Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Kreator - Endless Pain (1985)

Mille Petrozza and company might not have been the first to the well, but their debut as Kreator would arrive soon enough to join the rank and file of Sodom and Destruction among the earlier, major German thrash releases (post-demo stage). Formed a few years prior as Tormentor, with the members in their teens, the band had been jamming on covers, performing a few odd gigs, and releasing a few tapes, one of which caught the ear of Noise Records guru Karl Walterbach, who promptly signed them and asked them to change their name (legal reasons). Kreator had been born, Endless Pain was produced, and though it might not hold a candle to much of the band's 1986-1990 catalog, it's still quite impressive considering the age of the roster and the crude crunch of the writing.

From a technical standpoint, I might place this somewhere between In the Sign of Evil and Sentence of Death in both songwriting quality and musicianship. It's not quite so blistering and bedazzling as Destruction's EP, but a little more involved than the punkish hymns of Angel Ripper. The rather unique, expressive architecture of Mille's chord selection was already in place, even though it wasn't nearly as refined as Pleasure to Kill or Terrible Certainty, and his harsh, barking vocals weren't unlike Angel Ripper's in that they'd later become a major influence upon the emergent black metal scene. Indeed, Sodom and Kreator are very often considered proponents of the 'first wave' of that genre, and that's a distinction I certainly won't argue with here. However, aside from the intro riff to "Total Death" sounding a little like "Mad Butcher", and carrying a similar leather & bullet belts image to Destruction, there was something fresh, bludgeoning and unique about this young band that foreshadowed their ascent.

The vocals are an immediate highlight of the title track, a sadistic glaze over its rippling, busy guitars and the steady crashing of Ventor's drums. Rob Fioretti's bass might not have been a major factor here, but the thick pulse would at least offer some concrete support to the chords. The construction of the notes was easily on a level plane with what was coming out of California, even if the band were not writing hits of Kill 'Em All or Show No Mercy caliber. In particular, I'd call out "Tormentor" and the epic "Flag of Hate" as the real hits here, the former hailing from their demo days under their previous moniker, the latter good enough to get its own EP release, with tearing, radioactive guitars and a killer bridge hook. However, there are other pleasures here like the brute "Bone Breaker", with its hilariously blunt chorus verse, or the cutting velocity of "Son of Evil" in which Mille warps his vocals into a higher, screaming velocity not unlike old Slayer or Whiplash.

A few tunes don't exactly rise to the occasion, like "Cry War" or "Storm of the Beast" (with a title like that, I wanted it to be better), but there are no real hangups even on a complete listen one quarter century post-release. It's superior to In the Sign of Evil, as there's simply more to hear and the guitar patterns feel more bloodied and aggressive, but not quite a match for the riffs of Sentence of Death. However, I do like the production here more than either of those EPs. Even before the touching up in re-releases, it sounded fresh and as if the band were due a successful future. As it turns out, fate would deliver countless tours and further label deals, but as the time, Mr. Petrozza and his stalwarts were thrilled just to produce an album in their teens, and that enthusiasm and vibrancy is omnipresent in this recording.

Verdict: Win [8.25/10]
(final death is the price)


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