Macht. Schnelligkeit. Simplizität. It’s easy to make the parallel between composers and engineers when Germany is involved. For years, mechanics all over the world tried and tried to discover Ferdinand Porsche’s great secrets of automobile manufacturing. Years later, he revealed them: Power. Speed. Simplicity. So works the German mind, and it’s no surprise that Kreator just so happens to be the thrash band that’s sitting atop the world. It has been thirty years since Mille Petrozza, Roberto Fioretti and Jürgen Reil embarked on their journey to put together one of the greatest heavy metal bands on the planet. Few bands have made it this far, and the vast majority of the ones that did ran out of gas a long time ago… but not Kreator. Aside from getting caught in the fray of classic thrash bands venturing off into the bizarre territories of the mid-to-late 90’s, these ancient hellhounds have been slowly and steadily plotting their course for world domination in the heart of the Ruhrgebiet ever since they found their footing again with Violent Revolution in 2001. It’s been more than a decade since then, and not only has Kreator gained light years on the majority of its Eighties thrash counterparts, but the group has done so without losing so much as an inch along the way.
Phantom Antichrist is Kreator‘s thirteenth full-length album since the group’s timeless debut in 1985, and it’s arguably their finest work to date. Sure, it’s always going to be the initial five or six albums that garner the most nostalgia and credit for innovation, but Phantom Antichrist is the work of polished heroes — gods, if you will. Initially, it seemed that Kreator was simply following the basic formula that has been so effective on the past handful of albums. You know the drill: catchy title track, a few shitkickers, a few slow melodies that explode into shitkickers, and a comedown concluding track that simply says “auf Wiedersehen.” Now, to say the band has completely changed things around would not only be an insult to Herr Porsche, but it probably wouldn’t have worked. Instead, the band decided to just get even better at what they already do best, which is construct meaningful, thought provocative lyrical themes that would give sight to the blind; create choruses that would excite a downtrodden mass of depressed followers; write riffs that would allow those with paralysis to circle pit like there’s no tomorrow; and compose solos that would entice even the Virgin Mary herself. Phantom Antichrist does all of this, and in the most memorable of ways.
So what else is new? Let’s start with early tracks such as “Death to the World” and “From Flood into Fire,” which will have fans chanting “Mother Earth, what have we done to you / Mother Earth, why have we forsaken you,” or “From flood into fire, one thousand voices sing / we’re in this together, for whatever fate may bring,” as they march like fearless vikings to destroy the captors of their souls. And the solos! My Lord, the solos are just perfect. Every note fits perfectly into its own place while Mille and Sami play as if Quorthon and Chuck Schuldiner were fire and brimstone taking their sides. Perhaps no other songs in all of rock music today have more importance and emotion than Phantom Antichrist‘s next few tracks such as “The Few, The Proud, The Broken” or “Your Heaven, My Hell,” especially the softly spoken lines in the introduction of the latter of the two, which state “After all these centuries of preaching godly wrath / Punishment and afterlife — Pandemonium / Gods that torture, gods that judge from the guilt they make you feel / A monster siege by psychopaths, as he threw the web you weaved / Your heaven, My hell / Your heaven has become my hell / You are the virus of this torched Earth / Your heaven, my hell / Your heaven will always be my hell / Fear has possessed the hearts of MAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN!!!!!!!!!”
Ultimately, there will be few albums throughout the course of one’s lifetime that will always permit you to carry on with a smile, regardless of the sorrows of life’s many tragedies. They’re as rare as true friends, really, and should be treated as such. That, among other reasons, is why you’ll find no comparisons here — no mentioning of other bands, other great albums, or the glory days when thrash metal wasn’t viewed as a thing of the past. Also, there’s something to be said about a band of this stature whose members still insist on helping sell their own merchandise, talking to fans, and openly condemning shitty, commercialized and dumbed-down music. In my personal life, I’ve always failed to come up with an adequate response to the question, “So why do you like this type of music, anyway?” Thanks to Phantom Antichrist, I have found my answer: It’s fast, it’s simple, it’s powerful; and it’s the reason why I listen to heavy metal. Kreator.