If you grew up listening to '80s thrash pioneers from the US and their European counterparts, there's something namelessly magical about that aggressive, breathtaking sound, especially at the moment those bands first broke out of the underground. Most of them, along with the genre they helped build with their own bloody hands, have mutated and evolved and split off into a dozen different styles since the golden era, while others stayed in the trenches, never straying far from thrash's classic riff template. But there are still some bands out there who found ways to explore new ideas within that tried-and-true framework; German combo Kreator, legendary for their rage-fueled riffs, definitely stands among that elite number, and they returned to their roots in the past few years to much rejoicing. The new release Phantom Antichrist is their thirteenth full-length studio album to hit the streets since they first formed three decades ago... so is this record going to be Lucky 13 for the Teutonic thrash overlords? Hit the jump to find out, and while you're in here, definitely check out their latest music video, along with some awesomely evil cover art.
Founded around 1982 under the name Tormentor, Kreator has gone through many creative phases of their own, including lineup changes and a brief venture into more modern metal styles (death metal and industrial among them... actually pretty interesting, even though a lot of fans bailed) before returning to a solid core of old-school thrash with the 2001 release Violent Revolution. While they've brought more European-style melodic elements to their sound from that point forward, it was unmistakable that the basis of the old Kreator sound had returned, and was ready to take on the world (literally, in this case: they co-headlined with Exodus for a North American tour in 2009 and Europe's Thrashfest the following year). From the band's original lineup, frontman/guitarist Mille Petrozza and drummer Jürgen Reil remain, and in my humble opinion, axe-man Sami Yli-Sirniö and bassist Christian Giesler round out their most solid lineup since the early days... and Phantom Antichrist is quite possibly this team's personal best to date.
While there's a lot to be said for the raw honesty of '80s thrash metal production, the cleaner modern techniques brought to the table by Sweden's Jens Bogren, whose esteemed credits include Opeth's Watershed and Amon Amarth's Surtur Rising (follow those links to our album reviews), turn out to be ideal for the size and sweep of Kreator's brutal sound. As for the songwriting, there's a slight division between old school aggression – namely the explosive title track (which you can play below) and cuts like "Death to the World" and "United in Hate" – and the darker, more pensive melodic riffs in "Flood Into Fire" or "Until Our Paths Cross Again." Other tracks like "Your Heaven, My Hell" represent a solid middle ground between the two styles, with more than a little of Sweden's famous Gothenburg sound (pioneered in the '90s by bands like In Flames). Across the board, though, is an endless supply of solid hooks, anthemic choruses, precision rhythms and some seriously insane solos. What more do you want?
Well, okay, there is more... the Limited Edition of Phantom Antichrist includes a bonus DVD featuring studio footage from the recording of the album, plus tons of footage from the band's 2008 and 2011 performances at Germany's Wacken Open Air Metal Festival. But either way you stack it, this release is a monumental achievement, even for such a dependable band, and stands proudly alongside the latest release from their German compatriots Destruction (last year's excellent Day of Reckoning) as must-have records for true lovers of '80s thrash in general, and the European variety in particular.
For a little sample of their hellish handiwork, be sure to check out this literally apocalyptic music video for the title track...