Kreator – Coma of Souls (1990)
Kreator drew a lot of flak for tinkering with their formula in the mid-late 1990s, but even a preliminary listen to Coma of Souls made it apparent that this process had its origins much earlier. To be fair, while it represents a step back from the… extreme aggression of its predecessors, it’s still recognizably a speed/thrash album. It’s quite polished, too – would you expect anything less from a band as big as Kreator in 1990, which was arguably the peak year of the thrash metal movement? Keep in mind this was the year of Seasons in the Abyss (Slayer), Souls of Black (Testament), Rust in Peace (Megadeth), and so forth, and you’ll be able to apply the analogy to Kreator themselves.
Like all of the aforementioned albums, Coma of Souls tends to favor refinement over pure aggression; even extending to its lyrics, which are more contemporary and less violent than before. It’s a relatively small adjustment, though, since even at their most ‘brutal’ (Pleasure to Kill and Terrible Certainty), Kreator incorporated bits of extended songwriting and dynamics that have simply become more prominent. The real casualties here are the signature Kreator riff – as a general rule, the band throws out their distinctive mix of consonance and dissonance and instead simply write in a basic consonant monophonic mode that pretty much everyone worth a dime in the metal industry can do. To be fair, they still do a decent job with it, but I still miss the alternative.
Regardless of the cause, this is still a somewhat normed Kreator. Between its less abrasive guitars and lack of golden age Ventor, I’d say it has trouble reaching the peaks of violence of its predecessors except for the fact I’m not sure how hard they tried to match such things. You could ask Noise Records, but given their willingness to release plenty of (relatively) underground metal back in the 1980s, they probably weren’t specifically the ones driving this trend. If I was fool enough to bet money on the nature of the past, I’d go as far as to suggest that the band’s new guitarist, Frank Blackfire was responsible. He did bring a measure of norming to Sodom’s contemporary output, and as a main guitarist probably got quite the say in what Kreator did with their time. That his style aligns with ongoing trends at the time is worth noting, at the very least.
Anyways, Coma of Souls is arguably the work of a smarter and more practiced Kreator, but more often than not I am drawn to the band’s earlier, filthier works. It’s still a reasonable addition to your collection.
Highlights: “When The Sun Burns Red”, “World Beyond”, “Terror Zone”