01 June 2012
by Tom Dare
There’s a general principal with the great thrash bands: their stuff from the ’80s is absolutely essential, their stuff in the ’90s divisive, and their stuff from the ’00s is really for existing fans only. Except every now and again, one of those bands that took metal to new extremes and influenced practically every non-doom band since releases an album that demands even those of just moderate passing interest to pay attention. Testament did it with The Formation Of Damnation, Megadeth did it with Endgame, and now Kreator have done it with Phantom Antichrist.
You’d put money on someone in the Kreator camp having been on an Iron Maiden binge prior to the recording process, due to the melodic veneer to Phantom Antichrist. Duelling minor leads are everywhere but (and here’s the clever bit) it’s all very Kreator-y. It’s not Gothenburgisms, or NWOBHM rehashing; it’s profoundly Teutonic in feel, with that maniacally evil tinge that’s been Mille Petrozza’s hallmark since Kerry King had hair and no beard.
This melodic aspect doesn’t detract from the viciousness though. The riffage is still raging, brutal thrash, ready to raise hell and char the land black for good measure. The variation simply serves to heighten the intensity of the attack when it lets rip. Civilization Collapse, the album’s triumphal centrepiece that occasionally riffs off ‘Am I Evil?‘ with a demonic leer, is the finest example of this.
Marching drums introduce an ominous lead before Mille’s shriek belts out the chorus, so when the machine gun roar of the main riff kicks in, it’s like a rollercoaster setting off for its first big dip: tension gives way to pedal-to-the-floor racing with that girds the loins, sends the adrenaline pumping and carries the risk of mild incontinence. After this cycle goes round a couple of times, it switches to swaggering pugilism (here’s where the amped-up Diamond Head riff comes in), before a melodic break makes its recapitulation sound even more intense. Then the chorus and melodic lead return one more time, before a bloody great explosion ends it emphatically.
Watch the video to ‘Phantom Antichrist’ by Kreator:
The other songs follow a similar pattern – thrashy fury weaves with brilliant, lyrical tunes, the aggression being heightened by the melody and the melody exaggerated by the aggression. It’s slightly reminiscent of what Metallica used to do, in the sense it sounds as ferocious as everyone without necessarily needing to be the fastest, most downtuned or brutally dissonant band around. And while it’s a technique Kreator learned years ago, they haven’t employed it this successfully for fucking ages.
Phantom Antichrist also has a fucking badass album cover. Look at the bloody thing. It’s an undead horde riding skeletal horses on a blood red background. Thrash albums should always have stuff like that on the front. Check out some of the song titles as well: ‘Death To The World‘, ‘United In Hate‘, ‘The Few, The Proud, The Broken‘. Metal as fuck, right? It shouldn’t really be relevant to the music, but the inner fifteen-year-old boy in you can’t help thinking it makes it all a bit more awesome.
Not that this really needs any help. Phantom Antichrist will take some serious fucking beating as the year’s best thrash album.
Sounds like: Sodom, Destruction, Iron Maiden.
Stand-out tracks: Phantom Antichrist, From Flood Into Fire, Civilization Collapse.