The past couple of years have been fruitful for thrash fans, with the four pillars of thrash metal — Anthrax, Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer — all having released comeback albums or follow-ups to comeback albums in the previous two years. 2016 saw a fantastic release from Anthrax in For All Kings and a slightly polarising contribution from Metallica with Hardwired… To Self-Destruct that I personally felt was an impressive return to form for the band. Megadeth also dropped Dystopia last year, although this was a very tired release for me and many other thrash fans, and I also found Slayer’s 2015 album Repentless to be a bit too run-of-the-mill to leave much of an impression on me. Furthering the crusade of American thrash albums from 2016 was Vektor’s Terminal Redux, easily my favourite metal album of last year and my second favourite album of 2016 overall. With such a significant resurgence in American thrash music, many metalheads were hoping for European bands to rise to the USA’s challenge, and Germanic thrashers Kreator are here with Gods Of Violence to step up to the plate. Kreator are one of Europe’s longest-running thrash metal acts, with their debut, 1985’s Endless Pain, dropping just two years after Metallica’s classic debut Kill ‘Em All. With such an extensive career, it most likely goes without saying that the Teutonic thrash torchbearers have seen a significant evolution in sound and style across their career. Endless Pain was, in fact, more of a black metal album than it was a thrash metal album, with this record proving to be a central factor in the rise of thrash-influenced black metal. Similarly, Pleasure To Kill, Kreator’s 1986 sophomore LP, boasted a definitive death metal vibe that resulted in an album that has been cited as an influence by thrash and death metal bands alike. Kreator are also known for their decade-long experimental phase, starting with 1992’s Renewal, incorporating ideas from industrial music that proved to be pivotal for the development of more bands toying with an industrial-influenced thrash sound. Since their 2001 album Violent Revolution however, Kreator have returned to a classic thrash sound, with some more melodic elements worked into the mix, and have seen some fantastic albums released since then. The band’s previous album, Phantom Antichrist, reinforced Kreator’s relevancy in thrash music with one of their best albums released in quite some time. I therefore hoped that Gods Of Violence would live up to the quality of their last effort and, whilst not meeting my expectations entirely, the Germanic thrash kings have come through with another solid release to add to their roster.
Gods Of Violence gets off to a very promising start with Kreator doing what they do best. The short introduction, Apocalypticon, features a military snare beat, evoking feelings of a battle march, as an epic lead guitar melody plays over the top, which is accompanied by some lovely symphonic choir vocals. The war-tinged vibe to this song is an apt introduction, seeing as this opener bleeds mercilessly into the killer World War Now. Kreator really pull out all the stops on the first full-length song on Gods Of Violence and there really is little else to be desired from this track for Kreator fans. The accented and blisteringly fast opening to World War Now introduces the barrage of riffage that pummels the listener throughout this track, much of which sounds completely fresh despite maintaining such a clear classic thrash hue. The performance from frontman Miland “Mille” Petrozza is perhaps his best on the entire record, maintaining a fantastic ferocity throughout this song’s runtime. I must admit that on recent Kreator releases, Mille’s vocals have occasionally underwhelmed me, but his fierce performance on this track makes me bite my tongue. World War Now also boasts an impressive bridge section that provides a much-needed breather from the onslaught of vicious riffs and violent drumming that dominate the rest of the composition. Overall, World War Now is a staggering song that not only stands out on Gods Of Violence, but amongst much of Kreator’s recent material too. If I were to be nitpicky, I would say that Mille’s lyrics deal with the common thrash topic of global war in a pretty rudimentary fashion, but this has been a recurring theme across recent albums from gods in the thrash scene. Whilst the lyrics can be largely overlooked on this new album due to their banality, I do still wish that Mille could rekindle the interesting approach to lyric-writing that he displayed on Kreator’s earlier releases. Nevertheless, my love of World War Now still stands and it still shines as an impressive meeting of speed, anger and catchiness.
Satan Is Real has a tough act to follow, but gets off to a good start with some triumphant guitar harmonies. The groove that follows is straightforward but largely effective, and the verses feature some more guitar embellishments that complement Mille’s vocal lines very well. Whilst this track gets off to a very promising start, by the time the chorus kicks in, it starts to follow a more predictable path. Despite being a perfectly solid song, the chorus is one of the more simple on the record and fails to stand out much as a result. Indeed, Satan Is Real is arguably overshadowed by the surrounding tracks to some extent, but it is nonetheless a strong song. It must also be said that a few songs later on in the tracklisting are significantly less interesting than the better cuts on here. Fallen Brother, for instance, is another perfectly good track, but it follows a much more predictable structure than the better moments on Gods Of Violence and the riffs and vocal melodies are notably more elementary. Ultimately, there are no bad moments, or even particularly mediocre moments, on Kreator’s latest effort, but there certainly are tracks that are somewhat eclipsed by the best cuts on here.
All in all, Gods Of Violence is another strong release for Kreator and, whilst not as successful on all fronts as its predecessor, it contains some outstanding tracks from the Germanic thrash outfit, further fortifying their place in European metal history. World War Now, Totalitarian Terror and the title track are all songs that shine for very similar reasons, namely because they feature absolutely everything one could want from a single Kreator song. What’s more, these are all some of Kreator’s best songs in recent memory and, for this reason, Gods Of Violence may be a favourite to many fans of the band. For me, however, my slight reservations for certain moments on the record just about prevent me from loving this record, but I must admit that I fought long and hard with myself about what numerical score is suitable for this album. I consider anything that falls into the upper quartile of my ranking system (7.5 or above) a record that I love, and Gods Of Violence came incredibly close to breaking into this category. Alas, it did not, and this could perhaps be attributed to my high standards for the band, but this is nonetheless a strong album that I would most certainly recommend to metal fans of all kinds.
The Vinyl Verdict: 7/10