There's a lot to be angry about in 2017, and Kreator's Mille Petrozza has got it all down on a list. He's checking it once, he's checking it twice, and now he's going to shout about it in a furious German accent, because that's what Kreator does. Even in 2017, 32 years since their debut record Endless Pain, they're still pumping out tremolo picking and double bass drumming—because that's what Kreator does, and they (still) do it to a higher standard than most of their American contemporaries.
As much as Metallica's "Hardwired" and "Spit Out The Bone" both tightened our collective sphincters last year, the best material on Hardwired… To Self-Destruct came when they embraced that Load and Reload stomp again, rather than trying to replicate "Dyers Eve" and risk having Lars pop a lung. Same with Slayer—they operate most proficiently in that mid-tempo, sinister pocket now. And that's fine; these are middle-aged guys who've been putting in work for three decades and counting. But, then again, so are Kreator, and they can still tear through a breakneck thrash riff like it's 1986. Unlike their American peers, Germany's "Big Three" of thrash – Kreator, Sodom, and Destruction—still emulate the speed of yore live, and create devastating tempos on record despite their graying hairs and the mortgage repayments tucked under their bullet belts.
While the other two still sound ferocious, they're very much identifiable as thrash bands from the Eighties; not so much with Kreator. After a wander into goth and industrial in the Nineties, they returned to thrash with 2001's Violent Revolution and have been on a winning streak ever since. The new millennium brought with it a new guitarist; Sami Yli-Sirniö's more-In-Flames-than-In-Flames melodies flesh out luscious, Iron Maiden-worthy guitar lines amidst the usual aural battering.
Kreator have more to offer than just impossible brutality, and that's made even more apparent on their upcoming fourteenth (!) full-length, Gods Of Violence (out January 27 on Nuclear Blast). It's testament to their trigger-happy thrash 'n' slashing, but even when the tempo loosens on "Satan Is Real," intensity prevails as Italian symphonic death metallers Fleshgod Apocalypse provide grandiose orchestration.
Even though they could probably pull it off, Kreator don't rely solely on speed anymore, expanding their range thirty-odd years into an already varied career. On Gods of Violence, "Army Of Storms" rivals most power metal bands with its maddeningly uplifting chorus; bagpipes spatter "Hail to The Hordes," but it's not like they've just thrown things at a wall to see what sticks; "Death Becomes My Light" has Petrozza doing his now once-an-album balladeering, but that remains the album's sole question mark.Unlike most of their contemporaries, Kreator came out of the Nineties thrash slump aggressive, progressive and caustically consistent.
Just before Trump's inauguration, I called up bandleader Petrozza to see what makes it all tick. Read on for our conversation, and check out an exclusive video of Petrozza going in-depth on his commitment to veganism and animal rights.
Noisey: "Satan Is Real" is about religion's prevalence today, right?
Mille Petrozza: You could say so. My lyrics are mostly metaphorical, so this song isn't about religion in general, more the relevance of religion in this day and age. "Satan Is Real" is me wondering why it's still relevant in 2017.
Does it disturb you that religion isn't dead yet and, in many cases, is still married to state?
Not only the state, but people take it so seriously that they seem to be OK with doing all this bizarre stuff or even dying for religion, because they believe this stuff.
Do you think there'll be a day when Kreator don't have to sing about these topics?
[Laughs] The good thing about these situations, if you can call them good, is that it's all very inspiring. It gives you a lot of themes for metal. Even if there's world peace—which I doubt, because that's never been the case—these themes will always be current. When you start a band and you're a seventeen-year-old kid, you're angry. Then you get a little older and you're not angry anymore, but there's still things that piss you off. So rather than be miserable about that shit all day, I write Kreator lyrics.
That makes sense! In terms of what you said about your lyrics being current, for example, Enemy Of God came out in 2005 and it still feels relevant.
It's a little bit like that, yeah. I was in Greece doing promotion for our Violent Revolution album, and it was September 11, 2001. We were sitting in the hotel's conference room, then someone turned on the TV and we saw all these horrible pictures from Manhattan—that inspired Enemy Of God. For Gods Of Violence, the themes draw from events like the Bataclan attacks, but I take influence from movies, literature and art in general, too.
