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Endless Pain (1985)
 

Kreator was formed in 1982, under the name Tyrant. They soon changed it to Tormentor. In the beginning, the band members - Ventor, Rob and Mille - had no real ambitions. It was simply a way for them to kill time. Outside of a few original tunes that they had, they often played covers songs from Judas Priest and Venom. They were also quite inspired by Mercyful Fate. Being a very active tape trader, Mille sent copies of their early demos out, in exchange for material from Raven and some of the Brazilian Black/Death Metal bands. A friend of the band sent a copy to Noise Records, who then showed interest in hearing more. The band worked hard to compose more original songs, which would be recorded in March 1985 in Berlin, produced by the same Horst Müller that was responsible for Apocalyptic Raids. Thankfully, he had much better musicians to work with, this time. It was at this point that the band chose the name Kreator, as the name Tormentor was already being used by another band. The result of the recording was the Endless Pain L.P.

Released in October 1985, this record has some influence from the early Black Metal bands, but this has to be considered the true birth of Teutonic Thrash. There are some Satanic and anti-Christian messages in the lyrics, but this isn't the dominant theme. The vocals are highly influenced by the early Black Metal bands and, possibly, more vicious. However, I would hesitate to toss Endless Pain into the First Wave of Black Metal, even if it is far more evil than anything recorded by Hellhammer (with the exception of "Triumph of Death"). The songs are more structured than the first releases from Sodom and destruction, and the cover art is most fitting to this sound. There are some influences of NWOBHM melody to be found amid the chaos and brutality, as well. If anything, this can be considered Black/Thrash.

My first exposure to Kreator was Extreme Aggression, which is far more melodic and featuring less extreme vocals. About a year or so later, my best friend came over and tossed Endless Pain into the stereo. This was almost like discovering a new band, altogether. It soon became my favorite Kreator album, even after I got my hands on Pleasure To Kill. The sound was far more raw than what I was expecting and the one feeling that it most conveyed was one of violence.

"Endless Pain" explodes from the speakers, almost unexpectedly. For something so raw and barbaric, there is a lot of melody and structure hiding beneath the rough sound and the demonic vocals. On no other Kreator album do the vocals sound this blasphemous and evil. The guitar solo shreds through your flesh, before a very memorable riff change leads the song to its conclusion.

The next song is one of the most memorable. "Total Death" begins with an interesting intro before blasting forth at full speed. This is pure thrash, with vocals even more demonic and evil than on the previous song. Here, it must be mentioned that both Ventor and Mille handled the vocal duties on this album. They would do the same on the following record as well. I can't say for certain, but I believe Mille is the one with the harsher vocals of the two. About half-way through, there is a nice thrash break, reminiscent of Kill 'Em All. This helps to add to the feeling of the song. Moments later, another hellish guitar solo slices through flesh and bone.

"Storm of the Beast" begins with only the drums and bass before the guitar comes in, playing open, extended chords that help to create an atmosphere of impending doom. The pace of the song increases quite a bit, after this introductory section. Again, the guitar melodies are violent yet they retain a sense of melody. The chorus of this song is very memorable and will likely remain in your mind long after hearing this. This is the longest song on the record, and one of the few that includes the slower, more subdued moments. Of course, it is also filled with violent thrashing and wicked solos. One can hear the influence from Slayer's Show No Mercy, quite clearly on this track.

This classic album continues with "Tormentor". This is a very straight-forward song which is also one of the most memorable ones. This is, probably, my favorite Kreator song. The opening riffs almost sound like something from the first Metallica album, yet faster and more lethal. The vocals are evil and demonic, filled with hatred and utter blackness. The lyrics are some of the best of the record as well.

"Baphomet's calling, death is now real
Helldogs and demons, waiting to kill
Pentagrams shining, Lucifer smiles
Fucking the virgin, rip our her eyes"

This brief song manages to even make Sodom's In the Sign of Evil seem tame, by comparison, and it destroys anything Destruction ever did. The solo is one of the longer and more intricate ones found on Endless Pain, suiting the feeling perfectly.

Side A concludes with "Son of Evil", which begins in a similar fashion to the previous song, while being easily distinguishable. This sounds like Venom, sped up 1000 times. There is a nice change of tempo, a minute into the song, featuring hellish lead solos and a slow build up. There is a brief mid-paced section before the song speeds up once more, with yet another riff. This is one of the more complex songs on the record, showing a good sense of musicianship and songwriting for such a young band. The false ending was a nice touch, as well.

