Sound — 8
"Gods of Violence" is album number fourteen for legendary oddballs Kreator, their first in five years since the much acclaimed "Phantom Antichrist."
Although mostly remembered for their influence and impact on the Euro-thrash scene in the '80s, Kreator have run an impressive gamut of sounds in their long career but it's only since the late 2000's that they went back to a more distinct sound. Such a turn around was this that it was felt in "Phantom Antichrist," where the sound was still recognisably gripping thrash but modern, complex and unique amongst active contemporaries.
"Gods of Violence" is following the same curve essentially, with a bit more maturation and manifestation. Largely this can be pinned down to just one aspect of the band: lead guitarist Sami Yli-Sirniö.
It must be said that the earliest Kreator albums have not aged the same way as its peers. One proposition for this is that, at the time, Kreator didn't have its unique writing voice yet. However, "Phantom Antichrist" showed us how their collectively European origins bring together a much more distinct sound when compiled on that thrash base.
This is where Yli-Sirniö comes in. Bringing the harmonic and melodic style of Finnish power/melodic death metal into this aggressive and surprisingly fast German legacy of thrash adds a surprisingly subtle layer of complexity. The best example of this is the title track itself - "Gods of Violence" - which balances the slightly techy aspect of "Phantom Antichrist" with the aforementioned blossoming of powerful and rich Finnish melody.
By no means does this make the album "soft."
Sure, there's some acoustic and clean guitar passages, a surprising orchestral opener (written by Francesco Ferrini of Fleshgod Apocalypse no less) and a big focus on dynamic song structure and layered harmonies but the hand of Petrozza brings everything together with strong, dissonant riffing and his unique vocal style.
While the concept and premise is strong, there is a bit of a flaw with the songs themselves: they're just a little bit too similar to each other. There's a few deviations such as Swedish sounding "Hail to the Hordes" and Iron Maiden-esque semi-ballad "Death Becomes My Light" but otherwise, these songs are full on thrash in the same tempo veins for pretty much all of the record. Few tend to stand out and the ones that do tend to be the ones with the most attention to the complexity of composition within. The aforementioned title track, "Army of Storms" and "World War Now" are the best examples of powerful and interesting composition on this album.
That said, this is still a high quality project and the production matches. Clarity, weight and punchiness are all where they should be with a strong emphasis on rhythm and the dynamic between vocals and instruments. One of the better modern thrash mixes going around as well, one that uses a lot with a little and really makes the instances of melody really bloom in the listeners ears.
Lyrics — 7
As one of the originators of the "Big 3" of German thrash, Mille Petrozza is known for his very aggressive, biting vocal technique. It's a bit hard to pin down, for it's not a scream, a growl but there's no real held note for it to be singing either. It's not even really a shout as his overall pitch range lands around the middle.
This is an interesting contrast to American thrash which tends to have soaring clean vocals or shouts in its thrash or, more recently, high shrieks and mid range growls (such as progressive acts Vektor or Revocation). His style has made room for the melodic aspect of the guitar work to shine through, in essence, with the same balance as Swedish melodic death metal.
His performance is still as strong as ever, if a little rhythmically tiresome, although thankfully there's even fewer instances of his uh, clean singing.
Lyrically, well... it's a thrash album called "Gods of Violence": what do you expect? While certainly very catchy in its phrasing, such as on "World War Now," the overall lyrical content is kind of lacking in solidity. Some of it is metaphorical, some of it's an allegory for something else and some of it has little relation with the rest of the vaguely connecting themes. Truth be told, this is a trend that fits to a lot of modern albums, especially since most of the actual "dangerous" or life-reflective lyrical sources are usually dealt with in other genres. It feels of little use to critique it.
Overall Impression — 8
"Gods of Violence" is certainly a good album, a good one in the sense that it works wonders with what it gave itself but is hampered a little bit by a varying standard in song quality. None of it is technically bad or anything but it seems like a little more spark is needed or a little extra push on the writing side of things to really bring about a real modern classic from Kreator.
Songs to look out for: "World War Now," "Gods of Violence," "Army of Storms," "Hail to the Hordes."