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Phantom Antichrist

Nuclear Blast (2012)
Rating: 9/10

It’s never an easy task reviewing the new album from one of your favourite bands – give it a gushing review and you could be accused of favouritism, but be too harsh and you can sound too critical, just for the sake of not wanting to seem biased. So I’ll approach Phantom Antichrist with an open mind, and evaluate how the long-awaited follow-up to 2009’s Hordes Of Chaos sits with older material and how Kreator’s sound has progressed from their last few releases. And it takes just 45 seconds of the haunting intro of ‘Mars Mantra’ to explode into life and for the hairs on the back of the neck to stand to attention – yes folks, Kreator look like they have written yet another thrash metal masterpiece, cementing their already legendary status as one of the most vital bands in the thrash genre.

The album kicks off proper with lead single and title track ‘Phantom Antichrist’, and it’s clear that the Teutonic quartet know exactly what the fans want and aren’t about to mess with their winning formula (which probably reads something like: aggressive riffing + manic drumming + tight songwriting + simple sing-along choruses = huge circle pits). It’s also notable that they have dropped the rawer sound that was employed on Hordes Of Chaos, and gone for a sleeker sound giving the songs a rounded, modern edge.

But not content with rehashing their sound just to please fans Kreator have overhauled their whole songwriting approach, incorporating a more mature feel. The anthemic, melodic chorus of ‘From Flood Into Fire’ is as rousing as any Scandinavian power metal band, but with Mille Petrozza’s trademark snarl leading the attack as if he’s leading a vast army into battle, and the results are staggering (more hairs on end!).

The thrashers we’ve come to know and love are still present and correct; the sheer speed of the first half of ‘Civilization Collapse’ is breathtaking (a great performance from drummer Ventor on this record, belying his years) that will satisfy the hardcore fans in the mosh pits.

If there’s been one criticism of Kreator in the past, it’s that their choruses are made up of just the song title barked by Mille, but this time around there are hooks in the songs and fist-pumping anthems. In essence, Phantom Antichrist is probably their most German sounding album to date, and with a few nods to Iron Maiden littered throughout the album’s ten tracks it also appears that some songs, such as ‘The Few, The Proud, The Broken’ were written with festival audiences in mind. This new songwriting approach actually seems to have given them an even more appealing sound – in this day and age of dwindling album sales Kreator have released a record that should also appeal to newer fans, such is the quality of the material.

So does this album stand up there with earlier releases such as Pleasure To Kill (1986)? Well, the extreme aggression is still there, but this is an altogether different beast. Does Phantom Antichrist naturally follow the path set out by their ‘comeback’ album, Violent Revolution (2001)? Yes, and then some. In short, Kreator have yet again raised the bar (of hate) and this is one of the strongest thrash releases of recent years and a more than worthy addition to the German band’s back catalogue.

Neil Not