KREATOR – United In Hate
Essen, Germany-based thrash metal outfit Kreator’s relationship with Hanover, Germany-based label SPV Records lasted for three studio full-length affairs in the shape of September 2001’s Violent Revolution, January 2005’s Enemy Of God, and January 2009’s Hordes Of Chaos. SPV submitted an application for insolvency on May 25th, 2009, Kreator consequentially inking a worldwide contract with Nuclear Blast Records. The signing was publicly revealed on February 9th, 2010.
“SPV was very, very supportive during Violent Revolution and Enemy Of God, but also for Hordes Of Chaos they did everything they could,” stresses Mille Petrozza, vocalist, guitarist and co-founder of Kreator. “Unfortunately though, when they had those problems was right when our record came out – right afterwards. In the beginning it was really, really good, but then everything fell apart and we needed to get away. I love those people; those people at SPV were great to us, and helped us so much. We owe them so much, but it just wasn’t possible to continue with the label. It isn’t as strong as it used to be, and we need the strongest label for our band to reach all of our fans. We have a worldwide fanbase, and we want all of our fans to get our album. I don’t need to receive letters from fans like ‘I can’t find your album’ or something – it’s just not what I want. Nuclear Blast in my opinion are stronger.
“We talked to every metal label there is, and we even talked to some other labels. Nuclear Blast made the most sense, really. We’ve known those people for years and years, and they’ve even come to our shows. We were friends with a lot of those people before we got signed to Nuclear Blast, so it was just a natural thing to sign to Nuclear Blast. You’ve got all metalheads working for Nuclear Blast, which is really, really helpful (laughs).”
13th studio full-length Phantom Antichrist was recorded at Fascination Street Studios in Orebro, Sweden, the process beginning during January 2012. “We went there for six weeks in total,” the frontman reveals. “It was winter time in Sweden, so there wasn’t much to do other than recording the album anyway. The producer was Jens Bogren, and it all went great. In my opinion Jens is one of the best producers in this day and age, so we’re happy.
“I sent him demo tapes and stuff, and he would comment on some of the stuff that he heard. He was really, really critical, especially with the song structures sometimes. If something went too long, he wanted to edit, to take something out. At the end of the day, it’s always hard for a musician when you’ve written a song, and somebody comes and butchers it. On the other hand though, it all made sense. At the end of the day, when we were listening to the alternative versions it was quite clear that he was right. He was mostly right. There was one part where he was making a song longer, which was very surprising. Most of the time though, he shortened the songs. He didn’t make them worse, but actually better. That wasn’t everything he did though, because he did a lot for the feel of the music. He would let us play the whole album in a live situation. We went in a room and recorded the whole album live just for the vibe, to get a certain feel. Like a band feel, for the Kreator’ish feel to it. I think that really helped to make this whole album sound very organic, very brutal, and in-your-face really.”
Boasting shortened compositions suggests Phantom Antichrist is a more focused outing. “If you asked me to use one or two words to describe the album, I don’t know which words I would use,” Mille admits. “I would say it comes from the heart. Of course it’s focused; every album that we do is focused. I would say it isn’t one-dimensional. It has a lot to offer; there’s a lot of melodic parts, and there’s also a lot of speed parts and fast thrash metal parts. It’s typical Kreator stuff, but there’s also something more to it. We tried some new stuff, but without adding an orchestra or something. It’s all guitars, drums, and bass. The only part where we had extra musicians coming in was in a song called ‘Civilisation Collapse’ where we had percussionists playing with us, and that was really cool. That gave the song a different dimension. It went fine. I’d say that the album is like a rollercoaster; it’s not only fast, it’s not only heavy, it’s not only brutal… It’s metal (laughs).”
The record has been touted as Kreator’s most diverse to date. “Maybe it is,” the axeman muses. “It depends on what you consider to be diverse. There’s definitely a lot going on on the album, yeah. There are a lot of things happening; a lot of parts, and a lot of emotion. Maybe it is the most diverse Kreator album.”
The death of late Al-Qaeda founder Osama Bin Laden spawned title cut ‘Phantom Antichrist’. “It was inspired by something I read when they killed him, about how they threw his dead body into the ocean even though there’s no such thing as a sea burial in the Muslim religion,” Mille divulges. “That inspired the title but the song is about a change of awareness, really. It’s about the Phantom Antichrist who comes to Earth, destroys everything, and starts a new world. Only the title was inspired by this Osama Bin Laden thing – it’s not about that. The inspiration came from a real source – something that took place in real life – and that inspired me to write fiction-based lyrics.”
‘Death To The World’ concerns the destruction of planet Earth. “It definitely describes how we treat the planet at this point in time,” the singer confirms. “We’ve always written about stuff that moves us rather than coming up with too much fantasy stuff. We’re not the kind of band that writes Lord Of The Rings-style lyrics. We write about things that we really think are important, and some of those things are based in reality and politics even sometimes. I’d say that having this almost four-year break after Hordes Of Chaos helped to really recharge our batteries and start collecting new topics for new music, rather than coming off tour and going straight into the studio like some bands do. We took almost a year off where we only played a couple of festivals, and that was about it. We took time to write the record. I think that’s important, to actually go out and live your life for awhile, go back, and then have inspiration for new songs.”
