Live Review: “Alice In Hell: Live, 35 & Worldwide” from Annihilator!

The story goes that while planning anniversary shows around their sophomore album “Never, Neverland” in 2025, Canadian Thrash Metal legends Annihilator were offered the opportunity to celebrate the 35th anniversary of their debut album “Alice In Hell“. An exclusive one off performance of the record in full at Topfest 2024 in Slovakia was booked with Iced Earth and Into Eternity vocalist Stu Block stepping in for the dearly departed Randy Rampage who tragically passed away in 2018. Having rehearsed their individual parts at home and worked their fingers to the bone in the process, as some of the songs haven’t been played live in 20 years, Topfest 2024 was cancelled. So what to do then? Rather than waste the opportunity, the band decided to take the path less travelled and offer up a live stream performance of the album played in its entirety on a one off live stream in a throwback to the Great Plague years when that was all we had.

Before the show, Waters shares a collection of stories about the recording of the “Alice In Hell” album, digging deep to find a few things that he hasn’t already shared. Like pissing blood after drinking five back to back coffees having never had one previously and ending up in the hospital for a day or two as a result. Who knew? That’s Metal. What’s great about the build up is that you can see the love for the time in the bands history in Waters eyes and he clearly feels humbled to have been given the opportunity to have had the career he has and doesn’t take a second for granted. While he reminisces, he pays tribute to Randy Ramage and while admitting that the two didn’t always see eye to eye, he also admits that he didn’t necessarily realise how important he was at the time. Rampage was a showman as well as a vocalist and that gave the band the opportunity to concentrate on playing the music while he kept the crowd entertained with his antics. Stage dives and high fives often ending up in a bloody mess. Honourable mentions also go to Dennis Dubeau, Paul Blake and Paul Malek which is nice to see.

Performing in a rehearsal space in Darlington England, rather than playing the songs live back to back and jumping around on stage like a bunch of wounded ducks, they’ve made the decision to essentially nail the performances and record the tracks as they rehearse them. So the songs are performed live by the band but aren’t being performed on the night. Not that that is a bad thing because the sound quality is amazing, the songs sound incredible and the musicianship to pull them off is undeniable. This line up of Annihilator has been together for a while and their chemistry ensures that they not only sound tight but like a well oiled machine and in truth, Block aside, the rest of the band have been together nearly a decade. That’s not to say that there aren’t a few mistakes, Waters himself forgetting a couple of parts but you’d barely notice. The humour and stories between the songs is great so the feel of the show is there, even without the audience in front of the musicians.

Rich “Hinks” Gray nails the bass intro to instrumental “Crystal Ann” while guitarist Aaron Homma and drummer Fabio Alessandrini perform as if they were on the original record. Jeff Waters Death Metal backing vocals on the title track “Alison Hell” give it a little extra bite, while Stu Block gives an unhinged performance on “Burns Like a Buzzsaw Blade” that reminds of those early Megadeth vocals from David Mustaine with that raspy dry snarl. There is a verve and swagger to the performance of each cut that tells you hey have hands calloused from rehearsals, the more technical nature of the music something which shines through. A live introduction from a past live performance gives Rampage a moment in and is a nice touch as the camera moves along the line of musicians. The focus is largely on Waters and rightly so, especially during his vibrant solos. The humour of the lyrics is etched on Block’s face, he’s clearly loving being a part of this and its great to see, as is his obvious chemistry with Waters. You can sense everyone is on the same page and that bodes well for the future. One they haven’t played since the 1980s is “Ligeia” but the band have it nailed, its easy to see why it was a core component in the first Gold record for Roadrunner Records. Let’s not forget, if it wasn’t for this album Cradle Of Filth wouldn’t be the same as Dani Filth himself cites it as leaving a lasting impression on him with the band covering the title track.

How do you get a whammy bar effect without having a whammy bar? During final cut “Human Insecticide” Waters demonstrates loosening the highest string with the thinnest gage and then pressing the tunning peg down while playing the string on the headstock of the guitar. It’s what they’d call a hack these days but it works a treat. How about an encore?  Controversially given this is an “Alice In Hell” live stream, Waters announces “Never, Neverland” to be his favourite Annihilator record with a grin before the band break into a blistering rendition of “The Fun Palace“. Traditional Heavy Metal then bleeds into the Thrash with a solid performance of “Stone Wall” before the title track of 1993’s “Set the World on Fire” gets a well deserved outing. Perhaps it would have been nice to have “Sonic Homicide” in the set, the demo for which was titled “Powerdrain” and issued on the 1998 re-release of “Alice In Hell” but that is saved for another occasion. Instead Annihilator return to “Never, Neverland” and finish with an all out riff parade in “Phantasmagoria” which once again finds Stu Block in his unhinged element. While this may not have been the festival appearance that the album deserved, tonight’s live stream has been an opportunity for Waters to say thank you to numerous people who have made his career possible as well as give us a seminal album as well as being good fun [8/10]

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