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For a starter, I want to underline that I've never been a big Kreator fan like the many reviewing their albums. They are probably one of the very few "big" bands in thrash that have never been among the bands I'd regularly listen to, in any period of my life or their discography. However, I've always recognised their former albums and as much as I am not a fan of Mille's voice, I've recognised the quality of the early works and the significance they have for the scene.
To the point. Phantom Antichrist can make even the very melodic sellouts in Nuclear Blast's catalogue giggle. Its attitude is ultra childish and I cannot see any sympathy or interest that it could possibly evoke in an extreme fan whatsoever, unless you're a die hard Kreator fan who listens to it from nostalgia or whatever feeling. If you think I am exaggerating, go check the lyrics - no need for me to quote, you can see yourself that they are targeted towards fourteen year old children with yet not very strong perceptions about metal.
Most songs sound like the band has tried very very intentionally to make them epic. It's even worse than Manowar's attempts to play cool and majestic these days. You're supposed to "march towards the fire" and sing along with a thousand other voices and this kind of jazz. Most songs are probably intended to be big stadium hits, sang by huge escalated crowds. As you can probably imagine, this effect is missing, at least on me.
Another problem is the guitar sound and the overall production, nothing raw left, all instruments sound like being laid in a crystal clear studio and fixed and it is just the modern production targeted for the massive audience rather than an extreme fan. Not that the latest Kreator albums show a big deviation, therefore you shouldn't be surprised in any way. At least some modern melodic death metal bands have conserved some of their anger and energy. While Phantom Antichrist is just so 'plastic, lame and weak', that I can't even be bothered to move some muscles on my face and frown. It's just "meh". Yes, generic - that's the perfect adjective to describe it.
The riffs itself are not especially thrashy and the style of this band is more like super overproduced melodic death/epic metal rather than thrash. Like very cheesy Arch Enemy (not that I have bothered to check their latest effort). And if that has not yet sealed the deal for you, there are several times on this record when you can hear Mille attempt clear singing. It's not bad from a musical point I guess, but I believe its place is not in a thrash album. The musicianship of course is very good and this is totally not my point. The band present here is Kreator, of course they would be good musicians. The problem is that the final product is just very generic and left me personally with a headache rather than an elevated spirit.
Damn it, I expected much more!
Really, I read a countless number of reviews. The vast majority of them got enthusiastic final notes, so without any hesitation (man, this is another album of Kreator!), I decided to check “Phantom Antichrist” out. After first meetings with this, I was bashfully pleased with another Kreator product, but my positive impressions weakened quite fast. My doubts started to concern the music itself. As compared to the albums recorded after “Endorama”, the musicians made great play with… melody. Of course, the great eighties times are gone now, just like very hard, difficult next decade. Now, these persevering Germans perform… yes, what do they exactly perform? For sure, this is not a pure thrash, because they courageously bathe in the reservoir with two labels: heavy metal (strong Iron Maiden influences) and melodic Swedish death metal. Anyway, I got very professional product (as always) with memorable Wes Benscoter front cover.
Musically the band gave me a real kaleidoscope of emotions. I got well known songs, for sure the musicians didn’t forget about “Violent Revolution” album, yet I don’t treat it as a blind imitation of “Endorama” successor. Good, fast and aggressive riffs, venomous Mille’s vocals and characteristic melodies in chorus are the main elements of the title track and “Death to the World”, they are simply the best songs on the album… Unfortunately it’s very hard to write such words about the rest. Why? Because there are two songs that don’t fit to Kreator completely: “From Flood into Fire” (in slow tempo, with average portion of riffs and awful (!) melodic lines in chorus supported by choral singing, which make it a third league Grave Digger song) and “Until Our Paths Cross Again” (with many sugary pseudo melodies and unacceptable tempo changing, from nice and definitely and too sweety moments, to useless fast shots). And the remainder sits somewhere in the middle. The songs are varied for sure, there no place for stagnation, and the band doesn’t bring any unpleasant surprises, as the clean Petrozza vocals (almost two minute singing in the beginning of “Your Heaven My Hell”) and fantastic solo leads by Sami (especially in “Victory Will Come”) are commonly known among the Kreator disciples. But! I am too far to be under the impression. In general, “Phantom Antichrist” is a very mediocre proposal with significant stylistic defects.
Writing some words about the final mark, one thing have to be declared: I’m a worshipper of the first Kreator era, still I have in mind all these great albums from the glorious past… And I arrive at the main conclusion that “Phantom Antichrist” suffers from the lack of thrashing brutality and (extreme) aggression. The worse thing, I guess, is that I will remember this record due to these songs that ruined the musical wholeness. That’s right, there are tracks that make my blood runs faster, where music has its fine moments, still I can see enormous potential for the future, but the remainder is unacceptable (two songs I mentioned) or almost unacceptable (thrashing killers with too festive melodies). The entirety has a perfect sound realization, unfortunately tempo changes effectively destroys many songs, when the band serves fast tempos by turns with sweet melodies and clean vocals. Even if this album is a much worse version of “Violent Revolution”, but mercifully still better than “Endorama”, the Kreator live tracklist got some new killer songs. In my opinion the album seems to be a first step for metal beginners, or gothic fans. Not so brutal, yet with memorable and easy tunes. Is this a true face of Essen thrashers? I don’t think so. Thus, should I be afraid of the next release? Time will show, naturally I don’t want to hear another “Pleasure to Kill” copy, however definitely more aggressive and mad stuff is needful.
This little band from West Germany have come a long way. “Phantom Antichrist” is the thirteenth album from thrash metal overlords Kreator, whose previous twelve have achieved multiple things. Their 1985 debut “Endless Pain” and its 1986 follow-up “Pleasure to Kill”, widely regarded as one of the best thrash metal albums ever made, were not only top notch thrash albums that managed to stand up head to head against the more popular American thrash bands such as Metallica and Exodus, but were huge influences on the developing black and death metal scenes. 1987’s “Terrible Certainty” and 1989’s “Extreme Aggression” are also classic thrash albums, loved by thrash fanatics everywhere. However, for most 80’s thrash bands, the 1990’s were a less than great time. Many bands went through a stylistic shift resulting in a drop in popularity, Metallica’s “Load” and “ReLoad” being the most obvious examples. Even bands who only made very small, subtle changes to their sound such as Overkill released some albums below their usual standard. Kreator were not excused from this general pattern. Albums such as “Renewal” featured a sound that owed as much to industrial and gothic rock as it did to thrash metal, and while they did not sink as low as some of their peers (1997’s “Outcast” features live favourite “Phobia” as well as some other great songs), the general feeling was that their 90’s output was massively inferior to albums like “Pleasure to Kill”.