‘From Flood Into Fire’ is a number about staying true, and sticking together. “It’s hard to describe the lyrics,” Mille confesses. “It’s almost a personal song ; it could be about friendship, or could be about someone that you really, really respect, or someone that you even love or something. It could be anything. They’re more poem kind of lyrics. It’s hard for me to describe what the song is really about. It’s about believing in what you believe. I think the lyrics just explain themselves.
“The verse riff was something that I had written for Hordes Of Chaos, but it didn’t make the album because the rest of the song wasn’t as strong. I always liked the beat of the song. We had a song on Violent Revolution called ‘Servant In Heaven – King In Hell’. The beat is very similar to that song, and I really liked the epic vibe of the song. What I really like about the song is the middle part where it’s a Glenn Tipton / KK Downing (Judas Priest guitarists) kind of solo; it’s a back and forth, questioning and answering kind of solo part, and a thrash part and everything. It’s definitely a diverse song, with a lot happening. That was only the part, the verse riff of ‘From Flood Into Fire’ and the title also. The song is totally different though; the old version is totally, totally different. I still have a demo of the old version, but it’s not like a leftover. There was only one part that I thought was really, really strong. It was one of the songs I had planned for the last album, but I couldn’t finish it.”
The Kreator mainman inevitably has old riffs lying around, as do the majority of guitarists. “Some I have on my computer still, and some I have in my head still,” he verifies. “There’s one whole song recorded for Hordes Of Chaos that will never come out because I couldn’t write lyrics for it. It’s based on lyrics, words. The song wasn’t too bad but I couldn’t find any lyrics for it, strong words for it. We recorded it in the studio during the last recording session. That song was just never released because I wasn’t happy with the chorus. I couldn’t find a strong chorus for the song, but the rest of it was really good. The chorus just wasn’t strong enough.
“I could rework that song in future. That’s what happened with ‘From Flood Into Fire’ in a way. Then again though, you tend to forget about these things because you’re too busy working on new stuff.”
An acoustic introduction inaugurates ‘United In Hate’, the cut subsequently launching into customary thrash. “The acoustic intro is just an acoustic intro, really,” Mille chuckles. “‘United In Hate’’s intro piece was almost inspired by Mercyful Fate, old Metallica stuff. I always liked the acoustic parts on classic metal songs; they start with acoustic parts, and then go into a full-on thrash metal song. That’s what ‘United In Hate’ is about. It’s a lyrical statement, basically. It’s about staying true to metal, staying true to your lifestyle, and just staying true to what you believe in no matter what other people say. This is what ‘United In Hate’ is about. It starts off slow, really slow. It starts off very melodic.”
A less thrash oriented introduction additionally inaugurates ‘Your Heaven, My Hell’. “Just in general, we did everything that was necessary for a song,” the axe-slinger notes. “If the song demanded a slow part, then we wrote a slow part for the song. If the song demanded thrash metal, even death metal-ish parts… We would just let the song lead us. The songs just happened sometimes. I’d say that the beginning for ‘Your Heaven, My Hell’ was obviously influenced by Iron Maiden, but it also has a little bit of a Fields Of The Nephilim touch to it. I’m very, very influenced by those classic English bands. Not only metal, but also English new wave bands from that era like Fields Of The Nephilim, Sisters Of Mercy, The Cure, and Bauhaus. Those were some of my favourite bands when I grew up, and they still are. You can tell when I write something like the beginning of ‘Your Heaven, My Hell’.”
‘Your Heaven, My Hell’ is anti-religious in sentiment. “It’s about a kid that is growing up in a very Catholic environment, and he gets raped by a priest when he was a kid,” Mille discloses. “When he then grows up he takes revenge on all religion, and wants to destroy all religion. It’s also a fictional story I came up with.
“I’m not a fan of any religion. I have a certain opinion about religion in general. I think we live in the year 2012, and it should be absolutely obsolete if you know what I mean. But it’s not, and I know why. There are a lot of people making money with this, with people looking for the truth or whatever. For that reason it won’t go away, but when I was a kid growing up I thought in the year 2000 things would be different than they were in the 16th century (laughs). Things like religion to me aren’t necessary, because they only cause bad things. A lot of people take power and hope from it, but I think it also causes a lot of wars and separates people. That’s basically what it does.”
An Iron Maiden influence flavours swansong cut ‘Until Our Paths Cross Again’. “Oh yeah, big time,” the vocalist concedes. “Big time. ‘Phantom Antichrist’’s B-side is ‘Number Of The Beast’ by Iron Maiden of course. Them, Judas Priest, and early thrash metal are our biggest influences. It’s very obvious of course, especially in a song like ‘Until Our Paths Cross Again’. It’s not a tribute to Maiden, but I’m the first one to admit that we’re very influenced by classic metal.
