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Atrocity is a German death metal band, and Hallucinations is their debut. It's impossible to describe a death metal album without first saying something about the genre itself. Death metal bands are usually constructed along the lines of a speed metal band: two very technically accomplished guitarists, a bass player who can match the guitarists for speed and introduce very occasional bits of melody, a drummer whose hands and feet are automatic weapons, and -- here's where the road forks -- a vocalist who can maintain a guttural death growl (a variation of the very real death rattle) over the course of an enchanting (or otherwise) evening. The subject matter is uncompromisingly nihilistic: Life sucks, then you die, then little red men stick forks in your butt, and (if you're really unlucky) you bunk with a death metal fan who tells you "I told you so" for an eternity. This music isn't simply not for everyone, it's almost not for anyone; and don't think that death metal fans would have it any other way. The marvel of this music is that so much effort and skill is channeled into such an unrewarding medium. Which brings us to Hallucinations (warning: what follows is not for the faint of heart). The opening track, "Deep in Your Subconscious," is written from the perspective of a four-year-old child who's just been raped by her father; it's a giant, brutal blender of sound, changing tempos slightly as the blades hit the occasional chunk of bone, concluding that "some human beings are repulsive animals." (And, yeah, that's from the lyric sheet, since Alex Krull could be reading the back of an aspirin bottle.) This seems to set the stage for the self-destructive behavior chronicled on the album; a young girl (now older) lives in a haze of drugs and prostitution. The album reaches a peak of intensity on "Hallucinations," not coincidentally the most accessible track on here (and that's accessible in a relative sense, as in metal-heads might be able to get into this). The concept is a hard sell -- drugs are bad, singing like Satan with a sore throat is somehow good -- but the gothic hopelessness that snakes its way through songs like "Defeated Intellect" and "Last Temptation" reinforces the idea enough that you soon stop questioning it and just go about enjoying the music. These bands are making some of the most free, experimental music in rock -- just check out the guitars on "Hold Out (To the End)." Unfortunately, death metal is a small state accorded few representatives in the mainstream, and Atrocity, at least here, wouldn't be chosen over bands like Death and Sepultura. If you're a fan of the genre, however, Hallucinations is something you'll want to look into.

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