I’d heard of the Canadian metal band Annihilator but don’t think ever heard the band until I stumbled across this cover of the Van Halen tune “Romeo Delight.” The song was on VH’s third album, Women and Children First, and was also played by the band on its last tour.
Take a listen. It’s good! The band’s founder and lead guitar player, Jeff Waters, is a huge EVH fan and does justice to the parts. Naturally he doesn’t nail the solo – maybe he doesn’t even try. It’s a tough one.
Other than that, what struck me most about the cover is how stiff the drums sound. Too metronomic, if that’s a word. Don’t know if that’s Pro Tools or just the precision of a metal drummer, but it really hammers home how much interplay and looseness there was and is between the Van Halen brothers. Alex Van Halen is a hugely underrated part of the VH sound and vibe.
Anyhow, here’s an excerpt of an interview with Jeff Waters about the why and how of the cover, followed by both versions of the tune. The cover version sounds like it has some skips in it – don’t know why.
At the end of the record, there’s a cover of Van Halen’s “Romeo Delight”. It’s quite a surprising choice for a thrash metal band. Actually, not a lot of bands would risk covering Van Halen mainly because of Eddie’s incredible guitar skills… Was it the challenge that motivated you in covering this song?
I wasn’t planning to pick a song because I liked it, but because it had changed my career, or my guitar playing, or my musical direction or something. That album from Van Halen, Women And Children First, in 1980, had a big influence on my guitar playing career. Actually, “Romeo Delight” was a very heavy song in 1980. Of course nowadays we see it as a party rock song with David Lee Roth and great guitar playing, but back in 1980, it was considered a very heavy and aggressive song. That turned me on to bands like Judas Priest, Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden. That song was very influential for me, and that’s why I covered it. I was trying to do a cover song of the best guitar player in history, but I wasn’t worried. I’m such a fan, I love Eddie and I love his playing, so it was a lot of fun to try it.
Your guitar sound seems different on this cover song compared to the rest of the record. Were you trying to get closer to the classic Van Halen sound? Actually, you’re even using the phaser effect Van Halen’s well known for using…
What Eddie did in 1980 was use only one guitar. Usually, you put one guitar in the right speaker, and one in the left speaker; but Eddie only had one. I tried to copy that idea, that production style. I also used the same pedals he was using. I collect Van Halen things, like shoes and guitars and pedals, everything. I just tried to have fun doing this, the whole thing was fun.
It sounds like you really had a blast while doing this cover! How come you did so few cover songs before in your career? The only one I can recall is a Judas Priest song…
We never had anything on our official CDs, but we had Judas Priest’s “Hell Bent For Leather” as a bonus on our Set The World On Fire LP in 1993. We also did an AC/DC cover for a live album. This is the first one that’s on an official album, and it was cool to do it. It’s probably the last one I’m gonna do on an Annihilator CD. Someday, when I get really old, maybe I’ll do a cover album or something, but not now. “Romeo Delight” meant a lot to me and it was a lot of fun.
When listening to Annihilator’s albums, and especially this new one, we can really hear that you put a lot of creativity not only in your solos but also in the rhythm parts. This is also something which is particularly striking in Van Halen’s songs. In this regard, could we say that you’re somehow the Van Halen of thrash metal?
If I said yes, I’d look like an asshole! But the one similarity is that Van Halen was very good at rhythm guitar playing, songwriting and guitar solos. I think in my own way, in my own style of music, I’m good at writing songs, playing rhythm guitar and doing solos. Same thing with Michael Amott. Not all guitar players have all three of those qualities, many have only two. For example, Hetfield is a great songwriter and rhythm player, but he’s not a solo shredder. Glen Tipton is the best example of all these qualities: he writes great songs and shreds on guitar and is great at rhythm playing. But there are not many people that do these three things very well. So yeah, maybe there’s a little comparison!
The original – Woody!
VH live version, 1982, Largo, MD
> When I saw the above photo of Jeff, I remembered where I’d seen him before: a vid promoting his signature Epiphone V. I was impressed because in it he rips – very fluid and comfortable. I tracked it down and here it is. Now we know why he uses the phaser so much!