As the 21st century was born, so Kreator underwent what was nothing less than a seismic creative rebirth. By this time, the iconic German band had released nine studio albums in the 1980s and '90s, which had established them as one of the most important metal names of these decades.In the first period, they had helped to shape and pioneer the thrash scene through such releases as 'Pleasure To Kill' (1986), 'Terrible Certainty' ('87) and 'Extreme Aggression' ('89). During the following decade, the band had opened up exciting horizons of experimentation on albums like 'Coma Of Souls' (1990), 'Renewal' ('92) and 'Endorama' ('99).
Now, though, it was time to move into a fresh era, as vocalist/guitarist Mille Petrozza explains.
“During the 1990s, we were definitely experimenting with what the band were doing. But (drummer) Ventor and I decided that for this album – our first of the new millennium – we wanted to go back to the sort of sound that we had at the start of Kreator. In other words, to get back to the reason why we began the band in the first place.”
There were some significant changes for this album, one being the fact that the band signed to SPV/Steamhammer. “Drakkar, who had put out the last album ('Endorama') had gone out of business. So, what we looked for was a label that understood how to handle and market metal music. We had a number of companies interested, but it seemed to us that SPV/Steamhammer would be the most supportive, and therefore could do the best job for us. So, we went there, and it turned out to be a good choice.”
There was also new guitarist introduced, as Sami Yli-Sirniö (who had made his reputation with Finnish band Waltari) took over from Tommy Vetterli. The latter (also known as Tommy T. Baron) had joined in 1996 and played on the 'Oucast' (1997) and 'Endorama' albums.
“Tommy had been a friend before he became a member of Kreator. But the problem was that he was used to be being a leader in Coroner, his previous band. He made all the decisions and was used to doing a lot of the writing as well. But that was my role in this band, and we couldn't have a situation where there were two leaders, so it made sense for him to leave. However, I want to stress that we are still on very good terms. Sami had previously filled in for a three or shows when Tommy had an hand injury.
So we already knew he was a fine guitarist in his own right. Moreover, because he had already played with us there was never going to be a problem with him being able to adapt to our style. In fact, he was our only choice for the job.”
Although Finnish, Yli-Sirniö had been living in Germany for a while before he was offered the opportunity to join Kreator.
“Actually, he had just moved back to Finland, when I asked him to take over from Tommy on a permanent basis!”
As usual, it was Petrozza who did all the writing for the album. “I took my lyrical inspiration from a couple of books. But the theme for a lot of the songs was something that has guided me for a long time now. That is telling people they shouldn't be taken in by what authorities and governments want you to believe. Yes, there was some personal stuff in there as well, but a lot of what I do is based around the idea of making everybody realise they are being manipulated and controlled by others. These people want you to think in a particular ways, so you offer them no resistance. That way society is kept under their guidance, and any threat to authority is removed. The musical side was again down to me. It's always been that way with the band. As the vocalist, I can only really sing my melodies. I simply cannot do this to anyone else's riffs. But we are still very much a team. When it comes to the arrangements, these are worked out as a team. This is an important part of the way we work.”
The producer for this album was Andy Sneap, who was now making a name for himself as one of the pre-eminent masters of this art in the modern metal world.
“I had known and liked Andy since the days he had been the guitarist in Sabbat, as they were signed to Noise Records as Kreator were on that label. He was our first choice to work on this new project.
I liked what he'd done for Testament on their album 'The Gathering' (released in 1999). He had given them a sound they'd never had before, and that really was what we were after. It was natural and organic, and also very modern. I remember phoning him at his Backstage Studios in England (Ripley in Derbyshire). And Warrel Dane, the vocalist in Nevermore, answered. Andy was producing their new album at the time ('Dead Heart In A Dead World', 2000). And when I heard this, again I was very impressed. So, I was delighted when he agreed to produce the new Kreator album.”
