“You’ve come a long way, baby” — or so the saying goes. The same could be said for Kreator these days. Long heralded as one of Germany’s most influential metal bands (and there’ve been many), Kreator was instrumental in laying down the black- and death-metal prototypes during the 1980s with such monolithic thrash-fests as Terrible Certainty and Pleasure To Kill . However, come 1992’s Renewal , the band, like many of their contemporaries, slowed down the pace a few beats to let their songs breathe the way they never did before; unlike their contemporaries, they actually succeeded without sucking ass. But regardless of what progression came previously, little can compare to the penetrating wallop Kreator’s latest, Endorama , induces.

Endorama ‘s most pronounced element is Kreator’s matured songwriting. Largely composed by vocalist/guitarist Mille Petrozza, the album’s songs crawl under the skin and simultaneously attack the body — accessible yet punishing, cerebral yet visceral, old-school yet new-school. And that last element is what makes Endorama so rewardingly adventurous: Kreator has managed to expand its sound to unfathomable reaches but, at the same time, retain its characteristic fervor.

Dynamics get a monstrous workout on Endorama , as well, a factor doubtless integral to Kreator’s ripened power. Shifting between full-tilt and stomping, “Shadowland” perhaps is the finest balance of the band’s past and present; the catharsis of “Everlasting Flame” receives lush symphonic treatment; and the anthemic “Future Ring” sways and thrusts to a well-harnessed swell of volume. But taken as a whole, Endorama is one giant vortex of emotion, passion, aggression, and progression.

If there ever was a swift method to beginning the Y2K with a bang, Endorama would be it. It’s relatively fair to say that Kreator’s earliest works will stand as the band’s most influential and important. But if justice prevails, Endorama will break through such mental arrest and receive the credit it so rightly deserves: Best Album of 1999.

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