Kreator - Gods of Violence - (8.5/10)
Published on January 26, 2017
Payment in blood.
Since the turn of the millennium, the triumvirate of Teutonic thrash metal have all been on pretty good form, with terrible albums happily absent. However, among the three, Kreator have drawn probably the greatest share of attention, not only for the praise that met Enemy of God and Phantom Antichrist, but also for the divided opinions that heralded Hordes of Chaos. Five years on from Phantom Antichrist, it’s possible to see Gods of Violence going either way, since the mixture of gritty thrash and more melodic material should sate hungry fans, though there are a few risks that might not be so palatable to all.
A certain trend that has developed in the post-millennial climate continues on Kreator’s new effort – namely, a further mixing of the band’s original savage tendencies with modern and melodic elements, something that is also to be witnessed on Sodom’s latest, Decision Day. The outsourcing of brutality has not gone so far as to make songs such as “Hail to the Hordes” and “World War Now” sound unlike Kreator exactly, although the catchy Swedish melodies and bouncy momentum of the former and the muscular hum of palm-muting and scrambling fills that propels the verses of the latter invite unexpected guests to the party. Aside from these flirtations with melodeath and the modern metal movement, there are hints of other left turns that reflect the time Kreator have spent honing these songs. The acoustic guitar and brief moments of sitar that open the title track, the respectful keys used in the intro to “Lion with Eagle Wings”, and some of the riff choices from “Fallen Brother” and “Gods of Violence” break new ground for the band, both in terms of instruments included and styles referenced.
On the other hand, this is still a vigorous thrash album for all the detours, while it is important to note that the surprising features are always details and never the focus. For any old school fan left looking askance at the souped-up modernity of “World War Now”, “Totalitarian Terror” should provide a fast remedy, with special emphasis on the word fast. Other full-blooded thrashers include “Lion with Eagle Wings” and the no-nonsense “Side by Side”, which offers a more hopeful message late in the album. Ultimately, it comes down to the pace of the riffing to ensure that Gods of Violence remains undoubtedly a Kreator album, something that is present to varying extents in almost every song. Added to which, there are solid riffs all over the place and a few special ones too, including those mentioned as different, while Mille Petrozza predictably covers topics of death, violence, and struggle with his impressively visceral roar. Nonetheless, the lyrical topics do present a minor negative aspect of the album, since the themes are now well-worn after 30 years of active service, plus the fact that Petrozza seems particularly fond of screaming out any given song’s title as often as possible, “Satan Is Real” and “Fallen Brother” proving the worst culprits.
As a statement of Kreator’s supremacy in the 21st century metal scene, Gods of Violence straddles the divide between being simply another signature set of songs and an intentional development towards new ground. The steadfastly thrashy underbelly solidifies the Germans’ place as one of the most consistent and respected of the ‘80s crew, while the modern touches provide some excitement and variation, pushed to the fore as they are by Jens Bogren’s meaty production. There is hardly a question of filler material, although the first two thirds of the album carries the most distinctive compositions, of which “Hail to the Hordes” and “Totalitarian Terror” sit proud as not only among the best of Kreator’s output but certainly some of their catchiest and most memorable.