Not at all what you were expecting, probably...
The signs are evident as early as the opening bars of the jaunty instrumental (named, perhaps suitably, Apocalypticon) that ushers you into Kreator’s fourteenth studio album (and first for half a decade), Gods of Violence; Things musical are on the move…
Guitarist/vocalist Mille Petrozza and his drumming sparring partner Jürgen “Ventor” Reil have never been afraid to throw a spanner into the Kreator works occasionally in the name of progress; In 1992 their open-hearted embrace of all things industrial on the Renewal album nearly put paid to the band entirely, and here, a quarter of a century after that seismic realignment of the band’s tectonic plates, the band have once again opted to make a bit of a move away from their stock-in-trade deathened thrash.
The difference between Renewal and Gods of Violence however is stark; The former still featured Petrozza’s raw-throated roar at its centre and it was, if anything, a heavier, more primitive-sounding album than it’s predecessor Coma of Souls despite it’s ‘industrial’ trappings. Gods of Violence, on the other hand, despite having moments of out-an-out Teutonic thrash glory and power (World War Now and Totalitarian Terror are both Grade-A Kreator brawlers), enlists the assistance of melody in previously-thought impossible quantities. I’m not joking you. Parts of this album resemble nothing more than an enticing battle/power metal hybrid, with the challenge for Kreator listeners of longstanding being: Do we accept this seeming betrayal of the bands deeply-held principals, and our deep-rooted love for the brutality that the band have always brought to the table?
And that’s a difficult challenge to take on. For my part, I think it’s fantastic, if a little disorientating. You’ll be sitting there, picking the splinters out of your face after being blasted half way to hell and back by the fog-horned assault of Satan Is Real, thinking everything is as it should be; then you’ll suspect someone’s changed the record whilst you weren’t paying attention as Hail to the Hordes pounds its way out of the speakers and into your ears, for all the world like a phantasmagorical mix of Hail to England-era Manowar and latterday Amon Amarth, right down to the Ross the Boss style solo, pounding percussive attack and mead-fuelled chorus. I love it – but will you?
Likewise Fallen Brother, with its martial drum tattoo intro and brooding, almost Mustaine-esque chug, not to mention the superbly melodic chorus, where Petrozza weaves vocally in and out of his own and Sami Yli-Sirniö’s guitar lines beautifully. Can this really be Kreator? Are you sure it’s not one of the many semi-faceless Euro power outfits that share the band’s Nuclear Blast home? No matey – I’m sure, and it’s bloody marvellous.
And then there’s Side by Side, which erupts like a long lost relative of something from Terrible Certainty before – you guessed it – bolting an unfeasibly melodic chorus onto the song’s superstructure. Whether you like it or not, I guarantee you’ll be finding yourself absent-mindedly humming that chorus for some time after first contact.
So is this a brave new world for Kreator, or merely a diversion to scratch some sort of Viking metal itch that’s been bothering Mille and Ventor for a while? I wouldn’t presume to give an answer, though if I were a betting man I’d suggest the latter possibility as being more probable. But for now I’m going to make the most of it and immerse myself totally in this surprising but ultimately successful slice of risk-taking. And I think you should too.
Gods of Violence will be released on January 27th by Nuclear Blast