Album Title: Gods of Violence
Label: Nuclear Blast
Date Of Release: 27 January 2017
Occasionally, just occasionally, I can be a prize idiot. Like the time I sliced the tip of my finger off by choosing a knife for a job that would have been perfect for a pair of scissors. Or the time I reversed my car into another car that was stationary right beside me. In broad daylight. There are plenty of other examples but perhaps the biggest one that I can think of right now is my decision, albeit unconsciously, to never really get to grips with German thrash metal band Kreator.
Kreator have been around for practically forever and yet aside from a cursory dabble here and there, I’ve never spent any significant time with the band. Formed in Essen in 1982, ‘Gods of Violence’ represents the fourteenth studio album of the band’s career and it has taken until now for the penny to finally drop.
I mean, I always knew that they were highly regarded and I knew from the ‘Live Kreation’ album that I have squirrelled away in my collection that they could be melodic as well as aggressive and powerful. But still, I never really found the time or the desire to investigate further. Perhaps it was my general malaise towards thrash metal that was the reason or the fact that my musical journey continually pulled me in different directions. Or it could have been the fact that I was put off by criticism levelled at the band during the 90s for veering away from their archetypal sound in pursuit of a more industrial approach of which I’m not a fan per se. Whatever the reason though, I’m delighted to say that I have finally seen the error of my ways.
Back to the present day then and all I can say is: ‘Gods of Violence’ – oh yes, oh yes indeed. Given my general apathy towards thrash metal, it has to be something quite special to get my juices flowing. And that’s exactly what Messrs Miland ‘Mille’ Petrozza (vocals/guitar), Jürgen ‘Ventor’ Reil (drums), Christian ‘Speesy’ Giesler (bass) and Sami Yli-Sirniö (guitars) have delivered with this impressive new record.
I liked ‘Gods of Violence’ on a first spin. I liked it more on the second spin. And now, a week or two into my listening experience, I am loving it and I can’t stop playing it. I love the guitar tones that deliver the sharp, incisive riffs; they sound rich and full, offering the kind of primeval tone that I fell in love with all those years ago and made me realise that forevermore I’d be a slave to heavy metal.
The rhythm section is a genuine powerhouse too. From more groovy, stomping rhythms to all-out speed, Giesler and Reil lay down the impressively strong foundations, sucking you in for frequent head-banging sessions at the same time.
And then, as with all good thrash metal, the vocals are properly venomous. Petrozza is an angry man and this comes across in his snarling, spiteful diatribes. Inspired by recent world events, in particular the recent Paris terror attacks, Petrozza takes this opportunity to look at the effect of religion in the world and the way in which it can be used as a catalyst for many of the world’s ills. It isn’t a concept album per se, but the themes explored have a definite thread running through them and help to contextualise the confrontational album title and the dark, malevolent album art.
To give but one example of the lyrics in action, I’d have to go with ‘Totalitarian Terror’. The title gives a good clue of the content, but the line ‘we’re not afraid to live, we’re not afraid to die; we are the antidote, to the radicalised’ is a bold and unabashed cry of defiance against terrorists of all denominations.
On to the music itself and, according to the accompanying press release, Kreator received a bit of help and guidance from the chaps in Fleshgod Apocalypse to make the album sound more cinematic and symphonic in places. The assistance has worked, with the results immediately obvious within the opening instrumental introduction, ‘Apocalypticon’. I’m not normally a fan of these brief intros but here, it’s a minute well-spent, setting a theatrically grandiose yet dark tone.
The orchestration makes a return within a few songs throughout the album, but it never gets in the way of the core sound; it is a welcome embellishment that adds another layer to the music without ever diluting the power or the intensity.
Instead, to prove the point, the first song proper, ‘World War Now’, is a four-and-a-half-minute distillation of what Kreator and ‘Gods of Violence’ is all about. It wastes no time in getting started with an up-tempo beat and fast, incisive riffing. The barely-controlled fury of the chorus then takes things up a notch as it sounds tumultuous and full of aggression. And then it all gives way to a section that is pure melody and irresistible groove, culminating in a return to faster climes, an exuberant guitar solo and a blast-beat dominated repeat of the furious chorus.
The pace is slowed somewhat for ‘Satan Is Real’, a track that still offers blast beats and some great bass work but is much more of a stomper, a groove-laden anthem that will no doubt be a live favourite thanks to its fist-pumping, infectious chorus.
The aforementioned ‘Totalitarian Terror’ is a perfect favourite as it blends some of the fastest, most abrasive thrash metal aggression with a hook-laden sing-along battle cry chorus that has really got under my skin. The track also features a groovy mid-section breakdown and killer guitar solo, meaning that it should sate even the most demanding of metal thirsts.
The title track begins with an early Metallica-esque acoustic guitar intro, sprinkled with Middle Eastern flavour before reaffirming their thrash credentials within this hectic, no nonsense track that also begins to introduce a slight ‘New Wave of British Heavy Metal’ feel by virtue of the more melodious lead guitar lines.
The NWOBHM ingredient is yet more pronounced within both ‘Army Of Storms’ and closer ‘Death Becomes My Light’. I absolutely love the chorus of giant proportions within ‘Army Of Storms’ which transforms the song into an exhilarating aural experience. And then, just after the half-way point, in come the guitar harmonies and galloping bass that recall classic era Iron Maiden at their best.
In contrast, ‘Death Becomes My Light’ is a slightly longer, more sprawling number that sees Kreator toying with a slightly different approach. Cleaner singing takes the early spotlight atop a quiet intro before a properly galloping rhythm takes over. The chorus is strong and I simply can’t get enough of the Kreator recipe of offering big hooks and melodies atop a thunderous blast beat. It just works and it works brilliantly. Easily the most accessible and melodic track on ‘Gods of Violence’, there is even time for a more bluesy, soulful guitar solo and epic-sounding outro, ensuring that it sees the record out in real style.
I’m not entirely sure that there are any weak tracks on this record. From start to finish, I am kept engaged and delighted by what I hear. And as rich as it might sound coming from me given my previous history with Kreator, but if you don’t find ‘Gods of Violence’ to your liking in some shape or form, it might be time to question whether you actually like heavy metal at all. I’m off to explore an extensive back catalogue right now.
The Score Of Much Metal: 9.25
If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others from previous years and for 2017 right here: