Today, Cruentator present you with Variations on a Theme: the Kreator riff. That’s what the promo bin listing for Ain’t War Hell? promised, and for the most part, what it delivers. Ripping off acts is in vogue nowadays, and while Cruentator stop short of lifting Kreator‘s riffs completely, it is for no lack of trying. Hell, that sort of thing can actually land you on top ten lists nowadays. Still, the Italians need to try harder than this, because sounding like Kreator is one thing, but sounding like good Kreator is something different entirely. Ain’t War Hell? Maybe, if “war” is Italian for “this album.”
When opener “Merciless Extermination” completed its first run, my gut said “boy, that was some ok Kreatcore.” Super-heated riffs, chunky rhythms, relentless drum battering, and a dutiful Mille Petrozza impression: it was everything the Full Metal Jacket quote and vaguely Andreas Marschall artwork promised. Sure, it was merely decent, but it’s one track, right? See, “Tyrants of the Wasteland” is another step in the right direction. It passes the same couple of riffs back and forth between lead and rhythm section, but at least they’re catchy riffs! I could really use a breather though. Oh good, “Barbaric Violence” is taking it slo-and here we go again. Wait a sec, isn’t this the same riff as last song, just not as catchy? And that drum fill, I’ve heard that eight times now! Rather, I heard that same snare pattern eight times – where are the kicks and the toms? Ok, let’s try something different. Follow my lead: Annnd tempo shift. I said “tempo shift.” Is this thing on? Guys, you don’t have to record the whole album at 200 beats per minute. You know what, forget it.
Cruentator treat the qualities of Kreator like a dish they saw their mother make a thousand times, but never nailed down the exact ingredients or recipe. The result is both familiar and unpleasant. The charismatic riffs of “Tyrants of the Wasteland” or “Marching Into a Minefield” are beaten to death by song’s end. Natural places to implement a tempo shift or a build in pacing, like the ones littered throughout “The Shining Hate,” sail by with nary a second glance. Even ostensibly consistent packages like “Evil Is Prowling Around” and “The Nightstalker” still suffer from Ambro’s (ex-Bowel Stew) frog-in-a-Mille-suit impression and Riccardo’s painful snare bonking. The individual components – read: the riffs – of Ain’t War Hell? should add up to something more than this. Instead, Ain’t War Hell? winds up as the aural equivalent of falling down an up escalator for thirty minutes. Even their name is a mouthful. “Cruentator” translates to something like “bloody” in Latin, but it feels as if the band landed on a portmanteau of “crouton” and Kreator simply because of its similarity to their idols.
In its finest moments, when its suffocating pace and insipid snare bonking don’t lull me into a state of aggravated pseudo-attention, you might convince me that Cruentator produced some quality Kreator worship, that they’ve replicated the unique blend of German charisma, Teutonic malice, and merciless speed that we all know and love. In truth, these are the moments that keep the album afloat. They may not have the catchiness or the pageantry or the variety, but the ever-so-brief instances of infectious riffery on “Tyrants of the Wasteland” or “Evil Is Prowling Around” cut through the mess for moments of success. It’s not much, but it’s something.
If I’ve said it once, we’ve all said it a thousand times: I want to like this album more. What can I say, I’m a sucker for the sound. Cruentator‘s surface level sound paws at me like a cute kitten who wants attention. Unfortunately, the depth just isn’t there. The writing, creativity, performances, and polish all need to be plumped up. If you’re desperate for more Kreator in your life, you’re likely better off with Ain’t War Hell? than Endorama or Outcast. For everyone else? Pass.