However, in the 2000’s something happened to all these classic thrash metal bands who had suffered during the 90’s. Overkill, Testament, and Exodus have all released some of their best albums of their career recently. The “Big Four of Thrash”, Anthrax, Megadeth, Slayer and even Metallica with “Death Magnetic”, have all returned to form. The “Three Kings” of German thrash, Kreator along with Sodom and Destruction, have too released some stunning albums in recent times. Kreator’s return to form started with 2001’s “Violent Revolution”, returning to their classic thrash sound while also incorporating a lot of melodic influences, and has continued to the present day, peaking when 2009’s “Hordes of Chaos” reached 165 on the Billboard 200, giving Kreator their first major American success. Now that the not-so-brief history of Germany’s finest has been given, we can move onto the main question at hand: does “Phantom Antichrist” continue this incredible run? The answer happily is yes. After slow and atmospheric intro “Mars Mantra” has subsided, the title track of the album rips through your speakers with incredible force. “Phantom Antichrist” as an album is packed full of classic Kreator thrash riffs, designed to make your head bang and to cause as much damage as possible. Tracks like the title track and “Death to the World” as right up there with songs such as “Ripping Corpse” from their 1980’s heyday in terms of sheer aggression.
Ventor’s drum work is as fast and pummeling as ever, propelling songs forward at high speed. Frontman Mille Petrozza meanwhile once again proves himself as one of the best vocalists in thrash metal. Many prefer his black metal rasp found on albums like “Endless Pain”, but in recent years he has adopted the traditional thrash metal vocal style of highly aggressive shouting, used by vocalists such as Tom Araya of Slayer. The increased use of melody in recent albums also reaches a new peak on “Phantom Antichrist”. More so than ever before, each song has an increased emphasis on melody, featuring a lot of melodic guitar work and some really anthemic choruses. Even Mille’s vocals have taken on a new melodic shape, combining his raging shouts with soothing clean singing, a surprising development that works very well. Some songs such as “United In Hate” even feature acoustic guitar in places.
This new sound of melodic, anthemic thrash seems to take a lot of influence from Iron Maiden and the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. After all, the b-side to the single of the title track is a cover of “The Number of the Beast”. “Phantom Antichrist” is Kreator’s most beautiful album by far, containing a lot more atmosphere and melody than most thrash albums. While this may put some fans off, the album still contains enough aggression and tracks that just tear through the air around you in traditional Kreator style to satisfy old school fans. Overall, this is an intriguing and engaging effort from Kreator which is in the end very rewarding. One of the best thrash albums of the decade so far.
German thrash legends Kreator have come a long way since the barbaric infernal racket of Endless Pain and Pleasure to Kill. Ever since returning to a more straightforward metallic attack with 2001′s Violent Revolution after a misguided experimental phase, the band have experienced a rather impressive late-career resurgence, marked by the ripping instant classic Enemy of God and the solid Hordes of Chaos. Now with their thirteenth album Phantom Antichrist, Kreator have completed their stylistic evolution from primal thrash overlords to quasi-gothic/industrial metal weirdos to purveyors of thunderous, thrash-tinged traditional metal.
Essentially, Phantom Antichrist is what Iron Maiden would sound like had they been German rather than British, and Steve Harris hadn’t tried to turn the band into a prog-rock circus. Kreator have retained every bit of the ferocious extremity that made them gods of the Teutonic thrash movement, but they have also fully integrated the trad/NWOBHM elements exhibited on their last three albums, creating something that can only be described as classic heavy metal. While some have accused Kreator of adopting a Gothenburg/melodic death metal sound, I’m afraid I have to call bullshit on that. Guitarist/vocalist/band leader Mille Petrozza is forty-five years old and Kreator has been around since at least 1984; do you honestly think they’ve been influenced in the slightest by fucking In Flames? Gimme a goddamn break. Kreator’s incorporation of trad metal riffs and harmonies is clearly derived from the elder gods themselves; the aforementioned Maiden, as well as Judas Priest. I can only assume that the fools crying melo-death have either never heard Number of the Beast, or are still bitter over the fact that Kreator have chosen to continually evolve throughout their career instead of releasing infinite variations of Pleasure to Kill.
But style doesn’t mean anything without substance; fortunately Phantom Antichrist possesses substance in spades. The songwriting here is among the most mature and varied of Kreator’s entire career, possessing a level of finesse befitting a veteran band. Even though we’re all well aware that this is far from being Kreator’s first rodeo, there is still something utterly impressive about the level of compositional and instrumental precision on display here. Phantom Antichrist is German metal engineering at it’s finest; not a single note out of place, not a single note wasted. The guitar work of Petrozza and Sami Yli-Sirniö is, to be perfectly blunt, off the fuckin’ hook, a mash-up of old school thrash metal terror tactics and NWOBHM-derived shock and awe, while drummer Ventor and bassist Christian Giesler keep the rhythms punchier than a Tyson fight circa 1988. All of this is wrapped in a crisp production job from Jens Bogren, which emphasizes both power and clarity without sounding overly processed or triggered.
Lyrically, Petrozza sticks with the tried ‘n’ true themes that have come to be synonymous with Kreator, such as the horrors of war, the destruction of the environment and the collapse of civilization. These lyrics would probably sound trite or cheesy coming from just about any other vocalist, but Petrozza’s rasp drips with conviction, and it doesn’t hurt that there are hooks aplenty built into them. Although Kreator don’t play straight-up thrash these days, they’ve managed to retain the genre’s social conscience; perhaps they can teach these new-jack bands that there’s more to thrash lyrics than zombies, mutants and pizza.
Kreator have proven time and again that they are a metallic force to be reckoned with, and Phantom Antichrist is the latest crown jewel in a series of late-career albums that are for the most part totally unfuckwithable. It is both a sharpening and a refinement of the sound they’ve been hammering away at for the past decade, coming impressively close to complete perfection while still leaving room for further progression. Founding members Petrozza and Ventor may be getting on in years, but Phantom Antichrist will leave no doubt in fans’ minds that the Kreator war machine is still more than capable of achieving supremacy through superior firepower.
Originally written for That's How Kids Die.com
Definitely a step up from their previous release entitled "Hordes of Chaos", this release is heavier and way more aggressive thrash metal played with utmost intensity. I'd say it's about as good as "Enemy of God", but nothing tops "Coma of Souls". However, these guys flourished during the 80's (1985) and then went to hell during the 90's, then came back with vengeance with "Violent Revolution". Here the lead guitar work is much more well played out plus of course rhythms that are definitely original with a combination of tremolo picked riffing plus some fretboard chaos. A solid production definitely with an even keel of mixed tempos, but overall plainly original.
45+ minutes of brutality and mixture of thrash with some clean guitar playing. However, most songs are heavy and filled with monumental distortion and utmost speed. The riffs themselves are wholly well constructed. Mille's vocals have never changed and they fit well with the guitar and intensity. This album is just so much more enthusiastic with riff-writing frenzied guitar featuring amazingly fast frets played with vigor. A great one to pick up and a Kreator release that can't be outplayed. I really think that this is a monument because it's so aggressive and catchy.
Some clean tone guitar exhibited here, however, mostly what is gripping are the distorted riffs. A lot of it reflects the past with all of the aggression and utmost originality. I dug most of the guitar on here because it's played with precision. These guys don't fool around when it comes to belting out fury in their music within the genre of thrash metal. This is definitely what they play their best. The leads are definitely much better than on "Hordes of Chaos". They don't overdo it with them either. The bulk is within the rhythm guitar work. Much better played than their predecessor.
