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Truly Kreator's Best Release - 90%

ArchdukeCaligula, May 22nd, 2020

Kreator, a name any metalhead should be familiar with. Arguably the most famous of the Teutonic Big Four aside from Sodom, Kreator are a competent deathrashing force of metal. Whenever people discuss Kreator's early albums, 1986's Pleasure to Kill and 1989's Extreme Aggression seem to be at the forefront. For whatever godforsaken reason, this album usually goes unmentioned or is dismissed entirely as just "them trying to find their sound". While the aforementioned '86 and '89 albums are great in their own regard, this may musically be Kreator's apex. And for whatever reason my fellow deathrashers seem to ignore this album's existence aside from a few tracks. Well, I'm here to set the record straight. Endless Pain exemplifies the phrase "Speed Kills".

As most of you are probably familiar with Kreator already, you'll know that drummer Jurgen Ventor provided vocals on their first three releases. What is interesting about Endless Pain is that Ventor and guitar wielder/main vocalist Mille Petrozza split the songs off half and half with each other on vocals. The odd numbered tracks have Ventor on vocals and the even numbered tracks have Mille at the helm. Ventor's vocal style is more the gruff, deranged shouting associated with European thrash metal, whereas Mille's is more an inhuman raspy snarl. Many consider this record to be part of the "First Wave of Black Metal", and I agree. Much like Quorthon of Bathory, Mille's vocal performance on this record wouldn't sound out of place on a 90s Norwegian album. For me, he never topped this vocal performance again, not even on Pleasure to Kill (though Extreme Aggression has its moments). I would argue that this album is the perfect example of a subgenre called "Black Thrash". Vicious black metal vocals and Satanic imagery with fistfucking thrash riffs and drumming. This record is unmistakably produced by Horst Müller, who also produced early albums by Sodom, Hellhammer/Celtic Frost, Destruction, Running Wild, and the ever underrated Iron Angel. His production is best indicated by the absolutely titanic drum sound, a decapitating guitar tone, and a sadly near nonexistent bass sound except for the occasional thud when the solos go on (except for on Morbid Tales). To me, this is the Teutonic sound exemplified. "Total Death" indeed.

Speaking of which, the songs on this album are fantastic. Hot off the heels of bands like Venom as most German bands were, the lyrics on Endless Pain deal a lot with Satan and his infernal legions. For whatever reason, a lot of modern metalheads reject lyrics about the devil as being "stupid" or "immature", usually done in an attempt to not be perceived as satanists by the pseudo-Christian standards of society as if its a bad thing. I say fuck that conformist noise, these lyrics are fucking great! The songs that aren't about demons or hellfire are about violent warfare ("Cry War", "Total Death) or "the forces of metal" ("Flag of Hate"). As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, the razor sharp guitar sound of this album truly helps sell the aggression of the songs. Mille's soloing on this album sounds a lot more destructive and chaotic than on later Kreator releases, and that helps the tone of this album immensely. Ventor's drumming is a relentless attack and the fact that he can belt out these lyrics so quickly while drumming that fast is insane to me. Sadly, I cannot hear Rob Fiorreti at all, but I'm sure his bass playing is alright. For my money, the absolute best track is the breakneck scorcher known as "Bonebreaker", though facerippers like the title track, "Total Death", and "Living in Fear" are throughout the album. Even the weaker tracks like "Cry War" and "Dying Victims" still have their moments. What really helps these songs is their lengths. They don't go overboard into the 6-7 minute category or wane into what I call "Meandering Thrash Metal Syndrome"(That doesn't start becoming super prevalent with bands until the late 80s). They deal out their riffs in a timely and concise manner that leaves the listener craving more and with a sore neck from headbanging too hard. And with 10 fucking tracks on the album, you've got a lot of cool riffs to listen to all in nice little song packages. Pleasure to Kill has this approach in its shorter songs, but the effect simply isn't the same (for me, at least). It may have something to do with the fact that this album is also in standard tuning, which helps with the fast, aggressive state in my opinion. Who knows.

What can be said is that this is my personal favorite Kreator album. Top notch thrashing riffs, nuclear warfare drumming, killer vocals courtesy of both Mille and Ventor (but especially from Mille), and near perfect production make this record an absolute must for any diehard deathbanger. Along with Sodom's sepulchral Obsessed by Cruelty, Destruction's invincible Sentence of Death, and Iron Angel's steelbearing Hellish Crossfire, Endless Pain is an esssential piece of German thrash history. If you for some reason haven't listened to this album before, please do so. You'd be depriving yourself of some of the best German steel otherwise.

Selling Cuts: "Bonebreaker", "Total Death", "Living in Fear"