”

For The Demented’s album title summarises its lyrical content. “The lyrics are pretty straightforward,” Jeff tells. “They all tie in to the human brain and the mind, and that could mean disorders, addictions, and mental illness, right down to fun obsessions like in life. ‘The Way’ is just basically about my obsession with Annihilator from the beginning; just to do it my way and do what I wanted to do, whether it was good, bad, awesome, classic, average. Whatever it turned out like, just do it the way I wanted to do it and suffer the consequences, outside the artistic realm. If it’s not that good, then nevermind, but enjoy the rewards if it is good stuff. You just do it yourself though, and have good fun.

“There’s also some real serious things on there though, like the song ‘For The Demented’. ‘For The Demented’ is based on the word ‘demented’, which at least over here the dictionary says represents dementia, which is an unfortunate mental illness. The second definition of ‘demented’ is fun, crazy, wacky, out of society, though, like non-conformist. It can be anything just like goofy, or whatever. You’re just like a crazy guy, girl, or whatever, so I applied that to a general song lyric to anybody; whether it’s what you wear, what music you like. The song is almost like Twisted Sister, when it comes to that end of it, or whether it be that you have a mental illness, or whether it be extreme, that you have a serious mental illness. Depression, alcohol, drugs, whatever the hell it is. Could be autism, it could be anything. I’ve seen metal music calm and focus autistic kids. A friend of mine who’s a journalist works with autistic kids, and they have four kids that when metal music comes on, that’s the only way they can really focus on stuff. I was blown away to hear that.

“My whole friggin’ point is whether it’s just what colour your hair is, or what music you like, or that you have serious problems in life. Some of the most important people and creative people and nice people who have done amazing things in life are people who are considered not normal, whatever that means. It doesn’t matter who you are. You don’t have to make music, write a record, or be famous or rich, but some of the most famous people in history or the biggest non-famous people who are contributors to society, and just basically good people to other people – good human beings. It doesn’t matter what your fucking problems are; you can work on your issues, and you can do well. You can do something, and just find your own niche.

“This is basically for anybody that feels like they’re fucked up or they’ve got problems, or people make them feel like they’ve got problems, or they do have problems. It’s just a feel good, positive thing saying ‘It doesn’t matter who you are, you can do something good for someone, or something,’ or create or do something. I just thought about my obsession with Annihilator, like doing it my own way, good or bad (laughs). There’s just a ton of crazy things on there. ‘Twisted Lobotomy’, it’s very obvious what that would be about; a twisted, crazy lobotomy. When doctors thought that was the cure for deviant personalities and criminal people, if they thought someone wasn’t normal, they’d perform a lobotomy, and think that that was going to fix it. There’s some serious stuff, there’s some funny stuff, and some fantasy stuff, but it’s all related to the mind.”

Annihilator (l-r): Jeff Waters, Rich Hinks, Aaron Homma and Fabio Alessandrini

For The Demented was recorded at the frontman’s home studio, once again. “As usual, I played almost all of the stuff, and wrote almost all of the stuff,” he explains. “It’s just we had the addition of Rich writing the music on this one. That’s a boring subject; it’s the same old thing I’ve been doing for several years in my studio (laughs).”

Subtle differences were prevalent within the studio, however. “Only in the studio, from a guitar player perspective,” Jeff cautions. “I think that was the biggest thing for me, was the way I recorded the guitars. In my studio, I’ve got many amplifiers and just so many different amps, cabinets, and microphones, and things like that. A lot of bands are using the Kemper amp or Fractal Audio, which is just guitar processing which is computerised – things that are really good, but probably don’t sound as good as real amps. However, they’re more practical, easier to travel with, and more reliable.

“There’s one by a company called Line 6, and it’s called the Helix amp. When I discovered that thing and I AB’ed all of the different real and not real guitar amps, the Helix was the one that we decided on right away because it actually sounded better than a lot of my amplifiers. It shouldn’t but it does, and so I used that Helix on the whole record. This Helix thing also has sound effects like a lot of them; it has these different neat sounds and stuff. On our record, sometimes you hear a bass guitar, but it’s really me playing the guitar and yet it sounds like a bass guitar.

