21/01/2004 § Leave a comment
Language: English, of sorts
It feels like I must be one of the few people to give Atrox any kind of credence. The Internet seems to be chock-full of comments like ‘Atrox are too bizarre’, ‘Atrox are insane’ and ‘I like my music weird, but not this weird’. Well, I dare say that’s because of lot of people are too eager to think they know what they like in metal, and sometimes one of these bands comes along that tests their preconceptions, raises the bar and it’s just too far out for a lot of fans. The result is that all those people whose staple diet is stuff like Blind Guardian and Rhapsody fall by the wayside, enjoying living in their little comfy metal worlds and not trying anything too challenging, but in doing so lose out on the finer fruits of metal. However, there is a fine line between challenging and just shit, I’m aware. Fortunately, Atrox fall very much the right side of it.
Atrox’s last album, Terrestrials, was very much a stew of different ideas, thrown together in some kind of musical melting pot, swirled around until mush, boiled to the point of nuking, but still managing to taste pretty good at the end of it. Orgasm is by far the best album that Atrox have come up with. There is something supremely confident about the way this is put together. For a start, it is a lot heavier that previous efforts. I always wondered what it would be like if Atrox ever really let rip, whether it would work or whether the result would be like the musical version of a Jackson Pollock. Fortunately, we’re left with something far from unsightly, far from being a spattering of different symbols and ideas, but something very good indeed, and unique.
Now before anyone goes rushing to get this and then blames me because it’s not like Nightwish, let me explain something. Atrox are not an ordinary band. Obviously too much time spent in Trondheim has corroded their brain cells to the point of near insanity. Monika’s artwork, which graces the inside of many of the albums, looks like something conjured up as a result of a nightmare crossed with an acid trip, the music is some of the weirdest, unconventional stuff you’ll hear come out of metal and a lot of their social life seems to revolve around their pet freak, Rødingen, a red, grimacing stuffed toy. But I love them. I love this album. Each song is wonderfully unpredictable, you never know where the music’s taking you and it really is a journey of discovery in metal. The tunes are either heavy guitar riffs mixed with Monika’s high-register screams and warblings [Methods Of Survival]; strange, dinky guitar trickles mixed in with drum blasts and power chords [Burning Bridges], or some of the weirdest clean guitar you’re likely to hear in a metal track [Heartquake], and in Tentacles, the song’s guitar line perfectly fits the song’s title: spidery, slithery and slinky.
In spite of Atrox’s eccentricity, there are some tracks that might appeal to the more easily satisfied metal fan. Parts of Methods Of Survival and This Vigil cannot fail to show you the extreme depth of talent that this band have, and some of the riffs are reminiscent of bands at the more popular end of the metal spectrum. Monika’s outlandish vocals just sound gorgeous together with the perfect shuffling of the drums and the watery grace of the clean guitars as they do with the butting and chugging of the guitars in the heavier parts. Atrox’s metal is also more technical than ever. I don’t know how they’d get away with playing this stuff live, it stops and starts all over the place, especially parts of Pre-Sense would drive many guitarists nuts. It’s so against the grain that many would give up trying to listen to it, let alone playing it.
Monika’s lyrics are as bonkers as ever too: “paper aeroplanes crash into bottles, spilling wine on flies hanging around washing their hands”, and “we practise compulsory revival of the suicidal, producing child size armour and straightjackets for kids, lobotomising angels as lepers eat their wings”. Sure, this stuff’s weird. But it’s the weirdness that gives it its allure. This album really takes some time to get into, but the more I’ve listened to it, the more I’ve found to appreciate in it. There is nothing ‘experimental’ about this album. Atrox know perfectly well what they’re up to. The only ‘experiment’ here is the one that most listeners will undertake when playing this album, but if you’re lucky, it might just give you some very positive results.