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Perhaps it was my disappointment that it wasn't Coma of Souls II, but Renewal is an album I disliked for several years. Can I think back and unearth any other reason? Probably not, but everyone has a change of heart over something, and this would be one of mine. Renewal is the first in what many consider Kreator's 'experimental phase', a streak of efforts in the 90s upon which the band tried to reinvent and reassert themselves into the shifting medium of the metal realm, like the rest of their peers. Who could forget the abomination known as Neo-Destruction? Or Tom Angelripper's decision to punk it the fuck up with Sodom until he finally realized he should make a second band for that? Or Metallica becoming Creed?
By comparison, you have to admit that Mille Petrozza and crew let us off easy. Endorama and Cause for Conflict were certainly lacking, but their other side treks offered something unique. This album doesn't abandon thrash, it drags down into the fundamentals of the band's sound and glazes it with a depressive, sodden majesty ripe with quasi-industrial elements. Gone are the superb, intricate riffing sequences that dominated Coma of Souls, the go-to chorus sequences and the blistering speed. Renewal is a work of dark atmosphere, sociopolitical questions and expansive experimentation. The lineup remained the same, which is difficult to believe since almost everything but the vocals here sounds almost like another band entirely, so that leads me to believe that the entire group were on the same page as far as forging a departure from their earlier works. But at its heart, you can still hear the pulsing energy of the band's parent genre.
This is evident once you get into the bridge sections of "Winter Martyrium", a track that opens with an escalating slew of glorious sewer chords that cede into an almost hardcore charge in the verse. Around 1:30, you can hear the introduction of a brief, traditional Kreator style riff which might have sounded right at home in the Terrible Certainty environment. "Renewal" once again assumes a non-traditional intro, dense industrial rock, but it quickly transforms into this Slayer like, unforgettable riff sequence which is one of the heaviest and most effective the band have written to date. The bridge and chorus create a groove that morphs straight back into the song's dominant riff, and it's one of the best tracks on the album. "Reflection" diverges further, Mille whispering along some eerie guitars until the Prong-like industrial metal pulse of the verse arrives. "Brainseed" in contrast, is a surge of bombastic glory with a meaty and incredible riff that leads into the mosh starved breakdown, all cast in percussive noise elements.
It gets even more interesting with the doom laden elegy "Karmic Wheel". Once again, denser than expected riffing and Mille's clear barks create this intense, oppressive atmosphere, tribal drums and truly depressing lyrics. Another highlight for the reel. "Realitätskontrolle" is sheer industrial indulgence; "Zero to None" a thick, thrashing brigade with excessively crunchy tone and another central riff to die for, with perhaps a spark of the hardcore foreshadowing of their 1997 effort Outcast; and "Europe After the Rain" a progressive stormer which cycles creepy, clean guitars and bleak lyrics into a hardcore/thrash blitz beneath the lead, though this is my least favorite track on the album. "Depression Unrest" closes the album with ambient rock that evolves into punchy, industrial chugging. My second least favorite here, but not bad.
Once in a while, it's good to be wrong, and I'm glad I've given this album more of a chance as the years rolled on. In fact, the weaker closing numbers aside, I feel like this belongs among the band's best works. I enjoy it more than any of the later 90s efforts, more than Endless Pain and Violent Revolution, and lyrically it's quite interesting. The better tracks here are able to offer a glimpse into some post-industrial, dystopian world on the edge of a breakdown, titillating enough that you might want to live there, despite the smoggy skies and meager rations of sustenance that the survivors squabble over. Give it a chance; or if you, like myself, were initially dismissive of its curious evolution, give it another.
When a band reaches their peak in a certain style, it’s hard to come up with something similar and yet fresh. A lot of bands tend to experiment. Take ‘Force Of Habit’ (Exodus) or when Quorthon didn’t know what to do after ‘Twilight of The Gods’. Same thing happened with Kreator. They lost control after Coma Of Souls and didn’t fully found their thrash metal roots back again until 11 years later….
