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On tour with Annihilator : it’s gonna thrash !

Artists : AnnihilatorSworn AmongstSvölk

Our story begins in Switzerland, in Pratteln near Basel, on the 1st of November behind the Z7 venue. The zone is industrial… metal! There is already a fan who has spotted the red bus and the cover of their latest album is carefully placed on the top of a cardboard box, waiting to be signed. His collection is almost complete. Annihilator have already achieved over half of their European tour as the headliners in 2010 and everything seems to be going well for them.

In the words of Jeff Waters, promotion in local areas is not very important. There was a time when labels used to hire companies from each country to ensure such promotion. In Ottawa, where band’s main man lives, you can just open up a newspaper a day or two before the artist’s concert and there is an article on the person. In 2010, Jeff Waters admitted that this was the first time that he was on tour with such a small amount of local promotion for the band. And yet, to his great surprise, the shows were all fully packed. The internet has replaced usual music promotion, people share information via social networking sites and the band’s management saw an opening.

Annihilator (at the Z7), they can be smooth.

Those who have already been to an Annihilator concert know that the band is easily accessible. So why not kill two birds with one stone? The concept is quite simple. If you are a fan of the Canadian band, then post a link for the tour found on their official website onto ten different forums and then send this in an email to the website. Once this is done, you will be granted a meet & greet with Annihilator. This way everyone is happy! And it works! The ticket sales for the concert are sufficient and they triple on the day of the show! Moreover, what pleases the band even more is how well the merchandising stalls are doing, because when you buy a t-shirt, you are actually paying for the crew! This way the band have no need to spend any money of their own. This makes you want to wear your t-shirt more often right?

Having said this, Jeff Waters still has a few doubts about the sold-out option tonight. However, they are all in good spirits; after a tricky sound check, the band are taking a break from their duties including laundry, instrument playing and signing a car!

The Z7 has a very good reputation because of the lights, sound and… the kitchen! This is how we found out that a chef opened up the kitchen officially a few months previous, however after his death, a woman replaced him and it is at this point in the tour that the band have had the best meal so far. While this is going on, the man in charge of merchandising showed me a video of Jeff Waters practicing his guitar skills without even looking at the neck!

Svölk facing the Swiss crowd at the Z7 in Pratteln

The venue’s doors are supposed to be opening at 7 PM. At 6.30 PM, the Annihilator backdrop has been hung behind the stage and the members of Sworn Amongst are looking for their merch boxes… While Annihilator are getting ready slowly and relaxing to the music, Dave Padden, Svölk and Sworn Amongst are warming up their vocals before facing the Swiss crowd when the concert starts in fifteen minutes time.

The Norwegians from Svölk were not necessarily expecting to be on this tour. About a month before the start of the tour, Martin Osterhaug sent a link of Annihilator’s MySpace via his Facebook page. As a result, Svölk found out three weeks before the gig that they would be supporting Annihilator! Shortly after, the band lost their singer but at this rate it was already too late to turn it down. So Jengt Castral and Thomas Osterhaug decided to share the singing, which turns out to work very well on stage and might stay in future.

Liam Liddell (Sworn Amongst)

These are amazing holidays for the band. Although their name hasn’t spread much and the majority of people have only discovered the band through concerts, the general opinion is positive. In fact they have fans in Poland and the amount clicks on the word “like” on Facebook is only increasing! Furthermore, the ways in which the band are touring are proper and their relationship with Annihilator and Sworn Amongst are excellent. From time to time, the members of Sworn Amongst and Svölk share and exchange instrument or amplifier tips. In fact, the drummer Jorgen Seger Haave does so with Carlos from Annihilator. The band’s concerts go very well, the Swiss crowd is attentive and even more so in Spain.

It seems that Thomas, the bassist is very satisfied to be playing in Barcelona and the band’s welcome is friendly. During the last track, Jengt gets close to the photographers in the pit and then shakes a few hands as he hands the crowd some guitar picks. Svölk have been able to seize their opportunity.

If there exists another band with such a strong will to succeed, it is Sworn Amongst. Liam, the singer, is a young man who is fully invested in his band and who understands the business. He let the labels discuss the band’s fate and a possible career opening after the tour amongst themselves. Bingo! About a month after the first concerts, Sworn Amongst was selected.

Rob Ellwood (Sworn Amongst)

Being used to touring, the band were delighted to be returning to Europe. In fact the idea of having to stay in London saddened the singer. The band seemed to be welcomed well most of the time, with a few stage dives and moshing in Spain. Their relationship with Annihilator is very good and we learn that Jeff Waters just did his soundcheck with Johnny’s guitar who is a huge fan of Annihilator. Without a doubt, the pictures taken of this moment will be looked at more than once! Again, we see an exchange or technical tips between the two. Sworn Amongst are even thinking of having Jeff Waters on stage with them for their last gig in London… Unless they choose to do it the other way… In fact, Annihilator make sure to compliment the band when it is time to say good bye leaving Sworn Amongst feeling proud and enthralled. We would be too.

In the end Jeff Waters plays a solo on the re-edited version of « The Rules of Engagement » by Sworn Amongst coming out in February. Liam insists that everyone on the tour is incredibly nice and easy to live with, enabling them to concentrate fully on their performances. This is definitely something that Sworn Amongst know about.

As for the two bands supporting Annihilator, the bassist from Svölk admits that his favourite album from the Canadian thrash metallers is The Trend, whereas the rest of the band prefer Never, Neverland (1990). The singer, Liam, admits that he doesn’t listen to that much thrash but he has a preference for the song “21” nonetheless.

The Swiss concert was relatively good with some great conditions for all of the bands. It is now time for them to join the gang in Spain as they return from Italy.

