Kreator have been on a real upward trajectory artistically speaking for the last decade or so. Since 2001's superb Violent Revolution album and the establishment of their current line-up, everything that the band have put out has been of the utmost quality, keeping to a fairly strict but non-intrusive formula and just knocking out a boatload of brilliant songs.
Now in 2012, with their thirteenth full-length studio album Phantom Antichrist, the legendary German Thrash Metal band continue in the same vein that has kept the last three albums so absolutely vital and deliver more of the same formula that mixes their classic 1980s style with elements of Gothenburg style, an intermittent touch of groove and a few sections with clean vocals over arpeggiated bits in their too for variety.
Each of the albums that follow that aforementioned formula also puts enough of an individual twist on it to have its own identity though, and I guess Phantom Antichrist's twist would be that it isn't just as fast, isn't just as heavy as often and is a lot more focused on the high-end. It's a more melodic and musical take of the Enemy Of God/Hordes Of Chaos musical direction.
Despite the title track leading with speed and low end, there's a lot of time given on the album overall to slow sections, little guitar vibratos, teasing rolls or little sneaky Hi-Hat strikes. If you are all about the Thrash side of things don't worry though, it isn't as if the band abandoned Thrash, there is a heck of a lot of it in there too. The band did a clever job of balancing mixing things up with keeping what was working well.
I have nothing but praise for this album, on first listen it already gave off "Album Of The Year Candidate" feelings and still grew on me with each subsequent spin. The performance is so energetic and pounding on the heavier songs and so subtle and studied on the more musical moments, the production is absolutely top-rate, Mille's vocals are up to the same standard of the recent few albums and the lead guitar work is inspired as always. Furthermore it is a pretty perfect length and each individual song is excellent so there is nothing in the way of filler. The album is lean, varied and perfectly formed.
If this happened to be the first Kreator album that you ever heard I am sure it would leave a damn fine first impression. If you are an existing fan it is definitely more of the same flawless formula that has been working so well on one hand, and yet also a bit of a surprise at the same time, which just helps make it fresh and worthwhile.
Highlights include the superb `Death To The World,' which has some brilliant lead guitar work and a surprising mid-section, the proggy closer `Until Our Paths Cross Again' as well as the groovy and complex `The Few The Proud The Broken' and which is exemplary of a few tracks on the album that take some of the spirit of Power Metal festival-pleasing choruses but applies it to a mostly mid-tempo Thrash number.
Overall, this is a really great album from a truly consistent and focused band that know how to write good metal songs. The only thing which I could imagine anyone ever finding bad about this album would be the idea of the band repeating themselves, for example there is a riff in `Civilizations Collapse' that sounds like one in `Coma Of Souls' and one in `United In Hate' that sounds like one in `Replicas Of Life' etc but the band pull it off so well it doesn't bother me personally. If you usually find riff-recycling a massive pain then maybe the album won't seem just as flawless as I make it out to be, so that is something to take into consideration.
As long as you liked the past few Kreator albums and aren't either sick of them or shocked at something that isn't exactly as heavy as their last two albums even if it makes up for it in other areas however, then Phantom Antichrist should be a no-brainer love affair right from the get-go.
In summary; If you want some perfectly crafted German Metal, with absolutely superb lead guitar work, great drum work and the occasional moments of sing-along grandeur or softer moments brushing shoulders with pounding yet intelligent and varied Thrash, then this is certainly worth picking up.
*** If you should happen to buy the Special Edition version, you will get one card-sleeve housing two individual digipak cases. The first has the actual album and the second has the bonus DVD.
The DVD features a twenty-minute making-of documentary called `Conquerers Of The Ice.' Although it is a making-of there isn't that much in-studio footage, maybe around a total of three minutes. The bulk of the feature is three separate interviews that are cut together with studio footage between cuts. The producer Jens Borgen is interviewed at Fascination Street Studios where the album was recorded, and Mille Petrozza is interviewed on a frozen Ocean, while guitarist Sami Yli-Sirniö is interviewed in front of a Swedish castle. Topics covered include recording in Sweden, avoiding cheesiness, Osama Bin-Laden's death, the Greek economy and simultaneously tracking all members at once while recording. It isn't the most substantial documentary in the world, but it is a lot better than the one from Hordes Of Chaos.
The DVD also features a live concert from Waken Open Air Festival 2011, intercut with four tracks from Waken 2006, but done in a way that you mightn't even notice if it wasn't pointed out to you. This isn't just the live-feed slapped onto a disc however, the footage and sound have been treated, edited and tidied up and it is actually a really good feature. It may cut to the monitors a little too often and not feature all that much off of their 80s albums, but it is a damn fine live show nonetheless.
The tracklisting is:
1. Intro Choir Of The Damned
2. Hordes Of Chaos
3. War Curse
4. Endless Pain (with a riff from Coma Of Souls as an intro)
5. Pleasure To Kill
6. Destroy What Destroys You
7. Intro The Patriach
8. Violent Revolution
9. People Of The Lie
10. Europe After The Rain
12. Reconquering The Throne (with a riff from Terrible Certainty as an intro)
13. Flag of Hate/Tormentor
The concert lasts 53.50 and with the improved visuals is probably actually a better DVD than their Live Kreation Revisioned Glory release. I highly recommend getting this bonus version if you can get it for cheap enough and as long as you enjoyed the Hordes Of Chaos album that makes up a lot of its track listing. ***