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Album Review: KREATOR Hate Über Alles

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The initial thought that comes to mind after one whirl through Kreator's fifteenth album is that it's the most daring record the band has ever issued that didn't suck. The Essen extremists may have never thrown in the towel the way some of their contemporaries did during metal's lean years when there was not only grunge to contend with, but the public's subsequent and inexplicable fascination with nü-metal and they're being rewarded for longevity and loyalty to the cause. The last decade beginning with Phantom Antichrist has been particularly kind to Kreator, and they've been particularly creatively kind to their fans. But those who grew up with the band during their classic five album neutron bomb stint from 1985-1990 aren't quick to forget about the facelessness of Renewal, which was probably the most misleading use of the word in the history of the word. Let's not even get started about Endorama

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Regardless, Kreator have been riding a rejuvenating renaissance, especially since offering up the absolute masterstroke that was 2017's Gods of Violence. Hate Über Alles is not only the band's first in five years, but the first to feature former Dragonforce bassist Frédéric Leclercq as well as spaghetti western guitars, operatic and choral vocals and sugary sweet indie rock warbling that the "I fucking hate Goldfrapp" character from Hard Candy would fucking hate. All this runs concurrently with notes of baroque classical and their stirring of the pot that sees the band zipping along through a metallic DRS zone one moment before a hairpin turn into oodles of mid-paced, 'third song on classic Metallica albums' tempo grinding. Throw into the mix vocalist/guitarist Miland "Mille" Petrozza's increasingly left-wing political/social/environmental stance shamelessly blazing a thematic trail through songs and lyrics and it's like Hate Über Alles is an album almost designed to piss someone off. And it might, if it wasn't so goddamned awesome.

"Sergio Corbucci is Dead" — a strange title given that the Italian director hasn't been a hot topic since his death over 30 years ago  — opens the album up in curious fashion with stratified Spanish guitar melodies and Morricone vocalizations that wouldn't be out of place in one of Corbucci's own celluloid depictions of the violent west and/or Leone's Man with No Name trilogy. This ferries directly into the title track which races along like staccato-pinged snake venom travelling through an adrenaline-flooded blood stream. The track's veracity is pushed along by backing protest vocals and Petrozza's 'hands off my life' message and "Hate is the virus of this world" refrain. The song's impact is elevated by a stirringly infectious sing-a-long chorus and a Big 4-worthy middle eight that's blackened in its journey southward from heaven. There's a split-second crossfade into the titularly provocative "Killer of Jesus" which follows a similar song writing tack with single-note minor key choppiness powering the main riff towards sinister bleakness provided by power chord slides backended by a pub chant chorus and immensely melodic guitar leads from Petrozza and his counterpart Sami Yli-Sirniö.

The band pull a "For Whom the Bell Tolls"/"The Thing that Should Not Be"/"Eye of the Beholder" move with third song "Crush the Tyrants" which employs a palm-muted churn to fire up the troops with its "us against you" bombast to spit in the mug of those who would collar and leash (not in the good way!) others to their way of thought and being. Following this, a mid-paced chunk of songs takes a brief stranglehold on the album: "Strongest of the Strong" is all about enormous, stadium-sized melodics; "Become Immortal" features a wispy and pensive retrospective theme propped up by choral and gang vocals that fall somewhere between Wagner and Agnostic Front; and the chorus to "Conquer and Destroy" exists like an angelically-voiced oasis surrounded by blistering stutter-step thrash. 

The late album appearance of "Midnight Sun" is a track that takes probably the bravest leap in the Kreator cannon since the band's post-Coma of Souls missteps as it augments a slippery, rapid-picked pedal with German new wave/pop artist Sofia Portanet's ethereal pipes. It's interesting to note that Portanet's voice is thrust forward during the thrashier and fast sections of the song and not so much in the spacious harmony rich choruses where one might expect. The pace gets picked up again with "Demonic Future" and "Pride Comes Before the Fall," though both shift to slower gears to make way for the massively melodic chorus, a trend that runs through the album and one that, by now, you should have picked up on.

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If anything, Hate Über Alles has poured more concrete into the foundation of Kreator's penchant for injecting infectious, rallying cry choruses into rip 'n' tear thrash metal. This isn't something entirely novel and their work as such shouldn't come as a shock to anyone even remotely familiar with the band — no one should have to think very hard to recall the important bits from "Riot of Violence," "Toxic Trace," "Flag of Hate," "Betrayer," "Satan is Real" and "Hail to the Hordes." This particular collection of songs, however, elevates the maturity of the song writing and arrangements to where the unkempt riotousness of the band's vaunted past makes greater connections with their mature present.  

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