Sound check at Razzmatazz

Usually, the band arrive at the venue at the right time for the sound check, but for the gig in Barcelona, they encounter a few issues during the journey from Italy. Their very modern and comfortable red tour bus breaks down as the route navigator is no longer responding. As a result, the bus company are forced to get some plane tickets for the whole gang. The organisation is somewhat messy, however, the band manage to get there between 5 PM and 5.30 PM to find that their equipment had already arrived. The sound check can begin at 6 PM and each band member gets themselves ready starting with the drums. As the drums echo in the Razzmatazz 2 venue, it feels as though an atomic war has started. Jeff Waters is feeling bluesy as he leads on to “Alison Hell”, while Dave Padden works on his vocals only moderately and then they all tune up without the vocals. Al uses the song “Set The World On Fire” during his practice and then the band play “Welcome To The Fun Palace” twice, the second time with the lights.

Annihilator : this is Barcelona !

The meet & greet formula before the concert works well in Spain. Svölk turn up on stage feeling comfortable with the Spanish crowd. Similarly, Sworn Amongst act the same way with their modern thrash and very soon the stage diving begins. The atmosphere is warming up thanks to the British band but also because it is known that Spanish crowds are always very motivated. Caliente! For Annihilator, the fans are relentlessly chanting the Canadian’s name and the band don’t stop shouting back to the Spaniards “Come on, this is Barcelona!”. The overall atmosphere of the concert is very relaxed despite the fact that there is very little dialogue between the songs since the musicians are mainly concentrating on the different adjustments on their instruments.

Jeff Waters (Annihilator) in Barcelona

Just before the song « Ultra-Motion », Jeff Waters throws in once again the rumour that Barcelona like thrash metal, and just before beginning the track, the main man asks that the spotlights be shun on the crowd. The thrash madness can begin. The song literally has the effect of a grenade on the crowd, maintaining the pressure on the other speed/thrash songs in the set list (“WTYD” and “Phantasmagoria” get their share of moshing). Dave Padden’s vocals are as good as ever, during the thrash, heavy or clear bits on the “Phoenix/Sounds Good To Me” medley – receiving a load of praise. Barcelona is a city that rarely disappoints. Now all that needs to be experienced is if Madrid will have the same on offer.

The capital city is only three hours away and the band’s hotel is only across the street. When Jeff Waters takes out his suitcase, a small group of fans follow him in the hopes of getting an autograph or a picture. During this time, Sworn Amongst and Svölk are responding to calls from the fans and packing away their instruments in the trailer. Towards the end of the night, Dave Padden attempts the Pepe Bar below the venue but doesn’t stay too long in order to keep his voice intact.

Annihilator are expected everywhere!

The Sala Heineken venue looks more like a kind of place to chill in with its comfy sofas than a place to thrash your heart out tonight. Once again, Annihilator take care of what they need to do and the sound check takes place at the end of the afternoon. Svölk and Sworn Amongst are relaxing upstairs whilst answering a few questions while those in charge of merchandising set themselves up in their strategic location. There is nothing terribly exciting about all of this and it seems that they have the same routine every day.

Corn Flakes are important

Without a doubt, Jeff Waters is a friendly band leader and that the 90s when the tours were a crazy drink fest are far behind today. In 2010, everything seems to be a lot smoother. Each band tries its best to put on an intense show and the result is always a success. No reason to worry then? Well maybe not. Svölk’s sound is good and their shows are as relaxed as the previous day but the crowd reaction is greater. Sworn Amongst are in good shape and Rob’s bass is particularly well heard tonight. All is going well, Annihilator arrive on stage.

Something’s not right here.

When you go to see a band like Exodus or Slayer, you know that you are going to feel full of nerves and that the show is going to be aggressive; that is the main reason you are there. Then there are bands like Annihilator or Anthrax that you go to see for the friendly and fun atmosphere. As long as the sound is good, this is what makes the band animated on stage. Jeff Waters, being the self-taught producer of the bands in his own studio, knows this well. The three first tracks are played very fast with a few technical mistakes. The feedback from the amplifiers is too loud and Jeff Waters has to ask the local crew to turn them down three times. You can see from his face that he is angry and that this is not his typical mood. Then during “King Of The Kill” Jeff Waters takes full advantage, as Dave Padden watches from the corner of his eye to see what is about to happen. The lead guitarist even invites the light technician for a drink during “Ultra-Motion” as the light lie on the audience throughout this unbelievable track. Although it is repetitive, it is also effective.

Jeff Waters and Dave Padden (Annihilator) in Madrid

This irritation is obviously not insignificant since Jeff yells “there we go!” about the lights when they finally come back on the track “Welcome To Your Death”. This is the tenth track out the eighteen played this evening. The band still don’t tire when another sound problem happens during “The Fun Palace”, as Dave Padden continues to play despite feeling irritated by the feedback. It was difficult to find out more about this since everyone was shuffled out fairly quickly after the show.

In conclusion, it is right that this tour was a success. Opened by a Parisian show where Jeff Waters proved to be more talkative than on the other dates and spread across two months, supported by bands chosen by Annihilator themselves. They braved the fire in Nottingham and the economic climate in Greece, led by Jeff Waters the master himself and his second hand man and brother Dave Padden, with whom he shares a real bond. He was generous in the meet & greet events, photo shoots and after the shows with his fans, as well as with a well balanced and interesting set list for the fans. This joyous gang managed by Verena gave and received a lot of good times on stage by sticking to the idea that hard work brings real returns. In their own way, the bands on this 2010 European tour left their mark and what will be best remembered is their good mood and professionalism.

Thank to Verena (tour manager) for her availability and kindness, as well as Svölk, Sworn Amongst and Annihilator for their friendliness and fantastic shows.

Annihilator are there for the crowd (at the end of the concert in the Z7 in Pratteln)

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