Style: Thrash Metal
Release Date: 10 Jun 2022
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I'm always up for a new Kreator album. I've been a fan of theirs since their early days and enjoyed them enough to go see them live twice in two months back on their 1989 Extreme Aggression tour. Perhaps more pertinent to today, I dug their last couple of albums too, especially 2012's Phantom Antichrist but 2017's Gods of Violence too, which signalled the way that this album would take five years down the road.
They're not the most prolific thrash band on the planet but they tend to deliver, with a few almost inevitably awkward nineties albums notwithstanding, though, in Kreator's case, these tended to be far more interesting than plenty of other bands of their day. They innovated and experimented and, while not all those experiments worked out as they'd hoped, they never lost the way forward. This is their fifteenth album, even though they've never split up and their debut was back in 1985, and it's often very recognisable.
That word "often" may cause a raised eyebrow and that's warranted because Kreator are playing with their sound again, starting with the instrumental intro, which is an oddly late homage to the Italian film director Sergio Corbucci, who's been dead for thirty-two years. Why they felt the need to notice this year, I have no idea, but it's a pleasant minute that leans far more towards his many spaghetti westerns than his action comedies.
Things really get down to business with the first couple of songs proper, the title track and Killer of Jesus. They're both excellent up tempo thrashers, as you might expect from Kreator, even if there isn't anything particularly groundbreaking in either of them. The sound is clean and the band get down to business quickly. They just don't have anything new to say that they haven't already said a bunch of times before. I still got a kick out of them though, especially the guitar duel in the second half of Hate über alles.
And then things gradually shift down tempo. Crush the Tyrants stays strong anyway, even though I prefer my thrash on the fast side. Strongest of the Strong continues the decent mid-tempo and is elevated by some almost doom/death guitarwork over the top of the crunch and the fury. Perhaps this approach is summed up by Become Immortal, which looks backward with an air of nostalgia. I couldn't miss the refrain of "Remember where you came from". If that's what Mille Petrozza aims to do here, he's going all the way back to the early days when they had other names: Metal Militia and Tyrant and Tormentor. Certainly the influences here aren't proto-thrash bands but traditional heavy metal bands like Saxon and especially Accept, right down to the "woah" section.
And so it goes. There's thrash metal here but it's surprisingly sparing, to the degree that it shows up when we least expect it. Conquer and Destroy plays with epic metal, from the guitar intro to an unusual late vocal section and a general anthemic feel. The real epic here is Dying Planet at close to seven minutes, but it's too long and the narrative segment doesn't work for me.
What does work for me is Midnight Sun, which begins with a tasty buzzsaw speed metal guitar but develops in surprising ways. It stays speed metal for a while, just with an oddly slow beat, but the bridge is delivered by a female voice in an almost gothic fashion, one that's placed in an odd level of the mix for effect. I'm not convinced by all the ideas on this album, but this one is tantalising, a very interesting contribution by Sofia Portanet, apparently a modern German new wave singer. I need to check her own work out.
I hadn't planned on running through this album track by track, but it develops in that sort of vein, with the final couple of tracks being relatively forgettable. It feels like a manifesto, a very public choice to take the thrash metal that Kreator are rightly known for and then gradually move away from it, back into traditional metal and then forward into more unusual territory. Had the album ended after Demonic Future, that might have worked a little better than it does with a relatively unnecessary pair of closers. I'm not entirely sold but I'm not such a thrash purist that it pisses me off. Some of these experiments work well, but not all of them and I wonder where they'll go next.
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