Kreator: Phantom Antichrist
21/06/12 || Smalley
Thrash metal; its very nature is intense, therefore, the temptation to go quick ‘n dirty with it is undeniable… and that’s fine. I mean, “Reign in blood” is mostly just short, straightforward songs, and it’s one of the most infamous records in the entire genre. But, variety is the spice of life, so eventually, you just get in the mood to hear some more epic, ambitious thrashing, and from the sound of “Phantom antichrist”, so is Kreator! So not only do they get what they want, but so do we; works out perfectly. Get what we want, that is, unless you just a Kreator hatah, but if that’s true, you have bigger probs to work out.
But enough about that, since I was talking about Kreator; while 2001’s “Violent revolution” was at least a start to their recovery from their musical “years in the wilderness”, it didn’t go nearly aggressive enough, and while 05’s “Enemy of god” was a choice for something heavier, that heaviness ultimately seemed forced. However, 09’s “Hordes of chaos” was excellent, and the first Kreator I truly dug since Coma of smalls. But still, its songwriting was a bit… “compact”, let’s say. Which is fine, since bigger isn’t automatically better, but it can help if your band can do it right, and judging from the sound of “Phantom”, which retains the rejuvenated aggression of “Hordes”, but also adds plenty of surprisingly ambitious touches, I can safely say that Kreator has got the formula down almost 100% motherfucken RIGHT.
It kicks off with intro “Mars mantra”, which doesn’t lead as smoothly into the next track as it could’ve (it’s an intro, after all…), but still fares better by itself than most intros anyway, with its relaxed tempo, clean, ethereal guitarwork, and eerie background chanting, which creates a palpably unsettling atmosphere, and its harsh riffing later on is pretty cool as well. It doesn’t prepare us for the way the title track fucken SLAMS us into the album proper, though, with its brutal, blistering riffage (some of the most furious you’ll hear from a 30 year-old band) spiced with the occasional melodic flourish, relentless momentum sustained through every single section, and epic, powerful chorus that WILL stay with you, whether it be in your memory, or as an aural bootprint on your fucken ears.
Amazing fucken way to kick off an album, and “Death to the world” keeps it going strong with more sound variety through its less frantic pacing, which helps it have a slightly more melodic edge, especially during its occasionally calmer, more relaxed stretches, and the strong hook of that chorus riff helps a lot as well. But, despite the occasional melodic flourishes on the first 3 songs, “From flood into fire” is the first truly melodic song here, and while its verses are a bit lacking in urgency (though there is a sweet speed-up section later on), the powerful, anthemic, gang vocals-laden chorus more than makes up for it; when a song makes you wanna join in on the singing, even when you know you’d just be doing it alongside a lifeless piece of plastic, I’d have to say your band is probably doing something correct.
“Civilization collapse” is a great study in contrasts with its tense, extended intro, and back-and-forth flow between shredfest verses and mid-tempo choruses, while “United in hate” ups the scope drastically with a super classy acoustic intro, a forceful, absolutely BOOMING chorus, and dramatic, midpoint breakdown where Mille’s vocals almost convince you that Kreator and their fan-legions could take down any corrupt empire they choose to. Fuck, maybe they could do that. Anyway, “The few, the proud, the broken” increases the epic trend of its predecessor with a melodic, sprawling chorus, and an intricate, fluid second half that throws a shitload of songwriting switch-ups at us (including more acoustic stuff!), but never feels wrong, especially when it culminates in the most triumphant, memorable vocals of the entire record.
“Your heaven, my hell” starts off fine with some traditional guitar melodies, but then transitions into this toned-down, mellow portion, with quiet vocals that I guess were meant to be intimate, but just came off as inadequate, and the slowed-down section later on also disappoints. So, worst song here, but the way it eventually picks back up into the heavy shit (especially in that big solo) still makes it pretty good, then “Victory will come” picks the mood back up with a triumphant, almost happy(!) main riff/chorus that actually work very well, and finally, “Until our paths cross again” closes the record out well with beautiful clean guitarwork, a climatic, bittersweet mood, and an easy-going tempo, with even the dramatic speed-up part coming as more relaxed here, which is a well-deserved rest after so much intense thrashage.
As for the individual musicians here, Mille’s guitar skills are as strong as ever, while I feel his vocals are probably stronger then they’ve ever been; epic screams to give the perfect punctuation at the right moments, and even when he’s quieter than that, he always spits plenty of venom into his delivery. The occasional clean parts aren’t really good, but they don’t pop up often, so no biggie. As for Ventor’s drumming, I think he’s lessened his variety a lil’ from “Hordes…”, but he still keeps some great, steady speed, and still throws in some completely sudden, rapid-burst-of-energy drum fills like here (apologies if the link goes missing, just go to 1:50 on “United to hate”), so I still dig his playing a lot. And as for comparing the production to the last record, the drum sound is more organic, the leads sound less “wimpy”, let’s say, and the rhythm sounds rougher, and with more heft, which only helps the sound of “Antichrist” to stick in your head even stronger.
So, “PA” might go down a lil’ in my esteem later, but of course, that’s a risk all albums run, and considering how much I’m digging this right now, I honestly have to say that not only is “Phantom Antichrist” the best album of the year to date, it’s also the best fucken thing Kreator has kreated to date. I’m not kidding; they finally got back into their groove last time around, and they’re doing nothing but capitalizing on that success right here. It boggles the mind to think they could peak this late into their career, but lo and behold, they’ve done it! Yes, I am kind of a jaded metalhead, and I find myself getting less and less optimistic about future releases as time wears on, but I can hardly think of a reason why the sky shouldn’t be the limit for Kreator as they continue onward, growing stronger as some of their thrash brethren flounder, or grow weaker. If you’re a fan of this band at all, this just might be the best possible time to be alive, without exception.
- Released: 2012
- Label: Nuclear Blast
- Website: www.kreator-terrorzone.de
- Mille Petrozza: vocals, guitars
- Sami Yli-Sirniö: guitars
- Christian “Speesy” Giesler: bass
- Ventor: drums
- 01. Mars Mantra
- 02. Phantom Antichrist
- 03. Death To The World
- 04. From Flood Into Fire
- 05. Civilization Collapse
- 06. United In Hate
- 07. The Few, The Proud, The Broken
- 08. Your Heaven, My Hell
- 09. Victory Will Come
- 10. Until Our Paths Cross Again