The music is the highlight of this release. It contains all elements of metal and they mix up some songs with a bit of clean tone guitar. Not the whole album is wholly aggressive, just most of it. Mille sounds extremely pissed off here which fits well with the distorted guitar work. A lot of their lyrical topics have been exceptionally interesting to me, just the music and the vocals. The recording quality here is phenomenal. Everything is well mixed in there. The quality here is exceptional and everything flows diligently. The bass guitar could have been a bit louder and that's my only complaint.
If you want an album that is fast and furious, thrash metal galore, and just overall a plain original sounding and awesomely well played out, "Phantom Antichrist" hits home with vigor. You'll find everything here so balanced out. The lead guitar, rhythms, clean tone melodies, great chorus pieces, and mastermind production sound, this album is for you. I didn't think too highly of it until I listened to it maybe 4-5 times. Then everything to me seemed to fit into place. Again, nothing tops "Coma of Souls", but this band really makes a dent in their discography meaning that it's an album that hits home in all aspects.
A return to form is what this album should have been. When the title track was released as a single, I bet many Kreator fans was high on excitement, and apparently it stayed that way for many people. But not me, I don't understand all the praise that has been given to this album. The first two times I listened to this album I had to turn it off when I was half way through it. I was really looking forward to Kreator "returning to form" that I pre ordered the album on vinyl, and that is something I really regret.
After the first three tracks, one of them being the intro, the album has already peaked, and from here it goes downhill until the record is done. If you heard the main single of the album, it contains an Iron Maiden cover. Despite a laughable scream in the start of the track the band covers The Number of the Beast quite well. The only problem... That style continued on the full album. I guess Kreator wants people to sing along and wave back and forth because this album feels like a melodic thrash metal tribute to Iron Maiden. There is only two tracks that I would shine some light on from the album, and that is Phantom Antichrist and Death to the World. These two tracks is the only ones I would describe as being worthy of being on a Kreator album. Because the main problem for this album is the band is trying to be something they are not. And when that doesn't ruin the songs, then it is the incredible bad lyrics...
The thing I however want to praise is the album cover. There are two versions, one awesome and one shitty. The awesome cover, which was made by Wes Benscoter who also has been employed by bands like Slayer, Autopsy and Cattle Decapitation. Wes' version of the cover is the red one that could remind you of the artwork for Pleasure to Kill and definitely is their best cover in many, many years. The shitty cover however looks so photoshopped that it hurts, and just doesn't look good. It was made by Jan Meininghaus who also has been working with bands like Falconer and Bolt Thrower.
If you, like me, expected Kreator to return to the tunes of Violent Revolution and Enemy of God, then you are in for a surprise. The phantom that appears on this album is what I would call melodic thrash metal, and a tribute to Iron Maiden. I really want to like this album but it just don't have what it takes. Even though I like some other melodic genres, this one does not please my ears, specially not when it has been kreated by a band that brought me albums like Pleasure to Kill and Extreme Aggression.
Kreator are at a point where they don’t owe anyone squat. Being a juggernaut of influence not only to thrash metal, but also being part of the Unholy Trinity (along with Slayer and Dark Angel) of thrash bands that would help smooth the transition of death metal’s birth into a burgeoning scene. The band already went through a questionable experimental faze in the 90s, and since 2001’s Violent Revolution, they have kept up a consistent pace of vicious, but cleaner thrash metal, which has generally appeased the fans. But after flirting with death metal on Enemy of God, the band turned to more melodic orientated work on Hordes of Chaos. In a sense, Phantom Antichrist does start where Hordes of Chaos left off, but it executes that style in a much more precise way, while using a few influences from more modern bands to give it a far more unique touch.
Even though I mentioned this album definitely has a melodic focus, that doesn’t mean it won’t rip and tear when it wants to. It’s not as intimidating as Pleasure to Kill or even Enemy of God, but this is still Kreator, and thus ripping, violent thrash riffing is abound. There are points that do almost bleed into full blown death metal, with pummelling blast beat’s and chaotic, tremolo-picked riffing riding them through the chaos. But since this album is based in thrash for the most degree, this time Kreator have spun a lot more Iron Maiden and even Amon Amarth influences into the mix. For example, while thrash riffing is the norm for this record, there’s a few songs (From Flood into Fire, The Few, The Proud, The Broken) that start off with an epic, dual-lead guitar bit that then breaks into a mid paced gallop, generally used by bands trying to get a Viking-march sound to their riffs. There are also a few songs (Civilisations Collapse, United in Hate) that have their choruses based around catchy, NWOBHM styled dual-lead guitar bits, harmonizing with Mille Petrozza’s gruff vocals and riffs to make bombastic, attention grabbing melodies.
This style actually manages to work fine with Kreator’s usual “ripping corpse” thrash style, and does end up leading to some pretty catchy songs. But then there are points like Victory will Come. The song itself is generally pretty good and catchy, but the down tuned melo-death chugging that the song is based around succumbs to that distasteful, grit tone that plagues a lot of metalcore bands based off the genre. The overall song is awfully upbeat for the band as well, and almost seems like it would fit more on a mid period(Colony, Clayman) In Flames record, and some of these distasteful features bleed onto a few bits in other songs.
While the band is all pretty much on the top of their game technically, Mille Petrozza’s vocals are also still pretty gnarly in their own right too. But where as the man has clearly tamed his voice from the feral sound it had in the 80s, he did show on Enemy of God that he could let that monster loose again. Alas, we are not that lucky, as he sticks to his general, modern style of throaty yelling (albeit he does sprinkle it with an old-school shriek every once and awhile) on this effort. The bass work is more or less unapparent, but the drumming is pretty impressive in its own right. Ventor has always been a beast, and here he proves he is still the machine that thundered out Pleasure to Kill. The man has no problems out-playing most modern purveyors at their own game (although I guess it helps when you helped invent said game), that said, pummelling blast beats, smashing snares and whirlwind drumming (as well as chilled, softer pieces) makes the drumming on Phantom Antichrist appear surprisingly fantastic.
This record is pretty damn consistent in its styles, and makes for an overall enjoyable, smooth listen all the way through. But the thing is, a lot of the songs tend to be decently predictable. For example, you can pretty much assemble the tracks as having: 1. an aggressive, old-school Kreator riff. 2. Some sort of melodic-based ear catcher 3. A crazy solo and 4: some riffs somewhere in the middle that gel the three types together. Sometimes they’ll throw in a curve ball, like a haunting acoustic guitar bit or a poppy, atmospheric intro, but those are rare. Really though, the beauty of this record is that the band have so perfected the ratio of aggression and melody between songs that you always feel the balance is totally covered by the beginning of the next track. IT never once seems to drag or have no idea where it’s going. When it comes down to the lyrics on this effort, it is somewhat business as usual for the German thrashers. But it seems that Mille was really going for a lot more anthem-like choruses on this record, and it’s reflected in the lyrics. Almost every other song contains some sort of chorus that beckons to be sung along too, using subjects such as fighting against oppressors or uniting against the corrupt and what not at an attempt to inspire.
