With the exception of Leaves’ Eyes frontwoman Elina Siirala, German Death Metal veterans Atrocity sport exactly the same line-up as the former, and are fronted by Leaves’ Eyes’ male vocalist Alexander Krull. Although Atrocity have been around far longer, first formed in 1985 as the Grindcore band Instigators, they are probably not as well known. Nevertheless, Atrocity’s latest release ‘Okkult II’ outdoes this year’s earlier Leaves’ Eyes release, ‘Sign of the Dragonhead,’ on all measures – including originality, musicality, and sheer force of personality.

The album opens with Masters of Darkness, bringing deep, dark, classic Death Metal riffs, along with choral overtones. Krull’s vocals are harsh and direct, with a touch of Angela Gossow to the vocal lines. The use of a choir, almost entirely without any other orchestral backing, is an interesting choice, and one that adds gravitas without distracting from the overall heaviness of the album. This approach is not only enjoyable, but at times quite compelling. Joris Nijenhuis’ drumming meanwhile is very powerful, but not overdone in the mix. Overall the track might well bring to mind old school Arch Enemy or Cradle of Filth, particularly in Thorsten Bauer and Pete Streit’s brutal lead guitars.

Shadowtaker is harsh, aggressive, and powerful, almost Blackened in its approach to full throttle, deep, dark Death Metal. This track exchanges the grandeur of Atrocity works the like of ‘Atlantis’ for sheer, unadulterated brutality. Nijenhuis’ drums remain impressive, while Bauer and Streit focus on fast, crushing riffs.

Bloodshed and Triumph embraces more choral and subtle orchestral elements along with suspenseful drumming to add a distinctly filmic atmosphere that would work beautifully as a Gothic horror soundtrack; indeed, it moves towards the drama of Dimmu Borgir. This track certainly reignites the grandiosity of the aforementioned ‘Atlantis,’ proving Atrocity can still capture symphonic flare.

Elements of Blackened Thrash are introduced in Spell of Blood, in which Krull’s harsh vocals have a tendency to stand out due to his relatively easy-to-interpret enunciation – certainly a virtue amongst Death Metal vocalists. The excellent pacing makes it very engaging, particularly when some almost Arabian guitar melodies make an intriguing intermission.

The heavy, intense and direct Menschenschlachthaus kicks in with insanely fast drums, while also showcasing the power of Krull’s declaratory vocals, which are judiciously supported by the guitars. The carefully chosen moments of choral intrusion work very well in this track, as do the moments of more melodic guitar work. There are even some curious hints of a Rotting Christ influence throughout the song.

Gates to Oblivion continues the Arabian grandeur and choral influence, lending it an atmosphere similar to one of Therion‘s heavier numbers. The track is ominous and foreboding, masterfully capturing the power and clarity of Black Metal with its sense of purpose and superiority.

The drawing of a blade kicks off the stirring heaviness of Infernal Sabbath, soon combined with beautiful choral voices, Krull’s earth-shattering roar and Bauer and Streit’s gorgeously heavy riffs. Infernal Sabbath is easily the heaviest, Blackest, and grandest track on the album, with an almost cosmic and truly infernal atmosphere. This track is simply massive and climactic throughout, and alongside Bloodshed and Triumph, is undoubtedly one of the strongest on the album.

All Men Must Die moves back towards a more Death Metal sound, still using incredibly fast drums and heavy riffs. The choir continues to add an extra element of gravity, though the track does momentarily twist into a harsh minimalism in the mix that really shows Atrocity’s teeth.

Phantom Ghost is heavy, chunky, atmospheric and guitar-driven, pushing back into more of a Dimmu Borgir space. There are some more melodic elements to guitars, while the atmosphere overall is grand and expansive. The terrified screams in the background add to the dire sense of danger and power, with the whole sonic package perfectly bolstered by the choir to create a very powerful track.

Devil’s Covenant is one of the most out-and-out classic Atrocity tracks, fast, heavy and riff-laden. The vocal line is pure old school Death Metal for the verses, while the melodic chorus offsets the classic elements and re-introduces the choir to contribute further depth.

‘Okkult II’ closes appropriately with The Golden Dawn, named for one of the most famous – some would say notorious – secret mystical societies of the 19th and 20th centuries. This is reflected in the mysterious, foreboding style that is somewhat reminiscent of Opeth’s creepier moments before kicking in with sheer Death Metal brutality. Even with the presence of the choir, this is one of the heaviest and most brutal tracks on the album, with melodic elements kept to a minimum amongst the blistering heaviness.

Overall, ‘Okkult II’ is a triumph of versatility, showing that Atrocity are able to weave their way through subgenres and Metal approaches with skill and aplomb. Indeed, they are able to tap into some of the deepest grandiosity of Metal, while at no point seeming overwrought. In this sense, the album also shows the discipline of Atrocity’s years on the scene, and is a powerful entry in their longstanding corpus of work.