Review Summary: Flags of Hate and Powerslaves
It seems pretty amazing that Kreator are still so popular among thrash fans, especially when you think of all the changes in direction they’ve been through over the years. From the extremity of Pleasure to Kill to the more complex Coma of Souls, from the industrial-influenced Renewal to the gothic tensions of Endorama and back to the old school thrash of Hordes of Chaos, Kreator always had an open mind towards the current trends in extreme music. This in fact proves how big they really are, given that even though with each change in direction a part of their fan base was naturally alienated, they still remain the most successful thrash band to come from Europe.
The new Kreator record is aware of the fact that today’s thrash acknowledges melody as an equally important ingredient as aggression. And even though they’ve used melodies extensively in the past, Kreator always did it in a way that accentuated their general poisonous vibe, competing even with Slayer in terms of bitterness and disharmony. For this record however, Mille admitted that he was influenced by classic metal acts such as Iron Maiden and this is evident throughout Phantom Antichrist, especially in the sections that involve twin guitars or acoustic breaks and intros.
This classic metal influence is in fact the most daring element in this record and, for better or for worse, that’ s what makes it different from the rest of their discography. Their trademark toxic riffing is here again, but it doesn’t dominate; there are multiple parts where Kreator’s unexpectedly gifted guitar duo, Mille Petrozza and Sami Yli-Simio lets itself loose and performs long melodic passages (in the form of instrumental sections, intros and choruses) before they explode with maniacal, hateful riffs. The result is quite interesting, but it doesn’t always pay off.
In songs like the title track, this interplay between aggression and melody delivers because it is restricted to the absolutely necessary. Death to The World delivers as well, but for the exact opposite reasons, since this song is typically venomous thrash until the end of the second chorus and then it gives way to very beautiful, long harmonized sections. Your Heaven in My Hell, Phantom Antichrist’s most adventurous track, is also one of the best cuts here and so is the highly energetic Victory Will Come. From Flood into Fire is a very pleasant surprise , with its slow, marching riff and the quasi-power metal chorus. Then again there are moments, like in Civilization Collapse or in Until our Paths Cross Again, where the equation aggression-melody is not well calculated; the one gets in the way of the other (and vice versa) and as a result, both the aforementioned tracks as well as United in Hate, ultimately sound totally ineffective. The fact that the combination “thrashy riffs for the verse/mellow guitars for the chorus” is used in the form of a recipe, makes these tracks sound also a bit too repetitive and uninspired. By the time the last track kicks in, you may have come to a point where you wish for more Mille going berserk the way he did in Hordes of Chaos.
Phantom Antichrist is by no means a step in the wrong direction. If anything it is very impressive initially because it is the first time the band sounds so rich and interesting musically. For their own good, Kreator never cease to experiment with new ideas and challenge themselves, and honestly, for the most part, they do it quite successfully. Having progressed technically, they’ve added dynamics to their music and refused to settle or play it safe. The fact that there are a few mishaps along the way only indicates that Kreator just haven’t mastered their new found style yet.