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In the eyes of some die-hard fans, the band's 8th album, 'Outcast', caused Kreator to become outcasts. The legendary, violent thrash metallers had experimented earlier with their 1992 album 'Renewal', the album that many old fans banished to the deepest abyss. However, with 'Outcast' the band wanted to experiment again, and unquestionably brave they were.
'Renewal's successful, in my ears at least, thrash metal flirting with industrial elements happened again here, although in significantly different soundscapes. 'Outcast' is Kreator stripped to the bone, with atmosphere of nowadays' oppression and agitation. Metal this is, but thrash metal? No, except for a pinch maybe. It's Kreator style dark metal, I presume. I think that 'Coma of Souls' (1990) song 'People of the Lie' was a step towards to this kind of material. Anyways, let's dive deeper into 'Outcast'. Because the cover is a bad one, and not telling all about the album!
'Leave This World behind' immediately introduces the melody, and familiar pedantic guitar riffage and rhythm work make this one a roller. And what, no guitar solo?! No, they're for rock stars anyway. Mille Petrozza sounds, well, Mille, in all his ugliness (his raspy throat screams and trademark end of sentence stertor are all here). 'Phobia' is the album's 'People of the Lie', fast rolling headbanger. It is already evident, that Kreator sound bare here. The sound is heavy, no doubt about it. The bass is fantastically huge in the mix, bringing it to the front with guitars. Actually every instrument and vocals are consistent in volume, but because of the job well done, it doesn't sound clogged at all. Rather, the method gives required potency for the sound. On with the album again now...
'Forever' is one of the slowest Kreator songs ever. The experimenting with sound effects (not keyboards) is the key word here, they are brought in to give atmosphere and fluctuation. 'Black Sun' "raises" on speed level gambling; the song is even slower than the previous one! This goes almost into doom territories, let me tell you. Mille does some clean vocals, and pretty effective they are. Now you can feel other emotions than familiar violence and destructiveness from him. Whoa, the album's first guitar solo happens now! Over a slide guitar... Well, the band were experimenting, as mentioned earlier. 'Nonconformist' is more punky bullet train, at least the song feels fast among the slow songs. You can forget about guitar solos again. 'Enemy Unseen' contains very militaristic beats, but is a very uneventful and probably the simplest ever song from the band. The title song harks back to 'Renewal's atmosphere, being a fantastic piece with oppressive feel yet the chorus is totally anthemic. 'Stronger than Hate' is the most thrashing song on offer. Then it is time for songs that fall into the category of uneventful songs. 'Against the Rest' is one of the rockiest songs from Kreator, kind of predicting the future: 1999 and 'Endorama' album. 'A Better Tomorrow' saves the album from a big fall into mediocrity, but it's clear that 13 songs are a few songs too many with the amount of substance the band built them from. Maybe the melodiousness is the reason why there's not much solos. Even though the lyrics are mostly very negative and about real life, there's a few glimpses of light in them. Mille surely writes good words; he must know what he is saying. Also some of Mille's vocals are effected, but work nicely. The performances do not lack of nuances, as one might gues when looking at the line-up: "Ventor" behind the drumkit, Tommy Vetterli of Coroner fame on other guitar and Christian Giesler on bass.
I take this album as Kreator's so called "The Black Album" (in fact it is Metallica's self-titled one from 1992, as you might have guessed). In reality 'Outcast' is much, much deeper album. Some ditch it for not being thrash metal, but if you like Kreator and understand the band's soul, you might like this one too. Eleven years ago I would have given this quite a much lower score, but I've started to enjoy about this for a big part. However, I still find the album lacking in songwriting.
(Originally written for ArchaicMetallurgy.com in 2008)
Beginning with Renewal in 1992, Kreator started a phase in their career of mild experimentation, which would last five albums until returning to 'normal' on 2005's Enemy of God. Like so many other bands of the 90s, the pressures of metal's decline and the rise of other, alternative musics seemed to shake itself off on the Germans, thus provoking an evolution of sound. To their credit, Kreator still felt and sounded like Kreator throughout all of these works, even the much maligned, Kreator-lite album Endorama. As far as this perior, I feel Renewal was the brightest and the best, an album that has truly grown upon me with its brand of grim, industrial thrash metal, but Outcast was no slouch.
