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Ear Hammer of the Gods
Boozy punks Annihilation Time put some Thin Lizzy in their hardcore—unseriously
The beery, old-school-loving punks of Annihilation Time don't take themselves seriously in the least, preferring blistering leads, urgent shouts and the pounding pulse of hardcore to any real profundity. In fact, ask guitarist Graham Clise about the band's name, and he shrugs. "I don't know, we just thought it sounded heavy or something," he says. "It sounded old school, like Black Flag-style."
Likewise, the third album by the 7-year-old California quintet—Annihilation Time III: Tales of the Ancient Age—sounds like it was made decades ago. Clise credits that to producer Greg Wilkinson and the analog equipment at Earhammer Studios in Oakland, where most of the band reside after having moved from Ventura and Oxnard.
For all the gritty hardcore influence in Annihilation Time, it's hard to ignore the goofy swagger (see the lyrics about bald women and germaphobes) and wild guitar parts that ride the band's crunchy backbone. "We're really big into punk," Clise explains, "but we're also big into rock. Both guitar players are really into the Allman Brothers and things you wouldn't guess. So it all translates. It all gets thrown together."
That sinewy fusion has earned Annihilation Time a reputation for marrying '70s rock with '80s hardcore, which Clise thinks is somewhat exaggerated. "I really don't think our music sounds so much like ['70s rock]. We're just playing hardcore punk. We get compared to Thin Lizzy, which is awesome because they're a kick-ass band, and Deep Purple, but I don't think we sound anything like that. Maybe a little in the guitar stuff."
He admits there's psych in there, too, inspired by the Nuggets box set and other late-'60s gems. That's apparent on the new album, as are stabs of stoner rock, metal and garage. Tying it all together is screamer Jimmy Rose, whose low-mixed vocals are packed with disappointment and spite. He rails against "this fucking town" on the boozy anthem "Just Guzzlin'," vents his varied frustrations on "About to Snap" and mines a rich ore of irony on "Bad Luck": "If it weren't for bad luck, I wouldn't have you."
Tales of the Ancient Age is the band's first for the hip New York label Tee Pee, and it follows 2004's Annihilation Time and 2005's Annihilation Time II. ("We couldn't think of names," Clise says, laughing.) The latest two albums feature eye-popping, cartoonish cover art by former Annihilation Time guitarist Shaun Filley, who moved to Cleveland and now plays in the metal band Midnight. The new cover features flying cars, crusty punks, a smoking baby, a man getting eaten by a sewer alligator, and lots of guns and squalor.
The album might have come out sooner if Rose hadn't relocated to Pittsburgh since the last one. To make matters worse, a year ago, Clise smashed his hand while fixing a table. "It shattered my first three fingers pretty bad," he recalls nonchalantly. "I had to do a lot of physical therapy, and the doctors were saying I might never play again. But it's pretty much back to normal now. They're still attached."
Annihilation Time had to cancel a European tour after Clise's mishap, and the band went through lineup changes while moving to Oakland. Guitarist Chris Wilson came aboard, as did drummer Noel Sullivan, who'd been a roadie for the band. Even Rose, whose singing is so much a part of the guys' sound, replaced the founding vocalist after the first album. That makes Clise and bassist Chris Grande the band's only original members.
"Any time you get someone different," notes Clise, "the sound changes. That's why each album sounds different." He says the rest of the band have been considering moving east to be closer to Rose. "It's just talk so far, but it'd be cool if we were all on the same coast. We don't really have anything going on. We're into just packing up and going wherever."
That fits the Annihilation Time credo, which seems to be about tearing up the road without getting bogged down in the self-importance that plagues so much punk rock. "We want to tour a bunch and play music," says Cline, "but we're not trying to say anything profound or convert people to some way of thought."
Annihilation Time perform with Broken Needle, Tippers Gore, Acid Reflux and C.O.P. at Elks Lodge, 695 E. Foothill Blvd., Pomona, (909) 621-2172; www.myspace.com/musiclodge. Fri., 7 p.m. $10.