At the time this review is being scribbled out, it’s approximately a week-and-a-half before the official release date of Kreator’s fourteenth album. And because I’m a freelance writing whore who contributes to a variety of media outlets around the world, despite the release of Gods of Violence being a mere ten or so days away, my fingers have already previously tapped out a studio report, an advance album news feature and two separate reviews for various print and website publications high and wide after having had the album in my possession for nigh on three months already.
And the good – nay great! – news is that Gods of Violence is still getting almost daily spins and remains as powerful an experience as the first time it came rushing from the speakers. More so, in fact. “Big deal,” some of you might clamour, “I’ve been listening to Pleasure to Kill, Terrible Certainty, Extreme Aggression and Coma of Souls on non-stop, back-to-back repeat since 19-fuckin’-90.” That’s pretty fucking awesome, if there's a kernel of truth to that. But, when two factors are taken into consideration – one, that Kreator has been doing this non-stop since 1984, and for three years before that as Tormentor, Tyrant and Metal Militia; and, two, how quickly even today’s best releases get glossed over and forgotten in this age of music bombardment and the treatment of art as disposal – that Gods of Violence not only kicks ass left, right and center, but presents as a grower which offers elements ripe for discovery with each listen, our imploration is for you to ease up on those copies of Pleasure to Kill, Terrible Certainty, Extreme Aggression and Coma of Souls and give this a whirl. It deserves your attention; it’s that fucking good.
Let’s do a little counterintuitive reversal and start by mentioning the few weaknesses this album has. Some song intros and middle eight diversions sound disparate when compared to the context surrounding them. There are a small number of questionable moments that slam the brakes on the momentum instead of adding dynamic richness, which we suspect was the original motivation of the jangly, almost nursery rhyme flavour created at the start of “Lion With Eagle Wings” and pace-killing middle section of “Side By Side.” The acoustic guitar opening the title track is cut from the ‘80s thrash intro bank, though the Indian scales and sitar are a pleasing addition.
The album ends on a surprisingly subdued note with the second half of “Death Becomes My Light,” a denouement that contrasts negatively to the martial anthem that opens the album in the form of “Apocalypticon.” Otherwise, one other element that might fire up ire in the eyes of detractors is the lyrical content. Though, anyone who’s ever owned a Kreator album should not be surprised that mainman Miland “Mille” Petrozza’s stance comes from the hard left. His odes to the deflection of totalitarianism, resisting tyranny, crushing homophobia, slowing environmental degradation and the deleterious impact of war might go over like a fart in church with some folks, given the turn society appears to be taking towards intolerance, disregard for opposition, impatience at the prospect of meaningful dialogue and worldviews that are based more on black and white lines as opposed to blurred ones.
But Petrozza’s perspective is one of someone who grew up in the shadow of, and has had first-hand experience with, eastern European communism (Kreator’s first handful of albums were recorded in Berlin, back in the days when you had to pass through the communist-held DDR to get to the divided city) and has has been travelling the world and experiencing different cultures for over thirty years. However, despite what side of the partisan divide you exist on, it shouldn’t matter because, again, Gods of Violence is that fucking good.
Aside from the detrimental points mentioned above, this record demonstrates a stunning display of song writing experience and smarts. Not only are the main riffs in exceptionally adroit and malevolent songs like “World War Now,” “Satan is Real” and “Totalitarian Terror” some of the finest the band has ever written, but the transitions from those riffs into bridges and hook-rich choruses are flawless and on the level of mastery displayed on classics like Master of Puppets and Rust in Peace. When combined with the way in which Petrozza has taken to harnessing the power of his legendary acid-drenched screech and corralling his vocal capabilities into downright infectious phrasing and vocal lines, it gives songs like “Army of Storms” (check out his pattern and the little call-and-response effect in the first verse!) and the Viking-tinged, mid-paced chug of “Hail to the Hordes” (the screams closing out the choruses are astonishing!) an added punch and increases both the musical barbarity and accessibility.
And it’s not just Petrozza who properly lined all his ducks in a row and fucking showed up on game day. Drummer Jürgen Reil will never be the first name that comes to mind when metal’s best drummers are being discussed – neither will “Ventor” his long-time nom de thrash – but the dynamics he displays throughout this album’s running time provide noteworthy texture. His fills, scattered use of double bass and the manner in which he varies tempos with his kick patterns, as opposed to all out helicopter kicks from a song’s beginning to end, provides “Lion With Eagle Wings” with a powerful sense of nuance as it propels through darkened melodies. Along with Petrozza, guitarist Sami Yli-Sirniö turn in astounding performances in the leads department as they make each and every solo on this album sing. Each turn in the spotlight is constructed like a mini-song in and of itself and features the sort of note selection, tempo variance, shredding, fretboard movement and the sort of phrasing that makes guitar heroes. It would be doing a disservice to single out any one song/solo in particular as they all are worthy of having a bunch of NAMM attendees transcribe and study them as an example of the power of the lead guitar as a complementary element, not just a showcase for displays of soulless technique. Let’s not forget bassist Christian Giesler who takes the bull by the horns. He plays in the pocket, exhibits brief displays of walking warmth and counterpoint in more mid-paced moments while rumbling along like a tank during the more furious thrashing moments.
In many circles, it’s sacrilegious to take a long-standing band with bona fide classics scattered throughout its early years and not only compare its most recent works with those revered records, but to make claims that those newer albums are on par with the old shit. Well, fuck that noise because Gods of Violence is at once a modern masterpiece and an album that might just be the best the band has put to tape thirty-three years into the game.