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Friday, February 08, 2008

CD Review: Atrocity - Werk 80 II

Atrocity - Werk 80 II
2008 Napalm Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.



Having a second go with their amplified send-up of eighties' pop tunes, Alexander Krull and the Atrocity wrecking crew corral another bunch of Generation-X songs and give them a heavier and frequently dancier twist. However fun the intent may be behind Werk 80 II, since there's many of us who have daydreamed about taking songs of past eras and putting a heavy metal stamp on them (I've always felt that with a skilled hand, someone brilliant could really do something sweet with The Turtles' sugary ballad "You Showed Me"), the inherent problem is this album is way too slick for its own good and unfortunately it hiccups more than roars.

While Alexander Krull is a wholly competent vocalist who we get to enjoy hearing cleanly sing full-time instead of mostly growl in his other entity Leaves' Eyes, not even he can rescue Werk 80 II from coming off schmaltzy. Yes, this album is strictly for kicks and shouldn't be taken seriously in the least, and yes, Atrocity smartly luxuriates their cover songs with synths, orchestral accompaniment and guest background vocals from Krull's wife and Leaves' Eyes singer Liv Kristine Espanaes Krull, necessary ingredients to try and convert a remake into your own.

No arguments for the professionalism behind Werk 80 II, however, there's just something cold and sluggish to their versions of Depeche Mode's "People Are People," Frankie Goes to Hollywood's "Relax," Talk Talk's "Such a Shame," Simple Minds' "Don't You Forget About Me" (have we really recovered from Billy Idol's campy version?) and Eurythmics' "Here Comes the Rain Again." While each song is beautifully arranged and layered, there's still a sense of forced pushing that keeps them restrained even as they try to ascend.

To their credit, Atrocity performs a smashing cover of Bronski Beat's "Smalltown Boy," undeniably Werk 80 II's finest hour, while their spin on Visage's "Fade to Grey" contains a good portion of the driving emotion of the original with a catchy groove. Though spotty in a couple sections, Atrocity's version of A-ha's "The Sun Always Shines On TV" is a nicely-filled venture that utilizes Liv's background sirens to dreamy effect.

Of course, Werk 80 II's biggest asset is its erotic cover featuring world-reknowned burlesque performer Dita von Teese. If you're going to do a cover album of eighties songs, then you might as well go for broke with the decade's credo: "Sex sells!" All joking aside, Werk 80 II is either going to grab you or it's not. There's very little middle ground, particularly when the purpose behind the project, as Atrocity states, is of a celebratory nature. It's an indulgent album making the point that the art of pop melody has all but vanished in today's music scene. An astute point to be sure, Werk 80 II, though not the unhinged wildness it could've been, is merely ushering a message that Atrocity and other metal bands are possibly tired of working within the scripts and constructs of their form of metal, instead offering an alternate view by dipping backwards for old lessons relearned.

Rating: ***

3 comments:

bob_vinyl said...

Did you know that Billy Idol was originally asked to do "Don't You Forget About Me?" It was offered it to him and to Bryan Ferry for the soundtrack, but they both declined. It's probably a good thing. Simple Minds did a very good version. They're an underrated band from the 80s.

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

Nope, I didn't know that. Simple Minds was a wiser choice; they didn't overdo it and gave it the proper amount of '80s synth pop juice to make it a classic

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