Anyway, this does not mean that everything they did in between is bad. Far from it. It was just different and some ideas were better than others. And concerning ‘Renewal’ I can only say I really like the album. I’m glad I got the chance to see most of these songs live when Kreator toured in 1992. Songs such as ‘Winter Martyrium’ and ‘Karmic Wheel’ were simply mind blowing in their live versions that tour. I liked these songs on the album as well but with the light show and dynamics these songs rules the setlist. I’ve always been fond of industrial influences in metal when used properly and I really like the atmospheric section of ‘Karmic Wheel’. Yes, these two songs are definitely my favourite songs on renewal.
There is also something to complain here. As said these song sounded better live. This was partially because of the production. Although the dry sound on ‘Renewal’ had its charm, I would have especially preferred a better drum production and more definition in the guitars. A good example is the song ‘Zero to None’ which would have stood out more if it’d had a “Extreme Aggressions” or “Coma Of Souls” sound.
Secondly the vocals. Mille shouldn’t have done this. There was nothing wrong with the way he sang earlier records and of course one may grow but on Renewal the monotony was killing some songs. Best example of this is the title track. It was a more than decent mid tempo thrasher in their earlier People Of The Lie (Coma Of Souls) style, but the vocals are very monotone and do some real damage to the song. Pitty. I must however state that his vocals on the chorus of ‘Depression Unrest’ are superb and with ease the best on the album.
Renewal had some marvellous ideas and songs (Winter Martyrium, Karmic Wheel, Depression Unrest) but the production and vocals are really lacking at times. Therefore it’s a very good album, but not an excellent one.
Before this, the only album I had from Kreator was “Coma of Souls”. So I had little reference to what they have churned up throughout their early years. In fact I bought COS not long ago before I purchase RENEWAL so my know how of Kreator’s style is just limited to COS therefore I didn’t expect anything except that I was curious to what the new Kreator has to offer. Enter “Renewal”, Kreator’s outtake in experimentation, mixing industrial shadings to a slightly altered playing style emphasizing more on vocals and drums. A major move for the band leaving many dissatisfied and somewhat felt betrayed because of the surprising shift in sound, disappointed was the word but not all felt the same because beneath the initial trauma lies a foreboding Kreator Gem.
Renewal is a dark piece of brooding but menacing work of metal with a very twisted atmosphere but still “Thrash” in a very odd form. Mille at this time was rather tired of their thrash metal attack pacing that he slowed things down. The once frenzied steady guitar riffing has been replaced with some experimental versions of riffs varying from slow, mid-tempo to fast depending on the songs focus and direction and at some climaxing points is still ripping and barraging the Kreator way. That’s for the rhythm guitars only and for the lead? Twisted in a bad way, some works some not. The vocals are still Mille Petrozza in style and execution but the snarls are lower , one of the big factors that gave this album a darker feel. The drums are experimental too, Ventor playing some drum beats and pattern that are quite unlikely for Thrash Metal. (Opening drums on Winter Martyruim, Verse drums on Reflection, bridge part on Brainseed, and intro on Depression Unrest) but made things interesting to hear and with comes to thrash things up, Ventor delivers a riveting backbone to the music making him and the vox the vocal point since they were higher in the mix than the guitars.
In the song writing department, the songs twist and turn from a slow emotive passage to an energetic one then some climatic outburst to really shake things up. Milles emotional snarl rings so true, having that aggressive dark edge tone that captured very well the atmosphere of his compositions. The world conjured here is something like a near death drama that the world is going to end. This is pissed-off Kreator that wants to express aggressiveness in a different angle.
Give this one chance, it’s a real grower. Recommended if your tired of all the clichéd Thrash o rama but want your music to be still fast.
NB - I wrote this review before I read the others, am pleased I did this as this album certainly divides opinion.
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Talk about a ‘difficult’ album, this one was a minefield! Not only was Metal dying on it’s arse (it was 1992), but Kreator’s last album (Coma of Souls) had been slated for a lack of progression from their previous (oft-touted-as-the-best-one, especially by people who think PTK is a bit too wild) album Extreme Aggressions. Now while I must agree that Coma was a bit of a safe album, albeit one with some great tracks (and overall better than the overrated EA in my opinion) I don’t think anyone really expected the band to re-invent themselves so completely.
The aptly named ‘Renewal’ arrived in 1992, and was a breath of fresh air for Thrash. Gone was the over-produced sound and in came Industrial samples, a much more ‘live’ sound and a general griminess that gave the whole thing a new lease of life. I guess the rising popularity of Death Metal was by now affecting the Thrash scene and the band realised that they had to change somewhat, but without simply returning to their roots. (Although you’d have to say that a lot of their fans would have been a lot happier if they had!).