“When we wrote the whole album, there were two songs that were… We knew that ‘Phantom Antichrist’ would be the first song, and we knew that ‘Until Our Paths Cross Again’ would be the last song because of the title. The song is about the circle of life and death, and it could also be an ending song, almost a farewell song in a way (laughs). It was clear from when we wrote this song that it was gonna be the last song.”
A seven-inch vinyl single version of title track ‘Phantom Antichrist’ included a cover interpretation of Iron Maiden’s ‘The Number Of The Beast’ (originally from the March 1982 album of the same name). “Every time we go into the studio, we fuck around with some of our favourite songs,” Mille exclaims. “We did ‘Number Of The Beast’ for this one. There are certain songs that you shouldn’t touch, that you can’t do better than the original, and we didn’t even try that. We played the song in our own style. I hope when people hear that, they don’t even notice that it’s Kreator playing an Iron Maiden song. It’s not Kreator trying to be Iron Maiden (laughs).”
Handling guitar alongside the frontman is Sami Yli-Sirniö. “Sometimes Sami comes up with some melodic stuff,” he begins. “I’ll write a part, and I’ll ask Sami ‘Can you do something on this? Can you write something melodic on it?’ I’ll have some stuff that I have in mind, I’ll play it to him, and then he’ll come up with something really, really cool. I’ll leave him room for his own interpretation of the song. That’s how the guitar tracks come about, how the songs basically work.”
Anthemic choruses are a hallmark of Kreator’s material. “It’s really hard to answer that question, because it’s just something that happens,” Mille figures. “With most songs that I write, I have the choruses first or an idea for the chorus, or some words. I always want the songs to be catchy, so I’m really old school when it comes to that. I want people to sing along in a live situation, so I make sure that the choruses are very catchy. It takes some time, but it’s just something that happens. The songs need to grow. Sometimes you have a chorus part, or just a verse part. Like I said, some songs take more than four years until they’re finally finished. Like ‘From Flood Into Fire’, for example.”
Wes Benscoter designed the cover artwork for Phantom Antichrist. “I saw the cover Wes did for the last Autopsy album (May 2011’s Macabre Eternal),” the guitarist informs. “I did some research, and found out that he also did work for bands like Black Sabbath, Slayer, and all these bands that I like. I like all of his work, and think he has a great style. I’m a big fan of the horror comics from the 70s and 80s, and he has that style. It’s really cool.
“I gave him some titles, maybe five titles. He sent me a rough sketch for the album cover art, and I really liked it. I told him to go ahead, and that was basically it. I only saw the very first sketch – a pencil sketch – and then I saw the complete artwork. He was totally free to do whatever he liked, and this is Wes’ interpretation of what Phantom Antichrist means to him. It’s his thing, basically. I’m really happy with the cover though.”
‘Iron Destiny’ serves as an exclusive bonus track in Japan. “I have to admit that that wasn’t my decision,” Mille professes. “Japanese distributors always demand extra songs. For this album we recorded a total of 12 songs, including the Maiden cover. Those two songs were supposed to be on the record, but when we listened back to all of the tracks we felt that ‘Iron Destiny’ didn’t fit the album. It’s a very metal’ish song; it’s almost a traditional metal song, and it didn’t fit the album. It’s not that it isn’t strong or anything, but it wouldn’t have felt right for this record. We decided to not have it on the record, so that song was free to be used as bonus material for Japan. You don’t write a song, and have it in the back of your mind ‘Oh, this is gonna be a bonus song.’ It just happens like that.”
A bonus DVD included with deluxe editions of Phantom Antichrist features live performance footage taken from 2008 and 2011 Wacken Open Air appearances. “The footage was really strong and from very good concerts,” the axeman enthuses. “We always wanted to use it, but we didn’t want to just put out a Live At Wacken DVD because I think that’s kind of boring. We chose the projections – the images that we have – from our live show, and edited them together with the Wacken footage. It’s like a live show, but you can also see what’s usually in the background when we’re playing. This footage is more like the stuff off of the old video clips, stuff that we just created for certain songs. It’s nice. I’ve seen the whole thing just recently, and it’s really strong. It could’ve been a real, regular DVD release, but we decided to have it as a bonus disc for our fans.
“We edited it though because of the fact that we had already released two DVDs. We decided not to repeat ourselves, so there are certain songs that are from the 2008 concert like ‘Europe After The Rain’ and ‘People Of The Lie’ which we didn’t play in 2011 to make it more interesting. There are some songs of course that were played at both concerts, because you always have to play ‘Phobia’ (from 1997’s Outcast) and stuff like that. Other than that though, we tried to make it not the same as the previous DVDs we’ve recorded.”
Phantom Antichrist was released on June 1st, 2012 in all of Europe with the exception of the United Kingdom. The album was released in the United Kingdom on the 4th and on the 5th in North America, all through Nuclear Blast Records.
Interview published in June 2012. All promotional photographs by Heilemania.
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