This week I’m going back 21 years to an album that revitalized a band’s fortunes and heralded a coming revival in thrash metal. That revival is still in full swing for both the genre and the band. An old dog came out of the wilderness of the ’90’s, learned a few new tricks, and kickstarted a new era for their already legendary name. It is also another case of an album getting new visibility due to a sorely-needed vinyl reissue that saw the light of day in late January.
Kreator – Violent Revolution
Released September 25, 2001 via Steamhammer/SPV Records
My Favorite Tracks – Violent Revolution, All Of The Same Blood, Servant In Heaven – King In Hell
Kreator were like many thrash acts that saw their fortunes fade in the 1990’s. The band had a well-regarded album with Coma Of Souls in 1990 but then began incorporating more experimental elements into their music for the remainder of the decade. While opinions vary widely on the four albums released through the rest of the 20th Century, the band had fallen from their perch as one of thrash and speed metal’s pioneering acts with their savage 80’s output.
The turn of the millennium saw Kreator refocus and return to their thrash roots. This wasn’t simply to be a nostalgia trip, though – the band looked to the north and the sounds of Swedish melodic death and thrash. The Gothenburg Sound had been one of metal’s few bright spots through the latter half of the 90’s and it fit just fine with Kreator’s thrash ethos.
The result would be Violent Revolution. Just as heavy metal entered an upswing period in the early 2000’s, Kreator were there to help lead the charge for thrash once again. This new effort would recapture the attention of lapsed fans and also find a new, younger fanbase eager to headbang along to the newly invigorated thrash legends.
Thrash metal resumes for business on the opening track Reconquering The Throne. The song feels like something that could have come from Coma Of Souls. Mille Petrozza’s scream of “reconquering the throne” sounds as much like a mission statement as a song and then the Swedish influence appears in the next guitar passages.
The Patriarch is a brief instrumental that introduces the album’s title track and magnum opus. Violent Revolution is an absolute triumph of the band’s new sound, combining the savage intent of the band who wrote songs like Flag Of Hate and Endless Pain with the new melodic push. The song not only serves to redefine Kreator’s sound but is, for better or worse, a song that has come to embody today’s dark themes of uncertainty and now all-out war.
The album continues to visit the dark and unholy with All Of The Same Blood, depicting a group of “totalitarian psychopaths” destroying everything. It is again a tune that both has the classic Kreator sound and also offers more melodic interludes to keep things fresh. Servant In Heaven – King In Hell employs the well-known metal theme of blasphemy. The song slows things down a bit to a militant march through the contrast between light and dark, Heaven and Hell.
Second Awakening continues the look at the world and society’s ills and wars over the past few thousand years. Ghetto War is another thrash marching tune that envisions some sort of uprising of the poor against the powers that be. It’s unclear if this is in reference to the modern day or a historical look at the Warsaw ghetto uprising during World War II.
Replicas Of Life sees the album’s longest runtime at over 7 minutes and also a brooding introduction that then goes into the same melodic thrash the band have now established. This song maintains the album’s themes of crushing despair, hopelessness and the living end embodied in society’s gloom. The next song Slave Machinery continues the plunge into dystopian horror, this time casting an eye to the industrial complex and its twisted, horrific form.
Violent Revolution enters its home stretch with Bitter Sweet Revenge, a song that leaves the dystopian observations aside and looks at the all-consuming quest for vengeance instead. It’s the Batman story told in music form. Mind On Fire highlights what seems to be a drug-induced fantasy trip, though still set among the ruins of society that the album uses as a backdrop. We close with System Decay, an absolute scorcher that wraps up the hellscape with a nice little bow.
Kreator struck gold with their 2001 set and helped re-establish thrash metal as a force going into the new century. They would soon be joined by many old hands like Exodus, Testament and Overkill before a whole new generation of metalheads embraced the classic thrash sound and brought the genre back from the past. The 2000s saw thrash enter the same space as black and the also-resurgent death metal to push metal as a whole forward into a new golden age. Sure it wasn’t the heights of the 80’s, but heavy metal found a more than willing crowd ready to embrace the wide variety of styles on display.
Violent Revolution set a course for Kreator going forward, one that they have yet to abandon or even tweak much. The past two decades have seem much of the same savage thrash married with Gothenburg elements that this album put on offer. The band would into the 2010’s seeing new highs in album sales and chart success and solidifying themselves as one of thrash’s most noteworthy acts.