Speaking of the cinematic, Fleshgod Apocalypse provided orchestration for Gods Of Violence.
We needed help with the classical instruments and I think they're just an amazing band. When I wrote "Apocalypticon," the album's intro, I only had the guitar melody and snare drum. In my mind it was already this huge orchestra playing the soundtrack to the end of the world, so I sent them the track; they sent me stuff back and it was perfect already! We're very likeminded—they're an extreme metal band, but they have the same taste when it comes to dark harmonies and atmospheres.
There's loads of twin harmonies and interesting melodies on Gods Of Violence , but they never outweigh the thrash. Do you think, as you get older and into your fifties, you'd phase out the thrash and rely more on those sounds? Or will you just give up if you can't thrash anymore?
Forty-nine! [Laughs] People don't get "old" like they used to. Fifty years ago, people in their forties were "old." Now, there's people in their sixties and seventies who've still got loads of energy. I still do marathon runs and I work out, like, six times a week, so I don't feel old. Of course there'll come a time when my body isn't gonna react the way I want it to, but it's not now, man. I've still got another fifteen, twenty years in me. Don't worry!
Can you also shed light on that wild promo shot of the band with you all bloody-handed and angel-winged?
We wanted something decedent. The album's about decadence. To me, this photo represents the decadence of this day and age. We wanted it to look kinda like a Roman or Greek orgy, because every time these societies were at their peak, they collapsed. And it's an eye-catcher, isn't it? It's polarizing!
Lyrically, Kreator tackle the world's evils, and that often boils down to politics, even though you've expressed distain towards the topic. You've written about political situations before—in the most extreme example, could the next Kreator album potentially be an anti-Trump manifesto?
[Laughs] Let's see how Trump does! I hope he isn't gonna be responsible for the downfall of civilization, and I doubt that's gonna happen. We've seen many weird people in power before. I was confused that somebody like Trump could become the USA's president, but I wasn't shocked; a lot of my American friends were shocked. The next four years will show whether or not there was a need to panic. I'm not an expert—I want to point that out before I say something wrong!—but remember when we had the "war" president, the Bush guy? He was a "war" president and I see Trump as a "business" president. Don't get me wrong, I'm not pro-Trump, but let's see what he comes up with. It could be a disaster, but I try to be PMA about this stuff.
But you understand why Trump is so reviled by some people, right?
Of course I do. I have friends who are Mexican-Americans; I was in L.A recently with a Mexican-American friend, and I asked him this very naïve question: "Aren't Mexicans, like, American?" I always had the impression it was that way because they're part of American society; if somebody's saying they're going to build a wall blah blah blah, then of course people are going to be offended, because they're a part of the culture. If it wasn't for the Mexican fans, the Satanic Hispanics, the metal world in America would be very boring.
Donald Trump believes climate change is a hoax and is considering withdrawing the US from the global warming agreement. You're vegan, so seeing that animal agriculture is the main cause of climate change… what's your take?
People are dying from global warming, there's scientific proof. It's another of those strange things Trump says, one of those things that doesn't make any sense in the real world. Maybe it makes sense in Trump World, but in the actual world, yeah, it's a massive problem!
Are people ever surprised that Kreator's lead singer is vegan?
Not in this day and age, man. There's so many vegans nowadays, it's become kinda trendy. People are interested more than anything. Even people who aren't vegan love vegan food! Of course the whole world will never become vegan, even though it'd be better for the planet, but it's an interesting genre of food, so to speak.
Do you and your wife still write for German vegan magazine Kochen ohne Knochen ?
Sometimes. The guy who runs it is my friend. He owns Ox Magazine, Germany's main hardcore magazine. He was also one of the first to release vegetarian cookbooks way back. I kinda inspired him to go vegan, which is a good thing, so Kochen ohne Knochen is now vegan rather than vegetarian. A great magazine, if you can read German!
