Kreator's work has been consistently in the vein of pure thrash metal, with the exception of four albums (Renewal, Cause for Conflict, Outcast, and Endorama) during the 1990s when they undertook serious experimentation, incorporating industrial, gothic, and avant-garde elements into their sound.
Kreator recorded their debut album, Endless Pain, in just 10 days. Many black and death metal bands consider it to be a very influential release. The band hired the late Sodom guitarist Michael Wulf for the albums tour.
Wulf was in the band for a few days and didn't play on the band's next album, 1986's Pleasure to Kill, despite his getting credit. A new guitarist, Jörg "Tritze" Trzebiatowski joined the band and he played on this album, which is widely considered a thrash classic. Produced by Harris Johns (Helloween, Voivod), it is arguably one of the heaviest, fastest albums in metal, while showing the band growing in talent and technical ability. The song "Flag of Hate" became an early hit, and the band became one of the most promising up-and-coming European metal acts. With Tritze the band started their first tour ever (before the release of Pleasure to Kill they had only played 5 gigs total). The band closed out the year with the Flag of Hate EP.
In 1987 Kreator released Terrible Certainty, which is often considered to be Kreator's best album as the arrangements on the album were more complex and the tempos more varied. The album featured another hit "Behind The Mirror", and the band's popularity continued to grow. They managed to find enough time and money (coming from the concerts) to finance another EP Out of the Dark ... Into the Light.
In 1988 Kreator signed with major label Epic Records. Their debut with Epic, 1989's Extreme Aggression, recorded in Los Angeles, became a metal hit. Continuing the Terrible Certainty formula while showing the band still progressing musically and with better production by the well-regarded Randy Burns (also Megadeth among others), the album featured the band's first major singles and music videos, the title track and "Betrayer", becoming major hits on MTVs Headbangers Ball. They toured North America with Suicidal Tendencies, which greatly expanded their popularity outside of Europe.
In 1989 German director Thomas Schadt made a documentary about Kreator (focusing on the social aspect of heavy metal in the Ruhr Area) titled Thrash Altenessen (named after the band's hometown, a suburb of Essen). Tritze left Kreator after Extreme Aggression. In 1990, with new guitarist Frank "Blackfire" Gosdzik (also formerly of Sodom), the band released Coma of Souls. This album was not quite as praised as the bands previous few albums (many felt the album was "rushed" and repetitive), but still managed to do quite well, with "People of the Lie" becoming a hit. However, things changed in the 90's. With many other thrash bands such as Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax, and others changing their sound for a more commercial approach, Kreator began experimenting with death metal and industrial metal around this time.
The result was Renewal, released in 1992, which featured heavy death metal and industrial influences. While reaching a newer, more commercial audience, the band upset many longtime fans, accusing them of "selling out". The band, once known for being an excellent live act, had disappointing shows and tours for this album due to the industrial influences.
The excruciatingly taxing touring commitments that followed took the band as far as South America, but understandably left them physically and creatively exhausted. The band began to fall apart around this time, founding member Rob Fioretti left the band after the recording of the album as he wanted to spend more time with his family and was replaced by Andreas Herz, who never played any official release. In 1994 Reil left as well, leaving Petrozza the sole original bandmember. Reil was replaced by Joe Cangelosi. Herz left in 1995 and was replaced by Christian Giesler. To make matters worse, their contract with Epic was dropped. Now on G.U.N. Records the new lineup put out the album Cause for Conflict that year. The result was their most modern album at that time, the sound on this album had influences from Pantera and Machine Head, a slight return to a harsher sound than on the previous album.
Gosdzik and Cangelosi left in 1996 and were replaced by Tommy Vetterli (formerly of Coroner), and, surprisingly, Jurgen Reil. The band continued to experiment with their sound, releasing Outcast and Endorama, both of which experimented with goth and ambient influences, incorporated samples and loops and even found Petrozza trying a few different singing styles on for size. It also retained the groove metal influences. The record sales went down, by the end of the '90s the band reached both commercial and critical nadir. Though frontman Mille Petrozza never cared about this: "For us, success doesn't define in record sales. So all our albums have been successful for us, because we've achieved what we were aiming for...".
However, in 2001, with new guitarist Sami Yli-Sirniö, the band released their "comeback" album Violent Revolution, which saw the band returning to their classic thrash style (albeit they used a lot of melodic metal and so called Gothenburg metal riffs). It was praised by fans and critics alike. The tour was extremely successful and introduced Kreator to a younger generation of metal fans. A live album Live Kreation and live DVD Live Kreation: Revisioned Glory were released in 2003, and a new studio album - still retaining a style closer to old school thrash metal - Enemy of God was released in 2005. This album also saw a special edition re-release in 2006 called Enemy of God: Revisited. In early 2006, Kreator toured North America and Canada with Napalm Death, A Perfect Murder, and The Undying. Kreator were to tour 2008 with King Diamond, Leaves Eyes, and Cellador, however the tour was cancelled due to back issues with King Diamond.
In March 2008, the At the Pulse of Kapitulation DVD was released, featuring Live in East Berlin and Hallucinative Comas on one disc. Both had previously been available on VHS only and were long out of print. The band had also began working on their 12th full length album in late 2007/early 2008 and began recording in July 2008. Recording for the album, dubbed Hordes of Chaos, was wrapped up in late August, with the album being slated for release in January of 2009.