Decades into their game-changing career, German metal legends Kreator find themselves more successful and influential than ever. They’ve stuck to their guns, weathered the trends and outlasted their peers–never once wavering from the ferocious noise that excited them as teens. If anything, that thirst for sonic warfare is just as strong, if not stronger, today. Where others have suffered from creative malnourishment and artistic uncertainty, something which even metal’s biggest and best are prone to, Kreator have always charged full steam ahead–thanks to the red-eyed conviction and fearless determination of founding singer and guitarist Miland ‘Mille’ Petrozza .On 1985 debut Endless Pain, the Essen innovators created the template for extreme noise to come, fusing elements of thrash and black metal in ways that had never been heard before. Their sophomore album of the following year, Pleasure To Kill, became one of the landmark albums of 1986–making metal history alongside key releases from Metallica, Slayer and Megadeth. And onwards they marched, bringing hellish anthems to the masses in every album that followed, with a track record few could ever rival.
The last decade has been a particularly exciting time for the group, with 2012’sPhantom Antichrist proving how they could embrace modern production techniques and move with the times without forsaking the underground spirit and defiance which made them a household name in the first place. Its successor, 2017’sGods Of Violence, saw them topping the German charts for the very first time in their career, a feat virtually unheard for a band of such thunderous intensity. Returning this year with fifteen thopus Hate Über Alles – which marks their first studio album with Frédéric Leclercq (ex-Dragonforce, Sinsaenum) on bass, joining Mille, guitarist Sami Yli-Sirniö and drummer Jürgen ‘Ventor’ Reil–the metal titans are once again channeling an unholy heaviness strong enough to tilt the earth off-axis...
“We still like to challenge ourselves, I guess that’s what it comes down to,” says Mille, when quizzed on the secret to their longevity and flawless credentials. “Every time we make an album, it feels like the first one. We take our time, it’s important to have something to say rather than releasing things just for the sake of putting out something new. Quality always over quantity. Why put out meaningless, boring albums? I’d rather build on the essence of what I’m trying to say and what I want people to feel. That’s why we sound so angry and edgy.”
Angry and edgy are certainly words that epitomize what’s at the very core of Kreator’s musical DNA. But even with the legacy behind them, they’re not ones to rest on their laurels and bask in the light of past glories–even when concocting the follow-up to a chart-topping creative and commercial peak...
“We didn’t feel any pressure in regards to the success of the previous album,” continues Mille. “Of course we’d like to top the success and intensity, but it’s not really something we think or talk about. It’s more of an internal competition. My gut feeling when writing music is: if I like it, the fans will too. That’s the only measurement. So it’s not really pressure, more of a nice healthy competition with ourselves. If something doesn’t feel heavy or passionate enough, it won’t be good enough for us or our fans.”
As for the name Hate Über Alles, which translates as Hate Above All, it’s a phrase which came to Mille after a closer look at the world around him. With political and personal ideologies exacerbated by the age of the Internet, he notes how we are all now forced to exist in a society edging further and further into the extreme.“ Hate Über Alles reflects the time we’re living in,” says Mille.“ Everything is really loud and aggressive. The way we communicate has changed, thanks to social media. It causes a lot of imbalance. The world is in a state of disrepair. Life is not harmonic right now, it’s disharmonic... that’s where I was going with the title.”
Bassist Frédéric Leclercq makes his studio debut with the band on Hate Über Alles, following his first appearance on stage as a member of Kreator at the Santiago Gets Louder Festival in October 2019.For Mille, it was wonderful to see the French virtuoso bringing an abundance of energy and passion into the sessions at Hansa Studios–the Berlin facility where David Bowie famously recorded Low and Heroes–with producer Arthur Rizk (Power Trip, Cavalera Conspiracy) lending his expertise behind the desk.
“Frédéric brought a lot to the table, especially in terms of arrangements,” reflects Mille. “We even co-wrote a song together called Dying Planet, which is the last song on the album and one of my favorite tracks. I think there is so much more to come from him and me collaborating–just you wait and see! He’s a fresh breath of air...someone who is very talented and musical.”
As for other highlights on their new masterpiece, Mille cites Midnight Sun, Strongest Of The Strong and Conquer And Destroyas personal favorites–the former of which showing how this band, despite their rich heritage and well-honed sonic profile, aren’t afraid of trying new things. “Midnight Sun has a female voice, which we’ve never used in Kreator before,” he adds. “We collaborated with a singer called Sofia Portanet who lives in Berlin. The rhythm is really unique and there’s also a great story in the lyrics. We’re not looking to reinvent ourselves but we like to find a new focus within the same sound, coming at our music from a slightly different angle.”
