Suicide Society marks the official fifteenth full-length effort from the Canadian beast known as Annihilator. And, much like the entity's sound, they have once again gone through a dramatic line-up overhaul for this one. Jeff Waters is still present, of course, but the most obvious shift is the loss of recent vocalist/rhythm guitarist Dave Padden (ex-Silent Storm), who parted ways with the band earlier this year. The rest of the crew involved features drummer Mike Harshaw (Mastery, ex-Profaner), bassist Cam Dixon (ex-Metalist) who returns to the ranks this year after having left the group back in 1995 (roughly one year after joining), and guitarist Aaron Homma (Immersed, ex-Vital Remains) who is the latest addition. The latter two, however, were not involved in the recording of this album. With the release date for Suicide Society looming, and a fear growing given the Anthrax-esque title track released as the lead single, does Mr. Waters remind listeners why Annihilator is one of the more important forces in the thrash metal world, or is the aforementioned obvious influence of that brand of eighties era recently shown too rich to make this one stand out?

As stated, "Suicide Society" isn't quite the most unique track Annihilator has ever released, but it's definitely still a fun one that doesn't quite represent the rest of the album. Catchy riffs and a lighter atmosphere to accompany the group's usual fall of humanity style lyrical themes act as an upbeat introduction to this fairly dark recording that really kicks off at the next stop. This lighter theme really doesn't make an appearance again until the very end with "Every Minute". The softer, clean start immediately rings of King of the Kill-era Annihilator, which is only bad in how the main verses and chorus shift between one another. There's a somber tone found in the mix of slight distortions and cleaner rhythm chords in the background that build nicely to the electric chorus that has traces of NWOBHM influence, at times as electric as "Two Minutes to Heaven" by Iron Maiden or even something off a Sister Sin release, only to suddenly drop out to a slower, bass oriented presence in an incredibly awkward manner. Even after the guitar solo, the jump is so sudden it's almost impossible to get back into the song at that point, especially hearing what sounds like a very quick fade out on the riffs right as that jump starts.

"My Revenge" pulls from the harsher world of Criteria for a Black Widow with tight, aggressive riffs that have a slightly sharper, more aggressive sound in comparison. The chorus, however, is laced with one infectious hook after another, showing some traits from the group's earlier technical and speed metal influence, not to mention the truly haunting melodies that songs like "Alison Hell" and "City of Ice" greatly benefited from about three minutes in. This leads to a far more dominant guitar solo that only makes the finale far more energetic than the passages were before. "Break, Enter" has a similar amount of hostility, though not as dark. More akin to something off Carnival Diablos, this track about a home invasion being interrupted boasts a good deal of authority in each commanding riff complimented with a hint of hardcore attitude and an early eighties chorus that drips with crossover undertones. Sadly, there is a slower segment about three minutes in that just doesn't have the same enthusiasm, coming off weak and interrupting the flow more than the counting error in the lyrics of three blind mice becoming only two by the end, and it's a shame this segment exists here in this state, but, thankfully, isn't that detrimental overall.

"Creepin' Again" immediately rings of modern Annihilator to the point where it's obvious it was written with Dave's vocal range in mind before his departure of the group. Traces of Schizo Deluxe crossed with that paranoid eeriness that often follows the more personal works of Jeff Waters' material are on display in the hostile riffs of the main verses, though the chorus brings in a lighter tone once more thanks to the infectious hooks and clean singing. That environment shows up periodically, though never as prominant as during "The One You Serve". This one carries a cult obedience tone to the chugging guitar work and simpler, commanding chorus. There's also a bridge about two-and-a-half minutes in that sneaks through being one falsetto vocal harmonization short of something that would work on a King Diamond album, which is a nice touch to this already sinister sounding performance.

If all you heard up to this point is the album's title track, you're going to be pleasantly surprised by this new Annihilator effort. Suicide Society is a recording that essentially sums up the band's career up to this point, though it isn't the most flawless collection of the band's strongest eras. There is a good deal of cheesiness behind some of the lyrics, and a few bouts of awkwardness, not to mention some familiar material like the main verses of "Creepin' Again" and the similarities between "Death Scent" and the chorus of "Dead Wrong" off the Remains album. While it's great to have Jeff behind the mic again, it's unfortunate to see the growth of the band kind of derailed, especially in regards to Dave's vocal approach which had really started to fit the band's modernized sound over the previous two studio efforts. That said, one thing is certain: Suicide Society is a fun romp through the thrash and groove metal world, one this review hasn't can't even begin to scratch the surface of without spoiling it for other long time fans and newcomers alike. Listeners may be a bit apprehensive of it at first, but, after a few spins through, they will warmly embrace it as yet another solid album and stylistic shift for a band that never remains stationary long.

Review originally posted at Apoch's Metal Review.