Pre-production was done in Essen at KKS Studios, before the band went to Area 51 Studios in Celle, near Hamburg where they recorded the drum and bass (handled by Christian Giesler) were done. “I liked the sound you could get for the drums and bass in that studio, which was owned by Tommy Newton who had worked before with Helloween. So, we spent a week there getting that part of the process done. Then, Andy and I went to Backstage, to do the guitar and vocal parts. It was mostly just the two of us, Sami did come down later to do rhythm guitar parts, but as Christian and Ventor had already completed what they had to do, there was no need for them to come to England. I suppose it took us five weeks to get all the recording work completed at Backstage. And then Andy mixed the album by himself. I have to say that it was a very smooth process. Andy was excellent to work with, and got exactly what we were after.”
The album title came from something Petrozza had read. “In a book I came across a comment that John F. Kennedy said (in 1962). This was: "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable”. I thought 'Violent Revolution' would make a good title for an album. So, I kept it in my mind for this record. I think 'Violent Revolution' is a title that makes a real impact.”
For the cover, Kreator turned to Andreas Marschall, who had done such a striking job on 1990's 'Coma Of Souls' album sleeve. “We knew that Andreas was a really talented artists, who understood the band. And this time around, we did not want to experiment any more – I did not like the artwork for 'Endorama' - but work with someone who we could trust. Andreas certainly was in that category. He and I exchanged ideas on how the cover should look, but I have to admit that his first version wasn't good. It had the Kreator demon looking very revolutionary, with a bandana round his head and he was carrying a machine gun. I just didn't want to have any images of war or guns in the art. So, Andreas went back and came up with
something so much better. The demon now had skin which looked like a mask, and there were mysterious symbols carved into that mask. I also like the fact that he used the colour red throughout the painting. It perfectly captured the feeling of aggression, and whole vibe we had through the album.”
One interesting aspect of the track listing was that the 52 second instrumental 'The Patriarch' actually came after the opening song 'Reconquering The Throne'. Fans might have been expected that it would have opened the album. But for Petrozza, there was a logical reason for this not to happen. “We really wanted to lead off with a thrashing track, to show everyone what we were now doing musically. After 'Endorama', it was important that everyone should recognise this was a new era for Kreator.”
There was a video shot for the title track, one that was directed by Stefan Browatzki. And it certainly makes an impact. “We filmed this at a Turkish kebab factory in Hamburg! The video has nothing to do with the sentiments of the lyrics, although in one way it does. What we were doing was criticising the meat industry, and showed people dressed as animals seemingly eating humans. It was very silly, I suppose, but I like the way it turned out.”
'Violent Revolution' was released in September 2001, and became the band's highest charting album to that point in Germany, as it reached number 38. “We knew we had a good album, so in that way it wasn't a surprise to see this do so well in the chart. But however good you might think your album is, you can never be certain how people will react to what you've done, and whether you can pick up new fans, as well as satisfy the older ones. So, I suppose there was an element of us being pleasantly surprised when we got into the Top 40 for the first time. But I have to give a lot of credit to our label. They knew exactly how to market and promote the album, and showed we had made the right choice in signing to them.”
'Violent Revolution' is without question an excellent album. While in some ways it does hark back to the glories of the band's earlier days, nonetheless it does not sound at all nostalgic. The performances and production values are very much part of the contemporary era, and the strength of the compositions themselves are of the highest values. Rising to the challenge offered by a new generation of ambitious metal bands, Kreator proved they were far from being a spent force. Unlike so many of their peers, here was a band who still had so much creativity to offer, and were also clearly excited themselves by what they were doing. And when you hear the band themselves enjoying the entire process, then you know this is a bona fide revitalisation.
“I feel this is one of our strongest albums,” says Petrozza with conviction. “We took what we'd done on 'Coma Of Souls' and 'Extreme Aggression' but this wasn't a case of repeating it. No, we added in modern metal elements to the sound as well. It was a new era for Kreator. A rebirth if you want to put it that way. And the start of what I would call our second career.”
Here was a 'Revolution' inspiring the 'evolution' of Kreator, as they were welcomed with open hearts, minds and arms into the elite world of 21st Century metal. Pioneers of thrash in the 1980s. Pioneers of experimentation in the 1990s. Now, pioneers of modern sounds in the 2000s. How many others can claim such a pedigree?
By Malcolm Dome
Mille Petrozza (Guitars/Vocals)
Sami Yli-Sirniö (Guitars)