Christian Death 
Atrocities (Re-release)
~reviewed by Matthew Heilman
Being that it is perhaps one of the most criminally under appreciated albums of Gothic Rock, it is my absolute pleasure to review this disc.  Candlelight Records has recently saw fit to re-release the masterpiece Atrocities, the 1986 concept album that was the first full-length Christian Death record released after the departure of Rozz Williams.
For years, people have held close to their habits of dismissing the work Valor Kand did with and continues to do for the band Christian Death. Without question, Rozz Williams was an exceptional lyricist, vocalist, artist, and musician. Without him, there never would have been such a thing as Death Rock.  His influence is incomparable and an incalculable amount of his work demonstrates nothing short of pure genius.  But without Valor, Christian Death would have ended after Ashes was released. Though many believe that the band should have dissolved at that point, it would have been a shame if some of those successive releases had never come into being. 
It is possible for open-minded people to enjoy several of Valor’s releases for what they are - good Gothic Rock records.  Despite what fanatical fans of Rozz Williams claim, accepting and listening to the music that Valor produced detracts absolutely nothing from the legacy left by Rozz.  Those that celebrate the achievements of both artists are infinitely richer and will have three times the amount of dark music to enjoy.
What critics inevitably overlook is that Valor, Gitane, and David Glass were equally devoted to Christian Death after Rozz recruited them in 1983.  Their talent and work helped the name Christian Death achieve notoriety at the first peak of the band’s popularity in 1985.  So why should they quit a band that they helped make successful just because the founder of the project no longer wanted to be a part of it?  From 1984 into 1985, they helped make the name Christian Death familiar to alternative music fans -- so they certainly had a right to use it afterward.
The initial three recordings that Valor released under the name Christian Death are some of the most influential and powerful Gothic Rock albums ever recorded.  Not to mention the fact that it was Valor’s material that initially gained the attention of post punk fans and dark alternative music fans in the late 80s.  Valor’s Christian Death yielded the most club hits (“This Is Heresy,” “Zero Sex,” “Church Of No Return,” “Sick Of Love”) and it wasn’t until the mid 90s that Rozz’s Christian Death material began to regularly appear on Goth DJ’s playlists.  (Ironically enough, Valor’s classic tracks have all but disappeared these days – but this I suspect is due to trends, rather than the quality of the music).
Besides the well-publicized but often libelous information about Valor ‘stealing’ the name of Christian Death and his ‘feuds’ with Rozz, the indisputable truth behind Valor’s decline in popularity can be traced to the fact that he hit a *very low* period in the early 90's when he released a few unfocussed albums that have no more than one or two strong tracks.  These releases were much more experimental and unpredictable.  As trends changed, Valor continued to reinvent himself and gradually became more allied with darker metal music and further from Gothic Rock.  What it boils down to is that he is a remarkably talented musician with more insight and vision in one eye than most legendary musicians that get the most credit and attention in this genre.  He and Bari-Bari (who appears on this release and the Wind Kissed Pictures EP from 1985) are responsible for setting the standards of guitar driven Goth as it was throughout the late 80's and into the 90's.  But he continues to receive little respect from those who would probably enjoy, understand, and appreciate him most.
With all that said and done, I will get to the point and the matter at hand: which is to strongly urge readers to check out Atrocities. The album is a conceptual release that explores the ‘atrocities’ of WWII. The result is a stark and melancholic descent into psychology and emotional trauma. This magnum opus begins with a shrill, slithering violin sample lifted from one of Paganini’s 24 Caprices and then crashes into the frantic firestorm of “Will O’ The Wisp.” A shuffling and jagged rhythm underscores a discordant clamor of processed guitars and droning church organs, while Valor’s smoky vocal delivery wavers from a croon to a wail.   The influence of punk rock had yet to fade from Goth, and “Will O’ The Wisp” demonstrates this immediately.  A similar intensity resurfaces throughout much of the album, most notably in the gigantic bass lines of “Strapping Me Down,” the shadowy mischief of “Chimére de-si de-la” and the frenzied tribal drum cascades on “Silent Thunder,” a track that also appears on the Mephisto Walz album The Eternal Deep with Christiana’s vocals.
While several of the tracks are edgy, up-tempo post punk blasts, the album is as atmospheric as it is confrontational.  The haunting gloom of "The Danzig Waltz" is truly unforgettable -- an eerie track that centers on murky piano passages, crowned by Valor’s ghostly vocals and jarring violin effects. Ethereal and apocalyptic folk fans will also take delight in the mediaeval nostalgia of "Strange Fortune,” where layers of acoustic guitar, hand percussion, and soft ambient lead guitars create a warm and inviting mood.
But perhaps Gitane DeMone provides the most atmospheric aspects of the album.  Besides her distinctive back up vocal contributions to nearly every track, “Atrocities” offers a few of her most powerful and memorable lead vocal performances with Christian Death. First with the dark and sensual classic, "Tales Of Innocence," which is an unrivaled example of atmospheric Gothic Rock.  Additionally, Gitane's moving rendition of the infamous Billie Holiday lament "Gloomy Sunday" first appeared on this album.  Though these tracks are available on various live compilations, absolutely nothing compares to the original studio versions of these songs that first appeared on this release.
If you are a fan of the albums Catastrophe Ballet and Ashes, then Atrocities will definitely appeal to you. Though it does not feature the voice of Rozz Williams, musically and thematically, it was a logical and appropriate development of the band’s classic sound.   Valor’s voice is commanding and hypnotic, and the song writing and instrumental arrangements are probably the band’s most mature and accessible.  I hope that more people will be open-minded and check out this fantastic and seminal release. There are few Gothic Rock albums that feel as complete and satisfying as this one.

Track List:
1.) Will O’ The Wisp
2.) Tales Of Innocence
3.) Strapping Me Down
4.) The Danzig Waltz
5.) Chimére de-si de-la
6.) Silent Thunder
7.) Strange Fortune
8.) Ventriloquist
9.) Gloomy Sunday
10.) The Death of Josef

For this release, Christian Death was:
Valor Kand – vocals, guitars,
Gitane DeMone – vocals, synths, organ, piano
David Glass – drums, percussion
Barry Galvin (Bari-Bari) - guitars
Johann Schumann – bass

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