"Flag of Hate" starts out Side B. This is one of Kreator's best-known songs. After a short drum bit, this one blasts forth at full speed. Mille's evil vocals are more fitting to this sound than Ventor's approach, though that may be my personal preference. It is interesting to hear the NWOBHM riffs being played at such a furious pace, nearly incinerating the instruments. They would go on to re-record this song for the Flag of Hate E.P. though there's nothing wrong with the original version.

The next song is "Cry War", which features a slower pace than the previous songs. This adds yet another dynamic to the record and displays the band's versatility. Of course, this doesn't last long. The song alternates between mid-paced and hyper-paced riffs, flowing back and forth, seamlessly. The solo blends in, being utilized at just the right moment.

"Bonebreaker" begins with a riff that sounds very reminiscent of Venom, yet this alternates with a more vicious riff and, of course, Mille's terrifying vocals, which are as bloody evil as it gets. The solos are intense and the overall feeling of the song is filled with tension. It imbues the listener with a violent urge to go out and kill anyone and everyone in sight.

The next song begins with a riff that sounds reminiscent of Metallica's "No Remorse". Before the first verse of "Living In Fear", the riff changes a couple times. The lyrics aren't particularly advanced, but it may just be the grammar use. Either way, the feeling is there.

"Inverted crosses
The reaper will rise
The war of the demons
Will make you die"

This says it all, right here. At this point of the album, one would expect filler. Since there are ten songs, this would be taken for granted as inevitability. However, the album is never lacking in either creativity or energy. A couple songs may stand out as exceptionally good, but there isn't a bad, or even mediocre, song to be found on here.

The album concludes with "Dying Victims", which further explores the theme of fear and death or, more accurately, the sense of dread that precedes the act of dying; the terror that you feel in anticipation of your own demise. This song shows the band attempting to expand their sound even more, incorporating a brief acoustic guitar melody into the intro. The main thrash riff of this song sounds reminiscent of "Tormentor", a feeling that is only amplified as Mille is the vocalist of this track as well. However, this song is a bit more complex, being the second longest one on the album. After a couple of blistering solos, the pace slows down to add a little bit of an epic feeling as the record concludes. That was a nice touch, as it gives a good sense of closure to the album.

Endless Pain did well to launch the career of one of the most influential German bands, ever. This is intense, aggressive, barbaric and evil in a way that Hellhammer could only dream of. For a hellish does of blackened Thrash Metal, be sure to pick up this classic L.P.
 
(20 Apr. 2009)

 
Pleasure To Kill (1986)
 

After the success of Endless Pain, Kreator has made quite a name for themselves in the underground. A short time later, Noise Records sent them back into the studio to record their follow-up. This time, the album was handled by Harris Johns, at Musiclab Studio in Berlin. By April 1986, just six months after the release of their debut L.P., Pleasure To Kill was unleashed upon the world.

The album begins with a calm and serene intro, with the sound of wind blowing and an acoustic guitar playing an uplifting melody. "Choir of the Damned" gives the listener a false sense of security. As the soothing sounds nearly lull you into a trance, they bludgeon you into oblivion.

"Ripping Corpse" explodes into your ears, burning this calm scenery to ashes. Gone are the traces of NWOBHM influence. This is something far more intense and brutal than Endless Pain. The song moves forward at a hyper pace, with fast tremolo-picks riffs and blasting drums accompanied by the rumbling of the bass and Mille's sinister and demonic vocals. Of course, the lyrics match the violence of the music.

"Await the death by the blade
Run before it's too late
Await the axe in your back
As the ripping corpse attack"

This blistering assault of followed by "Death Is Your Saviour". This opens with a tremolo melody, mixed in with more pure thrash riffs. This is one of the few to feature Ventor on vocals, handling less of the songs here than on the previous album. His style isn't quite as evil sounding as Mille's, and seem a little less suitable for the music. Through pounding drums, shredding guitars and solos that tear your face off, this song is absolutely relentless.

"Pleasure To Kill" is next, beginning with a short drums roll that leads into another furious slab of Teutonic Thrash. Mille returns on vocals, having more of a vicious sound than Ventor. The solos are reminiscent of early Slayer, at certain points. Half-way through the song, the pace slows down a bit as the vocals become more possessed and evil.

"...I return to the cemetery
And my bloodlust is filled
My coffin is open for me
I lay down and rest..."

Surely, this lyrical approach had to have been quite influential on the Death Metal bands that were soon to emerge, around this time. As the song ends, there are small hints of the NWOBHM sound, though at this speed it is difficult to really notice. This will surface a bit more on the song that follows.

