There is plenty of thrash metal out there; too much in fact, as it's become the most overpopulated zone of heavy music. That said, there's thrash and then there's Kreator. Mille Petrozza (vocals, guitars, lyrics) and Jürgen "Ventor" Reil (drums) have always sought to reinvent the wheel while remaining true to their roots. Despite lineup changes -- the band currently includes Sami Yli–Sirniö on guitars and bassist Christian "Speesy" Giesler -- they've always managed to inject vitality, personality, and innovation to this beloved yet musically restricted terrain.
Five years was a long time to wait for a new Kreator album. Given the manic energy of 2016's Violence Unleashed EP, which whet fans' appetites for more of the good stuff, it seemed even longer. Produced by Jens Bogren, Gods of Violence is the album the other lineage thrash acts could never make again. It's impossible to conceive of Metallica or Slayer pulling off anything this intense or imaginative. The 11-song set belongs in the line that began with 2001's Violent Revolution and continued through 2005's Enemy of God and 2012's Phantom Antichrist. (The 2009 release Hordes of Chaos, recorded live in a single studio setting, is the only outlier.) The music here is almost a companion to Enemy of God as it balances its deadly assault with melodic death metal.
Appropriately, it commences with an anthem. "Apocalypticon," an intro complete with martial drums, a military choir, and razored guitars, with orchestral work from Fleshgod Apocalypse's Francesco Paoli and Francesco Ferrini, just stops seemingly in the middle and gives way to the brutal "World War Now," with its triple-time chug and churn. Petrozza's riffs are as meaty and physical as ever. His vocals ride just enough above the mix to discern his hostile lyrics. In the refrain, the pace increases. First single "Satan Is Real" is all swinging groove and knotty twin-guitar hell, but "Totalitarian Terror" delivers one of the catchiest and most punishing riffs the band has ever laid down. "Lion with Eagle Wings" nods at both classic Judas Priest and later NWOBHM with power metal asides and soaring choruses, all while waving the thrash flag high. Closer "Death Becomes My Light" is a gallop worthy of the entire price of entry all by itself. The way melody and guitar harmonies and riffs are threaded through these tracks is admirable. No. It's killer. All told, Gods of Violence proves well worth the wait. Kreator proves -- yet again -- that the kids still have a lot to learn when it comes to keeping thrash viable.