While most of the thrash bands lost sight of the game in the 90s, it really seems Kreator bounced back out of their odd phase quite quickly and set into a comfortable niche soon after. I guess the question most bands have to ask themselves then is: “Do we bother trying to do something different ever again or just cut and paste over and over?”. And while it kind of seemed like the band was trying different variances of their 80s style since 2001, I think Phantom Antichrist really sees the band recovering from the fan lash back that experimental, yet clearly flawed records like Cause for Conflict and Outcast caused on their creative limits. It’s a bit more upbeat than your usual Kreator effort, and the Amon Amarth influence leaves a weird taste in your mouth, but it still aggressive and heavy, and there’s enough good, memorable tracks on this record to make it a fun ride. Phantom Antichrist definitely shows that Kreator are still competent song writers.
[Originally written as Adam Korchok for AXIS OF METAL http://axisofmetal.com/2012/07/kreator-phantom-antichrist/]
It’s rare for a band over 20 years into their career to release even a single album that can measure up to, let alone surpass, the classics of their heyday. This fact makes it all the more astounding to behold the latest audible feast by genre veterans Kreator, who have proven time and again to be one of the world’s premier acts to follow in not only thrash metal, but heavy music itself as an art form, spurring the universe on in their own simple, powerful way. Phantom Antichrist is no different, going above and beyond the call to become one of the greatest records in both their expansive catalogue, and the entire metallic lexicon.
2005’s Enemy of God was one of my favorite albums of that decade, and one of my favorite thrash records period; with a robust collection of truly epic songs, it’s still in regular rotation in my car stereo today. 2009’s Hordes of Chaos was a gem as well, if a mild disappointment in comparison. It was great, to be sure, but didn’t have quite the same level of staying power, with an emphasis on repeated, hooky choruses rather than seriously epic melodies. Enter Phantom Antichrist, an album that contains more tasty riffs per square inch than most bands can manage in their entire career, and a serious run for Enemy of God’s money as my favorite Kreator album. Only time will dictate overall preference, but for the sake of this review, all you need to know is that this is as close to thrash perfection as you could pray for. And pray you should, as Phantom Antichrist paints its dystopian picture with a savage grace, galloping its way into crushing thrash breakdowns, magnificent melodic bridges and ripping solo money shots.
Starting with a façade of deceptive calm, Mars Mantra glides gracefully into a furious crescendo, morphing into Phantom Antichrist, which bounds across the sand with sword in hand, slicing down poseurs and unbelievers in droves, before Death to the World summons a tidal wave of magma to incinerate the rest. From Flood into Fire is a Kreator manifesto, a marching song more infectious than the Black Death itself. Civilization Collapse gathers these amassed legions and sends them into battle, with a furious, driving verse and a chorus that scrapes the skyline, a melody so tasty it verily renders the sun itself. Like Enemy of God before it, this is not only a thrash album, but a work of unbelievably epic songcraft, a virtue illustrated by United in Hate, another conjuring of vast, panoramic hordes, uniting under the warrior-god cries of Mille. The Few, The Proud, The Broken ups the epic another notch with its soaring melodics and gladiatorial spirit. Your Heaven, My Hell softens you up with a soothing intro, akin to Voices of the Dead before it, and then breaks open the floodgates to an ocean of streaming melody, stabbing your heart and stomping your face in simultaneous rhythm. Victory Will Come…. Yes, yes it fucking will. The album end on a note of hope in Until Our Paths Cross Again, a summation of all the great elements within this record, and contains one of the best lead guitar lines in the band’s history.
You likely noted the word melody featured prominently in my gushing, and that’s an important point, as this truly is a distinct hybrid of thrash with latent tendencies creeping in from the world of melodeath, a practice the band began with Enemy of God. Those who want nothing but neckbreaking thrash might not be satisfied with the kingly, stoic grandeur of Phantom Antichrist, but that truly is their loss, as nobody should miss out on this soul-blazing record.
Historically speaking, one of Kreator’s most continuously admirable qualities is their insistence on evolution, even when it doesn’t turn out quite as good as expected. Still, this is particularly satisfying considering the tendency of most old dogs of the thrash scene to stick to their established guns, and the majority of newer acts simply aping the output of the legends. In all, the genre becomes a bit of an inbred mess, and extra props go to Kreator for blasting them all out of the water. If I have any complaints at all, it’s perhaps that this does not feel entirely new, as it follows pretty faithfully in Kreator’s new songwriting and stylistic mold used in the last couple albums. However, being that the resulting quality is so immense, I would hardly call it a fault.
Phantom Antichrist is not a reinvention, unlike past excursions such as Renewal, Outcast, and Endorama. Rather, it takes the best elements of a storied history and stitches the best parts together seamlessly, tightening and brightening the formula until it conjures that savage magic that is the hallmark of their very best releases, and I could not have asked or hoped for more. Those hoping for a return to the roots of Coma of Souls will have to remain disappointed, but we already have that record, don’t we? Too many bands try live in the past, an idea that Kreator consistently spit on in their tireless quest for the holy grail of blazing awesome.
Not a second is out of place on Phantom Antichrist, and every riff is glorious. It’s a rare pleasure to obtain an album with absolutely no filler, where every track is lovingly crafted into a dynamic progression that builds its energy perfectly. Kreator choose just the right moments to build or ease tension, which makes every single song exude strength and heroism without ever feeling showy through unneeded technicality. This is not to take away from the musicians, as everyone is in force here as absolute demons, particularly Mille, who has never sounded better, and belts out all the apocalyptic screams you would expect, again with an impeccable sense of timing. Nothing is wasted, no element outweighing the rest; this is a perfect alchemical formula for a new ruling race of atomic, melodic thrash supermen, and sets the bar astoundingly high for the mid-point of 2012.
If you couldn’t tell, I find Phantom Antichrist to be apocalyptically crushing. It nobly presents its dystopian lyrical slant through its chosen progression of notes, and contains some of the most delicious riffs I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing in my 10 plus years enveloped in the world of metal. This is a return to the womb of that experience, a reaffirmation of my love for this art, and a poignant reminder that no matter how awash the metal multiverse gets in trends and bullshit, there will always be those who guard the flame, and keep it burning all the brighter. To put it plainly, Phantom Antichrist is a shining, thunderous example of why I listen to music, let alone metal.
You know, it’s funny… it does nothing exceptionally new or inventive, and does not even begin to break or bend any borders, or redefine what is possible in metal. It’s nowhere near as artistic or forward thinking as the groundbreaking work being done by artists like Ihsahn, Mastodon, and Gojira. However, Phantom Antichrist does what it does so well, kicks your ass so hard, in such an epic fashion, and is so endlessly goddamn enjoyable, that it doesn’t matter one fucking bit. A near perfect release, one of the best this year, only lacking a fraction of Enemy of God's charisma. The beautiful end is beckoning you. Time to embrace it.
