Whilst what has been seen as the catalyst for the thrash revival was hardly positive at first glance – a benefit concert under the banner of ‘Thrash Of The Titans’ (a play on the Clash Of The Titans tours from the 1990s) was held in August 2001 for Chuck Billy of Testament and Death’s Chuck Schuldiner who were both suffering from cancer – it brought together luminaries from the Bay Area thrash metal scene that had dominated the 1980s. As well as the positive support for their stricken brothers, friendships were rekindled and partial reformations occurred for the event which unknowingly at the time lit the touch paper.
That benefit gig for Chuck and Chuck (RIP) may have been that catalyst; those rekindled friendships and partial reformations saw bands that had not been together for years reforming, releasing albums, touring and before the world knows it, there is a renaissance in full swing which continues to this day and some two decades on from that benefit show. Thrash never truly went away but many of those bands that dominated the 1980s were pushed onto different roads. Let us not mince words – thrash granddaddies Metallica changed not just thrash but metal itself with their multi-platinum self-titled ‘black’ album in 1991 but there were winds of change in terms of metal with alternative having the upper hand and forcing metal – and not just thrash – to look for different inspiration.
Kreator had rounded off the 1980s with the superb Extreme Aggression in 1989 and followed it with the equally excellent Coma Of Souls in 1990 but it would be the last album in the thrash style that the Germans were known for and the band spent the remainder of the decade playing music that was hardly recognisable as Kreator from the previous decade. While this may sound negative – and not all fans were sold on Kreator’s output from the 1990s – other thrash bands were on their own new journey, Slayer flirted with nu-metal; Anthrax dug into the alternative; Megadeth took to a more commercial sound and Testament just went heavier overall – Kreator went for a darker and more gothic aesthetic, a complete change of pace with uncomfortable soundscapes wrapped in a claustrophobic and earthy production. Albums such as 1992’s Renewal and 1995’s Cause For Conflict were not easy listening but showed a band that took the opportunity to spread their darkened wings to other musical territory. By 1999s Endorama, Kreator had their feet on both sides of the fence in that there were faint but familiar thrash tropes as well as the well known rasp of vocalist/guitarist Mille Petrozza beginning to re-emerge but the album still retained some of the previous three records’ influences. Endorama remains an engaging listen and especially when heard in retrospect. It is easy to breathe a sigh of relief at the release of Violent Revolution, a thrash metal band taking a decade out to be something else and then returning to what they are known for. The Kreator albums from the 1990s period are not as likely to be name checked in the same way that Terrible Certainty or Coma Of Souls and are likely to polarise but should not be disregarded and all credit should be given to the band for diving into the rabbit hole of creativity.
The original release of Violent Revolution on 15 September 2001 saw the return of Kreator as a thrash band but rather than just picking up where they left off in 1990 – they did in one sense but with a renewed sense of vigour and vitality, it was thrash but with more melody. Violent Revolution was the sound of Kreator taking their past and thrusting it into the future and as Petrozza put it “to get back to the reason why we began this band in the first place.” There were some significant changes for Violent Revolution. The band now featured guitarist Sami Yli-Sirniö (replacing Tommy Vetereli), the band were signed to SPV/Steamhammer but Kreator’s genius move was to have Andy Sneap handle production duties. It was somehow fitting that Sneap who has become something of a metal über-producer in terms of modern metal and therefore overseeing the Kreator’s rebirth for the new millennium. With a title coming from a John F Kennedy quote in 1962 “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable” and the same cover artist that had created 1990’s Coma Of Souls, Kreator knew that they had a good album which proved correct when it became their highest chart entry in the home country of Germany.
Violent Revolution is a lot more than a good album, that aspect of rebirth stands so tall, modern metal for sure but modern thrash where the infusion of melody with aggression is not a clash of ideals, it is perfectly welded to create the songs and push forward the sound. Going back to the band’s 1980s classic output and it is of course Kreator and not necessarily frozen in time; the age of thrash was raw and uncompromising, Europe had a gnarlier, punkier sound than their American brethren. Violent Revolution was not the same sound just with the edges rounded out, it was the sound of a band that had exiled themselves from thrash and returned with that new sense of purpose and resurrecting their characteristics for a new age; they were honed and lean, the riffs were thicker, the pulsating guitar on opener Reconquering The Throne blows from the speakers while the double barrelled drums pummel and bleed; the midsection duelling of guitar as opposed to squealing solos lets the song breathe. The title track is still a live staple to this day with a relatively calm introduction then a thunderous riff, the chunk underneath one of Petrozza’s best vocal performances and a simple chorus repeating Violent Revolution is so head banging-ly good, an anthem without actually overplaying the fact. Violent Revolution was Kreator for a new age, underneath the thrash there is an almost power-metal slight twist and the mixture of fast and slower tempos does add a modern sheen and a manner of depth to the album although there are points where there are solos that the typical thrash sound would go screeching into them and instead Kreator flipped this on its head and slowed down on some songs.
While no self respecting fan is unlikely to own a copy of Violent Revolution this re-release for its 20th Anniversary (near enough) comes with a wealth of extras that will have any fan of the band frothing at the mouth. Unfortunately, none of these extras were available for review but as a band that has the live reputation that they do (anyone who witnessed their stunning ‘band of the weekend’ set at Bloodstock 2021 will attest) the live material is unlikely to disappoint. With the digi-pak CD containing no less than 17 live cuts from Brazil, Korea and the Wacken Festival in Germany, this re-release has enough going for it in terms of extra content. For wax-heads, Violent Revolution also sees a vinyl release on a number of variants. The ultimate is the box set which not only features the album and the live material on CD and LP but two extra CDs under the banner of Bootleg Revolution boasting a whopping 41 live tracks recorded in Istanbul and at Waldrock. Again, as these were not available for review so how “bootleg” is bootleg is something of an unknown. Oh, and if that is not enough, there is a 20 page comic book entitled Graphic Violence Volume 1 adding some visual violence to the sonic variety.
Violent Revolution became the jumping off point for the Kreator we know today that continued to hone their sound into follow on albums Enemy Of God ; Hordes Of Chaos ; Phantom Antichrist  and the band’s latest release Gods Of Violence in 2017. With a new release touted for the summer of 2022, Kreator’s – to quote Mille Petrozza – “second career” – does not look like it will be ending any time soon.
For now, wave the flag of hate once more and re-join the Violent Revolution.
Violent Revolution is released by Nuclear Blast Records on 21 January, 2022