Album # 2 for Jeff Waters and his ever-changing Annihilator lineup was 1990′s Never, Neverland. 1989′s Alice In Hell was an excellent debut, and Never, Neverland comes damn close to equaling its predecessor in terms of sheer awesomeness. New vocalist Coburn Pharr gives an impassioned, villainous performance. Though I really love Randy Rampage’s psychotic vocals on Alice In Hell, Pharr certainly earns his stripes here as Randy’s replacement.
Waters’ riffing on Never, Neverland is a lesson in precision and accuracy. He’s known as one of the tightest players in the biz and it is obvious he is very meticulous and obsessive when it comes to sonic details. (He is joined by Dave Scott Davis on guitar.) One of the things I really like about Never, Neverland is how the drums are so tightly locked in on the riffs. By thrash standards, Ray Hartman’s drumming might be considered modest. There aren’t a whole lot of extraneous drum fills — only those that serve to accent the riffage. I’m sure this was Waters’ instruction. This gives the album a very crisp and clean feel. It highlights the riffing above all else and allows the listener to “understand” the song quite clearly. (I hope that makes sense?) Hartman also stays away from “thrash beats” (snare hits on all the down beats), a technique overused on many a second-rate thrash record at the time. Songs never get boring because Waters is always introducing new riffs and licks, as well as softer, slower segues. His solos were also well-composed and appropriately blistering. If you want noise and chaos with your thrash, Annihilator is not where you should look.
Strong cuts here include The Fun Palace and Imperiled Eyes. My favorite, though, is Kraf Dinner. I love how Pharr sounds so maniacal while praising the virtues of Canada’s favorite meal — macaroni and cheese. “MACARONI MANIAC!” Apparently, mac and chee is commonly referred to simply as “Kraft dinner” in Canada. (The song title intentionally spells “Kraft” wrong for legal reasons, one can be sure.) Anyway, some consider this song a throwaway because of its novelty lyrics, but I love the humor injection, and view this song as a serious piece of art! “CHEDDAR CHEESE HEART ATTACK!” My score: A-