Atomwinter – Sakrileg Review

As a band, particularly a young one, it can be hard to properly set out your stall with your debut LP. Of course, the best thing you can do is put out an absolutely killer record but, even if the band and their mums believe this is what they’ve done, you can’t be sure until the reviews start rolling in. Another option—and a better one by far than just trying to grab some notoriety by, I don’t know, setting fire to a few significant public buildings—is to try and make it very, very clear from outset what you’re peddling. This latter option was the choice of Atomwinter. Hailing from the sleepy German university town of Göttingen,1 this four-piece called its debut Atomic Death Metal and lovingly wrapped it in a black and grey illustration of a naked, cadaverous female ghoul, sporting cartridge belts and straddling some sort of artillery piece, while wielding a belt-fed machine gun one-handed. The record was as subtle and nuanced as its artwork. Still, let no one say Atomwinter misled you as to what you were getting into. Now onto its fourth release, Sakrileg (Sacrilege) and the band have found some significantly better art (still replete with ghoul) but have the riffs kept pace?

Walking the line between old school death metal and blackened speed-thrash, Atomwinter are barely fucking around. I say ‘barely’, rather than ‘not’, because there is the obligatory one-minute instrumental opener to skip on Sakrileg. The album would’ve opened far stronger had the band just ripped straight into “Ov Blood and Flesh,” which tells us immediately that these guys have listened to a lot of early Incantation and taken that as their creative starting point. Fast and furious, one of the first things that struck me about this album was the work of Patrick W. behind the kit, as he slides up through slow brooding tempos to machine-gun-like blasts by way of crusty d-beats. He sets the rhythmical backbone of Sakrileg, driving it forward as founding members Martin S. and Benni G., on bass and guitar respectively, pump out a wall of old school death riffs.

New vocalist Florian Bauer, who joined after Atomwinter’s decent (if shoddily produced) 2018 effort, Catacombs, offers a stronger and more varied performance than his immediate predecessor, Oliver Holzschneider. Bauer’s deep, rumbling roars and snarls lend depth and texture to the unrelenting fare served up by Martin and Benni. Channeling a fair amount of early Asphyx, and even Angelcorpse, into their riffs, Atomwinter isn’t winning any awards for genre-defining creativity but these boys know how to write a decent guitar lick. Highlights include the frantic (proper) opener “Ov Blood and Flesh,” the sepulchral feel of “The Lungs of Hell” and the huge, stomping beast that is the title track.

There’s a lot to like about Sakrileg. While the band plays it fairly safe in songwriting terms, this is a very consistent album, with no weak tracks (intro aside) and strong performances all around. This is aided by very good, organic-feeling production, which gives Atomwinter real heft and presence. Compared to the previous three albums, which all feel like they were probably recorded in a damp garden shed, Sakrileg has a more polished veneer atop the bile and venom of its blackened sound. Its shortcoming is that lack of risk-taking, which means that, for all its good moments, there are also few standout moments of real quality (like the solo about 2 minutes into “Until the Loss ov God”) to be found. There are also a few little tricks, such as the air-raid-siren-like guitar lead, that are, rather like “ov”, perhaps over-utilized across here.

However, standing at only 37 minutes (36 if you, like me, will always skip that intro), this is a crisp, bilious and fun death metal album, with little to criticize about it. The old school feel of Sakrileg, paired with its production job, means the album packs a punch that is every bit the equal of that tasty cover art. While Atomwinter’s first three records did little for me, this one has more than enough about it to mean I will be looking out for their next record with interest.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Trollzorn Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: February 10th, 2023

Show 1 footnote

  1. I lived in Göttingen for a while in 2001/2 and actually bought two of my favorite albums ever—Death’s The Sound of Perseverance and 16 Horsepower’s Hoarse—on CD in a seemingly-now-departed record shop there.
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