Originally written by Chris Chellis.
While Annihilator version 2006 may no longer be of interest to the same fan base the group garnered in its early years, this spiffy new DVD should certainly turn those stubborn heads.
Ten Years in Hell covers Annihilator’s full-length recording history from 1989 to 1999, from Alice in Hell to Criteria for a Black Window, and, yes, this is cute, from Rampage to Rampage (Randy Rampage returned as vocalist after a decade-long absence for Criteria). Neat how it all ties up, right? And if you look at it that way, this DVD really does act like a digital history book, tying up loose ends by stopping to smell the roses every other year or so and paying tribute to the support act that has always played second fiddle to the Jeff Waters show (as it should be).
What you get here is a smorgasbord of video, from music videos to TV appearances (Canadian and Japanese) and backstage footage, but what really sets this apart is Waters’ willingness to explain what each and every video piece represents to him and the band’s history. Hell, the second disc in this two-disc DVD set is essentially Waters going through each album and explaining how each one was born, from influences for sound and approach to new musicians. You even learn through both his own testimony and the testimony of others about Waters’ childhood. This might seem a little narcissistic, and it obviously is, to a degree, but the information is kept quite relevant to how Annihilator was created and how it managed to sustain some serious drama.
There are some real gems among these videos. Footage of a show in 1990 London features pre-show interviews with the guys from Xentrix, who were clearly psyched to see Waters shred on stage. An interview at a Canadian TV news network will try your patience at the ignorance the reporter shows in his understanding of metal and the lack of respect he shows to Waters is actually quite funny. To give you an idea of what I am talking about, the reporter asks Waters, “Why do you have such dirty names?”
This isn’t a Waters worship piece either. Singers Rampage and Coburn Pharr get a lot of attention, with the latter coming off as a pretentious dick most of the time. I say that mostly because it’s obvious that he had the camera man shoot him next to what he probably considers his “pride and joy,” some fucking expensive sporty car. That said, he does tell a few interesting stories and his presence on the DVD is appreciated and surprising, considering the fact that he was basically tossed out of the band.
This is how a complete DVD should feel with backstage, home, recording, live, and TV/studio footage. Like the greatest of tragedies, Ten Years in Hell is dramatic, funny, relevant, and, ironically enough, considering the name, timeless. You will honestly laugh out loud at some of the seemingly random shit you’ll find stuffed in this collection, from a crazed Japanese fan dressed like the character from King of the Kill at an in-store appearance from ’94 in Tokyo to a reporter from “U-Tonight” cutting Waters off so frequently that Waters refuses to answer more questions and leaves the guy hanging as he asks the same question three times without response. This, my friends, is what metal is made of. If you’re an Alice in Hell and Never, Neverland era Annihilator fan, pick this up.