Monday, January 24, 2011

Kreator - Extreme Aggression (1989)

Kreator's Extreme Aggression was not only a pinnacle of the band's upwards elevation in popularity, but a success for Noise Records as a whole, as the album got a distribution deal through a major here in the States (CBS/Epic). The young, evolutionary German band had finally hit the big leagues, and curiously enough, the album even sounds like such a major label debut, cleaning up some of the flaws that marred its predecessor just shy of perfection. Unfortunately, this is also the first Kreator album in which the band took a pretty solid step in reverse. That's not to imply that Extreme Aggression is without its moments, because it is for all intensive purposes a 'good' album, but unlike the floodgates of imagination and extremity that burst open with Pleasure to Kill and Terrible Certainty, these seem to have been welded temporarily shut.

As mentioned, the production here is a lot more streamlined than Terrible Certainty, recorded in the States with Randy Burns at the helm. While this certainly makes the individual components like guitars and vocals more audible, there's also a rather sterile feel to the effort that was lacking on the earlier records. Even the cover of the album reflects this, with the band trading in their demonic mascot for a pose under a muted, red sun hue. Truly boring. The music itself is not so bad, making for the natural bridge between the band's career heights Terrible Certainty and Coma of Souls, but very few of the songs have that instantly explosive emotional power that would characterize the 1990 follow-up, and riff for riff, it's simply not as interesting, like the band were tip-toeing along in the wake of their newfound success, trying not to misfire.

They don't, but neither do they truly impress here. "Extreme Aggressions" possesses much of the scything, melodic precision first introduced on the previous album, but the transitions don't feel all that exciting together, and this is perhaps the most riff-tastic song on the entire album (the verse is great). "No Reason to Exit" and "Some Pain Will Last" are two of my other faves, with cold and clinical riffing that cycles through a number of catchy moments; and to a lesser extent, "Stream of Consciousness" and "Fatal Energy". "Bringer of Torture" is also good for a neck breaking, a fast and frenetic number with a great galloping riff and chorus that wouldn't have been out of place on Pleasure to Kill. I've never been much for "Betrayer" or "Love Us or Hate Us", which seem to ironically be two of the most popular songs on this album, but I wouldn't dub them a waste of space either.

In the end, I tend to think of Extreme Aggression of a mere warm up for Coma of Souls, an album that still blows my head off from start to finish, and the peak of the band's songwriting, despite the fact that it's so heavily derived from ideas first manifest on this album or Terrible Certainty. It's still Kreator, and it's still better than most thrash metal of its day. But it's very strange to me that the chorus of "Love Us or Hate Us" proclaims: 'no honesty, just sterility, a cautious sound they make without creativity'. a passage that best expresses how I have always felt about this album. Whereas the previous album was a tornado of riffs, this is a mere dust devil, forceful enough to whip up the dust, but never enough to tear your roof off.

Verdict: Win [7.75/10] (I never thought it would come this far)

No comments: