Kreator may have been the last of the German ‘Big 3’ to storm the gates of the ever burgeoning world of thrash, but to these ears, they wiped the floor with all the material both Destruction and Sodom had up to that point released. Endless Pain is very close in aesthetic to Slayer’s debut, a driving storm of diabolical riff craft that attempts little outside of standard verse-chorus-bridge compositional dynamics. Though to be fair, the same could be said of the vast majority of thrash metal, especially the formative albums. So, when based purely on the strength of the songwriting, which is infectious enough to make you blow chunks in purulent glee, Endless Pain is a resounding success. These boys weren’t quite as technically proficient as Destruction or as filthy as Sodom, instead lurking somewhere in between, but they more than distinguished themselves with an array of riffs that sear themselves like hot iron mushroom stamps into the memory banks, and their compelling dual vocal assault served to further differentiate them. There are hints of the unique monster Kreator would become in short order, but for the most part, this is very much in the ballpark of Show No Mercy, albeit with a raw, animalistic hatred for humanity that veritably drips with bloody audible saliva.
The fast, sharp NWOBHM style riffs are nothing incredibly unique, but they’re both exciting and memorable, chopping and slicing along like shrapnel in a razor wind. This is pure-blooded thrash, through and through, though a certain aspect lends a blackened aesthetic to a number of tracks. Namely, Mille’s vocals, rasping like some reptilian monstrosity, breathing ice all over the even numbered tracks. These duties are split down the middle with drummer Ventor, who lends a slobbering, filthy Neanderthal drawl to the odds. I like Mille’s much better, as he’s been one of my favorite vocalists (and guitarists) in the medium for years, but this dynamic switch-off does wonders in keeping already fun, yet familiar songs continuously fresh. All told, it’s much more of a strength than a detriment. Mille’s riffs and solos are all primed for war, sometimes just couple simple bars, and other times fast, scathing flurries. He and bassist Robert Fioretti work in tandem to get that head banging with rippling metal might, and the production feels raw and audible enough to do the music justice, if not accentuating these calculated napalm strikes. In all regards, you never feel like you’re getting anything other than a grade A classic thrashing.
The whole experience is incredibly barbaric, at length, but therein lays the charm, a vibe and technique that would climax on Pleasure to Kill. Songs like Tormentor (why does every classic thrash band need a song called Tormentor?), Cry War, and Son of Evil just charge up with wild, violent abandon and slash your throat right out… in fact, you get that from most tracks here. Flag of Hate is also a highlight, of not only the album, but their entire career. The techniques are simple and few, but Endless Pain just exudes creepy, violent excitement the whole way through, like a pack of cave-dwelling, spear-wielding nightmare beasts relentlessly stalking you through the night, jabbering obscenities with bloodlust shining in their eyes. It’s this revelatory primacy that lends such an instinctually satisfying edge to this album, with no need to intellectualize a damn thing, just feel the power and hatred surge while Mille shreds your face into scraps.
Endless Pain is going to appeal most to those looking for good old school thrash. In fact, most people that will love this album already know it very well, but it bears repeating once again. If you’re into classic intensity like Slayer, and other Bay Area bands, but haven’t delved into the German division, this is an excellent starting point. Conversely, the new wave of thrashers might find this interesting, as it’s a building block for a lot of material today, and more specifically to see the roots of the phenomenal, yet completely different band that Kreator embody today. Endless Pain is not perfect. It’s loose, wild, and simple, and there’s nothing here that will blow your mind like dynamite in a watermelon, but it’s aged incredibly well, and is an absolutely essential addition to any self-respecting thrashers collection. That’s a claim you’ll see me make often, I’m sure, and I assure you, I mean it every goddamn time. Out of all the founders of the empire called thrash, Kreator are one of my favorites, and moreover, Endless Pain is one fantastic debut album. As to whether or not it gets a top spot in the lexicon as a whole, I’m not so sure, but it contains enough quality to continue kicking ass after nearly 30 years, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it makes us spit blood after 30 more. Timeless awesomeness: the definition of classic.