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Gods Of Violence

Nuclear Blast (2017)
Rating: 7.5/10

Has it really been half a decade since 2012’s Phantom Antichrist? Even so, these German thrash stalwarts – along with the likes of compatriots Destruction and Sodom – never seem to be out of the limelight, and for many years now have been perched at top of their own thrash tier. And yet like so many other legendary thrash acts born from the 80s, Kreator have not fully claimed my interest – it having waned since the mid-90s onwards when melody and sheen seemed to have taken over literal aggression which made them so toxically brilliant in the first place.

I’m not one of those naïve enough to expect a return to Pleasure To Kill (1986) or Extreme Aggression (1989) – those times are well and truly gone – but over the last couple of decades Kreator have probably remained the most tame out of the Teutonic bunch, in spite of the fact that in general the German thrash scene has now taken over from the so-called “Big Four” with only Overkill of their American counterparts really keeping a steady hand and remaining close to their roots.

And so we come to Gods Of Violence, the 14th outburst from Mille Petrozza, Ventor and company – 11 scorching tracks which once again sport that modernised air of aggression, one that seems a world away from those late 80s expressions. However, it is still in keeping with the thrash sound we’ve come to expect over the last handful of records. Everything nowadays seems well-produced, glossy in fact, and most certainly melodious in format. But Gods Of Violence is still very much a thrash record, one daubed in Satanic references and war-torn anger, a ballistic missile to the senses from the off with the likes of ‘World War Now’ and ‘Satan Is Real’; blunt, forceful messages built upon that ever reliable framework of Mille Petrozza’s harsh nips and those razor sharp rhythms built upon Ventor’s percussive frenzy and the Petrozza / Sami Yli-Sirniö axe attack.

With so much political corruption and impending world demise to commentate on Petrozza is certainly up for the fight, barking out orders and sneering with hostility throughout those mentioned tracks, although for me it’s tracks such as ‘Army Of Storms’ which provide the perfect thrash ingredients. Fans will also love some of the guitar duels on offer throughout the opus, particularly on the title cut with its tyrannical escapades and dollops of speedy melody – Kreator really have become an anthemic act over the last 20 years, their once brand of brash, snarling thrash now having more in common with power metal and its contemporary orchestration and ominous, yet bombastic designs.

This is still apparent on the already mentioned ‘Satan Is Real’ and also the mid-paced bludgeoning of ‘Hail To The Hordes’, a bona-fide power metal mosher of gargantuan riffage. Yep, it’s a cool track, but for me it’s the reason I’ve probably lost interest in Kreator over the years. For an album of such political nuances, ‘Hail To The Hordes’ is very much a track of hope as it praises the metal community and all it stands for. I’m sure that festivals across Europe and the rest of the world will join arm in arm for this one, but to me there’s a cheesy air to proceedings – the lyrics and general feel loses edge. Kreator are now up there with Grave Digger and the likes, especially with the inclusion of bagpipes to clearly enhance the sound and atmosphere.

However, I can’t fully knock Kreator for their diversity, and this is showcased again with the Iron Maiden-esque ‘Death Becomes My Light’; a neo-Gothic brisk gallop that differs greatly from the album’s first half where the band were hinting at a return to a more scathing attack. And so with this in mind, the album is very much a patchy affair; steeped in huge melodies and daubed in melancholy doses which often nod to a traditional metal influence, particularly from Maiden. But we all know that Kreator is mightiest as a pure thrash metal animal, and so this means that tracks like ‘Side By Side’ and ‘Lion With Eagle Wings’ become rather wasted on this record in spite of their epic nature and call to the metal brotherhood.

Gods Of Violence appears like an album of two halves – the first half suggesting a raucous political debate that all too quickly becomes dampened by rather generic “anthems”. But that’s where Kreator has been for a while now; a band who at times can still thrash with the best of them but remain far removed from their original sound. Kreator has matured and evolved over the years to the extent that their albums have become rather predictable cauldrons of solid, groove-based thrash married with harmonious expression.

Of course, one can forgive it all. After all there’s just no way that the band’s early releases or that moment in time can ever be matched. But as another entry into their impressive catalogue, Gods Of Violence remains a solid if at times indecisive opus, although one still constructed upon a thrash metal ethos. Personally, I preferred the recent outings of fellow veterans Destruction (Under Attack) and Sodom (Decision Day).

Neil Arnold