Groundbreakers: Kreator – Pleasure to Kill
1986 is often considered the most important year in thrash metal history. Master of Puppets, Reign in Blood, Peace Sells…but Who’s Buying, and Darkness Descends were all unleashed that year, kicking metal in its tight denim-clad nuts and cementing thrash as the preeminent genre for audible violence. However, there is one thrash album that supersedes all these for outright aggression. This is the story of Pleasure to Kill.
Allow your mind to drift back to 1986. Perhaps you were a young, vest-bedecked teen who just visited the record store with your pals on your way home from school. While at the store, you found a new LP with killer album art. You hadn’t heard of Kreator before, but the ‘roided-out demon mercilessly pummeling skeletons on the album cover (created by one Philip Lavere) immediately caught your attention. You rushed home to give this monster a spin, only to be greeted by a strangely docile intro track. “Choir of the Damned” was simply the calm before the storm, lulling you into submission before one of the most iconic riffs ever written bludgeoned your ears into oblivion.
After that timeless, remorseless opening to “Ripping Corpse”, Pleasure to Kill never, ever lets up. Each track is a straightforward exercise in aggression. Complexity and nuance are tossed out the window in favor of pure adrenaline and driving rhythms. The riffs speed along like supersonic jets firing salvo after salvo of napalm, accentuated nicely by the chaotic solos. At times lone guitarist Mille Petrozza absolutely punishes his instrument; check out the arching riffs on “Command of the Blade” for a perfect example. The drums hammer in time with a prominent, artillery fire rhythm on the snare. The bass lines rumble and crunch like tank treads crossing a field of corpses. The vocals, traded off between primary song-writer Petrozza and drummer Jürgen “Ventor” Reil, range from deranged maniac snarls to throaty, serial killer shrieks. The entire package is meant to exude violence and bloodshed, and it does so in a wholly convincing way that many bands seek to emulate.
The feral nature of this album is accentuated by its gritty production. The band was able to secure a more professional producer for this album who actually cared about bringing out the best performance, unlike the producer on Endless Pain. The end result is an album that feels tight where it needs to be (in the songs and riffs) and loose where required (in the drums and vocals), granting it an organic, bestial nature. The themes and lyrics to the album even enhance the violent experience; according to Petrozza, the album was written as an exploration of different ways to die, inspired by gore-obsessed nature documentaries. The fact that English publications at the time called the band “Hate Metal” (a cue from the Flag of Hate EP) is just the bloody cherry on top of the viscera-stuffed pie.
The influence of Pleasure to Kill is not difficult to discern. In addition to the other bands of the Teutonic Thrash scene, Kreator inspired a legion of thashers after them. However, the band’s lineage can be most easily witnessed in the black thrash scene. It’s easy to see whose genes Black Anvil, Destroyer 666, Flagellator, and their ilk inherited. Still, Kreator remain one of the first and arguably the best band to play this style (ignoring their weird goth/industrial phase in the 90’s). For playing with an unprecedented level of hatred and crafting one of the most remarkably aggressive and well-written thrash metal albums ever (at such a young age, too), Kreator have earned their Groundbreakers crown. All hail Pleasure to Kill.
Groundbreakers is the Toilet ov Hell’s Hall ov Fame where we induct some of the most important and influential metal albums of all time. Catch up on previous entries into this hallowed bowl.
Neurosis – Souls at Zero
Death – Symbolic
Fear Factory – Demanufacture
Voivod – Killing Technology
Today is the Day – Temple of the Morning Star
Avenged Sevenfold – City of Evil
The Moody Blues – Days of Future Passed
Acid Bath – When the Kite String Pops
Ministry – The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste
Vulcano – Bloody Vengeance
Sleep – Holy Mountain
(h/t Joel McIver, writing for Metal Hammer, Issue 188)