Atrocity is a very unique band from Germany that never fails to surprise, but sometimes to deliver. The band started its career by playing grindcore in the mid and late eighties before they became very successful with their first technical death metal releases, Hallucinations andTodessehnsucht. Since then, the band has continued its journey with sudden genre (and even language) changes from album to album until today, and have invited diversified guest musicians and singers over the years. As any familiar with the band will understand, Atrocity is one of the most diverse and eclectic metal bands ever, and it’s very hard to follow them. Of course, there are also a lot of hits and misses among their releases depending on your personal taste.
Now, the band has returned with the album Okkult, three years after the folk rock driven After The Storm. This record is the first part of a trilogy dealing with lyrics inspired by mythic and mysterious topics. The band sings about conspiracy theories, Freemasonry prophecies, witchcraft, and much more. The band has also created a very special project. They’ve recorded an exclusive bonus track for each of the three records, traveled to mystic historical places on three different continents where they hid the tapes of one of the three songs. Back at home, they destroyed all master tapes, and now invite the fans to go on a treasure hunt. The album’s special edition includes several hints at the place where the band hides their first exclusive bonus track. Once a fan finds one of the three songs, he or she can decide on his own what he wants to do with it: keeping it or publishing it on the internet.
As you might realize, the lyrics, as well as the treasure hunt concept, are quite intriguing, and so is the music on Okkult. Note that the band joined forces with Leaves’ Eyes’ Liv Kristine for a few songs, as well as with the Lingua Mortis Orchestra (conducted by Rage’s Victor Smolski) on almost all songs. For the more conservative minds here, I would like to tell you on a side note that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, and that the band has nothing to do with satanism or right winged ideologies, but that they simply are expressive and imaginative artists and story tellers.
Many tracks go into a new symphonic extreme metal direction. Imagine a mixture of MaYan’s debut release, the last few albums from Dimmu Borgir, and maybe a touch of early Therion. Take this mixture and increase its quality, and what you get is Okkult. The majestic opener, “Pandaemonium”, already impresses with a dramatic cinematic overture that could have been placed on a release from Moonspell or The Vision Bleak, before a dynamic death metal song kicks off after two minutes that takes no prisoners. The mixture of beautiful orchestral melodies, powerful choirs, harsh vocals, hard guitar riffs, pumping bass guitar, and incredible powerhouse drumming perfectly unites the beauty and the beast. The band has many more songs of similar quality on the album. The almost gothic-comedy feeling of “March Of The Undying” reminds me of a Tim Burton movie that meets a contemporary Dimmu Borgir or Screaming Savior song, with maybe a touch of the genius of the Japanese avant-garde metal band Sigh. The dark and blistering “Necromancy Divine” hits a similar vein, but has a more grounded, old school feeling reminding me partially of Venom or Slayer. The epic and majestic album closer “La Voisine” is an atmospheric masterpiece that perfectly catalyzes the strengths of Atrocity and the Lingua Mortis Orchestra.
But Atrocity would not be Atrocity if they hadn’t prepared a couple of surprises for us. “Death By Metal” is a pitiless old school death metal track in the vein of Grave that goes back to the band’s roots. The German “Satans Braut” reminds me of the Neue Deutsche Härte genre, and sounds maybe like a mixture of Rammstein and Samsas Traum with epic orchestral passages and a great guitar solo. “When Empires Fall To Dust” sounds surprisingly catchy and modern, and almost makes me want to dance. This song could have come from the Deathstars or a harsher version of Doctor Midnight & The Mercy Cult.
The whole record is kept together by the mystical topics, the orchestral elements, and the consistent, diversified and gripping high quality song writing. In the past, Atrocity has released a few great, many mediocre, and a few really bad records – but this is their absolute masterpiece in my opinion. The record definitely grows with each spin. My favorites on here are “Pandaemonium”, “Satans Braut”, “When Empires Fall To Dust”, and the best song is probably the closing “La Voisine”. If you consider yourself an open-minded metal fan, you should definitely dig this critically acclaimed and surprisingly great record. It may be a welcome change of genre and bring you some fresh inspiration. Hands down, this is at least the best extreme metal release of the year for me.