-Left Hand of Dog
Kreator‘s reputation as one of Germany’s premium thrash metal acts is certainly justified, being one of the first out of the country and presenting to fans of thrash albums like Endless Pain and Coma of Souls. Even the more recent albums like Violent Revolution and Enemy of God, with the cutting edge modern production has seen the band not lose their touch in writing some of the hardest hitting songs ever. This year marks the release of numerous high profile thrash albums, and Kreator‘s 13th studio effort, Phantom Antichrist is one of them.
Mars Mantra could easily mislead longtime fans of the band into thinking that the band has gone all soft and weak with the track being a rather soothing intro, complete with clean guitars, and later a rather melodic lead guitar line. But these are merely a facade, as the band goes into their trademark breakneck speed once the title track, Phantom Antichrist begins. The trademark gruff shouts of Mille immediately brings listeners to familiar ground, along with the razor sharp guitar riffs of himself and Sami, all allowing the aggression and energy of the band to flow out fully. Drummer Ventor adds a nice touch with his energetic drumming, making what would have been rather empty segments with clever drum fills, technical yet not overly flamboyant to outshine the rest of the band, and providing the much needed speed in the music.
One’s hasty conclusion that the band has gone melodic are not entirely wrong as Phantom Antichrist could possibly contain some of the most melodic moments that Kreator has ever written, and this not only in terms of the lead guitar lines that are present throughout the album, but also in the riffing patterns of certain tracks. For example, the guitar solos on Death to the World are incredibly melodic, and the slower and melodic riffing on From Flood into Fire almost leans into melodic death metal territory, complete with an acoustic section with clean singing, though the huge and ballsy guitar tone ensures that things don’t end up too pussified, resulting in a rather crushing track. United in Hate even includes an acoustic guitar intro, tricking one into thinking this as another interlude, though it really is just the calm before the violent storm.
The band’s songwriting prowess is also evident throughout with the ability to include rather anthemic moments like on Death to the World without losing any of the aggression or power that the band has come to be known for over their music career. In addition, songs like Civilization Collapse see the band include additional percussions, giving the track a rather martial yet ethnic/tribal feel at the same time, further expanding the sound of Kreator and ensuring that listeners are constantly kept engaged in the band’s music.
Sure, some may not like the more melodic path that Kreator has taken on Phantom Antichrist, and these melodic moments get rather numerous as the album progresses, though honestly nothing too alienating for fans of recent material of the band. But the aggression and the hatred that the band has are still present on Phantom Antichrist, and is certainly a step forward for the band as they explore their sound and include a wider variety of influences in their music.
Kreator did a lot of right things with this record if we look on the well chosen and dosed ingredients. Kreator include just the right amount of excellent heavy metal riffs as in the short introduction called "Mars Mantra". The legendary German band also added a dose of truly powerful power metal as in the incredible hymn "Iron Destiny" that is by far the best song on this great record but only made it on the Japanese edition. We also hear more and more Gothenborg melodic death metal structures as in "Death in The World" for example. Off course, numerous classic thrash metal parts can also be found on this energizing release as in the strong title track "Phantom Antichrist" that takes no prisoners as excellent opener.
Some critics may argue that this record is just more of the same and that this new release sounds comparable to the previous three studio records since the band moved away from their experimental and gothic influenced era. This is not completely wrong but the band rarely employed all these elements so well together. This times, the four cooks didn't spoil the broth and created an outstanding menu in ten or eleven extremely delicious parts.
This album includes not one wasted minute and every song has something that makes it enjoyable to listen to. Some songs have a great drum work as "Civilization Collapse" with its tight opening. Others impress with incredible melodic guitar solos that are played with passion and technique that make you want to go down on your knees as in "Victory Will Come". Other songs have chilling calm passages as the great acoustic guitar introduction of "United In Hate" that makes you think of a Metallica or an OverKill ballad before a truly fast main part crashes in. That's one of the strongest points of this release. The band just found the right dose of melodic breaks that give you a little pause from all this incredibly arranged extreme metal madness.
Another strength can be witnessed after only two or three tries. Most of the songs are truly catchy and quickly grow on you. Sometimes, it's an incredible solo or melodic break you can't get out of your mind. In another moment, it's a powerful chorus that will be yelled by thousands of metal maniacs during the band's future concerts and should become a new live anthem. In other tracks, it's just a well done moshing part that makes you go insane for a while. Once again, Kreator release a record with strong emotions about inner struggles and also include socially critic lyrics here and there that make you not only want to sing along but also to think about. There's definitely a lot of diversity to discover on this release without making it sound too cerebral for only one second. There are challenging records that impress with a handful of well employed ideas in complex structures and there are enjoyable albums that will immeditaley grip you and make you sing and move along from the first second suntil the very end. This release is both of it and therefor a rare pleasure that should get the praise it deserves.
In the end, any fan of the energizing metal music should own this record. If you had only to buy three records of the year, this one should definitely be on your list along with the latest releases of Rush and Blaze Bayley in my humble opinion. I only hesitate to buy this record in my local store for one single reason: I really want to find a way to get the version with the outstanding bonus track "Iron Destiny" on it. If you don't have the patience to purchase the expensive import version, buy the regular release and download the amazing track but be sure to not miss this best extreme metal record of the last couple of years.
A new Kreator album is always a time to rejoice, and whilst their previous opus Hordes of Chaos wasn't as well received as the epic Enemy of God I still felt it was a good album that was unfortunately marred with less than desirable production qualities. Slight history lesson aside, Kreator are back with their thirteenth(!) full-length Phantom Antichrist.
Here we see Kreator breaking into new territories. Taking a few steps away from the thrash genre - although undeniably retaining that element of their sound - on Phantom Antichrist they start to flirt more with epic power metal themes and melodic death metal-style melodies. However don't let that scare you off, as there is still plenty of thrash nuances, and Kreator are of course still heavy as hell. The album kicks off as any Kreator album should and smashes your skull into pieces with the fiery title track. A definite Enemy of God vibe can be heard from the get go, and as a matter of fact I'd say stylistically Phantom Antichrist is the logical continuation of the sound kreated (did I really just do that?) on said album, as well as a slight air of Coma of Souls.
"Death to the World" shows some of the more melodic tendencies that can be found across Phantom Antichrist, although it really serves as a precursor to the awesome "From Flood Into Fire" which might just be one of the best songs Kreator have penned in years. Have they been hanging out with Grave Digger? That chorus would lead you to believe so. A quality track with catchy riffs and one of the band's best choruses (probably because they don't chant the song title four to eight times). However this track sadly includes the first instance of clean vocals on the album which I can guarantee will turn some people off, fortunately they don't appear all that frequently, and honestly aren't all that bad.
"Civilisation Collapse" and "United By Hate" both show everything we've come to love about Kreator's "second wind" (Violent Revolution onwards) and deliver all the bludgeoning riffs and inspiring leads and/or melodies required. "The Few, The Proud, The Broken" is a track everyone seems to be enjoying in particular and it's hard to argue otherwise, a masterful number with some superb riffs. "Your Heaven, My Hell" is probably the weakest on the album, although once it gets going it is good. The album closes off with two brilliant numbers: "Victory Will Come" is absolute magic again featuring superb guitar riffs and "Until Our Paths Cross Again" does everything "Your Heaven, My Hell" wanted to do and leaves the album closing on a damn fine note.
