Annihilator – Alice In Hell

This is a rather revered release for reasons I entirely fail to understand, considering that it really seems like a long technical exercise more than an actual album.  It’s instrumentally very impressive and has some excruciatingly detailed compositions, but this is really more of a pseudo-shred album than anything and those who praise this as a technical speed metal classic are either listening to a different album or have standards about music entirely removed from mine.  I understand that it’s a technical exercise that takes the form of a song, but in the end it’s still a tech demo and not something I would ever listen to for musical reasons.

This actually feels more sterile to me than most prog albums do and I’m not sure why.  Maybe it’s because of just how super guitar and bass oriented the whole thing is, with the drums and vocals feeling remarkably extraneous to the whole album.  If you removed the drums and vocals you would really still get the full effect of the album because they’re the whole purpose of the compositions.  Some of the riffs are pretty remarkable and ahead of their time, with some almost proto-death metal riffs popping up in form of ultra-fast sequences of low notes ala ‘Covenant’-era Morbid Angel.  Most of it though revolves around fairly typical speed/thrash riffing but with triple the number of notes in the same musical space.  Maybe that’s why this feels like such a technical exercise: it’s otherwise totally standard music but with totally over-the-top guitar and bass theatrics.

The whole idea of technical thrash is sort of an alien idea to me as it seems to go against the genre’s ethos to some degree, particularly when it’s done in such a purely instrument-oriented way as seen here.  I’d almost call this speed/thrash minus the punk; it has the speed and aggression but no real sense of groove or ‘musicality’.  The riffs are melodic but the melody isn’t a very important aspect to them; it’s just to make the constant technicality more palatable.  As I’ve said, it’s decently composed music that happens to be not very musical at all; none of the material is extremely memorable or exciting as far as songwriting goes; it’s just extremely demonstrative and impressive from a purely technical standpoint.

I guess there’s a possibility that this is one of those albums I simply don’t ‘get’, but either way it doesn’t excite me greatly.  I totally recommend it for guitar or bass students, as there’s plenty of interesting material on here as far as technique and composition goes, but I can’t imagine wanting to listen to it as an album.  It just sort of defeats the purpose of being music to me.

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~ by noktorn on September 5, 2008.

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