Atomtrakt is the martial industrial project of Christoph Ziegler, also of the black metal project Vinterriket. I wasn’t previously familiar with his work, but apparently he’s quite prolific. In addition to many Vinterriket albums over the last decade, he’s made a handful of Atomtrakt albums too. Artefakte des Verderbens is the fourth from this project.
The album is a dark and harsh affair, as perhaps you’d expect from someone who has been honing his skills in the genre of black metal. It sits at the noisier, more industrial end of the martial spectrum. But it has its moments of subtlety too, and it has something of the chill, haunting atmosphere of black metal.
The first track on the album, Triumphzug, begins with an intro that is a straight sample of a piece of classical music. (I can’t identify it. If you know where it’s from, please leave a comment below.) As an aside, I have to admit that I’m always a little troubled by sampling of this sort. I have no problems whatsoever with incorporating short samples into a new piece of music, but lifting four minutes of audio from somewhere else, without making any modifications along the way and without crediting the source, does seem a lot like plagiarism to me.
All that being said, when Triumphzug does eventually get started, it is a very strong track. The driving rhythm and cinematic chords are highly effective. The signature style of this album is pounding orchestral drums and cinematic synth chord progressions, with a heavy dose of noise, and Christian’s growling vocals. Mixed in with this are samples from Nazi speeches. Triumphzug features samples from Hermann Göring’s “Thermopylen-Rede”. Though my German isn’t good enough to be sure, I speculate that the entire album may be based on the theme of the Battle of Stalingrad.
There is a good mixture of tempos on the album. Some tracks, like Triumphzug and Stacheln der Vernichtung, are fast and energetic. Others, such as Trümmerfelder and Heimkehr der Verwundeten take a slower, quieter approach, and the album ends on an ambient note with Hungerwinter. Even with Christian’s growled vocals these slower tracks could in some sense be considered peaceful, but it is the peace of a battlefield after the war is over. There’s a sense of doom and despair that hangs over the whole album, and on these tracks in particular.
There is an appreciable amount of skill that has gone into this album. There are some nice, subtle touches in the choice of sounds. Stacheln der Vernichtung, for example, features the strumming of an acoustic guitar amid the noise. A number of the tracks feature pauses between sections of heavy percussion, at points going to fully ambient sounds. In these moments the slow chords and sampled speeches take over, building up the tension, before another explosive burst of drumming and harsh vocals.
Christian’s black metal influences are also audible, particularly in the vocals, which are delivered in the growling, rasping style of that genre. It’s interesting to compare Vinterriket and Atomtrakt. The songwriting style is much the same for the two projects, but Atomtrakt replaces the distorted guitars with synths and the drum kit with orchestral percussion. But the same styles of chord progressions are still there.
This album has quickly become a favourite of mine. It’s not an easy listen. The tone of the album varies from harsh and oppressive to despairing. But when I’m in the mood for something crushingly bleak then this album is perfect. I strongly recommend it for fans of bands such as Wappenbund, Kazeria, and Infestation and those who appreciate the more industrial end of the martial spectrum.