The latest in Noise’s eighties/nineties compilations finds us saddled with the task of sifting through the back catalogue of Essen extremists Kreator. With most compilations that present themselves in chronological order, its often fun to listen to the progression an artist makes from release to release, from year to year. Not so Kreator. Y’see, this band emerged from the womb as a fully-functioning, six legged purveyor of aural brutality; So much so that it’s hard to denote any real ‘progress’ from first album Endless Pain, which landed in 1985, to 1989’s Extreme Aggression.
That’s not to say this period is no good – far from it. In fact most Kreator purists will tell you that this is the heyday of the band, and who really can argue with that? Not me, although I do enjoy much of the band’s twenty first century output too. This compilation features twenty tracks from that period, amongst them such stone Kreator klassics as Endless Pain and Flag of Hate from that debut album, Pleasure to Kill, Riot of Violence and Ripping Corpse from 1986’s Pleasure to Kill; Terrible Certainty, Toxic Trace and Storming Menace (all lifted from 1987’s Terrible Certainty) and the title track from Extreme Aggression.
That’s half a set of absolute prime Teutonic thrash metal right there, all pulled foetid and febrile from the brains of Kreator stalwarts Mille Petrozza (grr, vrr) and Jürgen “Ventor” Reil (drr, vrr); But even longterm fans would have agreed at the time that maybe a little variation was required if the band was going to flourish in the nineties, and that came in the shape of 1990’s excellent Coma of Souls.
This is Kreator we’re talking about, remember, so that’s variation with a small ‘v’; However the likes of the excellent Terror Zone, the title track and When the Sun Burns Red (all featured here, natch, or else I wouldn’t be holding them up for perusal) all offered enough to suggest that here, indeed, amongst all the sturm und drang, was a band that could break out of the thrash ghetto into pastures slightly more progressive. Next release Renewal (1992) was to be their breakout album, the album that saw them barrelling headlong out of the thrash realms and into… well, temporary obscurity, actually.
The band’s last album for Noise saw them embracing a harsher, more mechanical (they said ‘industrial’ at the time but modern ears will struggle to hear anything save for some clanking electronic percussion that could really be identified with industrial music in 2016) sound and the fans really didn’t like it. When the band returned three years later they’d returned to the thrash sound but I for one, contrary bugger that I am, loved Renewal then and coming back to these tracks now only affirms the fact that I was, as usual, correct. Winter Martyrium, the title track and especially the storming Europe After the Rain are all grade A slices of extreme metal, Petrozza’s hoarser, less rasping bellow presaging what we’d come to accept as modern death/thrash vocalising a good ten years ahead of its time.
Renewal was a great album and the tracks offered here stand proudly alongside the band’s early canon as some of the best, most accessibly brutal music to have come out of Germany in the last thirty years. If you’re not familiar with Kreator, (a) – why not? But more importantly (b) – this compilation is a magnificent way to get better acquainted with the band.