The outside influence on this particular album is a rowdy punk/hardcore aesthetic, in addition to some hints of industrial noise, and the result is a pretty even smorgasboard of fist pumping Kreator-core anthems that range from fun to just there. Do not be misled by my description: the album is in no way silly or anarchistic. It retains the social political consciousness that Kreator has been scripting since Terrible Certainty. It's simply got a punk aesthetic fueling it, which is little surprise, as Mille and crew have always been fans of decent punk. This manifests in tracks like "Phobia", "Nonconformist", "Against the Rest" and "Whatever It May Take". But they're not alone here, the band has written some simple (by their standards) thrashings like "Alive Again" and the groovy "Forever", which is one of the best songs on this album. There are also a few tracks like "Enemy Unseen" which make use of the industrial waste backdrop and provide a foreshadowing of the band's dreaded Endorama to come.
As far as atmosphere, the record is mixed extremely well, and despite the various tempos the tracks will move at, it all comes together to create a consistent experience, though unlikely to be memorable unless you're a diehard Kreator fan who followed the band through the peaks and valleys of their 90s output. I can draw some slight parallels here to other industrial/metal bands of that decade, a little Pitch Shifter, a little Thought Industry, but mostly to sewer thrashers Prong. Outcast is not heavy on electronics, they are used for sheer atmosphere. Also of note is that Kreator had recruited Tommy Vetterli (aka Tommy T. Baron of Coroner, another band to experiment with a cold industrial edge in the 90s), but I would consider him wasted here. His playing is fine, but being condemned to such simple song structures must have felt like Hell to one so talented. Or maybe not... The drums thunder, and Mille sounds quite good using these simpler patterns of lyrics and repetition.
Outcast is not a failure, far from it. It's an interesting change for the band which brings forward a few of the ideas initiated with Renewal. I like this album far more than its predecessor Cause for Conflict, or the following Endorama; just don't approach it with the thought you're going to hear Extreme Aggression or Coma of Souls' wall of manic, incredible riffing thrash.
Highlights: Phobia, Forever, Enemy Unseen, Whatever It May Take
The 90s will forever be remembered as the worst years for metal and especially for thrash metal. Kreator fell into a sort of limbo for two/three albums and this Outcast is the lowest point in their career. The following Endorama will be more gothic oriented while this album is darker and features modern elements in Kreator’s sound, grabbing directly from the modern influences that were invading the metal in that period. If you really want to listen to this album, there are few things I must say to you: forget about the violent death/thrash of the previous works, forget about the riffs, forget about the fast tempo parts and forget about the brutal vocals by Mille.
Now, are you ready? Let’s enter the new conception of music by Kreator in those days. The first song already shows how the album will be. The riffs are almost embarrassing and dull. There’s a will to make the melodies stand out and also the will to erase most of the metal elements. If the following Endorama at least will feature catchy lines, this song is incredibly weak. The modern elements can be found in some synth parts in order to create weird sounds behind the instruments, like programming and artificial noises. Yeah, the atmosphere is quite dark but the song is incredibly boring. The following “Phobia” is the song that I like the most here because it’s a bit heavier and it’s catchy. Still nowadays it’s played live and achieves the goal of bringing up the tempo parts and my general attention.
“Forever” is obscene because is supremely flawed and boring in the songwriting. The riffs are repetitive and tedious. The modern effects are still present and also some vocals parts are filtrated. The whispered vocals and the obscure moments are in contraposition with the loud restarts where the vocals are utter crap. The groove tempo and the guitars parts are even worst in the following “Nonconformist”. The stop and go parts are unbelievably shitty and the following “Enemy Unseen” follows the same style with all the flaws and the mallcore addictions. Kreator are now experts in crappy groove/modern sounds. The title track is mid-paced (yes, we need that after a BRUTAL song like “Enemy Unseen”!!). I’d rather cut my balls and eat my intestines instead of going on with this utter piece of steaming horse shit. But I must go ahead in describing more aborted pieces of music…
Actually, when we listen to songs like “Stronger Than Before” and “Ruin of Life” there’s nothing else to say. They are nu-metal and really addicted to modernism. The vocals are simply ridiculous and they’ve lost everything in nastiness and brutality. The riffs are inaudible (no, sorry…there are no riffs!) and there are various duets by the guitars with hyper tasteless and inoffensive melodies. “Whatever it May Take”, “Alive Again”, “Against The Rest” and the final “A Better Tomorrow” are very similar to the rest of the album. Thus, expect massive dosages of mallcore, weak parts, two riffs per song, dark parts and mid-paced tempo. The drums are on the same patterns from the beginning ‘till the end.
The boredom reigns supreme among these unbelievable compositions by a band that lost completely the way in this period. To me “Phobia” still remains the best here, while the other compositions could fit extremely well for “The Crow” film soundtrack. Thrash metal addicted, you have the chance, don’t enter in 1997 Kreator’s world.