|Origin||Ottawa, Ontario, Canada|
|Genres||Thrash metal, speed metal, progressive metal (early), groove metal (later)|
|Labels||Roadrunner, Epic, Attic, Hypnotic, CMC International, Music for Nations, Metal-Is, SPV, AFM, Marquee Records|
|Associated acts||Stress Factor 9, D.O.A.|
Annihilator is a Canadian thrash metal/groove metal band founded by the vocalist, guitarist and bassist Jeff Waters. The band was formed in 1984 and is the highest selling heavy metal artist in Canadian history, although most of the sales have not been in the band’s home country. Their first two studio albums, Alice in Hell and Never, Neverland, are considered masterpieces of Canadian heavy metal.
Since its inception, Annihilator has released thirteen studio albums and has undergone many line-up changes. The band now consists of two official members, with Waters on both guitar and bass and Dave Padden (who joined Annihilator in 2003) as a rhythm guitarist/vocalist. Since 2007, Waters and Padden have assembled a live band to perform with them.
Early career (1984–1988)
Annihilator was formed in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada by Jeff Waters in 1984. He wrote and recorded the song “Annihilator” (different to the track 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.
Waters and Bates then recruited drummer Paul Malek and bassist Dave Scott. This lineup lasted a year and a demo titled “Welcome To Your Death” was produced during this time. Attention worldwide was given to this demo and it was a sought after/highly acclaimed cassette demo tape. After John Bates and Dave Scott left the band (before the WTYD demo was released and citing “artistic differences” and “personality conflicts”), Jeff Waters and drummer Paul Malek recorded the well-known demo titled “Phantasmagoria” in 1986. This was said to be the 3rd most-traded cassette tape in metal in the 1980s, along with Metallica and Megadeth’s demos. Some tracks written at this time, by Jeff Waters and John Bates, ended up on Annihilator’s first 2 official studio cds (Alice In Hell and Never, Neverland).
A 3rd demo was recorded by Waters/Malek in 1987 and was sent only to labels. It included songs that would end up on the first 2 Annihilator studio cds. Waters relocated to Vancouver in 1987, where he assembled a whole new line-up, including drummer Ray Hartmann and former D.O.A. bassist Randy Rampage, on vocals. Between 1987 and 1989, Waters was in and out of a recording studio recording guitar and bass tracks and producing the album. Once the album was finished, he hired bassist Wayne Darley and guitarist Dave Davis.
Rise to fame (1989–1993)
The band took the metal scene by storm with their debut 1989 release “Alice in Hell“, with reported sales in the hundreds of thousands upon release. Annihilator embarked on their first world tours and, after a successful tour with Testament in the USA and Canada, singer Randy Rampage quit the band to retain his seniority at a job in North Vancouver, working on the shipping docks. Without a singer, Jeff Waters found ex-Omen singer Coburn Pharr and the band surprised even their label by releasing Never, Neverland, a cd with sales that quickly surpassed the debut (their only one album entered in the UK Chart, position 48th). After tours with Judas Priest, Pantera and headline tours around the world, Hartmann and Pharr left the band and was replaced by Mike Mangini (and later Randy Black) and Aaron Randall, respectively. The band was dealt by Roadrunner Records to Sony USA. The 3rd release from the band in 1993 “Set The World On Fire” did well in Europe and Asia but was not as well received in the USA. Bassist Wayne Darley had to leave the band in August 1993 due to not being able to enter to Japan to tour in support of the album. Roadrunner Records (and most other labels) dropped many metal acts that year and Annihilator was dropped.
Brief hiatus and later years (1994–1998)
The line-up then disbanded, but Jeff Waters got back on track in 1994 when he recorded “King of the Kill”, which was more of a solo album as it featured himself on all instruments, including vocals, apart from drums, which were recorded by Randy Black. Cam Dixon joined the band on bass, while Jeff Waters performed as lead singer between 1994 and 1997, During which time they released “Refresh the Demon” in 1996 and “Remains” in 1997. For the recording of Remains, Annihilator was no longer a band as all members had left, with the exception of Waters. Due to this the album featured an electric drum machine and no touring was done to support it.