Unlike pretty much every other release scheduled for 2022,this is no lockdown album. The majority of its11 tracks were written and demoed before the pandemic–and though the last 18 months have been a frustrating time for musicians around the world (“you start feeling useless because you miss the fans,” explains Mille), Kreator have embraced the inevitable and found inspiration where many have struggled. “Most of this album was ready by the end of 2020 and we were supposed to tour in2021, but then we moved everything back,” he summarizes. “I’m glad we did because that allowed more fine-tuning. I can actually see the positive aspects of these crazy times–it’s allowed us to explore themes even deeper and come up with something monumental. That was the focus point for this album, treating our music almost as therapy. We’ve missed playing. We took all of that emotion and put it into the final versions of these songs–and you can hear it .Hope, anger and power...it’s all there.”
It most certainly is. Conquering and destroying in the way only Kreator can, Hate Über Alles will undoubtedly sit proudly as the finest metal of its year. And so onwards they march once more...
It goes without saying that the global metal scene would not be the same without Sepultura. For 35 years now, the Brazilian icons are not only a band revered worldwide; they have been, are and forever will be at the very forefront of Thrash Metal, trailblazing ever since they released their long-since legendary debut album “Morbid Visions” in 1986.
While quickly establishing themselves as leaders of the second wave of Thrash already in the late eighties, to this day they never came even close to stagnation. “Quadra”, their mighty new undertaking, is proof of a will unbroken, a thirst unquenched and a quality so staggeringly high it’s a wonder this band doesn’t implode. Now three albums deep into what may very well be their strongest incarnation yet – uniting the talents of old-school members Andreas Kisser (guitars, vocals) and Paulo Xisto Pinto Jr. (bass), vocal force of nature Derrick Leon Green (vocals) and drummer Eloy Casagrande – Sepultura are an unleashed power to be reckoned with, uniting bucketloads of experience and youthful vigour in a totally revived way.
“On ‘Quadra’, we felt the urge to revisit that old thrash feeling of ‘Beneath the Remains’ or ‘Arise“,’ only seen through the eyes of today,” Andreas Kisser utters the magic words. “Add to that the tribal percussion, the orchestral elements, the choirs, the melodies and the clean vocals and you get a thorough run-through of our entire career, backed by a very contemporary approach.” Fuelled by an energy almost uncanny for a band that has been active for so long, Sepultura storm through a contemporary thrash monument, backed by sublime melodies, a very eerie atmosphere and a fiendishly high level of technicality. Kisser is appreciating these compliments, still maintaining his very down to earth approach. “We don’t heed the past and we don’t try to be preoccupied by the future too much,” he shrugs. “We’re in the now, trying every day to make Sepultura a little bit better. That’s what keeping us strong.”
And that’s what they have been doing for the last 30+ years. Album after album, tour after tour, no gap in between records longer than three years. “Music is all we do,” Kisser states matter-of-factly. “If it wouldn’t be for Sepultura,” he laughs, “I would be a sad and lonely guy. Sepultura is what we are.” And “Quadra” is living testimony to that. The old Sepultura echo through the very fibre of the songs in all its raw and morbid splendour, but yet it’s the present, the experienced and refined beast that is Sepultura in 2020 that’s blasting out thrash metal anthems for a fucked-up age.
“There is no reason to put out an album unless you‘ve got something new to tell. A lot of bands out there are slaves of themselves, trying to repeat their formula. That‘s stupid! You have to respect the past but you are here now. So... do something different! I mean, we have an amazing history, we did so many different albums with different elements that all added up to the experience we gained over the years. And in the studio, we respect what we did but we are never afraid of trying out new things.”
With now 15 albums under their belts, Sepultura are the work horses of the metal world, always ready to attack. In many ways, “Quadra” broadens the vision the Brazilian thrash troopers had on “Machine Messiah” (2017), again relying on the impeccable talent of Swedish producing giant Jens Bogren and his Fascination Street Studios. “He is so full of passion, it’s unbelievable, man,” Kisser raves. “He’s really there, he really cares about the projects he’s doing. For Sepultura, he’s like the fifth member of the band. The chemistry was so amazing, 99 percent of what we were trying do to actually worked. That was insane!” Even after more than 30 years at the forefront of international thrash, guitarist Kisser sounds positively baffled by working with Bogren. “We felt like we were in our rehearsal room.”
Bringing together a monumental grandeur and a wild, untamed ferocity, Sepultura stepped up their game musically – and conceptually as well. “We were possessed by the number four, by the numerology of it”, Kisser starts to explain. “I divided the album into four parts as if we were doing a double vinyl. Side one is the pure and raw thrash side. Side two brings in the rhythms and percussion from our ‘Roots’ era. Three is getting a bit experimental and four brings forth the melodies and the acoustic guitars.” With John North’s book “Quadrivium” as a further source of inspiration, Sepultura dive deep into a mystical world full of hidden meanings. “You have four seasons and twelve month in a year just to pick one example. A lot of stuff in our culture is divided like that.”
Plus, Quadra also is the Portuguese word for ‘sport court’ that by definition is a limited area of land, with regulatory demarcations, where according to a set of rules the game takes place,” he adds. “We all come from different Quadras. The countries, all nations with their borders and traditions; culture, religions, laws, education and a set of rules where life takes place.” In the Quadra of thrash, however, we all are the same. And we bow our heads in unison to the mighty leader that is Sepultura.