Among the legendary elite of purveyors of extreme art, German thrashers Kreator have been buzzing away destroying amplifiers, ear drums, and inciting speed metal circle pits around the world for 40 years.
With the of the band's landmark 15th full length album, Hate Uber Alles now out, Kreator's creative core of founding members in drummer jurgen ‘Ventor’ Reil, and guitarist/vocalist, Mille Petrozza have penned another chapter in the band's storied legacy. Petrozza recently took time while in Berlin to speak with Knotfest about the band’s early influences of American hardcore punk, the new generation of thrash metal bands and fans and how heavy metal music and culture has permeated the entire planet.
Speaking to the band's foundation, the Kreator architect explained how the American wave of thrash had an important international impact. “Early on, in the early and mid 1980s, when we first started, definitely the American thrash metal bands had an influence on Kreator,” Petrozza said. “We’re talking all the early Metallica, Slayer, and Anthrax; those were staples to us. In the early 1980s, it was really just like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest. Then of course there was Motorhead, and it slowly all just formed. But when Metallica hit, it was so heavy. No one had heard anything like that before. Nowadays it's hard to imagine how such a band had such an impact on the scene, but they spiraled a lot of bands."
Petrozza added, "To me, Metallica, Slayer and Exodus are the pioneers of thrash metal music. But there were so many other bands among the International scene too. It was all one huge scene where we were absorbing everything from all over the world.”
Emphasizing the diversity of aggressive music that first resonated with the band, he added how the influence of hardcore punk was an important facet to the nexus of Kreator and how the band's most recent effort serves as a tribute to that. “I was into American hardcore in the beginning and still am,” he said. “We all loved hardcore and punk bands, there were tons. Also, there was a good punk scene from the UK. But, as for my love of punk rock, Hate Uber Alles is a tribute in a way to the famous song by the Dead Kennedys ("California Uber Alles"). “We were aware of all those bands, from Black Flag, Circle Jerks and tons of others. The cool thing is that in the 80s, so many of those hardcore and punk and metal bands played in Europe, so it started our scenes too.”
In a career stretching some four decades of touring the world and forging a reputation as an ambassador of thrash metal, Petrozza has become an underground champion on an international scale, now loaning his own influence across the world in the same way he was inspired all those years ago. He spoke to the kind of community that thrives in different pockets of the world and how the common denominator, no matter the size, seems to be the passion that links everyone via the music.
“Metal music is amazing. We played in India once, to a lot of fans, and in Morocco, and so many other countries where you’d never expect there to be metal heads,” he said. “Sometimes in places, there are large communities of metal fans, but sometimes smaller communities. In China for example they have a smaller metal community. This music is heard all over the world. It's a global phenomenon. There are metal heads literally in almost every country, you will even encounter metal heads in the Costa Rican jungles, it’s amazing.”
With a tenure that now stretches decades long, Kreator's continued endurance loans itself towards a greater consciousness of the next generation - an awareness of who will carry the torch that the band has helped to keep blazing for so many years. Petrozza said he is not only in tune with the new wave of younger thrash bands taking up the charge, he’s adamant supporter. “I like the younger generation of thrash metal bands, there are a lot of great newer talented musicians in some of these up and coming bands. The last band I really liked was Power Trip.I am still very sad about what happened to Riley.”
Petrozza said he also loves the California thrash band Warbringer. “We have toured with them, those guys are great and such a talented band,” he said. “I love listening to and supporting any of the newer bands keeping this music alive and taking it to the next level.” The support is such that Petrozza offered a ceremonial passing of the torch on the track, "Become Immortal". Tapping emerging Essen thrash outfit Destroy Them for the music video, the visual depiction shows the band as the younger version of Kreator - creating a depiction that speaks to the band's legacy, influence, and cultivation of the future champions of heavy culture.
It's the notion of legacy, creating something lasting and being the fire that keeps the torch burning for the next wave that offers the truest metric of success for the musician. Bringing the idea full circle and offering his own contribution in much the same way early thrash and hardcore punk inspired him, Petrozza only wishes to do the same. “If Kreator can in any way be an inspiration for any of these younger musicians out there to pick up a guitar and play their own interpretation of thrash metal, well that is all I can ask for,” he said.
Being cognizant of who is listening and how that influence is paying off in real time, Petrozza explained how there is a permeating pattern of a younger generation of fans making their way to Kreator shows. “I see it all the time, parents bringing their kids and teens, rocking out in the audience in the mosh pit. Heavy metal and thrash metal is very much a generational thing, which I think is great. But it was also rare in the past generations. I came from a time growing up where I needed to find my own space, my own identity and my own music, different from my parents, but now as we all get older our sons and daughters are getting into the music we love so it's a win-win situation.”
The conversation segues into what the forecast holds for Kreator - picking up right back where they were before the Covid-19 lockdowns - ready to tour the world. Supporting the release of Hate Uber Alles, the band preparing to hit the road throughout Europe for a large scale co-headlining tour with Lamb of God. The 'State of Unrest' Tour offers the kind of generational scope that Kreator encourage with Lamb of God serving as genre champions and bands like Thy Art Is Murder and Gatecreeper offering a snapshot of the health of the genre moving forward.
“I’m looking forward to our tour with Lamb of God, I know some of those dudes and they are good people, and I think that Lamb Of God is a great band. It's such a great honor to tour with them.”
Even with the ongoing turbulence and the violent conflict in Ukraine, Petrozza remains adamant about the need to press on with a very real hope that the situation will improve. He explains that such uncertain times make the galvanizing quality of music that much more important. “I'm always optimistic no matter what. Otherwise, there’s no tomorrow,” he said. “We should all try to be optimistic. I know it's easy to say, but in my life, I truly feel there is no other way. We all have been knocked down after this pandemic and lockdown and we all need to connect with each other and share live music again. We all need to get our lives back together and enjoy life. For me it really makes live shows even more intense and more important.”
Hate Uber Alles is currently available via Nuclear Blast Records - HERE