When presented with the age old question of which bands would make up a second “Big Four” (and after much yawning, eye-rolling and muttering “Oh God, not this again”), it’s safe to say that a large majority of Thrash fans would include Kreator somewhere on their lists. Formed in Essen, Germany in 1982, the band went through a series of name changes (Metal Militia, Tyrant, and Tormentor) before finally settling on the moniker which has seen them become not only one of the most unrelentingly vicious acts on the scene, but also one of the most consistent. Founder members Mille Petrozza (vocals/guitar) and drummer Jürgen “Ventor” Reil have both played a major part in the longevity and stability of the band, even though Reil has left the band a couple of times, albeit only briefly.
Sure, there have been experiments along the way which may not have been met with entirely positive feedback. The Industrial leanings of Renewal (Noise) confused many listeners, and 1999’s Endorama (Drakkar) showed the band embracing their inner Goth. And although neither will ever be remembered as classic Kreator, both records still enjoy vociferous support from many corners of their fan base.
Kreator’s studio life began properly in 1985 with the unrefined chaos of Endless Pain (Noise). Apparently almost landed with the less than stellar title of ‘Heads Up’, the debut featured no subtlety, no ballads, and absolutely no chance for your neck to recover from one song to the next: a pulverising explosion of pure brutality. Now, as part of an ongoing series along with its’ metal brethren below, given the remaster and re-release treatment by BMG, the album’s familiar, murky production stays intact, except for being a little clearer in places. And louder. The bonus material is lifted from Tormentor’s 1983’s ‘Blitzkrieg’ and 1984’s ‘End of the World’ demos and is every bit as greasy, spotty and wonderfully lo-fi as you could possibly wish for.
So, how do you improve on the thick, muddy sonic punishment of Endless Pain? Simple. You write Pleasure To Kill. Boasting a clearer, stronger production, Pleasure… was an even more ferocious beast than the debut, throwing down the gauntlet to every one of their rivals on the scene, from Europe or elsewhere. Razor sharp guitars sliced effortlessly through skin and muscle, the bass pounded your bones into powder, and the drums finished the job by rolling over your lifeless corpse like some kind of angry German steamroller. As with earlier pressings, the mighty Flag of Hate EP is a welcome addition to the package. Not that it needs it, of course. On its own, and to this day, Pleasure To Kill still stands as one of the very finest examples of Thrash Metal.
Following a classic is no easy task, but Kreator somehow made it seem that way with 1987’s Terrible Certainty. Track after track packed with pugnacity and breakneck speed, yet also displaying a more progressive side without losing any of their trademark aggression. Tracks like ‘Storming With Menace’, ‘Toxic Trace’, Behind the Mirror’, and ‘As The World Burns’ piled on the torment as the onslaught of venomous riffs continued unabated. And just when you think it’s all over, the remastered version continues its aural assault with the tasty Out of the Dark… Into The Light EP.
Considering its satisfyingly violent title, Extreme Aggression (Noise) is actually the most accessible of the band’s first four albums. Make no mistake, it’s still a juggernaut of belligerent bellicosity, hatred and hostility, but by 1989 the band were adding clever little hooks and melodies to their frothing brew of rampaging Thrash, giving you songs that made you want to tear people’s heads off with your bare hands but hum a nice tune while you were doing it. And if your thirst for violence still isn’t sated after all that, then there’s a bonus disc which contains an impressive 14 tracks taken from Live in East Berlin 1990.
With raw productions given a welcome boost in volume and clarity, without sacrificing the integrity of the initial sound, and with bonus tracks, both live and studio, coming out of its ears, any discerning Thrash fan of age and taste should be hunting down these reissues. As should any newer lover of speedier, heavier metals.