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Continues the Trend of Latter-Era Kreator - 50%

rbright1674, February 2nd, 2016
Written based on this version: 2012, CD, Nuclear Blast

When Kreator announced that the title to their forthcoming album was "Phantom Antichrist", it was pretty exciting for a lot of the old time fans. It sounded nasty, visceral and quite aggressive. The title track being released as a single proved that was certainly going to be the case and it looked as if Kreator was about to hit another home run and even possibly up the ante towards the more aggressive thrash of their past.

Surprisingly enough, when it came to the actual full album experience, that was not the case.

To understand why, one must of course understand Kreator's recent history. Kreator had a bit of a revival with "Violent Revolution"; musically it was FAR more aggressive than what had been present on their last two albums previous ("Outcast" and "Endorama"), but with that, Kreator added in a flair for the dramatic. Mille Petrozza (founder/vocalist/guitarist) began to shift more directly towards anthem style lyrics and while the music was certainly more aggressive, it was also geared a bit more towards something you might expect out of Judas Priest if they woke up next Tuesday and decided to make a thrash record for shits and giggles.

Essentially, Kreator amalgamated elements of their old thrash hostility but with a more "classic '80's NWOBHM" sensitivity to it. More melodic and a little more accessible to the general public as well. Their wasn't a lot of expansion on that sound over the following albums ("Enemy of God" and "Hordes of Chaos"), but Kreator had nailed down a particular style and with a band known over it's career for expanding it's sound (sometimes extremely so), it was palatable.

"Phantom Antichrist" continues that trend, but the differential with this particular entry in their discography is that it just feels very phoned in. While the title track is everything you'd expect out of them (and their latter era sound), the rest of the album feels as if it's simply lacking the conviction it's desperately trying to convey. "Death to the World", at first glance, would appear to be a go for the throat old school ass kicker, but the chorus is something you'd expect out of more amateurish bands and repeated listens only drive home the point. "From Flood Into Fire", "Civilization Collapse", "Until Our Paths Cross Again", and "United in Hate" feel as if they might have been leftover tracks from any of the aforementioned albums, left off of those particular releases for simply not being up to snuff. The rest of the material is ultimately forgettable and doesn't really leave much of a lasting impression - were you to go to a Kreator concert, I suppose the expectation would be to want to sing along with any of these tracks, but doing so would require being able to remember them, and unfortunately they aren't all that memorable.

It's not that "Phantom Antichrist" is a 'bad' album as it were, but it's a definite mixed bag. The musicianship is, as you'd expect, flawless - Samy Yli-Sirino and Mille Petrozza both work off of each other on guitar as if they were born to do it, and while Jurgen has slowed down since the mid '80's, he's still extraordinarily competent and his rhythm work with Christian Giesler on bass is without issue. The takeaway is that you can spin "Phantom Antichrist" from front to back and it's going to be nothing that you vehemently hate, but it's not going to be anything that you're going to want to spin all the way through again. Kreator has always been an band that thrives on experimentation - even among albums as disparate as "Renewal", "Extreme Aggression", "Endorama" and "Pleasure to Kill", no matter how much their sound has changed, they've always been unquestionably KREATOR through all of it. One might suspect that the lack of experimentation is, in truth, what's hampering the effort on "Phantom Antichrist".

Unquestionably, it's going to appeal to a select base of fans who are Kreator diehards, and fans of more recent extreme melodic metal - for longer term Kreator fans who have been around the block, you're going to find something missing even though all the normal elements are present. What any album really comes down to is songwriting - the musicianship can be flawless, but unless the album is crafted out of more than one or two memorable and engaging songs, there really isn't a lot of use for the album as a whole. It feels like leftover material from the latter era Kreator style, and as such, it's nothing you haven't been hearing since "Violent Revolution", ultimately. One would hope that Kreator's latest break will result in a revitalized band once again willing to experiment with their sound and write something in a different style than what's presented here - and that's material that feels old even when it's new.