Up next is "Riot of Violence". This is another one that features Ventor on vocals, making it a little less appealing. The song slowly fades in, with sort of a build-up before going into more of a mid-paced thrash riff. This song utilizes several different riffs and tempos, being a bit more dynamic and melodic than the first few. Despite the increased complexity of the structure, it sounds more simplistic due to the way that it is played. The pace slows down, briefly, in the last minute, only to return to the main riff.

"The Pestilence" begins with an interesting drum sound (one that would be used by Sepultura on Schizophrenia), introducing more mid-paced thrash riffs and a guitar solo. In no time, this song matches the frenzied pace of the earlier tracks, with Mille's evil vocals tearing through your brain.

"Cemetary of hades riting flesh of death
Skulls and bones are decaying
Corpses, limbs and deadly carnage
Massacre and crime is ruling"

This song tells the tale of a world that has become corrupt, being cleansed by the Black Plague. The delivery is rather grim and violent, yet the lyrics show a deeper level of understanding than one might first suspect. This is the longest track on here, containing a few more traces of the NWOBHM sound in the melodies. There are are others, such as the one just before the 5:00 mark, that sound reminiscent of Slayer. This is the closest that they come to approaching an epic atmosphere, with a riff here or there. This is definitely one of the highlights of Pleasure To Kill.

"Carrion" starts out a little slow, seeming to struggle in getting to its feet. This is by design, of course. In no time, the song is raging forth with speed and power. The sound is, somewhat, similar to the first song. This is especially evident as the following verse is delivered:

"Reaching out for you life
The world is prepared to die
Death will fall from the sky
And the reaper will arrive"

However, as it goes along, it shows more of the old influences in the melody and structure. Some of the most interesting guitar riffs of the L.P. are found here, with a very nice solo to go along with them. With the way that the album is arranged, one gets the immediate impression that a great change has occurred, only because that is the effect they wanted the album to have. As Pleasure To Kill progresses, more varied song structures and melodies are found, lurking in the shadows of chaos and brutality.

Ventor's vocals return, one final time, on "Command of the Blade". This one begins with a great riff, very reminiscent of early Slayer, especially with the way the drums are building up. This feeling continues through much of the song, making you think back to Hell Awaits.

This classic album of German Thrash Metal concludes with "Under the Guillotine". This one wouldn't have been out of place on their debut L.P. Mille's vocal delivery is hateful and evil. The tale is a simple one; examining someone's final moments before being put to death. Musically, this is fairly straight-forward, though there are riff changes, particularly around the middle of the song. The solos are great, fitting the song far better than many of the solos on Slayer's Reign In Blood, which would be released six months later. Another thing Kreator managed to do better than Slayer would be recording an album of intense, brutal and violent songs, yet allowing them to breathe and injecting enough melody to keep them interesting. The song continues with more old school riffs, another brilliant solo (reminiscent of early Slayer) and a vicious return to the main riff as it reaches the conclusion.

Pleasure To Kill is more brutal than Endless Pain, yet more melodic at the same time. The band's sound matured, to a degree, but I would rate both albums equally. The debut L.P. gets the nod, more than likely, just because I think I overdosed on Pleasure To Kill some years ago. In the end, this is essential for anyone's collection. There are some records that are overrated and then there are some that are just that bloody good. This one certainly earned its reputation.
 
(22 Apr. 2009)

 
Flag of Hate (1986)
 

Not long after releasing Pleasure To Kill, Kreator entered the studio again to record the tracks for an E.P. Released on Noise Records, in August 1986, Flag of Hate capitalized on the impact of the first two albums (which were only separated by six months, themselves) and further established Kreator as a force to be reckoned with.

The E.P. begins with a re-recorded version of "Flag of Hate", which originally appeared on Endless Pain. This is a bit heavier, faster and more lethal in its execution, with a major difference being that it is about a minute shorter than the original. This violent track opens this mini-album with violence and fury, a feeling that is present not just in the energy of the music but also in the lyrics.

"...All what we want is to crucify your 'god'..."

The other two songs are quite a bit longer than most Kreator songs, both clocking in around six or seven minutes. "Take Their Lives" begins with a lone thrash riff, slowly joined by the rest of the instruments. This is more mid-paced, with lyrics that seem to tell the tale of a man that has become fed up with his miserable existence, turning his frustration on his own children. Some brilliant melodies come in, after a couple minutes, possessing a real old school feeling. The drum beat matches this sentiment, underneath the solo that follows. This is followed by an epic riff, around 3:40, that shows the genius of this band. This sense of melody is nothing new for the band, just a bit more obvious here. Also worth noting is that Mille's vocals seem to be even more feral on this E.P. This is certainly an epic song, by Kreator's standards.

