death metal underground
The Ultimate Death Metal Resource
Death Metal Search Engine
Kreator - Coma of Souls
Review: Interestingly, both speed metal of the Metallica type and proto-death/black metal of the Hellhammer type exploded onto the world at the cusp of the mid-1980s, with two types diverging violently across continents. The American speed metal kept the cleaner vocals of heavy metal, and used deviation from verse/chorus patterns to introduce those same; the Europeans grasped the whisper distortion of the new vocals and used those instead of the riot shout preferred across the ocean, and wrote songs which wandered from verse/chorus in order to make a different type of impression on the listener. In Kreator, we can hear the best of the European style but also see the limitations of speed metal in that its trademark muffled strum produces abrupt stopping points and thus limits how far the band can vary from its verse/chorus motif. The result manifests itself in songs that show a great deal of ingenuity, especially on a fully matured example of speed metal such as this album, but by still depending on some fairly blockhead devices of rhythm and pattern, fall short of the more exciting continuity of style seen a few years later in mature death and black metal.
The chant-pace cadences of this album wear thin after a few songs, and the tendency of the band to fall into unison around a foot-stomping, strum-throbbing pattern causes many of us listeners to pass out in boredom. Where the Americans, by virtue of concentration of theme, fit all that they do into a narrow band of melodic phrase and accompanying harmonies, Kreator are caught between becoming riff salad through their divergence and reiterating a theme too exactly. Rhythm guitars are imaginative and adroit, skipping between chords and lead tremolo picking that creatively uses texture to imply changes in tempo; much as later Sepultura used different chord shapes to alter mood abruptly before seguing between phrases, Kreator like Sodom before them underscore much of their songwriting with alternate chord harmony, giving this a depth that their earlier works lacked. Their sense of pace is admirable as well; songs drop in from ambiguous tempo and pick up a thrust before it is explicitly framed in the action of the drums, which gives this an artistry unexpected by most.
Moreso than earlier albums, an influence of the great British heavy metal bands, especially Iron Maiden, is evident in a tendency to taper melodies into arpeggio and fade out in fractional rhythm. From many such contrasting elements, this album forms a single voice that influenced many, even if as a listening experience it remains too solidly rooted in speed metal to be stimulating past 1990 or so. This is exacerbated by some of the lyrics that, rebellious in the 1980s, became dogma of the dominant political parties in the 1990s; great bands learn first how to make an influential aesthetic, later how to write the underpinning structure of song, and finally, still further along time's curve, how to express not only in words but in philosophical concept what they desire. Despite these rough edges, this album trades the raw youthful spirit of their earlier works for a maturity of musicality that influenced countless bands of the coming generation ("Terrorzone" which borrows from Iron Maiden and the triumphant iteration of major theme in solo on "Coma of Souls" was borrowed in turn by Therion on "The Way"). While those bands have in turn surpassed Kreator in styling and songwriting, "Coma of Souls" is as much a part of the heritage of metal as monkeys are to humans.