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Atrocity is one of the most experimental metal bands of all times. From grindcore to symphonic metal and everything between, there isn't much left the band hasn't tried out in its long career. Even for such an eclectic band, ''Werk 80'' was a quite surprising release that got the band some minor mainstream success while more traditional extreme metal fans of the band's early years didn't dig the band's new experiment. ''Werk 80'' offers cover versions of national and international pop and rock songs of the eighties. The band's song selection turns out being as eclectic as the band itself and varies from international smash hits from David Bowie and Duran Duran to less known German underground tracks from And One and D.A.F. to only name a few examples. The band mostly used a cool, dark and low industrial rock and metal sound for their interpretations that would get some critical acclaim from the German alternative and gothic scene where new genres such as Neue Deutsche Härte in the key of Rammstein and Neue Deutsche Todeskunst in the vein of Das Ich were on the rise. ''Werk 80'' is dominated by low and almost emotionless vocals, simplistic and heavy riffs, minimalist keyboard patterns and an almost robotic rhythm section. Many songs actually sound like danceable march music with a martial vibe.
While this brave new approach sounds original on paper, the actual record is a hit-and-miss affair because the musical direction starts getting redundant after a while and the limited vocals are hard to digest despite some additional female and male vocalists who are occasionally adding some much-needed diversity and energy. Among the highlights, I would cite the almost mantra-like opener ''Shout'' even though it's a few minutes too long, the elegant symphonic version of ''The Great Commandment'', the simplistic rendition of ''Let's Dance'' and the elegiac closer ''Maid of Orleans'' that ends the record on a melancholic and thoughtful note. Other tracks are performed without any creative spirit, especially the German tunes such as the annoyingly aggressive ''Der Mussolini'', the one-dimensional industrial metal tune ''Das letzte Mal'', the plodding ''Die Deutschmaschine'' and the repetitive ''Verschwende deine Jugend''. Let's add that especially the German tracks feature somewhat controversial lyrics and a martial musical image that might be wrongfully interpreted as right-wing chic even though the band has nothing to do with national-socialist tendencies and even smashed a giant swastika on stage when some nazis attended their concerts in the past. The band probably chose these more controversial songs to provoke the masses even more. The cover artworks of this record and the different singles with a lot of sexual appeal only add to the fact that the band tried to shock more conservative minds.
Who might be interested in this kind of music nowadays? Industrial rock and metal fans with a weakness for pop and rock hits of the eighties should dig this record. Older members of the dark alternative scene could also dig this record that was quite original back then when cover albums weren't that popular yet. From a nostalgic point of view, I happen to find this album slightly above average despite its obvious flaws and give it a spin every now and then. Anyone who is looking for truly creative interpretations of classic material from the eighties, a skilled type of industrial rock or a hidden pearl from the dark alternative scene might find this release too repetitive and simplistic. The second part ''Werk 80 II'', released eleven years later is actually more creative, diversified and surprising. ''Werk 80'' has its moments and a very own atmosphere but is actually much ado about nothing.