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Kreator - Hordes of chaos - 70%

Radagast, February 20th, 2009

I have to confess that my pulse quickened slightly when I read that Kreator would be recording 'Hordes of chaos' in lo-fi fashion, with the basic tracks all being taken from the band performing the songs live in the studio. The 38-minute running time had me even more intrigued – could Mille Petrozza - the anti-Hansen himself - and his associates really be casting aside the politician-sleek production style of their last 2 CDs in favour of a raw, 'Pleasure to kill' style rifforama?

The logical (read: cynical) part of my brain quickly piped up with "no, idiot" and was of course proved correct. But while 'Hordes of chaos' is sonically in the same vein as the preceding post-millennium Kreator CDs, in terms of spirit and concise bluntness it is as close as they are likely come to recapturing the snarling aggression of their glory era before the wilderness years of the 90s.

The final product doesn't sound drastically different to its predecessor 'Enemy of God', (though thankfully Ventor's drums no longer sound like an adding machine) so we're still not dealing with a full thrash CD here, but the songs are a far leaner bunch that generally keep a much firmer grip on the attention. "Warcurse" is among the thrashiest Kreator songs in years, with a wicked main riff and no pause for breath as it hurtles from beginning to end via a terrific chorus.

Melodic guitar playing (described as Gothenburg-influenced by some, which the band flatly deny) remains a key feature of the new Kreator sound, though in general they use it in a more tasteful fashion than they have been doing in recent times. For example, "Amok run" opens in a similar fashion to "Voices of the dead" from 'Enemy of God', with a rare bit of clean singing from Petrozza over some gentle strumming before the song properly kicks in, but there is no overly-sugary chorus melody this time around as the song proves to be one of the best on the CD. This embracing of melody, for all the flak draws, also allows Petrozza and the flying Finn Sami Yli-Sirnio to really show off their talent as lead guitarists, with some really excellent solos and harmonies scattered all over the place.

Despite the overall improvement though, there are still a few misfires and points of contention – "To the afterborn" just doesn't get going after a promising start, and the chorus strays just too far into fully melodic territory, while "Absolute misanthropy" just feels uninspired and is hampered by some juvenile lyrics. The CD also suffers from too many songs having a chorus that consists of a short phrase – usually the title – being barked repeatedly, and the formula becomes quite grating after it becomes so apparent. At the same time Petrozza's shouted vocals occasionally just don't mesh properly with the softer parts of the songs, and feel somewhat out of place compared to how they used to fit like a glove on the less polished early material.

After complimenting 'Hordes of chaos' for stripping things down a bit and providing a bunch of shorter, more direct songs, I'll now have to contradict myself and say that the best of the bunch are the opening and closing tracks, the only 2 that get past 5 minutes in length. The opening title track doesn't sacrifice aggression despite its vaguely complex structure, while the closing "Demon prince" makes use of an epic, NWOBHM-style lead part in its intro before leaping into a real ripping thrash tune, complete with the only skittering, atonal solo on the CD.

It is definitely not perfect, and definitely not a pure thrash CD, but 'Hordes of chaos' represents the new Kreator style in its best incarnation to date. No doubt it will receive just as much over-the-top praise and unjustified scorn as 'Enemy of God,' but for my money it is a definite improvement, and a CD that fans of melodic thrash ought to give the time of day to. Going in expecting a bruising piece of 80s aggression will only end in disappointment, but taken on its own terms 'Hordes of chaos' has plenty to offer those prepared to give it a shot.

(Originally written for