Continued career (1999–present)
Annihilator did not play any music again until 1999 when Jeff decided to re-unite the original Alice in Hell line-up and record an album. All members agreed to reunite but Wayne Darley declined the offer, citing health problems, so Russ Bergquist joined on bass. The line-up released “Criteria for a Black Widow” and had a successful tour, which ended when Rampage was yet again fired for erratic behaviour. Joe Comeau replaced him on vocals, while Curran Murphy replaced Davis on guitar and Randy Black rejoined on drums. After a considerable amount of success, the lineup dissolved. Following years of line-up changes, Jeff Waters decided to work with a variety of musicians, so he hired Dave Padden as a permanent vocalist/rhythm guitarist, while Waters had a revolving drummer and bassist.
In 2007, Annihilator released the cd titled “Metal”. It’s ten new tracks were recorded by Jeff Waters (guitar, bass and lead vocals on one song), drum legend Mike Mangini and Dave Padden (long-time vocalist and touring guitarist/vocalist). Metal also features sensational performances by some of metal’s finest players and Annihilator’s good friends, like Alexi Laiho (Children Of Bodom), Danko Jones (Danko Jones), Michael Amott and Angela Gossow (Arch Enemy), Corey Beaulieu (Trivium), William Adler (Lamb Of God), Jeff Loomis (Nevermore), Jesper Strømblad (In Flames), Steve ´Lips` Kudlow (Anvil), Anders Bjørler (The Haunted), Mike Mangini (Steve Vai, Extreme, Annihilator, Dream Theater), Jacob Lynam (Lynam) and more.
Annihilator has been touring Europe and Asia constantly since 1989. Despite no touring, proper releases, virtually no press and label interest in Canada and the USA, Annihilator has become the biggest selling Canadian Metal band of all-time, yet sales in the millions are mostly due to Asia and Europe. Most of Annihilator’s catalogue cannot even be found in the band’s home country of Canada. Jeff Waters was quoted saying “I live a few blocks from the Ottawa Citizen newspaper. One day, a few years ago (2005) I contacted the Entertainment editor by email and introduced myself, gave him links to our web site and info, and asked if he might spare a few minutes to talk with me about the band (as I live a few minutes walking from his office). He told me to mail him a cd and he would consider reviewing it. He didn’t. It actually made me a bit sad, as I have been waving the flag for Canadian metal and Canadian music for over 21 years abroad and also have sold more than any other metal band from this fine land. Yet I could not even get a review or interview with our nation’s capital newspaper, when local artist’s with no deal and no cd releases, were actually getting full page/front page stories. The last thing I needed was coverage in Ottawa but I thought, out of principle, I should try. Shot down in flames! ha!”
“If you pick up only one metal cd this year, pick this one up! If it wasn’t for Annihilator, there wouldn’t be an In Flames.” – Jesper Strömblad (In Flames)
“I listen to Jeff’s new Annihilator cd ‘Metal’ in my car while zipping my son, Justis, off to high-school each morning. He puts it in the cd player and shows me all his favorite spots; it makes me proud that he digs good metal!” – Dave Mustaine (Megadeth)
“Annihilator’s ‘Metal’ is, and will live on as, a classic record.” – Willie Adler (Lamb Of God)
“The whole concept of the album is definitely fun and you don’t have to be a guitar player to enjoy it either. It’s Annihilator, it’s Metal. End of story.” – Alexi Laiho (Children Of Bodom)
“With all the guests on the new Annihilator album, ‘Metal’, it’s obvious how much of an influence Jeff Waters has had on musicians everywhere. Now it’s time for the next generation to find out how great this band is.” – Danko Jones (Danko Jones)
Jeff Waters has been cited by a vast majority of metal musicians worldwide as an influence on their own music. Artists from bands as diverse as 3 Doors Down, Slipknot, Nickleback, Megadeth, Killswitch Engage, Lamb of God, In Flames, Danko Jones, H.I.M., Children Of Bodom, Trivium and many more acknowledge either being influenced by Waters’ writing or guitar playing or simply just being a fan of the band or his guitar playing. Most all agree that Annihilator and Jeff Waters have had a huge influence on the metal scene while receiving little credit in the USA and Canada for this.
