As the 80s wore on, the cauldron of straightforward speed, fire and vitriol was running dry. Its ingredients no longer seemed enough to satisfy the artistic impulses of many of thrash metal's most promising constituents. Song structures would become more advanced, more creative, and naturally, more dynamic. Kreator's third full-length, Terrible Certainty, is an adequate example of this transformation, and a brilliant one, with single tracks seeming to contain more effort in their composition than nearly all of Pleasure to Kill. Now, I'm not trying to knock that previous year's opus, because its a timeless and sinister transgression, and certainly this album trades in a little of its violent overtures en route to its transitions, but I consider the contents of this album 'trading up' as far as Kreator's long standing appeal.
Each of the eight tracks is a tour de force of comprehensive, talented riffing that must have taken Mille quite some time to plot out, not only for the technical qualities but the actual moods they project. Where Pleasure to Kill and Endless Pain created atmospheres of slashing and burning hostility, this album frightens with more than mere barbarism, but schizoid nightmares that are delivered straight through the relentless rhythm section of Rob and Ventor, and the exhausted, stunning finger work of Mille and Tritze. "Blind Faith" opens with an escalating exercise in depth, a complex intro riff that shifts into some of the savagery of the band's past, as if to exclaim 'we have not forgotten you, maniacs'. The bridge riff here is also noteworthy, as it climbs from a mid paced sequence of pummeling to a fluster of brilliant speed solos. This is followed by "Storming with Menace", which features one of the most incredible dual guitar rhythms on the album, and remains a personal favorite. What a chorus!
"Terrible Certainty" itself does not skip a beat, with an excellent drum and bass intro, Ventor using his limbs as the bridge into the mayhem of thick, prodding chords. Yet, the track becomes even better once the pre-verse guitar rhythms erupt, toiling and playful like a mastermind lunatic pulling your strings from an asylum. "As the World Burns" goes for a straight, rocking thrash vibe, but never loses the weighted ballast of the amazing musicianship, sordid guitar fills climbing up and down the frets before Mille lets us all have it with the verse. "Toxic Trace" is straight back to the technical wizardry, at least technical compared to so much of what we were hearing from thrash bands across the sea, the verse riffing stunningly similar to "Where the Sun Burns Red" from a few years in the future, and I absolutely adore the manic breakdown as the bass pumps over the atmospheric chords around 3:30.
The album would already seem to have enough supreme content to be considered masterpiece, but some of the best is yet to come. "No Escape" is methodical and distinct with a tight mid pace, and the chugging, creeping of the chorus segment, under which Ventor is all over the place. "One of Us" presents one of the most freakish schizoid riffs on the album in its intro, then shuffles into a bustling, busy sequence that must have had every German dashing his blood and guts over the mosh pit. As usual, Petrozza's vocals taunt us through the heavily saturated slurry of guitars, so much that it's nearly impossible to believe he's playing and singing at the same time, despite the beloved crudeness of his delivery. A chill, beautiful clean guitar intro will introduce us to the grand finale, "Behind the Mirror", which is just as spring loaded with impossible cruelty and power as anything else here.
Perhaps the only element holding Terrible Certainty back from my perfect score is the production, which feels a little smothered, as if it were taking on more than it can handle. As such, a little of the power is lost in all the instruments, sort of like Deathrow's unbelievable Deception Ignored. But this was not mixed by Harris Johns. The result is that the album feels slightly dated in tone, but it's easy to overlook when the musical content is so stunning. I won't claim that this is the very best of Kreator, that is still to arrive in several years, but it's quite fucking close, and the combination of the aggressive vocals and individual ability displayed a clear emergence from the brutal confines of 1986's butcher-works like Pleasure to Kill or Dark Angel's Darkness Descends. It's no surprise at all that the quality of this record would be critical in the band's acquisition by CBS/Epic Records for US distribution, which led to the more accessible Extreme Aggression, because it would have been a crime to go unnoticed.
Verdict: Epic Win [9.75/10] (you are lost without your miracle)