Hey, I like Kreator as much as the next guy…
But maybe not as much as Cruentator likes Kreator.
Cruentator likes Kreator like Jimmy Page likes old blues guys. Cruentator likes Kreator like Gus Van Sant likes Psycho, like Ray Parker Jr. likes “I Want A New Drug,” like Tarantino likes… well, whatever movie he’s liberally appropriating from this week…
Cruentator likes Kreator like your office Xerox machine likes whatever is in the document feeder.
You get where I’m going here?
Of course, none of that makes Ain’t War Hell? an unlistenable album – and it isn’t. It’s redundant, and that renders it unnecessary for all but the absolute most dedicated thrash maniacs, but these Italians’ take on Teutonic madness is a thoroughly studied one. They’ve got the speed – drummer Ricardo bonks along at a frantic pace, although unfortunately he’s burdened with one of the worst snare tones in recent memory. Vocalist Ambro barks in a fine Mille manner, and he’s even got titles that sound just like old Kreator outtakes: “Merciless Extermination,” “Barbaric Violence,” “The Shining Hate”… These riffs are just chaotic enough and just polished enough, falling somewhere in that Extreme Aggression to Coma Of Souls sweet spot. And yet, after multiple listens, it’s difficult to tell one song from the next, to pick out individual moments from the whole, a thrashing blur of acceptability with no true high- or low-lights, scant few dynamics, and no real differentiation. Once you’ve heard “Merciless Extermination,” you’ve heard most of the record, although, if pressed, I could say that there are some slightly-above-water moments in the intro riffs to “Barbaric Violence,” before it jumps back into the same tempo, same drive, same everything as the previous two tracks. (The same track ends on an epic riff that does poke forth from the chaos for a moment, albeit a too-short one.) Truthfully, most of these songs have one riff that stands among the others, but no song has all those moments combined into one four-minute blast of true greatness.
Cruentator has skill and professionalism, but they’ve bitten off more than they can chew by directly inviting comparison to one of the greats. They either need to step it up to godhood or, for a more attainable goal, to look beyond their singular influence because the only way to beat Kreator at their own game is either through complete perfection or by changing the rules. There are worse thrash records by infinitely worse thrash bands, no question, but there are far better records by far better bands, and at least one of those bands and a few of those records sound like a far better, more dynamic version of exactly this.
If war is hell, and thrash is war, then Kreator is that grizzled sergeant still fighting from the front, leading the charge, and Cruentator is the fresh young supply clerk at headquarters – they’re in the fight in spirit but yet a couple of miles from the action, relatively safe, and destined to miss out on all the glory.