Flag of Hate concludes with the monstrous song, "Awakening of the Gods". The epic feeling continues during the opening moments of this song, before all Hell breaks loose. There are several riff changes, using a lot of pure thrash riffs for the slower sections. Near the end, the song returns to the opening theme. This is the most interesting riff of the song and it would have been nice to see it developed a little further. This song isn't quite as good as the previous one, as a few ideas could have been expanded while a couple riffs, maybe, could have been excluded. All in all, this is a very memorable song and a good way to close the E.P.

This E.P. represents the end of the first era of Kreator, as the following album has more of a streamlined, less brutal approach. The vocals would get a little less harsh, as well. It is kind of amazing to think that Endless Pain, Pleasure To Kill and Flag of Hate were all released in a period of ten months. Kreator seemed to be at their peak of energy and creativity, in those early days.
 
(23 Apr. 2009)

 
 

Terrible Certainty was released on Noise Records in October 1987. Kreator's third full-length album marks a drastic departure from their previous sound. All traces of Black or proto-Death are gone. This is a straightforward Thrash Metal album, following the trend of many other bands abandoning their roots to make a slicker, more accessible product. Perhaps, the additional guitarist had something to do with the change.

The music here is far more streamlined, bereft of any sort of fury or intensity. The raw and primal feeling that was so abundant on Endless Pain and Pleasure to Kill is completely gone and replaced by something more polished and easy to digest. The song structures are more complex, at times, and the riffs come off as a little more sophisticated, but this does not mean that Terrible Certainty was a step in the right direction. One of the worst aspects of this release would have to be Mille's vocals, which are now much weaker. He utilizes a totally different voice than before and the band suffers as a result. It does not matter too much since the music is so bland and lacking in character. The only decent song on here is "As the World Burns", mainly due to the fact that Ventor handles the vocal duties on that one.

The production is too clean and sterile, neutering any chance that the band had to sound like Kreator. Of course, the horrible songwriting is mostly to blame, but the smooth production helped nothing. There is no raw feeling here, though it is not at Stadium Rock levels of plasticity. How anyone thought that this would appeal to their fans is beyond me. This was the last of the old Kreator albums that I obtained, and it was a pure disappointment.

Terrible Certainty is a horrible album and a truly pathetic display from a band that really should have known better. This is boring and mundane Thrash Metal, with none of the dark atmosphere or raw brutality of their earlier releases. Even if one wanted to give it a chance, the feeble vocals kill it dead. Kreator would never return to their original sound, but they did manage to do a much better job on Extreme Aggression. As for this record, don't waste your time.
 
(11 Nov. 2011)

 
Extreme Aggressions (1989)
 

Extreme Aggression, Kreator's fourth full-length album, was released in June 1989 on Noise Records. This L.P. continued the more melodic Thrash sound that was established on Terrible Certainty, though with more intensity and better songwriting. There may be a bit of nostalgia at work, as this was my introduction to the band and thus it possesses some sentimental value. That said, there is no doubt that it is a much better album than its predecessor.

The album is aptly-titled, as the music is faster and more vicious than their last outing. Yet, at the same time, they manage to inject a good amount of melody, mostly due to the incredible lead solos. Mille's voice is not as it once was, but he sounds much more maniacal here and his voice fits the material quite well. The songwriting is such that, while the various tracks are similar enough to form a cohesive whole, each song has its own identity and it does not take too many listens to get really acquainted with them. The riffs are memorable, and the vocals are easy enough to decipher. The songs are very engaging, with some jumping right out and taring your face off, such as "No Reason To Exist", "Betrayer" and "Bringer of Torture". Others possess a sort of sombre feeling, at times, as reflected in the lyrics. All in all, this is a good mixture of traditional Metal with Thrash and almost seems as if the band went back to their roots in a sense, meaning that they looked to the sort of releases that influenced them in the first place.

The production is a little weak, mostly due to the guitars not being high enough in the mix. The also lack a sufficient tone to match the songwriting, sounding a little too smooth and non-threatening. The one thing that could have improved this album, more than anything else, would have been a harsher guitar sound. Everything else suits the character of the album just fine. This may have come out the way it did to better accentuate the melodic part, but I think that those would still have stood out with a similar production to Endless Pain or Pleasure to Kill.

Extreme Aggressions is a great album and one that comes highly recommended for any fan of Kreator, or Teutonic Thrash in general. It is filled with intensity and an energy that was lacking on the previous L.P. Everything here flows together extremely well, with the melodic parts fitting into the rest, seamlessly. If you do not own this, you should be burned alive for such stupidity.
 
(11 Nov. 2011)

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