Jeff Waters, a classically trained Canadian guitarist, needed a creative output for his talents and Annihilator was the result.
The demo debut, Phantasmagoria, took the underground music scene by fire. They relocated from Ottawa to Vancouver before releasing their debut album, Alice In Hell (1989). This album was a huge power grab for Jeff Waters in the Thrash genre. It's intricate guitar and bass parts played by Waters personally who also wrote and produced the material with fellow cohorts Randy Rampage (ex-D.O.A.; vocals) and Ray Hartman (drums). Anthony Greenham (guitar) and Wayne Darley (bass) joined after the recording. Roadrunner's investment in them was returned in spades when the album ended off being the company's biggest debut in its history.
Shortly after, the band suffered from line-up problems, with Dave Scott Davis replacing Greenham almost as soon as he arrived, and Rampage also leaving after the touring was completed, with Coburn Pharr replacing him. More lyrical maturity was displayed on Never Neverland (1990), as well as a new version of Phantasmagoria. This sophomore effort went well, but during the follow-up European tour with Judas Priest a sudden departure by Davis sent the remaining members scrambling to perform the complicated material with a missing man. They struggled through and decided to take a long and deserved break after. When they returned, Aaron Randall was on vocals, with Neil Goldberg taking up the vacant guitar slot and Mike Mangini taking over drums shortly later. Set The World On Fire (1993) saw them progress beyond the Thrash genre exclusively and into more melodic ideals; it sold well despite getting a bashing by the 'metal' music press.
Bag Of Tricks (1994), their remixes and unreleased compilation, would be their last for 'Roadrunner'. Their debut for 'Music For Nations' was the follow-up, King Of The Kill (1994) , whose title track went over well in the media, MTV and on radio. It also saw a new line-up, with Cam Dixon (bass), Randy Black (drums), Dave Davis (guitar) and Waters himself on vocals. Refresh The Demon (1996) would follow along the same style while In Command (live '89-'90) was just what its name implied, and Remains (1997) was another Jeff Waters' only affair; a more industrial metal-oriented album which turned out to be the biggest flop of the band's career.
By the time Remains was being recorded, Waters was the sole remaining band member. The album featured an electric drum machine (programmed by Jeff Waters) and no tour in support of it.
There had been several line-up changes within the operation between most discs, with some recordings featuring Jeff Waters soloing for the most part. By the time Criteria For A Black Widow came about in 1999 the line-up had settled with Joe Comeau (ex-Overkill/ex-Liege Lord; vocals), Jeff Waters (guitar), Curran Murphy (guitar), Russell Bergquist (bass), Randy Black (drums). Officially speaking, between 1997 and 1999, the act ceased to exist as a functioning unit.
Carnival Diablos (2001) saw them change labels again, this time to 'Metal-is' with a return to their roots, Thrash. In fact Annihilator have proven to be one of the few acts still making no-frills high-speed Thrash. Walking The Fury (2002) was yet more no-frills Thrash Metal that was followed up with the live double CD set Double Live Annihilation (2003) with Dave Padden replacing Comeau. The next album, All For You (2004), saw Mike Mangini replacing Black.
After considerable success, the band's lineup once again dissolved. Following years of line-up changes, Jeff Waters decided to work with the tour only lineup of Dave Padden as a permanent vocalist/rhythm guitarist, while Waters recruited touring bassists and drummers and chose to play both bass and guitar himself. The first two albums in this three-man band format (and a hired drummer) were All for You (2004) and Schizo Deluxe (2005). Mike Mangini rejoined for the former album, while and Tony Chappelle was hired for the latter.
In 2007 the band would sign to 'SPV' to release Metal. The album featuring an all star guest cast including Steve Kudlow (aka Lips; Anvil), Angela Gussow (Arch Enemy), Jeff Loomis (Nevermore), Anders Bjorler (The Haunted), William Adler (Lamb Of God) and Jesper Stromblad (In Flames), to name just some. Their self title album followed in 2010.
In the summer of 2014, Oscar Rangel replaced Al Campuzano, their bassist since 2010.
Dave Padden was the next to leave, in 2014, telling Waters over a telephone call that he was sick of constant touring and the lifestyle he was living and citing that contributing factors were that he was away from his family too much and he had not been happy being in the band over the past five years, despite offers of more money after the next record was done. Waters then decided that he would handle vocals himself in addition to doing everything but play drums in the studio. Coburn Pharr surprised audiences, however, when he returned for a short time on the 70000 Tons of Metal concert in January 2015.
September of 2015 saw their fifteenth studio album released in the form of Suicide Society.
Triple Threat followed in 2017. The album featured three discs, including one containing the band's Jeff Waters, Aaron Homma, and Rich Hinks along with other artists playing an acoustic set of the band's most well-known ballads and acoustic songs, all done in single takes.
The band was nominated for a Juno in 2017 (Canada's version of the Grammy's).