Kreator are not your average thrash metal band. While they are inevitably filed away in your mental genre catalogue firmly under the thrash section, very few of those classic thrash bands in that same box have been as diverse as Kreator throughout their careers.
While the go-to records from Kreator are always likely to have been born in the 1980’s (‘Pleasure to Kill’ and ‘Extreme Aggression’ for us) the height of their diversity came during the 1990’s. Fuelled by the implosion of the thrash metal scene (that gave way to grunge and more industrial leaning bands) plus the fact that Kreator are not afraid to step away from the narrow blueprints that others have followed religiously; the band released a rally of albums in their second decade that seemed to continually reinvent their sound.
Four of these albums are about to receive the re-issue treatment with fancy-pants expanded deluxe editions and some lavish looking coloured vinyl.
‘Coma of Souls’, ‘Renewal’, ‘Cause for Conflict’ and ‘Outcast’ are all on their way to a record store near you with some awesome looking shiny new packaging and added bonus material galore.
Opening up the nineties for Kreator was the awesome ‘Coma of Souls’ (1990). The tidal wave of thrash that had set the 1980’s alight was crashing onto the beach at this point and although the early 90’s saw some valiant efforts in the name of thrash, the writing was on the wall for our most beloved metal brand.
While ‘Coma…’ retains a lot of glorious thrashing within the grooves of this record, there is also an obvious shift towards a more traditional heavy metal style at the same time. Mille kept his throat ripping snappy vocals and there are plenty of speedy riffs on display but there is also a lot more room on this record for melody and traditional influences.
From the acoustic intro of ‘When the Sun Burns Red’ to the trawling ‘Mental Slavery’, Kreator skipped between their irresistible thrash crunch through to more calculated groove ridden passages. Dual guitars, such as on the terrific ‘Terror Zone’ sound more like Judas Priest than the blackened thrash that had come before from the Kreator camp.
One thing Kreator hadn’t changed (just yet) was the flurry of squealing guitar solos that punctuate ‘Coma…’ with regular perfection. The whole album is just what air guitars were first crafted for with Petrozza and Gosdzik putting on a master-class of riffs and solos.
‘Coma…’ is the standout release in this lot of re-issues; not only for the quality of the original record but for the extras too. This one is repackaged as a triple red LP, with all new packaging and bonus material consisting of the ‘Live in Fürth 1990’ album. That’s a whole lot of bonus material (16 tracks) and it is a great recording in its own right.
If you are looking for somewhere to start with these re-issues, get hold of ‘Coma of Souls’ first!
Fast forward to 1992 and Kreator were ready to really shake things up. ‘Renewal’ did exactly what it said on the tin, completely changing the Kreator sound to a more harsh and bleak soundscape. A renewed band battling a different music scene to that which they previously flourished within.
Now if you believe the press release with this album, then Kreator were ahead of their peers and leading the way in 90’s metal. We’d probably say that they recognised that the shift was needed and added some more modern twists to their approach. Afterall, not too many bands cite this particular album as their early nineties inspiration.
Early, yes. Leading the way? Don’t think so…
Anyway, the new direction consisted of an abandonment of pretty much anything resembling 80’s thrash. Had they have cut their hair at this point, they may have been mistaken for a completely new band.
Mille changed his vocal delivery to a hoarse monotone shout. Almost Tom Araya like at times, but with a German accent, obviously. Guitar solos were virtually extinct with industrial toned riffs and hardcore influenced thump taking their place. The rhythm section moved forward in the mix, again stripping melody from proceedings and adding a huge load of clout instead.
This all sounds a bit ‘St Anger’ but it was nowhere near the calamity of those proportions. There are some real gems on this album. It’s interesting to witness the shift and there are some cracking songs on here. Take the title track as a prime example, it screams early nineties and if you remember or get to see the video for this track, you’ll appreciate the moment in time more than ever.
Think of a heavy metal band in the desert, sepia tones, transposed images and a general feeling of paranoia. Just about any metal band worth their salt had a video like that on Headbangers Ball at some point in the nineties. ‘Renewal’ is a corker though.
There’s just a few bonus tracks bolted onto the end of this one. More for the completists than the value seekers, but this is a fascinating chapter in the Kreator story.
‘Cause for Conflict’ (1995) maintained the experimental momentum but also allowed a bit of the speed metal heritage back into the sound. The result is a destruction derby of crunching hard-edged metal.
Kreator are widely acknowledged to have taken inspiration from the more modern bands making waves in the metal scene at the time. Machine Head, Fear Factory and perhaps fellow thrash converts Sepultura were all huge at the time, and subtle influences from these seeped into ‘Cause for Conflict’ here and there.
Lead tracks like ‘Lost’ combined an almighty rumble with razor sharp riffs which hit the spot when in full flight. The album as a whole is a bit confused at times, with the guitar solos creeping in again but under a thick blanket pre-nu-metal dirge. It was almost as if Kreator were trying to master the fusion of the traditional and modern sounds. A good idea on the surface, but one they shot a bit wide of the goal, to be honest.
Regardless, there are some great tracks on here but it isn’t one you are likely return to on regular rotation.
One of them had to come last, and we’d say that this is the least essential purchase!
By 1997, there was no hiding from the fact that traditional thrash and heavy metal was not the flavour of the month (decade) and Kreator opted for the title of ‘Outcast’ for their next release. That’s what they were in the heavy music scene and admittedly, we were too busy listening to ‘The More Things Change’ and ‘Ocean Machine’ to really remember this one coming out.
Looking back with a review purely in hindsight, Kreator had something of a little gem on their hands here. They dropped the approach of mimicking the flavours of the month and went for a stripped back, but very Kreator, lump of heavy metal.
‘Outcast’ is packed with simplistic tracks that rarely come close to the Kreator speed metal of old but do pack a punch and hit the spot regularly with brooding numbers like ‘Black Sunrise’.
Mille reverts back to a more traditional delivery with the vocals with slightly more melody injected into these songs but guitar solos are still rationed to the minimum. ‘Phobia’ is a stand out track with a galloping riff and an almost punk performance from the Teutonic masters.
Bonus material is rich once again on this one. A live recording of Dynamo 1998 makes up the second half of the release with the likes of ‘Phobia’ sounding pretty comfortable next to old bangers like ‘Extreme Aggression’. And on the strength of the original album and the added material, this is the second one you should shell out your hard-earned dollar for; in our humble opinion.
It’s often a hard sell to try and get excited about a band’s period of time when they were suffering comercially. If you read the metal press at the time such as Metal Hammer and K!, it wasn’t very often that they pushed Kreator under your nose. However, looking back; Kreator were putting out some really great albums, even if they are never going to be labelled as the classics. There is plenty to get excited about here and with all the bonus material added into the mix, they become essential listening for the thrash connoisseur.
Kreator’s 1990’s Re-issues will be released on 23rd Feb ’18
Links to order are >>> here!
Our weird little key tells you in which order to buy them if you cant’t get them all at once and have no money, like us…
|1st||££££||Coma of Souls|
|4th||£||Cause for Conflict|