At first I wasn't so sure on Phantom Antichrist, as I was expecting more in the way of thrashing aggression as opposed to the majestic feel delivered. A good few listens later and I was sold however, and now I'd probably have to say this was the best move for the band. I'm the first one to complain when thrash gets stale, which happens a lot these days, and it takes a genre master like Kreator to do something a little different. An excellent album from one of the best bands on the planet, this one comes with some pretty damn high recommendation.
Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com
And let us talk about comebacks. This has been a fairly speculated topic in thrash world since the dawn of the last decade when the world has seen a sudden resurgence in thrash metal music. Albums like Destruction's Antichrist, Mekong Delta's Lurking Fear, Sodom's M16, Overkill's Ironbound have made a great topic for discussion with many interesting views from lovers and detractors alike. Say what you will, none of the above mentioned records manage to capture the full glory of the band in the days their fans worship them for, a thing which is achived by Kreator's thirteenth full length record, Phantom Antichrist. Yes gentlemen, this record does really surpass everything Kreator has put out so far (save for maybe Coma Of Souls) and brings forth a vicious ride of neck snapping thrash metal from the masters we have come to love and worship.
As always Kreator does not loosen the grip technically. Mille Petrozza and Sami are monstrous with the guitars churning out riff after riff with the same energy as they bring forth with every record. The riffs are constructed brilliantly and executed perfectly. The lead work goes even more melodic than what it was with the last record. No; don't in any case bring that scorn upon your face. The melodies are matured and set up an aggressive tone for the songs instead of making them radiofriendly. Jurgen Reil's drum work is amazing as ever and not many drummers in the business today can rival his skills behind the kit. The production is heavy, giving a nice crunchy sound to the rhythm guitar and balancing all the instruments very well.
This album takes things down the standard Kreator road with all the usual milestones. Phantom Antichrist is a beast of a record with short, straight to the point catchy songs as was the case with the rest of their catalog. The changes we experience in this record are the choruses. The choruses are simplified to the point that many of them might feel just at home on a Blind Guardian record; not a bad thing at all I might add. Another very big positive about this album is high caliber of songwriting. The album encompases this band's years extremely well; right from their bare beginings of Endless Pain, to their glory days of Coma Of Souls and their experimental years of Renewal which makes this album sound fresh and lively instead of living on a recyled glory of some lost era. The sound of this album is that of matured men who know their games perfectly. Kreator manage a perfect variety in the record ensuring that the record does not becoming too boring and sound all over the same. The pace changes in the record are superb, making the record mildly progressive. Yes folks even with the catchy choruses the album manages to be quite a complex affair throughout; and that is the beauty of the record.
This record with its high consistency, quality of music, sharp and sensible lyrics encompasses thrash metal music in all its glory and is sure to put up a satisfactory smile across the faces of every fan of thrash metal music. This album is recomended for every person listening to heavy metal music and do beleive me it is that one hell of a ride you would never wish would stop.
I know you all know your history, but this is the third album from Kreator 3.0, the group's thirteenth overall; the first five albums being classics, the next four may as well not exist, and here we are today. Stylistically, Phantom Antichrist continues Kreator's attempts at melodic death metal, the path they started in 2001 with Violent Revolution and haven't wavered from since.
Now, this album sure wants you to think it's a bona-fide, ripping Kreator release. The logo is centered on top, the Kreator-demon mascot present in full force, the red art reminiscent of The Number of the Beast, they even have "Antichrist" in the title. But then you turn the album over. Mille has gotten a little lazy with the song titles in this incarnation of Kreator, hasn't he? "Death to the World", "United in Hate"; and then there's the song titles you could've sworn you saw on that Children of Bodom CD you haven't thrown away for some reason: "Your Heaven, My Hell", "The Few, The Proud, The Broken". I've been wrong before though, and the titles matter little to the music.
Which is pretty lame, as it turns out. Starting off with the title track was a good choice for them; starting off in the same manner of Enemy of God, in that, you hear a riff Kreator could've written in '88 to start off with, before ending up in the annoying pop-riff in the chorus, wherein Mille just repeats the song title. The song itself is passable though, everything in it has been done before (and better), but it's performed competently. Sami's soloing is still something of a high point in modern Kreator, wah-infused, melodic bits of shredding, it's clear when he takes a more extended lead that he puts some thought into these.
Now, the rest of the album is basically the title track on repeat, though decaying in quality throughout. Every single song on this album sounds exactly the same. Angry thrash riff - pop metal melody - angry thrash riff - pop part - bridge - outro. It's so predictable it hurts. Hell, you can even predict exactly which stale melodic riff they're going to use after a sub-par to decent thrash bit; there's the pedal point riff that every melodeath band ever has written (you know the one), the higher string jingles, and so on. If it wasn't for the logo and Mille's voice, Phantom Antichrist is just another throwaway flavor-of-the-week album that would've fit right in back in 2006. I suppose it did, they've crossed no new ground since Enemy of God anyway.
I want to bring special attention to the lyrics of this album. They're truly terrible. Depending on the song you focus on, they're boring or cringe inducing. Look at this:
I don't know who I should belong to
All I know is that I don't belong
So if you feel the same that I have always felt
Let's walk this path through flame and flood
Let us be a part of the cure
Never part of the plague
We'll only be remembered for what we create
From flood into the fire
One thousand voices sing
We're in this together
For whatever fate may bring
... and so on. What the fuck is that? It's even worse when you hear the insipid way he sings it, just waiting for everyone to sing along because we're all brothers in metal right‽ Could you imagine this drek on Coma of Souls? Me neither. Throughout the album, the lyrics are all cookie cutter, uninspired drivel. Lastly, Mille tries his hand at clean singing, as in, actual singing, rather than a spoken part. I'll let you imagine how well that goes over.
The Kreator ship has sunk fellas, now the only thing to do is go see 'em live and hope they play old shit (but we know they won't).
I have to be honest here and just say that I’ve never really given a shit about Kreator before. I’ve known they were good musicians, but their music has never interested me. It’s always seemed like generic thrash, really. So, you can understand why I went into this album with quite a tentative attitude. I had heard the title track already thanks to it being produced as a single, and was interested in hearing more of the album. At first, I was taken aback by this little sneak peak, and noted the prominent melodies and harmonies between iconic frontman Mille Petrozza and lead guitarist Sami Yli-Sirniö. This wasn’t the Kreator I had come to write off as a generic thrash act. But even so, I wasn’t prepared for the following eight songs.
As I have already mentioned, the lead single and title track for this auditory assault did spike my interest, but I wouldn’t say it was anywhere near the strongest track here. Discounting the intro track, the second track here is Death to the World, which is gleefully plagued with melodic riffs and Petrozza’s impressively powerful yelps and barks. It’s all intensive thrash, breaking into some refreshing harmonies, spaced with some incredible soloing from Yli-Sirniö.
If I were to describe the general feel of this album, it would be the bastard son of Slayer and Maiden. Unstoppable thrash, but with purpose and an incredible sense of cohesive structuring. The album is very fast, and Ventor is at his most focussed behind the kit. But, the album never descends into that stage of mediocre repetitiveness that plagues long standing thrash acts. The songs are distinguishable and each hold their own.
Something that seems to be condemned among thrash nowadays, to my dismay, is being catchy. There’s a stark difference between being catchy and being pop music catchy. Kreator have truly mastered the art of writing an insane hook this time around. In fact, they’ve done it a good nine times for this effort. It’s just great balls-to-the-wall, energized and uplifting thrash. I can see this aspect getting a lot of flak from other fans, perhaps calling it cheesy, but I think it’s great. Far too many bands nowadays try to be the one band that breaks the cycle, but Kreator’s really just embraced being that ballsy old school band, and surely that’s what it’s all really about when you’ve hit your 45th year on this world.
The songs are great, original, and they don’t recycle the same ideas, as their peers are doing in the dawn of their fourth decade of creating music. The band performance is really astounding, particularly the soloing delivered by Sami, who really seems to understand what it means to be a thrash metal guitarist. His phrasing and scale choices are just a delight to listen to. The mastering is almost faultless. I’m afraid I can’t hear the bass as much as I would like. Even so, the sound still isn’t worthy of complaint.
I think I may have to make some changes to my top ten from this year for this record to slot in. The only disappointment I found was that none of the songs broke the six minute mark, rather hanging around the four and a half area, though I’m pretty sure I’m only complaining because I love long songs. Still, a fantastic and emotionally charged album. I really regret writing them off for so long now.
Yeah, that’s fucking right! Forget about those vapid retro-thrash bands and make way for the kings of European thrash, mighty Kreator! Uhh, what a fanboy-like line I just wrote there. Sorry, my dear metal brothers and sisters, it’s been a few months since I wrote my last review, but I’m back to charge again (not that anybody missed me). Like many of you, I was highly excited about Kreator’s newest release, the blandly titled Phantom Antichrist. My favorite thrash band, no use in hiding that fact, has been on a hot streak since 2001’s magnificent comeback album Violent Revolution. Both 2005’s Enemy of God and the underrated 2009’s Hordes of Chaos, though not as freakingly catchy as VR, have contributed to maintain the Germans at the top of the game, blowing off their veteran peers at both sides of the pond (with the exception of Overkill… maybe) as well as the abundant old-school thrash wannabes that just keep popping out of nowhere every damn second.
The recipe for this success can be narrowed to a single ingredient, nowadays somehow difficult to find in the metal world: consistency. Quality headbang-inducing riffs. Catchy and compelling songwriting. Relevant if not very sophisticated lyrics. Uncompromising attitude. Three, and now four, albums in a row! Hellyeah! These gentlemen just don’t seem to start slowing down. And while this is no thrashterpiece, it’s not that far either. With great artwork (personally I prefer Mr. Benscoter’s standard version to Mr. Meininghaus’ digipak one), and a crisp and punishing production, there aren’t many flaws to find here. My biggest complain would be that there’s nothing new under the red-burning sun, coming a bit predictable. Of Kreator’s 21st Century output, I’d say Violent Revolution is the album sharing more similarities with this one, boasting memorable melodies intertwined with outbursts of sheer thrashiness. Not much of a flaw I’d say, as both albums contain enormous amounts of raw energy and passion, though PA is less catchy, and shorter.
So, the songs. Well, it’s a tradition for Kreator to have an ass-kicking title-track, and “Phantom Antichrist” is no exception. To be honest, it’s not as amazing as the past three albums titular tunes, but it will break your neck just the same. Ventor’s double bass pummeling is brutal on that one. Other personal favorites, since I don’t find any particular weak track here, are “Death to the World”, “Victory Will Come” and “From Flood into Fire”, which has a somehow unusual epic feel, somehow power-metallish, but it works pretty good, and will surely sound great during a gig. Actually, that veil of glory permeates many of the album’s songs, especially during the choruses, and it’s the only thing I can pinpoint that’s marginally different in this album to the rest of Kreator’s repertoire. Aside from than, many sections of each song here recalls past works of this veterans, their performance being impeccable as usual. Great classy leads, interesting rhythmic assaults, and of course, Mille’s instantly recognizable vocals… the magic is still here.
While not a top-shelf masterpiece the likes of Pleasure to Kill or the flawless Coma of Souls, Phantom Antichrist is another deeply carved K-shaped cut on the band’s demon-mascot forehead, another reason to respect, enjoy and love this legendary band, who have been thrashing around for a good 27 years now. It firmly states that a veteran act can stay relevant, true and outstanding, no matter what. Yeah, it feels good to lay lavishing praise upon your heroes, especially when they really deserve it.
After the awesome ”Violent Evolution”, “Enemy of God” ”Hordes of Chaos” the German thrash legends had yet again expanded upon their already epic thrash sound with a lot more melody than their 80’s output.
Because of this many have been looking forward to the German masters’ new effort “Phantom Antichrist” and let it be said from the start: the album doesn’t disappoint, but at the same time it’s a bit different from the three aforementioned albums.
Like I mentioned in the start, Kreator added much more melody in their return to their thrash roots in 2001, compared to their 80’s output, but this time it is even more melodic than their music has ever been before which gives the album a more epic feel. The added melody takes a bit away from the aggressiveness and thrashyness, but when the album is fast and aggressive, it contains some of the best riffs in ten years from mastermind, Mille Petrozza, like on the title track, United in Hate and Civilization Collapse. Sami Yli-Sirnio’s performance also needs to be mentioned as this is his best performance with the band so far, providing plenty of great solos and melodies. To my surprise the album even featured acoustic part, like on aforementioned United in Hate.
The lyrics are typical Kreator. By that I mean lyrics surrounding society, politics and anti-religion. And the voice of Mille Petrozza has improved quite a bit compared to his more bland vocals on Hordes of Chaos. In turn this gives the album a more passionate voice, which then leads to the messages feeling even closer to Mille, and makes the listener being able to relate more.
Then we have the drums, and oh my. Ventor gives one of his best performances in a long time and this record manifests his position among the best thrash drummers out there. His fast beast and fills are amazing, and yeah… that’s pretty much it.
So overall Kreator delivers, as always, a great record that this time around, is a bit different with the more even more melodic parts, but without losing the speed and aggression which gave them a huge name in the metal world. So if you like Kreator’s three prior records you’re going to like this, and if you’re a fan of the Gothenburg style death metal, you should check this out, because you might like this.
There's little better wed to the sweat-inducing vortex of a preemptive New England summer than a new studio statement from one of your favorite German thrash bands, and Kreator have seen fit to unleash Phantom Antichrist just in time to familiarize a surprisingly stable audience of both new and old for their upcoming tours and festival appearances. Placed on the group's chronological spectrum, I wouldn't say there's much new to this album that one mightn't have heard before in the past 25 years, but credit belongs to Mille Petrozza and his unstoppable armada for maintaining such a huge sense for scale after three decades of exhaustion, and for their ability to produce an album which is intelligent, contemporary and frankly competitive, making most of the youngsters invested in this genre seem pathetic by comparison.
