Monday, April 20, 2009

Kreator - Endless Pain (1985)

Kreator was formed in 1982, under the name Tyrant. They soon changed it to Tormentor. In the beginning, the band members - Ventor, Rob and Mille - had no real ambitions. It was simply a way for them to kill time. Outside of a few original tunes that they had, they often played covers songs from Judas Priest and Venom. They were also quite inspired by Mercyful Fate. Being a very active tape trader, Mille sent copies of their early demos out, in exchange for material from Raven and some of the Brazilian Black/Death Metal bands. A friend of the band sent a copy to Noise Records, who then showed interest in hearing more. The band worked hard to compose more original songs, which would be recorded in March 1985 in Berlin, produced by the same Horst Müller that was responsible for Apocalyptic Raids. Thankfully, he had much better musicians to work with, this time. It was at this point that the band chose the name Kreator, as the name Tormentor was already being used by another band. The result of the recording was the Endless Pain L.P.

Released in October 1985, this record has some influence from the early Black Metal bands, but this has to be considered the true birth of Teutonic Thrash. There are some Satanic and anti-Christian messages in the lyrics, but this isn't the dominant theme. The vocals are highly influenced by the early Black Metal bands and, possibly, more vicious. However, I would hesitate to toss Endless Pain into the First Wave of Black Metal, even if it is far more evil than anything recorded by Hellhammer (with the exception of "Triumph of Death"). The songs are more structured than the first releases from Sodom and destruction, and the cover art is most fitting to this sound. There are some influences of NWOBHM melody to be found amid the chaos and brutality, as well. If anything, this can be considered Black/Thrash.

My first exposure to Kreator was Extreme Aggression, which is far more melodic and featuring less extreme vocals. About a year or so later, my best friend came over and tossed Endless Pain into the stereo. This was almost like discovering a new band, altogether. It soon became my favorite Kreator album, even after I got my hands on Pleasure To Kill. The sound was far more raw than what I was expecting and the one feeling that it most conveyed was one of violence.

"Endless Pain" explodes from the speakers, almost unexpectedly. For something so raw and barbaric, there is a lot of melody and structure hiding beneath the rough sound and the demonic vocals. On no other Kreator album do the vocals sound this blasphemous and evil. The guitar solo shreds through your flesh, before a very memorable riff change leads the song to its conclusion.

The next song is one of the most memorable. "Total Death" begins with an interesting intro before blasting forth at full speed. This is pure thrash, with vocals even more demonic and evil than on the previous song. Here, it must be mentioned that both Ventor and Mille handled the vocal duties on this album. They would do the same on the following record as well. I can't say for certain, but I believe Mille is the one with the harsher vocals of the two. About half-way through, there is a nice thrash break, reminiscent of Kill 'Em All. This helps to add to the feeling of the song. Moments later, another hellish guitar solo slices through flesh and bone.

"Storm of the Beast" begins with only the drums and bass before the guitar comes in, playing open, extended chords that help to create an atmosphere of impending doom. The pace of the song increases quite a bit, after this introductory section. Again, the guitar melodies are violent yet they retain a sense of melody. The chorus of this song is very memorable and will likely remain in your mind long after hearing this. This is the longest song on the record, and one of the few that includes the slower, more subdued moments. Of course, it is also filled with violent thrashing and wicked solos. One can hear the influence from Slayer's Show No Mercy, quite clearly on this track.

This classic album continues with "Tormentor". This is a very straight-forward song which is also one of the most memorable ones. This is, probably, my favorite Kreator song. The opening riffs almost sound like something from the first Metallica album, yet faster and more lethal. The vocals are evil and demonic, filled with hatred and utter blackness. The lyrics are some of the best of the record as well.

"Baphomet's calling, death is now real
Helldogs and demons, waiting to kill
Pentagrams shining, Lucifer smiles
Fucking the virgin, rip our her eyes"

This brief song manages to even make Sodom's In the Sign of Evil seem tame, by comparison, and it destroys anything Destruction ever did. The solo is one of the longer and more intricate ones found on Endless Pain, suiting the feeling perfectly.

Side A concludes with "Son of Evil", which begins in a similar fashion to the previous song, while being easily distinguishable. This sounds like Venom, sped up 1000 times. There is a nice change of tempo, a minute into the song, featuring hellish lead solos and a slow build up. There is a brief mid-paced section before the song speeds up once more, with yet another riff. This is one of the more complex songs on the record, showing a good sense of musicianship and songwriting for such a young band. The false ending was a nice touch, as well.

"Flag of Hate" starts out Side B. This is one of Kreator's best-known songs. After a short drum bit, this one blasts forth at full speed. Mille's evil vocals are more fitting to this sound than Ventor's approach, though that may be my personal preference. It is interesting to hear the NWOBHM riffs being played at such a furious pace, nearly incinerating the instruments. They would go on to re-record this song for the Flag of Hate E.P. though there's nothing wrong with the original version.

The next song is "Cry War", which features a slower pace than the previous songs. This adds yet another dynamic to the record and displays the band's versatility. Of course, this doesn't last long. The song alternates between mid-paced and hyper-paced riffs, flowing back and forth, seamlessly. The solo blends in, being utilized at just the right moment.

"Bonebreaker" begins with a riff that sounds very reminiscent of Venom, yet this alternates with a more vicious riff and, of course, Mille's terrifying vocals, which are as bloody evil as it gets. The solos are intense and the overall feeling of the song is filled with tension. It imbues the listener with a violent urge to go out and kill anyone and everyone in sight.

The next song begins with a riff that sounds reminiscent of Metallica's "No Remorse". Before the first verse of "Living In Fear", the riff changes a couple times. The lyrics aren't particularly advanced, but it may just be the grammar use. Either way, the feeling is there.

"Inverted crosses
The reaper will rise
The war of the demons
Will make you die"

This says it all, right here. At this point of the album, one would expect filler. Since there are ten songs, this would be taken for granted as inevitability. However, the album is never lacking in either creativity or energy. A couple songs may stand out as exceptionally good, but there isn't a bad, or even mediocre, song to be found on here.

The album concludes with "Dying Victims", which further explores the theme of fear and death or, more accurately, the sense of dread that precedes the act of dying; the terror that you feel in anticipation of your own demise. This song shows the band attempting to expand their sound even more, incorporating a brief acoustic guitar melody into the intro. The main thrash riff of this song sounds reminiscent of "Tormentor", a feeling that is only amplified as Mille is the vocalist of this track as well. However, this song is a bit more complex, being the second longest one on the album. After a couple of blistering solos, the pace slows down to add a little bit of an epic feeling as the record concludes. That was a nice touch, as it gives a good sense of closure to the album.

Endless Pain did well to launch the career of one of the most influential German bands, ever. This is intense, aggressive, barbaric and evil in a way that Hellhammer could only dream of. For a hellish does of blackened Thrash Metal, be sure to pick up this classic L.P.