A lot of younger bands tackle environmental and political subjects like you guys, but they're often dismissed because they've got nice haircuts or whatever.
You mean they don't look 'true' enough, right? There's a very conservative thought [in metal] sometimes and it makes no sense. So what if someone has a different style? It doesn't make them less heavy. I know a lot of metalheads who look "old-school" but they're still into these bands. The reason I got into hardcore and metal was because there were no rules—now the scene itself makes rules. The fuck is up with that?
You're friends with Sodom's Tom Angelripper too, who's an avid hunter. How does that relationship work?
We joke about it. I don't see Tom too much now—he wouldn't come round to my house for dinner or anything like that. We grew up together, have mutual friends and are close every time we run into each other, but we don't hang out. He has an opinion and I have mine. If he wants to hunt, let him. I don't support that, but it's him, and he has the freedom to be what he wants to be. We treat it with a lot of humor, but if you ask him why he hunts, he has his explanation. In his mind, he's doing something good for the environment or whatever. I don't agree with that, but he can explain it to you. He tried explaining it to me and I didn't get it…
You seem quite tolerant. Did you hear the James Hetfield hunting story?
He hosted a hunting TV show, right?
There's that, but he's moved out of the Bay Area because of "intolerant attitudes" towards him driving through town with a dead animal strapped to his car.
[Laughs] Good thing he moved out of the Bay Area! Whatever he's happy with. He'd never give me shit for being vegan, so I wouldn't give him shit for hunting. I have huge respect for Metallica and I would never say anything disrespectful towards James, even though I don't agree with that… at all.
Catch Kreator on tour later in 2017:
2.1. F Metz - B.A.M.
2.2. NL Tilburg - 013
2.3. D Munich - Tonhalle
2.4. D Hamburg - Mehr! Theater
2.6. DK Copenhagen - Amager Bio
2.7. N Oslo - Rockefeller
2.8. S Stockholm - Fryshuset
2.10. FIN Helsinki - Black Box
2.11. FIN Tampere - Pakkahuone
2.12. EST Tallinn - Rock Cafe
2.13. LT Vilnius - Siemens Arena
2.15. PL Warsaw - Progresja
2.16. A Vienna - Gasometer
2.17. D Wiesbaden - Schlachthof
2.18. D Berlin - Columbiahalle
2.19. CH Pratteln - Z7
2.21. I Trezzo - Live Club
2.22. F Grenoble - Summum
2.23. E Barcelona - Razzmatazz
2.24. E Madrid - Riviera
2.25. F Toulouse - Bikini
2.26. F Paris - Bataclan
2.28. UK Manchester - Academy
3.1. IRL Dublin - Vicar Street
3.2. UK London - o2 Forum
3.3. B Torhout - De Mast
3.4. D Essen - Grugahalle
3.7. RUS Moscow - Bud Arena*
* no ABORTED
+HORRENDOUS 3.17. N.C Charlotte - Underground
3.18. G.A Atlanta – Masquerade
3.19. F.L Tampa – The Orpheum
3.20. M.S New Orleans – House of Blues
3.21. T.X Houston – House of Blues
3.22. T.X Dallas – House of Blues
3.24. A.Z Phoenix – Club Red
3.25. C.A Santa Ana – Observatory
3.26. C.A San Francisco – The Fillmore
3.27. O.R Portland – Hawthorne Theatre
3.28. W.A Seattle – Neptune
3.29. B.C Vancouver – Rickshaw
3.31. A.B Calgary – MacEwan Ballroom
4.1. A.B Edmonton – Union Hall
4.4. C.O Denver – Summit Music Hall
4.6. M.N Minneapolis – Cabooze
4.7. I.L Chicago – House of Blues
4.8. I.N Indianapolis – The Vogue
4.9. O.H Cleveland – House Of Blues
4.11. O.N Toronto – Opera House
4.12. Q.C Montreal – Club Soda
4.13. M.A Boston – Paradise Rock Club
4.14. N.Y New York – Irving Plaza
4.15. P.A Philadelphia – TLA