Most Death metal bands don’t age gracefully and tend to either become parodies of themselves or end up playing pop music. Atrocity after having conquered Death metal decided to experiment with various genres but each of those experiments has been abysmal failure. This band therefore destroyed its reputation in both underground and mainstream circles to the extent of being forgotten by all. But from 1985 to 1992, Atrocity were on the war path until the release of their Magnum Opus Todessehnsucht (Longing for Death). Five musicians with an obvious passion for classical music combined with Floridian Death metal and the Teutonic trio. More precisely their main influences seem to be Death, Destruction, Kreator, Morbid Angel and Richard Wagner.
This production is precise with each instrument piercing perfectly through the mix. Drums sound full with a thick clunky double bass that thankfully has no artificial click sound to it. Guitars have a polished tone that retains enough low end and distortion, making every power chord feel like a trained punch in the face. The bass meanwhile gets adequate attention as it plays a balancing act between thickening the guitars and stealing the spotlight through innovative counter melodies. Vocals glide powerfully over as they transition between various screams ,shouts, rasps and growls.
The album shows its classical aspirations with the opening title track which consists of a leitmotif played on a synthesizer that attempts to capture the magnitude of an orchestra but obviously for any underground death metal band at the time that was impossible due to budget and software constraints of the time. That forced them to create a truly haunting theme not through aesthetic characteristics but through note selection. Listen to how the guitars insert themselves against the keyboard by playing complementing notes that develop into the leitmotif and then further twist it and torment it as the vocals pound on top just to morph slowly into Godless Years. This is a unique take to composition as most bands will write multiple songs in the same musical language whereas the ideas for Todessehnsucht are all picked from the opening track and each composition reflects a different aspect of the feeling of yearning for death. As the final track before the cover returns to that leitmotif before blasting off into a simplistic Germanic speed metal riff till the end.
Richard Wagner’s “Excalibur” makes an appearance in a sort of chorus in “Sky Turned Red” that combined the choir’s vocals with Krull’s throat rasp yet the chord progression underneath fits perfectly before it develops even further, adding to the fear of an ill omen as represented by the song lyrics. Necropolis shows much more straightforward arrangements and heritage from Altars of Madness and even some of the one note theatrics that Djent bands would develop 20 years later. All these surface traits in most cases would compile to make something of atrocious quality but by having that initial base of the opening track to constrain the musical language and the basic theme of yearning for death has allowed Atrocity greater freedom in exploring various facets of Todessehnsucht while keeping coherence. “Through that Necropolis” manages to show playfulness in the band’s rejection of life as the narrator dances in a graveyard.
Virtuoso performances are toned down as the band is concentrated on a singular objective but when attacking a particular motif. The musicians will diverge on multiple angles through drum fills, bass noodling and pitch variations in the vocals while maintaining unity and using that combined energy to really a highlight a particular melody. Songs build up tension in their own particular manner as climaxes are not what the band seeks but rather the development and deconstruction of themes that lead to a suitable progression in the music where the composition reaches a conclusion. The music doesn’t seek twists and turns to create variety but rather uses these twists and turns to maintain mood and to replicate the thought process of the narrator.
Multiple emotions clash together in what is ultimately a sorrowful yet uplifting album that finds meaning in through the end goal of death. Hatred against the individual who proclaims to be greatest at the expense of all others appears often, and ultimately like the cover summarizes it is through understanding death that we have the courage to do what is right and to push ourselves in defiance of others to achieve those goals. Atrocity seek to create a greater self by destroying one’s ego and ridding the earth of the evil of man. A powerful record that deserves its place among The Red In The Sky Is Ours and Unquestionable Presence.