Thrash metal still remains fresh long after its shelf date. While metal’s premiere subgenre loudly and rambunctiously just entered its 40th year of existence, the music defined by quick yet technical guitarplay made famous by bands like Metallica, Megadeth, and Anthrax still resonates with listeners. Whether its successful commercial groups like Slayer or newer upstart acts like Power Trip, thrash continues to be beloved by metal heads young and old. Through thick and thin, thrash persists like a nuclear cockroach. It’s unkillable, enduring both the good and the bad times with a headbanging stride. Even as other lesser subgenres whither and die, thrash survives.

Thrash’s immortal legacy embodies Annihilator’s Ballistic, Sadistic. As the 17th album by Canada’s most commercially successful thrash act, Ballistic, Sadistic features all the hallmarks of a great thrash metal release. Head maestro Jeff Waters (lead guitar, vocals) leads rhythm guitarist Aaron Homma, bassist Rich Hinks, and drummer Fabio Alessandrini into a chaotic 10 track metal storm. The sonic assault pummels the listener with riff after ferocious riff, ear piercing scream after ear piercing scream. It’s pretty great from front to back.

Ballistic, Sadistic starts with a bang. The opening track “Armed To The Teeth” assaults the senses by figuratively firing a flamethrower beneath the listener’s ass. The riffs vary in speed, maintaining a great groove and breakdown while flashing some quick guitar solos at the listener. All this guitar action happens while Waters belts “Ballistic, Sadistic” in a way that’s reminiscent of classic thrash anthems like Megadeth’s “Take No Prisoners”.  Yes, this track is really that damn good.

Annihilator maintain this hard hitting yet catchy style throughout Ballistic, Sadistic. Whether it’s Walter’s yelling: “Fuck Your Attitude” in “The Attitude”, the fast and relentless fret work in “Dressed For Evil”, the wicked guitar solo in “One Wrong Move”, or the classic metal inspired chants in “Psycho Ward”, Ballistic, Sadistic has enough creative juice to keep both newcomers and longtime fans satisfied. The bass line in “Lip Service” reminded me of Anthrax’s classic “Caught In A Mosh”, and the machine gun fire in lead single “I Am Warfare” was a nice touch that complimented the track’s heavy aesthetic and subject matter.

Overall, Ballistic, Sadistic is 2020’s first great thrash record. While thrash is graying at the temples, Ballistic, Sadistic proves that thrash has aged like fine wine. What a great way to start 2020.

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