KREATOR tried all kinds of new tricks in the 1990's, and the metal scene responded by pissing on the band like they were the alley wall of a Dusseldorf beer hall. Lesson learned, Mille Petrozza and Co. have spent most of this decade giving the people what they want — tightly-wound and computer-tooled millennial versions of "Extreme Aggression" and "Coma of Souls". That's not a dis on 2001's "Violent Revolution" or 2005's "Enemy of God" — both were satisfying, high-quality records. But if you were gonna lodge any kind of complaint about KREATOR post-comeback, it would be that things had gotten a bit precise... sterile, even. We overlooked a lot of sloppy playing and clumsy arrangements back in the old days because KREATOR was such a ferocious, off-the-rails, ravenously energetic beast, but they'd distilled that right out of the mix.
Well, from the first note of the title track of "Hordes of Chaos", things sound different. The basic tracks were recorded live together, and it shows -- there's just this little bit of lo-fi energy and crackling amp buzz, a little bit of push and pull in the tempos, that gives the whole song this urgent, panicky feel that's exhilarating. It's not clanking "St. Anger" noise, and it's not the falling-down-the-stairs, barely-controlled chaos of old — after all, these guys are elder statesmen now, and they know how to play. But it's less predictable, more hungry, and a bit more raw than anything they've done in at least fifteen years. Even Mille's tortured bark seems a bit more hoarse, manic and wild-eyed, adding to the frenzy.
Musically, there's a nice mix of faster thrash ("Warcurse", "Amok Run") and those urgent, mid-tempo headbangers KREATOR is so good at — "Escalation" crackles with energy, with scads of lead guitar melody over an insistent rhythm riff and Petrozza's call-to-arms yell. The ferocity is really turned up on their trademark stuff, though — "Absolute Misanthropy" is a short, fast, blazing number that keeps it simple and seethes with pent-up fury, a brooding midsection building up perfectly into a roaring finish that finds Mille practically foaming at the mouth and the band at full throttle.
Even the most melodic moment on "Hordes of Chaos", the quasi-melodic "To the Afterborn", is a far angrier and more punishing beast than anything found on dark-horse albums like "Endorama" or "Outcast". While Mille opts for a harsher pub singalong style in the chorus, instead of his old melodic whispery croon, and the guitars get a little lilt to them, the rhythms are still machine-gunning double-kick lockstep. And before you know it, even that concession to calm is jettisoned for a blistering, thrashing second half. It's a great mix of dynamics that doesn't sacrifice the band's primal assault, and it works perfectly.
You wanna let a record sink in a bit before you go throwing around declarations like "the best KREATOR since "Terrible Certainty", of course. But the sheer exuberance, catchy songwriting, classic riffs, and live energy of "Hordes of Chaos" make it an instant classic, an inarguable high point in the band's catalog, and just the shot in the arm they needed for yet another career renaissance. KREATOR has set the bar for the Best of 2009 pretty goddamn high — everyone who follows, be warned.