Mille’s vocals changed too. No longer satisfied with the simple yet glorious German tinted voice of old, Mille was now barking into the mic in a somewhat monotone voice that for some reason just worked. The perfect example of this would probably be the excellent ‘Europe After the Rain’, which was apparently inspired by the rather bleak paintings of Max Ernst (not that I know a lot about that). Thankfully the band didn’t decide to ditch the guitar solo’s and Frank ‘Blackfire‘ Gosdzik gives a fine farewell performance here (he, well everyone except Mille, was booted from the band before the next album in 1995).
It is said that this album was recorded through a haze of pot smoke, and though I’m not a partaker myself I can see how that would be the case. (The words LEGALIZE MAJIHUANA!) appear on the back cover for fucks sake!) This is not an album composed by right-thinking people, even today the whole thing has a crazy atmosphere about it (like maybe old Pink Floyd?) as if the whole thing has been lashed together to stop all the craziness sending it completely off the rails. It may have been an over- reaction to the somewhat straight-ahead style of Coma of Souls, but whatever it was it certainly worked - for me!
But alas, many of those who lambasted the band for their staidness, now dismissed them and their new style. It was a tragedy really, that this album came out when it did, because it deserved so much more attention than it ever got. But in 1992 the underground only cared about proper Death Metal and the Metal mainstream was cutting it’s hair lock stock and barrel and falling over themselves to buy shite albums from Seattle.
It’s hard to pick highlights on such a great album, but for me ‘Karmic Wheel’ deserves a special mention. Slow and hypnotic, this track is one of those rare Metal tracks that manages to convey some kind of deeper emotion - listen to the middle section (better still get the remix version where you can hear the voice properly) where you hear about the pressure the guy’s been under and tell me you don’t feel sick when you hear him shoot himself in the head. This is no studio re-enactment, this is actual footage and the screaming is real. Shit, I can’t ever remember being affected like that before, it leaves me fucking cold!
But it’s an awesome coldness. This album will chill your neck and make you want to hit things, but you just have to accept it as the brilliant one-off that it is. It’s like Kreator’s ‘Into the Pandemonium’…. it probably never should be repeated, because to recreate it would be to undermine it’s impact. At the end of the day, for me this is Kreator’s second best album. Third would be Endorama and fourth? Well I dunno, maybe Endless Pain. You all know what number one is anyway and you won’t find much PTK-ness here. Best to view this as a unique album that (much like Endorama) if it had been released by another band, might JUST have made them superstars…
….but of course it didn’t and the fallout was that 1995’s return to the norm album Cause for Conflict did little to regain lost ground. 98’s Outcast was a bit too dull for it’s own good and then the band really upset the applecart with the ‘absolutely brilliant if it had been anyone else’ Endorama, before eventually giving in to the fans and harking back to the 80’s with the lacklustre ’Violent Revolution’.
Sad really, when you think that every time Kreator brought out an album that really kicked ass the next one moved away in style, and the one time they did try to inject some continuity they were lambasted for it. Ah well, never mind, if you can approach it with the right attitude, this one will make a fine addition to your collection.
This album is very different from Kreator's previous works which composed of some of the best thrash ever produced. This album tones it down. There isn't much thrash here and as a whole it feels more modern rockish which certainly isn't something a well-respected thrash metal band wants to do.
Some other changes on the album are that the music is much slower. The guitars still sound metal enough so that is good however the drums are rather slow. It sounds like Ventor is banging drum sticks on an empty paint bucket which really decreases the quality of the drums. Also Mille's vocals are very crappy here. He shouts instead of his usual growl, or spitting forth of words which really makes him sound different. Mille shouting is definately weird however its not totally horrible on all songs especially on "Winter Martyrium". Another change is the solos are very few and very much toned down. They do sound rather uninspired and are far from chaotic.