“We have some really neat, sonic things, but it’s not an album that’s covered with a whole bunch of stuff. You can even hear keyboards on there sometimes, and sometimes the keyboards in the background for a haunting thing, or a church-sounding thing. Some of that is actually fun guitar that doesn’t sound like a guitar at all. That is the biggest change as far as the recording process, was whether this piece of new equipment was going to work well. It was just mind-blowing for me.”

Recording sessions commenced in early 2017. “We do this show in Canada every year, every two years, where I hold an all-star kind of jam on it,” the lyricist highlights. “It’s called the 70000 Tons Of Metal Cruise, which goes down to the Caribbean. It goes from Florida, and goes to all sorts of awesome places. There’s thousands of metal fans, and journalists, and whatever. It’s just a blast. When we played there in February 2017 I believe, Rich and I came back from Florida to my place for about I guess three to four weeks, and started writing the record. That’s kind of where it started, and then at the end of February or the beginning of March, that was it. We had the game plan, we had the riffs. We had the songs together and the music, and that meant us writing the lyrics and recording the album, mixing, mastering, and doing the business stuff. I think that part of it was quick. Once the writing was done in February, by the end of April I was starting to do vocals, and mix the record in early May I think. It went quick, only because Rich and I had it down so quickly with the music.”

Gyula Havancsák designed the cover artwork for For The Demented. “I won’t say his last name; a lot of people call him by his first name, because it’s easier,” Jeff admits. “Gyula, he’s been our artist since 2004 (All For You, May). I met and I’ll see him again soon, but I don’t know how to say his last name (laughs). I just call him Gyula. It’s like you calling me Jeff – you don’t call me Jeff Waters all the time (laughs). He’s just a genius kid who’s not really a kid. I think our album cover was one of his first ever, to all of a sudden, he’s pretty well known in the whole metal community right now for doing covers and artworks. We’re so happy about being involved with him from the beginning because it’s great to see someone have that kind of success, and because of that, he does us a lot of favours and doesn’t charge us the full rate (laughs).

“He does an amazing job. Mostly what I do with Gyula is I give him the idea I’m looking for. I’ll say ‘Here’s what I’m looking for. I want some white in the background this time, because we’ve never had an album with white in the background. I want one image that’s very clear from a distance; I want it to stand out, and I want a big, massive and incredible artwork.’ I wanted a pretty clear single image. In the white background, we have a red Annihilator logo. I gave him an idea, so he didn’t have to try and kind of knew where I was looking to go. Then he does what he does; it comes back, and we’re always just shaking our heads, going ‘Wow, that is amazing’ (laughs).”

More occurs within the artwork itself than at first glance. “He’s a very detailed artist,” the singer compliments. “Some of the covers that he’s done for Annihilator, a couple of them have some detail, but in general I go against what he likes to do. He likes to find details and have more of a detailed painting, whereas I’m like ‘I want that singular image of Alison Hell walking down the stairs’ or ‘I want a singular image for Refresh The Demon.’ One of our albums was titled Metal (April 2007), and it was just our logo. In (May) 2010 when we did the self-titled record, I think it was kind of like Linda Blair from The Exorcist (1973) meets a zombie (laughs). So, I like these clear images. He kind of enjoys that. It was frustrating in the beginning because he wanted to do all of this fancy art, and I was like ‘No, make something simple.’ So, it’s a perfect balance for the two of us.”

Music videos were filmed for the title track as well as ‘Twisted Lobotomy’. “A lot of people say that videos aren’t important,” Jeff reflects. “They are on social media of course, but they’re also very expensive. What you’d love to do as a musician and as an artist is do a video like some of your favourite bands, but you realise that there’s just no money for it. So, you try to make the best you can. Some bands do lyric videos; we did one, maybe two for this album. We did two videos a month ago; one for ‘Twisted Lobotomy’ and one for the title track, and they’re real videos. You just try to get this stuff out there, and do the best you can with how much money you have to make the videos. The bottom line with Annihilator is it’s not about selling records, and being on the covers of magazines. It’s just about getting the music out there, but hopefully people will like it. You just do what you can, get this stuff out, and hope people just listen to the song.”

For The Demented was released on November 3rd, 2017 via Silver Lining Music.

Interview published in November 2017. All promotional band photographs by Jasmina Vrcko. Live photographs by Andrada Mihailescu.

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