Friday, October 14, 2011

Sons of Evil

When I finally started checking out real metal bands after immersing myself in punk for a good five years, one of the bands I was always curious about was Kreator. I could never remember which side of the good metal/bad metal fence they resided on. It wasn’t like record stores made that distinction for you. Don’t know why it took so long; but eventually, a couple people set the record straight. First was a sketchy homeless metalhead named Shane. If you hung out in downtown Berkeley during the mid to late ‘90s, you would definitely remember the guy with the pentagram tattooed on his forehead. That was Shane, and he at least got it in my head that Kreator was not a shitty ‘80s glam band. Future Instant Asshole drummer Bill Jackson was the one who not only told me that Kreator was actually a BADASS ‘80s thrash metal band, but he also told me which albums to check out. Crucial info. Didn’t want to pick up a shitty record and get a bad impression of the band, after all. The irony of a skinhead schooling me on old school thrash metal has never been lost on me.

At some point, I was combing used metal tapes at one of the Telegraph Avenue record stores and came across a used copy of Kreator’s very first album. If memory serves me correctly, I may have even left the store and found Bill on the street to ask him if Endless Pain was a good record. Just to be sure, you know? Whether or not it happened the way I (think I) remember it isn’t important. I got the damn tape and that’s what matters. And like so many others before it, my new find was almost instantly deposited into my trusty Walkman. Can’t do that with vinyl, can you?

You don’t need retrospective liner notes to know that Kreator were excited to be recording their very first album, and for the same label that released both Hellhammer and Celtic Frost. The ferocity of the music tells that story all by itself. Clearly, the band felt like they needed to make an impression quickly, so there was no time to waste on something like a drawn-out intro to start things off like Slayer did on Show No Mercy. Instead, Kreator just got right down to business with the title track and continued their rampage through nine more songs. Their approach was so much more savage in nature than that of Tom Araya and company. Slayer would just slit your throat and leave you to bleed to death. Kreator would go the extra mile by cutting your head off completely.

Although I cannot conceivably place any of Kreator’s albums above a crushing monstrosity like Reign in Blood, I do rate the Germans above Slayer for one reason—longevity. After three years and four awesome records, Slayer began writing individual songs that I liked, but the albums themselves were lacking overall. Kreator managed to keep kicking ass for five years and SIX records. I realize that’s not the same as writing and releasing the last word on thrash metal, but I think there’s something to be said for having enough ideas to keep going for a few years longer.

It was inevitable that the renewed interest in ‘80s hardcore that started more than ten years ago would eventually give way to metal from the same era. For a while there, lots of younger kids started their own bands that were inspired by the likes of Municipal Waste and Toxic Holocaust. While I don’t actually care for any of the new thrash bands that I’ve seen, it is true that some of the kids playing in these bands are really talented musicians at an early age. That should not be surprising, but I think people forget that the members of Kreator and other bands like Possessed weren’t even eighteen years old when they first started releasing records. Evil rock ‘n’ roll music like thrash metal, punk rock, and other similar noise isn’t for kids…which is exactly why they love playing it so much. It is the depraved teenage fury that makes albums like Endless Pain great, not the technical prowess.


1 comment:

Jonathan said...

About to listen to this for the first time. I don't know why I've never given Kreator a listen yet. Always appreciate your perspective on things.