There are still moments on this album that are relatively good and enjoyable. "Winter Martyrium" still has some decent riffs and has at least some agression. The melody is rather repetitive, however definately one of the more enjoyable songs on the album. There is a solo on here, which would be the best on the album however a big mistake is made here. Instead of the usual solo with drums in the background, here the solo is put in the background while the shitty drums are still very loud. "Renewal" is another slow moving song however it is one of the more enjoyable ones with a rather nice melodic chorus. "Brainseed" has a few decent riffs as well as some agression. "Zero to None" probably has the best riffs on here which could have led to a decent song that almost sounded like it could have come from the previous album, "Coma of Souls" however it is ruined by much more melodic guitars that have almost no power whatsoever, rather bland and repetitive drumming, and of course Mille shouting. "Europe After the Rain" also has some decent riffs and the song sounds more heavy than most on here except the beginning of "Zero to None". Mille's vocals here are probably the best as they sound agressive and the shouting element is not as obvious here. We also have a solo here, but once again it is in the background.
Now we also have many songs on here that completely suck. "Reflection", "Karmic Wheel", and "Depression Unrest" are all weak songs with hardly any riffs, very weak guitars and drumming, and just seem to meander all over the place for a good 5-6 minutes. All 3 of these songs are basically a waste of space except for maybe a few short sections. And then we have the biggest insult to the whole album, "Realit Atckontrolle" which seems to compose of a bunch of weird noises put together, such as a screech from a guitar, some banging, some moaning, and it repeats for a little over a minute. And the fact that this load of shit is only 1:22 is the only good thing that could be said about it.
Overall this is a rather weak release for Kreator especially considering what preceded it. I am a bit forgiving with the grade as if this had come from an average rock/hard rock/industrial metal band I wouldn't have considered it horrible, but coming from Kreator this is definately a huge let-down.
I suppose after the seminal Coma of Souls many Kreator fans were anxiously anticipating the next chapter in this thrash legend's ongoing tradition of aggressive, ripping thrash metal that made Slayer look like PETA members.
Renewal, however, is no Pleasure to Kill, instead of breakneck tempos, violent lyrics and relentless pounding from the rythum section, it focuses more so on vocals, chugging riffage, and mild industrial overtones.
This isn't to say Renewal is worthless, Winter Martyrium, the title track, and Europe after the Rain are likely to please fans, however, they fail to support the whole album.
The lyrics are more interesting, in my opinon, certainly a step up from the "I love to kill things" crop of their earlier work. However, the vocals are put too far in the forefront in the production, and moreover, it sounds likes Mille is shouting because people in the back can't hear him, and his overall performance is rather uninspired on the whole.
Furthermore, the guitars are too quiet, getting behind the drums and vocals, leaving you craving a screaming solo, or even a good riff to headbang along to. These elements, when put together, create a slow paced (for Kreator) mess instead of a concise, aggressive performance. When take in consideration with some poor songwriting on quite a few tracks, and a senseless filler track (Realitatskontrolle), Renewal becomes a fairly forgettable album instead of breaking headway in the new direction Kreator wanted to go. Mostly uninspired, but worth a few listens.
I clearly remember hearing “Brainseed” on my college radio station in early ’93. When the DJ said that it was a track from the new Kreator CD, I was floored! This was some weird industrial metal, not the awesome riff-fests of Coma of Souls or Extreme Aggression. I ended up buying the CD anyway, and was left cold after the first spin. A couple of great riffs jump out at you near the end, like in “Depression Unrest”, and especially “Europe After the Rain”, but as a whole the CD is hard to digest. But after listening to it for about a week, it really grows on you. This CD is meant to be listened to as a whole, and the songs flow into each other and create a sense of rising tension and finally resolution with “Depression Unrest”, the last track. The guitar tone is thick and muddy, but gives the songs an effective low-end presence. The tone here is well suited for the newer song structures. Remember that these songs aren’t supposed to sound like earlier thrash, but rather something new and heavy. Mille’s vocals are also changed, and are more like a shouted, hardcore style. Again, this fits better with the songs overall. Lead guitar is used sparingly, and the tone is very dry. One of Frank’s best solos can be heard at the end of “Depression Unrest”. The drums are definitely underplayed, mostly to give it an industrial feel. This technique is used very effectively in “Brainseed”, which has a syncopated, pounding intro. I think this CD is out of print, but if you find it used, pick it up and give it a few spins. Don’t compare it to earlier Kreator, because this disc is in a class by itself.