Tuesday 31 January 2023

Atrocity - Okkult III (2023)

Country: Germany
Style: Death Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 20 Jan 2023
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I do like when Metal Archives list a band's genre as "various". Atrocity started out as a grindcore band called Instigator but shifted to death metal with the name change. However, after a couple of albums, they brought in a wide variety of other sounds, Metal Archives listing "hardcore, goth rock, folk and industrial" as a start. Wikipedia adds that they even found their way into disco and acoustic material. Of course, the entire band also plays symphonic metal as Leaves' Eyes, with a female vocalist added when functioning in that mode.

They seem to have shifted back to death metal for their 2013 album Okkult and they've remained there for Okkult II in 2018 and now Okkult III in 2023. It's a tasty brand of death as it kicks off with a long intro to the opener Desecration of God, full of choral ritual, chattering creatures and searing guitar. And, of course, a solid riff to launch into the song proper. However, for a band with such an outstanding range, this is surprisingly traditional. It's good stuff that grew on me substantially on a second listen, but it's not particularly surprising stuff.

That's not to suggest that there are no notes to be made, but even when they venture into a fresh genre, it's still done within a death metal framework. Born to Kill, for instance, is such old school death that it's close to thrash metal, merely downtuned further and with a harsher vocal. Atrocity hail from Ludwigsburg, near Stuttgart, not crazy far from Destruction in Weil am Rhein, which is also in Baden-Württemberg. I would never confuse the two bands, but there are clear similarities, especially during the instrumental midsection, with solid chugging and effective guitar swapping between speakers. Of course, Alexander Krull's vocals are very different to Schmier's.

There's a gothic flavour on Malicious Sukkubus, introduced through more choral work but also an overt use of keyboards. There are a pair of guest vocalists on this song too, both female and both known primarily for symphonic metal, but there's little of that, if anything, discernible here. One is Elina Siirala, who is the band's lead singer nowadays when they're Leaves' Eyes. The other is Zoë Marie Federoff is an Arizona local who currently fronts the international project Catalyst Crime and has also recently joined Cradle of Filth. Maybe there's some of the latter in the theatricality that opens the song, as if it's setting the scene in a horror movie trailer. Either way, it sounds like one sings in a harsh voice and the other provides more of a spoken word approach.

The closer, Teufelsmarsch, also has a different approach due to the guests, mostly Misstiq, who's an Australian keyboardist known for YouTube videos in which she creates keyboard takes on -core songs. She adds an almost industrial flavour to this one, which opens with what I presume is the military march of the title. It ends up feeling quintessentially German, even though that edge is added by an Australian. It's also telling that most of the different textures that show up here are due to keyboards, even though Atrocity are clearly the guitar band we might expect.

Oddly, given that I usually gravitate to the more unusual songs on an album, my favourites on this one are more traditional pieces. That I'm fond of Born to Kill doesn't surprise me, because of my thrash background, but I rather dig the meat of the second side too, which is the traditional place to throw the filler, something that's thankfully absent here. I'm not entirely sure why I feel drawn to Faces from Beyond, Lycanthropia and Cypka, but it might be that they just get down to business and do it well without being diverted into anything fancy.

After all, if you're not going to do something new, then do something old really well and Atrocity do that here. It's a solid, reliable death metal album, done with agreeable pace and with some of the songs stretching a little by adding keyboards to shift the atmosphere here and there.

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