In Hindsight - Kreator, The Eighties Albums (no EPs allowed)

In comparison to most I am relatively late to the Kreator party.  One of the first digital albums I ever bought when settling back into metal after a brief hiatus some 12 years ago was "Pleasure To Kill" and I have spent many a neck snapping evening in its company since, but only over the past 18 months or so have I developed my exploration of the discography further than the excellent 1986 sophomore release.  Furthermore, I now own the complete eighties albums so though it an excellent opportunity for a blog post.

1985 - Endless Pain - NOISE Records 
Recorded in ten days (a whole four days ahead of schedule), you could quite easily think that the record was done in one take end to end.  There's nothing polished here, no frills, no bullshit just straight up rabid as fuck thrash metal delivered with a wild simplicity.  At this stage the band are roughly 18/19 years of age and it fucking sounds like an album made by teenagers, full of energy and loose almost reckless playing at times it is almost thrash metal made with a black metal mentality (there's debate to be had about "black metal Kreator" elsewhere on the internet).

With vocal duties shared between Petrozza and Ventor on alternate tracks the variety is subtle yet still noticeable.  Full of NWOBHM riffs and chops sat alongside chaotic, sonic leads and pummelling drums there's rhythm to "Endless Pain" that sticks with you throughout the record.  Only once do things let up for the intro to album closer "Dying Victims" but this too soon evolves into some primitive auditory assault.

Personally, I find Kreator's debut record up there on my list of top ten all time favourite thrash records just based on pure effort alone.  It is as solid a debut as I can remember and the foundation stone this album is for the rest of their eighties output is an obvious basis for the band to grow from.

1986 - Pleasure To Kill - NOISE Records
The evolution in twelve months for Kreator is in many regards not that dramatic.  The fact is that "Pleasure.." picks up exactly where "Endless Pain" left off in terms of the vitality, the relentless and oppressive charge of the riff infantry that drives the sophomore release forwards.  The only obvious difference is that the production this time was more professional.  I wouldn't call it polished or slick to be honest, just better.  As a result the aggression of Kreator comes across as being a little more focused than on their first outing, more channelled and direct than its more wild and loose predecessor.  I am not really a fan of the drumming on here, I find it a little wet sounding and a bit cumbersome, although somehow the riff work carries it throughout.

The energy of the first two Kreator albums are what make them stand out for me, whilst they weren't anymore blistering than Destruction or Sodom they pound for pound took both on points decisions with their sheer, unadulterated youthful explosion of energy.  What also becomes obvious on "Pleasure.." is a sense of maturity in the songwriting, we have an intro to open the record with, as "Choir Of The Damned" promises a little more restraint than the listening experience ends up delivering over the course of nine tracks.

Importantly, the great work the band put in on their debut that raised the awareness of the group continued on "Pleasure..", elevating the band even more and setting the scene perfectly for what was to follow.

1987 - Terrible Certainty - NOISE Records
Although no less rabid than its predecessors, Kreator's third album somehow seems more thrashy than what came before.  From opening track "Blind Faith" with its chanted chorus line and choppy riffs this impression is as immediate as it is impressive.  I hear bits of Anthrax intermittently on "Terrible..." although it is still distinctly a German thrash album.

Instantly I like the drums more, they sound like a part of the music this time as opposed to a slightly misplaced backing track accidentally playing in the studio as the real album was recorded.  However, I do find the production this time to be at the expense of the band.  The sound comes across as being a little muted or restrained in the main often having to rely heavily on Petrozza's demented shrieks to carry the tracks through when perhaps having the riffs a little further forward in the mix would contribute more to a "whole" sounding experience.

Let's not take anything away from the excellent lead work going on here though, as ferocious as any of the riffs or accompanying drum work, they work perfectly to give a real sense of passage to the tracks, rounding out the song structures well.

There are unfortunately moments when it doesn't all come together as well as you would hope.  "As The World Burns" becomes a bit of a mish mash of a track as it progresses and actually appears in places to be suffering from timing issues.  Whether a result of the production or a conscious event the energy levels appear to drop for this release and overall I feel the album suffers from being a tad front heavy with a subtle yet obvious decline as the record progresses.  But it is by no means a bad record it is just perhaps my least favourite record in the chronology of the order thus far.

The evolving maturity of Kreator is obvious and the song writing has improved with each album to this point as the band expand their instrumental capabilities and prowess.

1989 - Extreme Aggression - NOISE Records
The last of the 80's releases, "Extreme Aggression" marked a change in producer again with acclaimed producer Randy Burns put behind the knob twiddling desk.  The album itself was actually recorded twice after the initial studio used was deemed to be too basic for the requirement Burns had for the album, so after initially completing recording in Berlin in Sept 88, the album was redone in Jan 89 in the States.

Still I find the sound to be muted and the guitars a little sterile this time out, although the drums are standout in the mix here and when the mix is right the blend of the guitars is great, it just doesn't happen often enough.

With the band opting not to use Phil Lawvere for the artwork for this release the band went for the "group photo" approach this time around after being let down by the quality of the work from a recommended artist from a peer.  Sadly, the image work is indicative of another change with the band as "Extreme Aggression" I find to be ironically neither "extreme" or that "aggressive" in comparison to the majority of its predecessors.  The sterile production aside I still think it is a further step down in the energy stakes yet it is still commendable as a solid as fuck thrash record.  I just never feel I want to listen to it the whole way through and whether that changes with repeated plays only time will tell.
Nonetheless this is by no means a turkey of a release to end the otherwise impressive 80's discography of one of the world's most important thrash metal bands.  Petrozza admits to the band listening to a lot of Rush around the time of writing and recording of the record, and whilst that is not obvious in the sound of the record, stylistically the structures do have a progressive tinge to them at times.  It works too, harnessing that ever-growing maturity I keep harping on about nicely.  By this stage Kreator are all grown up.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Black Harvest "Attrition"

Ruinous "Graves Of Ceaseless Death"

End of Year List - Countdown - Number 7