Back in June last year, we were treated to remastered versions of the first four albums by German Thrash legends, Kreator. This year, Noise Records are following that up by repackaging, remastering, and reissuing the band’s next four studio releases.
Complete with extra tracks, bonus discs, and copious liner notes, Kreator’s back catalogue has never looked so good. Although whether you think it has never sounded so good, as always, will be strictly down to personal preference. While many listeners enjoy the richer sound of a remastered recording, there will always be purists who long for every crackle, scratch, and imperfection of their original vinyl, the hiss of an old tape cassette, or as with the case of bonus tracks, for the album to “finish when it’s supposed to”.
First up for renewal (sorry) is the band’s 1990 release, Coma of Souls. Seen by many as the last of Kreator’s big hitters – at least for a while – Coma… continues the good work laid down by previous album Extreme Aggression, and while not quite being able to match it pound for pound, is still one of the better examples of Thrash at the turn of the ’90s. When many bands were beginning to show signs of fraying around the edges, songs like ‘People of the Lie’, ‘Hidden Dictator’, ‘World Beyond’, and ‘Terror Zone’ were a statement of pure intent as, without fear, Kreator ploughed forward into an unstable new decade. This reissue includes a second disc which features a live show recorded at Stadthalle Fürth, Germany, in 1990. [8.5]
With Coma of Souls being such a straightforward neck-wrecker, the almost total reinvention of their sound on 1992’s Renewal took the majority Kreator fans by surprise. Their new quasi-Industrial sound resulted in many turning their backs, somewhat unfairly, on the Germans as they dared to tread new ground. For some, Renewal was their first exposure to the band, so after being informed of their no-holds-barred approach, an experimental Industrial/Thrash hybrid wasn’t the ideal record for potential new listeners to finally acquaint themselves with the band.
Right from opener ‘Winter Martyrium’, it was clear that things had changed, most notably with frontman Mille Petrozza transforming his voice from a formidable roar into a (no less distinctive) ragged bark. Although undoubtedly a shock to the system, the record was still an impressive release. Cuts like the mid-paced ‘Reflection’, and the more traditional thrashery of ‘Brainseed’ and ‘Europe After the Rain’ were Kreator at their finest, and sat comfortably alongside the more progressive elements of ‘Karmic Wheel’ and closer ‘Depression Unrest’. A turning point in the band’s career, Renewal certainly lived up to its name, although just not entirely the way the band might have wished. [8.0]
Not one to buckle under pressure, but also realising they needed to get back in favour with many of their fans, Mille continued down the Industrial path with 1995’s Cause For Conflict (originally on GUN Records), but to a lesser degree, while also redirecting the band back towards more familiar, thrashier territory, even sounding strikingly similar to Sepultura in places.
The only studio album to not feature drummer Jurgen “Ventor” Reil, (his place taken by former whiplash sticksman Joe Cangelosi) Cause for Conflict, while admittedly not as good as their early material, or as immediately recognisable as Renewal, is still a solid release. The guitars sound much sharper than Renewal, and Mille’s voice recaptures most of its earlier bite. Bonus tracks for this release include ‘Suicide in Swamps’ and ‘Limits of Liberty’ taken from 1996 compilation album Scenarios of Violence (Noise), and ‘State Oppression’ a Raw Power cover lifted from 1999’s Voices of Transgression (Noise) collection. [7.0]
The final album of this latest batch of remasters is 1997’s Outcast. Featuring Coroner guitarist Tommy Vetterli, current bassist Christian Giesler playing on his second album, and Jurgen Reil returning to his home behind the kit, Outcast saw Kreator retaining the Thrash and Industrial influences, but adding a darker Goth Rock vibe this time – something that would be taken even further on their next album, 1999’s Endorama (Drakkar).
Bearing little resemblance to the band who exploded onto the Thrash scene with Endless Pain and Pleasure to Kill, Outcast is often unkindly regarded as one of the band’s least memorable efforts. Opener ‘Leave This world Behind’, ‘Forever’, ‘Enemy Unseen’, and ‘Nonconformist’ are criminally overlooked, as are the more melodic cuts such as ‘A Better Tomorrow’ and the atmospheric ‘Black Sunrise’. The album’s standout track, however, is ‘Phobia’ which remains a staple of their live shows to this day. The second of the remasters to feature a bonus disc, the reissue of Outcast features their full set from the Dynamo Festival in 1998. [7.5]