Normally, when a genre is overtaken by retro impulses, it's a sign of rot, if not an outright death rattle. So listeners would be wise to get a little nervous when considering the mass of retro-styled metal releases that have emerged in the past year or two. Whether it's Manowar's frozen-in-time new album, '80s-sounding thrash from Immortal, or the Among the Living-era Anthrax knockoff being advertised as the new Shadows Fall album, something's definitely going on, and it might not be good.
On the other hand, comfortable old shoes are comfortable old shoes, and if they've got brand-new laces, so much the better. Two titans of '80s Euro-thrash are on the road together, touring behind new albums that may not be revelatory -- in fact, they hark back to the bands' heydays in an almost startling manner -- but if the riffs are heavy and the beats are fast and furious, is it really such a bad thing?
For the moment, the answer is no. Kreator was one of the best bands in Europe in the late 1980s. Its albums Pleasure to Kill and Terrible Certainty vaulted death metal forward by leaps and bounds, with technical mastery and punishing riffs. Destruction, too, is an amazing act making a welcome return: Its new album, The Antichrist, shows that the band has lost none of its power; it's still pounding out melodic, technical thrash without resorting to Cookie Monster vocals, cheesy effects pedals, or hip-hop beats. So yeah, that retro impulse can be a dangerous one. But there's still good reason to bang your head, because the old-school kings are back to claim their thrones.