Special report by Maria Nayef
After thirty years and thirteen studio albums, KREATOR is currently enjoying a career high. Having taken their tour showcasing the songs from last year’s acclaimed record Phantom Antichrist across Europe, they are still heating up the festival circuit before heading to China as well as North and South America. They also have a new live CD/DVD called Dying Alive that recently had a royal-like premier at Germany’s historic Lichtburg cinema in Essen, before landing in the top 10 of the German charts upon its release. All befitting for a band that sits on the throne of Teutonic thrash metal.
Boasting a staggering selection of hits from Kreator’s extensive and influential career, Dying Alive was recorded during the last show of their European tour last December in Oberhausen. Despite being show number 45 of the tour, you won’t see any signs of fatigue from these thrash veterans, who execute each song with exceptional proficiency and intensity.
On stage, frontman Mille Petrozza is fierce. An embodiment of sheer aggression, his harsh riffs fuelled by lyrics vehemently expressing his rage at the atrocities and hardships plaguing humanity while standing before the ghastly figure of the Phantom Antichrist; a metaphor for that which manipulates the masses and steals their souls. It’s a very Orwellian view of a world where what was once considered fiction has become a grim reality.
Speaking from his home in Essen, Petrozza says he’s still feeling fresh despite a bevy of press calls. There’s contentment in his voice, one that stems from an evident and deep respect for metal and Kreator fans.
BraveWords: What was it like watching Dying Alive at the very cinema you saw Conan the Barbarian when it first came out?
Petrozza: “Being at one of the biggest and one of the oldest movie theatres in Germany, with a lot of history, and seeing my own DVD there was just mind-blowing.”
BraveWords: It must have been quite a moment. What does it feel like when you experience moments like those?
Petrozza: “I don’t want to let it get to my head. I’m also a fan of this music, I enjoy it. I’m a metal fan. I tend to stick myself outside of the whole picture and see the band as one that can make other people feel something.”
BraveWords: With 24 cameras offering views from the guitars and drum pedals to the audience, Dying Alive is a dizzying array of thrashing heads, flailing limbs and flying beads of sweat, I felt like I was in the mosh pit…
Petrozza: “Good! That’s exactly how the DVD should make you feel, otherwise there’s no use in putting out a live DVD. Of course watching it from your television set in your living room is never the same as being in the concert hall, but we try to get some of that energy across, and we are very satisfied and happy with it.”
BraveWords: You see the sweat start to appear about half way through the show and in no time you are all dripping with it, it’s quite exhausting even to watch, how much does a show like that take out of you physically? It seems like you have to pace yourself like you are running a marathon.
Petrozza: “Yeah definitely (laughs) You have to keep in shape, it’s definitely hard work to perform like that and be able to give 150% of your energy. It’s always a challenge, but it’s a lot of fun as well. There’s a lot of energy and you always get so much back from the audience – you get the excitement and the adrenaline – it doesn’t feel like hard work, but it is, and you can see that on the DVD when we all start to sweat. (laughs)”
BraveWords: And it was show number 45 of the tour! You would think you guys would be exhausted by that stage.
Petrozza: “We were really, really tight by that time – we were very well prepared. And for us to have the show in Oberhausen was like coming back home. There was a little bit of pressure, but in a good way, because we knew there were going to be 24 cameras there that night, and we only had one shot. We did a lot of pre-production to make sure nothing would go wrong, and for that matter I’d say that it came out pretty well.”
BraveWords: One thing I noticed was that aside from the Kreator classics getting a huge response from the audience, the songs you play off Phantom Antichrist also receive a massive reaction. The mosh pit went positively mental during Civilization Collapse.
Petrozza: “Oh yeah! We’re very privileged when it comes to our fans really enjoying our new material as well, not much of a difference between the old songs and the new songs. That’s very rare. I know a lot of bands that have been around for many years and sometimes they get in a situation where the audience only want the old songs, so it’s a big compliment, and it shows that we are doing something right, you know?”
BraveWords: I also enjoyed those sublime moments where the spotlight is on Sami as he plays the melodic solos. It really showcases how successfully Kreator has been able to incorporate melody into its songs. Dave Mustaine of MEGADETH recently said in an interview: “there is a certain pushback from the heavy metal and thrash community when you start getting too melodic.” What are your thoughts on that?
Petrozza: “Depending on the song, I’d say. I mean, if you write mediocre songs, if you write only mid-tempo songs like radio songs, then of course people will push you back – they don’t want to hear it because this music is more than that. They don’t want to hear radio songs with thrash metal sounds – people want to hear thrash metal. They want to hear the energy, they want to hear the excitement, they want to hear a song that goes from 90bpm to 150bpm, tempo changes, twin solos, heavy riffs, stuff that touches people, and of course, if you are a thrash metal band that tries to write radio songs, you have a problem.”
BraveWords: So it’s about focussing on the high velocity of thrash and incorporating a bit of melody into that?
Petrozza: “Exactly, there’s no formula to be honest. We try to combine melody with brutality.”
BraveWords: There’s something certainly menacing and haunting about the enormous figure of the Phantom Antichrist on the backdrop of the stage and you mentioned on the DVD trailer that the way the footage was shot was inspired by the Hammer horror movies. Who is your favourite Christopher Lee character from that era?
Petrozza: “My favourite Christopher Lee character in the Hammer horror movies was definitely Dracula. Count Dracula is one of my earliest memories of watching TV from when it came out in the ’70s, and that character is still very present. When it came to choosing the way we did the colours of the DVD, we wanted something that looked very retro, very Hammer horror-like to make the viewing experience be almost like watching a movie. We’ve done a lot in the past with CDs and DVDs where we’ve tried to distort the picture a bit to give it a ’70s light.”
BraveWords: You’ve said that those who listen to and understand the music of Kreator are special. What makes them so, and is there a common denominator that you have found amongst Kreator fans?
Petrozza: “I think people that listen to Kreator really care about music. Music means more to them than something that just goes on in the background. Many people that listen to us, and many fans I have come across, say that when they listen to our music they do nothing else: they celebrate the music, treat it and keep it like something special. It’s as if it gives them a certain power or has a certain meaning to them. Whether it’s the lyrics, whether it’s the melodies, whether it’s the rhythm or just the whole package, to them it means a lot. I think that makes people special to Kreator.”
BraveWords: It’s very common for metalheads to claim that listening to metal keeps us young. There’s no question that you’re in great shape and you have a great time while you’re up on stage. Is 40 the new 20?
Petrozza: “Definitely! 60 is the new 40 and 40 is the new 20 (laughs) But you have to take care of yourself – you can’t abuse your body as much as you used to anymore, that’s in a physical sense. Psychologically of course we all age, there’s no alternative to it. If you don’t want to get old the only alternative would be to die. For me, I think getting older is a positive thing. I’m more aware of things, I’m more open, I see a lot more than I used to and I’ve filtered out the things that are important to me and really work on things harder than ever.”
Dying Alive is available on DVD/Blu-Ray and features Kreator’s sold-out show at the Turbinenhalle in Oberhausen, a behind the scenes documentary and music videos with a running time of 115 minutes. There is also a limited live release available on both CD and vinyl.