"I know you guys hear this all the time, but I wanted to say, sincerely,
that you really kick ass."
They have been around since 1984 and are considered by many to be one of the premier death metal thrash bands. From their humble roots in Germany to their eventual acceptance throughout Europe and the rest of the world, they have delivered album after album of dependable, determined rock and roll. Even with personnel changes and internal experimentation, they have never knowingly compromised their sound or sold out their ideals for financial or commercial gain. Their concert tours and live appearances involve relentless yearlong treks across the globe, playing everywhere from small clubs to arenas, and usually selling them out. As they approach their 20th anniversary in the business, the band is still making music, gaining fans, and finding new pockets of recognition worldwide. Now thanks to Steamhammer Records, Kreator are seeing the release of their first double CD of live material in their extensive career, along with a companion DVD. And unlike other performance piece offerings from similar acts, Kreator: Live Kreation—Revised Glory is not just a musical document, but it's also a history lesson, video diary, and excellent introduction to one of the hardest working, still fighting from the underground noise outfits ever to wear the metal moniker. So break out the black leather, shine up the wrist studs, and get ready to have your ears bleed as an attack of amplified ferocity blasts from your home theater system!
It's worth noting right off the bat that as a concert movie—meaning as an artistic representation of a live performance by the band—Live Kreation—Revised Glory is no visionary accomplishment. This isn't Stop Making Sense or The Last Waltz, and it's really not intended to be. In essence, this is a showcase souvenir, a chance for fans of Kreator and the interested newbie to catch the band at the height of its musical virtuosity. Say what you will about their song craft or stage presence, but this is one rock act with more well-marbled chops than a Chicago steakhouse. Live, they are a powerful multi-horsepower diesel engine, blasting through a 90-minute set of bone crunching thrash metal in a way that few groups of the genre have the skill and commitment to do. Their performance is not so much a musical expression as it is an assault, an electrified barrage of searing solos and monster power chords. In the center of it all is leader and guitarist Mille Petrozza. As the sole consistent member and overall guiding creative force in the band, Kreator is an absolute reflection of the diminutive dynamo. Petrozza doesn't sing so much as growl and groan in a primal scream banshee wail. And when he puts his head down to tear through an intricate solo, he is a focused force of nature unto himself. This DVD, culled from two different shows (one in San Paolo, the other in Korea) highlights this German juggernaut's combination of prog-rock routines with rapid fire speed riffing and a tendency to mix tempos to create great metal that's more harsh than heavy. Songs clock in at five minutes plus and there is a tendency toward call and response chant choruses. But one look behind the feedback and fretwork frenzy finds a morose group obsessed with all that's wrong and morbid in the world. Leader Petrozza has an interesting response when asked why the band seems so obsessed with death and desolation. "With the world the way it is," he sighs, "why not?"
Frankly, there are a few moments that border on the parody in this concert and DVD collection. Each song is started with a Ramones reminiscent one-through-four Kraut countdown. Each violent harmonious volley ends with the band members throwing the classic "devil horns" sign high in the air in mock triumph. There is the gratuitous synchronized skull swinging so that the long hair of the band members can create a kind of unified swirl theory and mandatory shots of the audience banging their heads in defiant unison. But thankfully, other concert clichés are avoided. We get very little between song banter (and what there is seems genuine and exciting) and none of the typical MTV-style ADD jump cuts. There is a mixing of visual mediums (video, film, grainy black and white, and high resolution color) but it works here, as if to emphasize the multi-faceted nature of the band. And most of the backstage stuff is good natured and friendly (especially the "man in the street" interviews from around the world). In reality, this is a well put together video document of a band in the prime of their powers.
Even better than the concert material, with its behind the scenes segments and surreptitious audience shots, is the bonus matter. Especially good is the visual documentary and history of the band that offers a one-hour overview of the group's history, including personnel changes and every video the band ever made. It's a wonderful place to start for those uninitiated into the ways of Kreator. You can see the band maturing, expanding their sonic and visual dynamic, while learning a great deal about their ideology, lifestyle, and personal milestones (like playing East Germany just days after the wall fell). Akin to the recent release by The Jam (The Complete Jam DVD) the content producers here also understand that a stellar way to sell an act of limited widespread profile is to provide a good deal of detailed information along with the backbeat. And Kreator: Live Kreation—Revised Glory supplies the best of both worlds.
The overall package from Steamhammer is to be commended. They do a fine job offering a feature filled disc that will leave even the most ardent fan totally satiated. Along with the aforementioned concert (which can be viewed by song, by songs only, or by backstage material only) and the fine featurette, there is a comprehensive discography, complete with album cover art and song selections. We also get a couple of bonus live clips from the With Full Force Festival of 2002, links to online content via DVD-ROM, an assortment of Kreator merchandise to order, and various other detailed goodies. (There is also a 16-page booklet that accompanies the DVD that was unavailable for this critic to review.) Visually, Kreator: Live Kreation—Revised Glory has a pristine transfer that renders all the different stock elements used clear and crisp. Even with intense amounts of stage fog and less than consistent lighting, the band and stage show looks excellent. But it's the sonic explosion that will really impress the aural enthusiast. Remastered into Dolby Digital 5.1 (or available in a good, but less impressive 2.0 Stereo), the concert material literally comes alive with nuance and power. There are times when you can hear individual tom-tom strikes on the drum kit and the reverberating metallic hum of the bass strings. The channels are filled with furious, fast paced anthemic anger, and the audience reactions are expertly incorporated to create a truly immersive concert experience. This is indeed one of the best sounding music DVDs ever.
Those who've never heard of the band before now, but like metal music on the darker, industrial grind and hyper-speed setting will just love Kreator: Live Kreation—Revised Glory. Fans already know what this DVD proves. Career longevity is measured in quality, not quantity. And Kreator is an exceptional rock and roll band.
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