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Atrocious Masterpiece - 90%

MisterSquiggles, April 5th, 2008

Imagine you are in a decaying, abandoned concert hall. An inharmonious symphony shakes the moldering wooden rafters above your head, causing gritty dust to fall into your eyes. Through the gloom of spectral light you can barely make out the ghastly apparitions on stage swaying their cadaverous forms with the timing of the music. Frightened, yet strangely enraptured, you realize that you’ve discovered Atrocity’s venerable death metal opus Todessehnsucht.

Released in 1992 on Roadrunner Records—titled Longing For Death in the U.S.—this album was, and still is, counted among the greatest works of German Death Metal. And it’s for good reason, too. The guitar arrangements and song structures are some of the best composed for a Metal release.

The album begins with the title track Todessehnsucht, a doomy symphonic instrumental that inspires dread while setting up the album’s thematic ideas. This is done through the use of strings, tympani and an incredibly eerie guitar lead. Scary shit.

Next is Godless Years, and from then on the album poses an entertaining balancing act of attrition. Each song has its own theme, and variations on those themes, giving the impression that someone in this band had training in composition.

Given the sophisticated nature of the music, I was expecting Todessehnsucht to be pretentious and difficult to digest. But Atrocity succeeds where other ambitious acts have failed: the music is immersive and places you in an apocalyptic scene painted by mayhem, misanthropy and morbidity. Oh yea, and Metal.

The opening riff to Defiance is damned good. So is the song’s swirling pattern, which pounds out the heaviness before a show stopping, finger tapped guitar solo that sounds like it was stripped from a classical work.

Another classical component that proves to be a prominent thematic element appears about half way through the album. The track Introduction, which leads into Sky Turned Red, is breathtaking, and both songs feature a demented variation on the music from Richard Wagner’s opera “Götterdämmerung.” The result is a haunting, brutal, memorable passage.

Laced throughout the complexities of the music are Alex Krull’s brilliant vocals. He sounds like some demonic spirit familiar bellowing from beyond the firmament. On Unspoken Names, his vocal arrangements sound poetic in their metric dance across the riff structures. During the chorus of Necropolis, you feel engaged enough to growl along with him.

The album ends with a reprise of the title track and is the final variation on theme. It’s a successful reintroduction, tying off the album the same way it began. It is this unity that makes Todessehnsucht one of the greatest death metal albums of all time. After this classic, the band turned to a gothic/industrial sound that many fans lamented.

So be it. With Todessehnsucht, we’ll always have the chance to enter a terrifying landscape, breathing in the musty death created by this orchestral atrocity.

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