With the exception of earlier records like Endless Pain and Pleasure to Kill, Phantom Antichrist draws upon a broad range of aesthetics from the band's backlog. You'll experience a lot of the emotion and melody that fueled efforts like Violent Revolution or the ill met Endorama. The surgical, manic, meticulous riffing that thrust Extreme Aggression and Coma of Souls into the spotlight. The political, lyrical unrest which saturated the more industrial-charged works Renewal and Outcast. And, perhaps most dominant, the refined production values which lent such a bright, bold punch to their most recent full-lengths Hordes of Chaos and Enemy of God, both of which were excellent in bringing the band back to the relevance that had been lacking since the early 90s. No one of these traits seems to supercede the others here, all are wrought impressively into a well paced and balanced record that shines in nearly every technical spec imaginable, with but a single caveat: this time around, the music doesn't quite stick with me like it has even on the album's direct predecessors.
There are some detailed, impeccable thrash hymns woven throughout the album which certainly catch the ear for a few spins, if not much more than that. "Phantom Antichrist" itself, and the following "Death to the World" were those I felt most drawn too, fiber optic aggressive precision anchored by loaded riffing sequences that reward both speed and variation, built for both moshing and reflection. Mille's vocals are incredibly well mixed to carry his volatile emotions, even when the actual prose seems rather weak or dabbles with the lyrical fixations of ethnic hostility and dystopian collapse that the band have admittedly delved into many times in the past. A few acoustic passages are spread throughout the track list, over which Petrozza manages not to entirely flub up some clean vocals, but I never felt like they added much to the album as a whole, not nearly so effective as, say, "When the Sun Burns Red", though clearly they were trying to reclaim that aesthetic on "United in Hate".
In fact, there seems a great deal of familiarity in the songwriting here, not so much that the band are directly aping themselves, but clearly were trying to reproduce the riffing architecture found in older compositions, to mixed results. Hordes of Chaos was indeed a divisive record, with some loving and others despising its direction, yet I felt like it took more chances than what I'm hearing on Phantom Antichrist; almost as if the band wanted to play it mildly safe and incestuous this time out. The melodies and leads are hardly cheap, all are effective and processed with the due competence of Sami and Mille, but they clearly adopt a more accessible tone with a broader appeal towards fans of Swedish melodeath (in this the album recalls Violent Revolution quite a lot). That said, this delirious balance of controlled bursts of brutality and melodic resonance is also a sign of the band's maturity, and hardly something to be scoffed upon.
Those with a particular, prehistoric hesitation towards anything the band has released post-Pleasure to Kill will remain alienated by the sound of this, and likely anything the band ever records again, but as a gateway for newer listeners, I think Phantom Antichrist will turn quite a few heads due to the high standards in engineering and the group's continued competence. At their heart, Kreator are still writing lyrics that will matter to some in this world, and they still place an enormous emphasis on the construction of their guitar progressions, a quality lacking in so many modern thrash acts. They've got little if anything to prove, after such a staunch and interesting career, and this is a scrupulous, dependable record, if not so stirring as many of their past experiences. About on par with Violent Revolution (with better production).
Macht. Schnelligkeit. Simplizität. It's easy to make the parallel between composers and engineers when Germany is involved. For years, mechanics all over the world tried and tried to discover Ferdinand Porsche's great secrets of automobile manufacturing. Years later, he revealed them: Power. Speed. Simplicity. So works the German mind, and it's no surprise that Kreator just so happens to be the thrash band that's sitting atop the world. It has been thirty years since Mille Petrozza, Roberto Fioretti and Jürgen Reil embarked on their journey to put together one of the greatest heavy metal bands on the planet. Few bands have made it this far, and the vast majority of the ones that did ran out of gas a long time ago... but not Kreator. Aside from getting caught in the fray of classic thrash bands venturing off into the bizarre territories of the mid-to-late 90's, these ancient hellhounds have been slowly and steadily plotting their course for world domination in the heart of the Ruhrgebiet ever since they found their footing again with Violent Revolution in 2001. It's been more than a decade since then, and not only has Kreator gained light years on the majority of its Eighties thrash counterparts, but the group has done so without losing so much as an inch along the way.
Phantom Antichrist is Kreator's thirteenth full-length album since the group's timeless debut in 1985, and it's arguably their finest work to date. Sure, it's always going to be the initial five or six albums that garner the most nostalgia and credit for innovation, but Phantom Antichrist is the work of polished heroes -- gods, if you will. Initially, it seemed that Kreator was simply following the basic formula that has been so effective on the past handful of albums. You know the drill: catchy title track, a few shitkickers, a few slow melodies that explode into shitkickers, and a comedown concluding track that simply says "auf Wiedersehen." Now, to say the band has completely changed things around would not only be an insult to Herr Porsche, but it probably wouldn't have worked. Instead, the band decided to just get even better at what they already do best, which is construct meaningful, thought provocative lyrical themes that would give sight to the blind; create choruses that would excite a downtrodden mass of depressed followers; write riffs that would allow those with paralysis to circle pit like there's no tomorrow; and compose solos that would entice even the Virgin Mary herself. Phantom Antichrist does all of this, and in the most memorable of ways.
So what else is new? Let's start with early tracks such as "Death to the World" and "From Flood into Fire," which will have fans chanting "Mother Earth, what have we done to you / Mother Earth, why have we forsaken you," or "From flood into fire, one thousand voices sing / we're in this together, for whatever fate may bring," as they march like fearless vikings to destroy the captors of their souls. And the solos! My Lord, the solos are just perfect. Every note fits perfectly into its own place while Mille and Sami play as if Quorthon and Chuck Schuldiner were fire and brimstone taking their sides. Perhaps no other songs in all of rock music today have more importance and emotion than Phantom Antichrist's next few tracks such as "The Few, The Proud, The Broken" or "Your Heaven, My Hell," especially the softly spoken lines in the introduction of the latter of the two, which state "After all these centuries of preaching godly wrath / Punishment and afterlife -- Pandemonium / Gods that torture, gods that judge from the guilt they make you feel / A monster siege by psychopaths, as he threw the web you weaved / Your heaven, My hell / Your heaven has become my hell / You are the virus of this torched Earth / Your heaven, my hell / Your heaven will always be my hell / Fear has possessed the hearts of MAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN!!!!!!!!!"
Ultimately, there will be few albums throughout the course of one's lifetime that will always permit you to carry on with a smile, regardless of the sorrows of life's many tragedies. They're as rare as true friends, really, and should be treated as such. That, among other reasons, is why you'll find no comparisons here -- no mentioning of other bands, other great albums, or the glory days when thrash metal wasn't viewed as a thing of the past. Also, there's something to be said about a band of this stature whose members still insist on helping sell their own merchandise, talking to fans, and openly condemning shitty, commercialized and dumbed-down music. In my personal life, I've always failed to come up with an adequate response to the question, "So why do you like this type of music, anyway?" Thanks to Phantom Antichrist, I have found my answer: It's fast, it's simple, it's powerful; and it's the reason why I listen to heavy metal. Kreator.
Originally written for MetalReview.com