Review : Kreator – ‘Love Us Or Hate Us: The Very Best Of The Noise Years 1985 – 1992’

The 80s were indeed halcyon days for metal, as anyone who grew up and threw up and screwed up during the era can testify. As the genre diversified and grew, the metal mags, clubs, and radio (well, Tommy Vance) began to expose fans to a plethora of new bands and sounds which, whilst fitting beneath the ‘metal’ umbrella were poles apart in terms of approach and appeal. Flicking through the vinyl racks in your local shop, you were bombarded with more and more new music with every passing week, and your pocket money only stretched so far (one album and the bus ride home…). In the days before streaming and social media, it was impossible to have heard everything, so how did you know what you were buying would be a sure-fire smash, a treat for the ears, and not a waste of time and cash? That’s where the independent labels came in. Each one began with a mission; to break music they loved, by artists they believed in. Every genre had their standard bearer, and for European thrash, it was Noise Records. Flipping a sleeve and seeing the label’s logo was an instant seal of approval for fans of everything noisy and nasty in the mid 80s, and perhaps the noisiest and nastiest band to release records on Noise throughout the decade was Kreator.

Opening with the title track to that first brutal cut, all of the qualities that first drew fans to the band are evident; the Venom-like rumble and riffery, the blistering speed, the hate and anger spat by both Mille and Ventnor who shared vocal duties on this release, and through the noise, the ambition and technical ability of the teenage band.

Five tracks are represented from the debut; in addition to the title track is back-street bruiser ’Tormentor’, the anthemic speed metal of ‘Flag Of Hate’, the utterly brutal ‘Total Death’ and the chaotic punk assault of ‘Bone Breaker’; all astonishing, hair raising slices of raw, riotous, raucous thrash.

If ‘Endless Pain’ was the band’s calling card, the follow up, ‘Pleasure To Kill’, was its flag (of hate) in the sand. A marker to anyone in the genre that whatever they could do, Kreator could do angrier and faster and more fucked up. Released in ’86, alongside ‘Master Of Puppets’, ‘Reign In Blood’ and ‘Peace Sells…’, ‘Pleasure To Kill’ stands amongst those heavyweights of the genre as a bona fide classic. Again, represented by five tunes (as are the subsequent four releases, in the interests of fairness…) and also again, opening with the title track, the step up from the debut is obvious in terms of production and playing, but not at the expense of aggression and attack. Remarkably, their sophomore album is an even edgier, crazier, more manic record than the debut. Everything on ‘Pleasure to Kill’ is turned up to 11; the buzzsaw guitars on ‘Under The Guillotine’ will cut your head clean off; you will run screaming from the ‘Riot Of Violence’ (whilst humming the insanely catchy riff), ‘Command Of The Blade’ is as sharp a tune as they come, whilst ‘Ripping Corpse’ will most certainly make you wish you were dead…

Follow up ‘Terrible Certainty’, released a year later, retained the levels of aggression that earmarked the first two records, but marked another progression in terms of arrangements and songwriting. ‘Storming With Menace’, ‘No Escape’, and particularly the glorious ‘Toxic Trace’ all add light and shade to their thrash intensity, while the title track and ‘Behind The Mirror’ bludgeon the listener into submission in time-honoured teutonic thrash fashion.

The band were unstoppable, and it was no surprise that the major labels took an interest, Noise licensing the next release, ‘Extreme Aggression’, to Epic Records outside Europe, with Randy Burns (Megadeth, Possessed, et al) behind the mixing desk. The result was big sounding and brilliantly executed, yet still retained all the Kreator hallmarks of speed and aggression. The album built on the band’s worldwide success, with the title track and the equally furious ‘Betrayer’ enjoying MTV rotation.

Follow up ‘Coma Of Souls’, released in 1990, was a classy collection of modern metal, but the first release by the band not to receive universal critical acclaim, with a handful of mid-paced chuggers perhaps clogging up what is essentially a strong album, as the five tracks represented herein display. Certainly the title track and ‘When The Sun Burns Red’ stand shoulder to shoulder with their earlier thrash klassiks*.

As the musical climate changed, so Kreator continued to push themselves musically. 1992’s ‘Renewal’, the final released for Noise, and introduced progressive and industrial elements to the band’s repertoire. Anathema to many traditional thrash fans at the time. However, it is this album that benefits most from a retrospective spin. The five tracks on show here display real imagination, with the band not prepared to sit on its laurels. In particular ‘Europe After The Rain’ stands out with its fusion of furious frash* and melodic mid-section.

Of course, this collection does not tell the full story. In the past decade, a re-energised Kreator have consistently produced material which is on a par with much of their Noise output, but ‘Love Us Or Hate Us’ does chart the progress of a band who within a short space of time, grew to challenge the might of the U.S. big four, and who inspired a whole slew of acts to pick up a guitar and drums, and follow their own musical path, no matter how extreme. Not only that, it highlights the importance of the single-mindedness and belief in this extreme music displayed by Noise and their founder Karl-Ulrich Walterbach. Here’s hoping the label unearth more gems like Kreator in the years to come.

Review: Rivethead

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