Thursday, February 9, 2017

Album Review: Kreator - Gods Of Violence

I declared that 2016 might have been the weakest year for music since I've been keeping track of my listening. Part of the reason for that, at least on the metal side of the ledger, is because it was viewed by many as the year of thrash. Metallica, Megadeth, and Anthrax all released (hugely underwhelming) new albums, and it seemed for a while all anyone could do was talk about thrash, of which I am not a fan. Not being an adrenaline-fueled teenager, the speed of thrash is something that's never spoken to me, and the lack of good vocalists in the genre rarely overcame that fact. But, I'm usually willing to give things a chance, so with the hype surrounding the new Kreator album in full swing, I decided to see what all the fuss was about. Could these thrash titans win me over?

In one word; yes.

In more words; Kreator is able to do something unique and desperately needed with thrash. While they harness all the speed and venom you would expect from the genre, they do so with a few different influences, Iron Maiden foremost among them. There are plenty of moments here where the two guitars break off into harmonies that Murray and Smith would have played in 1986, which is the single best thing about Kreator's modern sound. Thrash is often so focused on the percussive bursts of the rhythm guitars that melody is completely ignored. Adding those elements into the musical backdrop not only gives us something deeper and more engaging to listen to, but it lessens the load the vocals need to lift to make the songs memorable.

On that front, however, Mille Petrozza doesn't need much help. One of my main issues with thrash is that the vocals are often an afterthought, but here Mille gives every song a chorus that is loud and aggressive, but anthemic enough that the crowd in the pit can easily shout along with it as their bodies bang off one another.

Take "Totalitarian Terror", for example. The opening riff is a blitzkrieg of thrash fury, running through a verse that could have been on any Slayer record. But instead of throwing out some random phrasing to serve as a hook, Mille has something much more grand to offer. It takes a traditional thrash motif, and then makes it better, just because they can.

But the Iron Maiden influence isn't strictly what it sounds like at first. It can also be viewed as being filtered through the Gothenberg melodic death metal school that pulled from that sound. In fact, I would argue that Kreator's sound at this point is half thrash, half melodic death metal. Mille's melodic growl is certainly something sitting in between a regular vocalist and a harsh death vocalist. He does give a heavy edge to the music, but depending on which side of the aisle you're coming from, he can also be a detriment.

But let's hone in on the important point. "Gods Of Violence" is a better example of how to do thrash than anything the Big Four have put out in decades. For all the praise those bands still get when they put out anything at all, Kreator is doing it better. They're heavier, more melodic, and writing better songs to boot. Look, I'm not Mr Thrash, so I'm never going to say that this is my favorite thing in the world, but I can recognize when something is done exceptionally well. Kreator has done that here. "Gods Of Violence" is everything a modern thrash album should be.

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