The band took a giant misstep with 2010s After the Storm, an unfocused record that took all of their metal influences out of their sound. I feared that the band had run its course and founder and lead vocalist Alex Krull was more focused on his side project Leaves Eyes in which he performs with his wife Liv Kristine.
With the release of Okkult, Atrocity sounds like a band out to prove a point that they are back bigger than ever. The release is heavier and more guttural and the songwriting is the most grandiose of their career. Their new release is the first in a new trilogy that they are composing to be unleashed over the next couple of years. It is the darkest release in the band's history.
The lyrical themes are intertwined around unsolved mysteries, occult magic and conspiracy theories. They touch on everything from a Scottish haunted castle, the ancient necromancer Erictho and the Ides of March. Lyrically Krull is in his element and at his absolute best.
Krull also tackles the production duties and the sound of the record is excellent. The separation between tracks and the inclusion of the orchestration is astounding. Virtuoso Victor Smolski of Rage and Lingua Mortis Orchastra fame recorded the orchestral parts. I cannot emphasize enough how much this adds to the overall sound of the record and sets Atrocity apart from their peers.
They couldn’t have picked a better partner to work with, as Smolski is a master working with the orchestra. The live sounding orchestration also sounds much better intertwined with the music then it being replicated on a keyboard.
The centerpiece and album highlight is the epic “Necromancy Divine.” Filled with quick picked tremolo guitar riffs, bombastic double bass drumming and a chorus that rips your face off, this is Atrocity at their best. The track is savage and the inclusion of the choirs and orchestration is incredible, one of the best songs of their career.
The band incorporates straightforward crushing death metal in the Manowar titled “Death By Metal,” the syncopated groove oriented “Murder Blood Assassination” and hyper speed “Masaya (Boca Del Infierno).” All three tracks find the band as aggressive as they have ever been. Atrocity are focused and seem comfortable playing with this aggression again, as it does not feel forced.
Okkult is a welcome return for a band that hasn’t released a meaningful record in almost ten years. The brilliant inclusion of Smolski’s orchestration combined with some of the best songwriting of Atrocity’s career should launch them back towards the top of the death metal scene, a place they haven’t been in a long time. If this is the first taste of the trilogy that they will be releasing, then I cannot wait for the conclusion.
(Released May 7, 2013 on Napalm Records)