The 100 Greatest Metal Guitarists is a best-seller book by British author Joel McIver, released in 2009. It cites Jeff Waters as the 3rd best guitar player. Jeff Waters is also commonly described on the internet as the most under-rated guitar player and metal songwriter of all time. These are mostly from North American media outlets and postings however European and Asian metal fans, press and metal forum’s have been very familiar with Annihilator and Jeff Waters’ work since the 1980s to present. He is also compared often Dave Grohl from the Foo Fighters as being a genius multi-instrumentalist and writer.
Jeff Waters is reported to have written many “hit” songs for other artists, under an assumed name, in the country ballad and pop ballad genre.
Waters has frequently changed Annihilator’s line-up throughout its run. In the early days of Annihilator, a stable line-up was a goal of Jeff Waters, however members leaving due to family issues, substance abuse and work commitments left Jeff Waters seemingly always searching for replacements. In fact, Waters had taken on the role of guitar player, bass player, engineer, producer and writer, almost from the very first years of the band. After some time, Waters decided to embrace the idea of working with as many other musicians as possible, attracting the likes of some of the world’s greatest musicians (ex. Mike Mangini -drummer for Annihilator, Steve Vai, Dream Theater, Extreme) and Waters performed all the bass guitar on all Annihilator cds as well as guitars, vocals and engineering, mixing, producing and mastering duties. Jeff Waters performed as lead vocalist for 3 cds and on the songs “Holding On” from 2004’s All for You, “Too Far Gone” from the 2005 album Schizo Deluxe and “Operation Annihilation” from 2007’s Metal.
Watersound Studios Inc. has been Waters’ studio since 1994, recently (2003) relocated from Maple Ridge, BC to Ottawa, ON. A well-known and sought-after mixing engineer, engineer, producer and mastering engineer, Jeff Waters continues to thrive with Annihilator in Europe. The latest Annihilator cd, 13th studio release and self-titled, has been the band’s biggest selling cd in a decade. Touring and audience attendance has grown dramatically for Annihilator in the last 4 years, bringing the band in front of massive crowds at summer festivals and headlining tours.
Annihilator has “returned” to Canada for 2 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 and there was close to 700 people that could not get in the packed venue. Annihilator played the main stage (along with KISS and Motorhead) on July 24, 2011 at Montreal’s Heavy MTL Festival.
- Current live members
- Alberto “Al” Campuzano – bass (2010–Present)
- Mike Harshaw – drums (2012–Present)
- Paul Malek – drums (1984–1985, 1986)
- John Bates – vocals (1984–1985)
- Dave Scott – bass (1984–1985)
- Richard Death – drums (1985)
- Ray Hartmann – drums (1987–1992, 1999–2001)
- Dennis Dubeau – vocals (1987–1989)
- Randy Rampage – vocals (1989, 1999–2000)
- Wayne Darley – bass (1989–1993)
- Dave Davis – guitar, bass (1989–1991, 1993–2001)
- Coburn Pharr – vocals (1990–1992)
- Neil Goldberg – guitar (1992–1993)
- Aaron Randall – vocals (1992–1994)
- Mike Mangini – drums (1993, 2004–2005, 2007)
- Randy Black – drums (1993–1996, 2002–2003)
- Cam Dixon – bass (1994–1995)
- Lou Bujdoso – bass (1995–1996)
- Dave Machander – drums (1996)
- Russell Bergquist – bass (1999–2003, 2005–2007)
- Joe Comeau – vocals (2000–2003)
- Curran Murphy – guitar (2002–2005)
- Sandor de Bretan – bass (2004)
- Rob Falzano – drums (2004)
- Tony Chappelle – drums (2005)
- Brian Daemon – bass (2007)
- Alex Landenburg – drums (2007)
- Former live members
- Dave Sheldon – bass (2007-2008)
- Ryan Ahoff – drums (2007-2008)
- Flo Mounier – drums (2011)
• 1989 – Alice in Hell
• 1990 – Never, Neverland
• 1993 – Set the World on Fire
• 1994 – King of the Kill
• 1996 – Refresh the Demon
• 1997 – Remains
• 1999 – Criteria for a Black Widow
• 2001 – Carnival Diablos
• 2002 – Waking the Fury
• 2004 – All for You
• 2005 – Schizo Deluxe
• 2007 – Metal
• 2010 – Annihilator