PICK OF THE WEEK: Atlantean Kodex deliver epic masterpiece with ‘The White Goddess’

Atlantean KodexHype can have both a positive and negative effect, especially when it comes to music. On one hand, it can draw up interest and reveal something to a new audience that perhaps was not aware of the band or album. On the other hand, when the praise hits a fever pitch and seems in complete overdrive, it can turn people away from the music for an admittedly dumb reason.

I admit that when I got the new Carcass record, I already had been overwhelmed with praise and enthusiastic reviews, and I had the record about two months before street date. So that early wave of frenzy was a little much for me, and it had a negative effect on my experience with the record initially because I had been inundated with glowing words about it. Then I got over it, ignored what I already had heard (over and over) and realized it’s just a killer record that had longtime fans going overboard because they got something they’d been waiting for.

VOLGatefoldIf you follow sites like ours, and ones larger that blanket the terrain of extreme metal, no doubt you have heard everyone going batshit over “The White Goddess (A Grammar of Poetic Myth),” the new record from German epic metal band Atlantean Kodex. You pretty much can’t avoid it. Because of my Carcass experience, I purposely tried to avoid the umpteen million reviews that came before this one so I could digest the album with a clear mind. Not that it was impossible to avoid all the hype, but I can still read headlines and such in my Twitter and Facebook feeds, so I knew people were going nuts. But now that I have–repeatedly–visited this record, I’m not sure if it would have mattered if I had read one other review or a million. This record is just stunning, a perfect portrait of epic metal that harkens back to Bathory, Helloween, Manilla Road, and Candlemass, and Atlantean Kodex’s power is just crushing. Spend some time with “The White Goddess” and see if the songs don’t begin to etch themselves permanently into your brain.

The record has surging guitar work with lead lines you practically can ride on (credit to guitarists Michael Koch and Manuel Trummer), a solid rhythm section that rumbles and rivets (basisst  Florian Kreuzer, drummer Mario Weiss), and vocals that soar into the clouds like a great bird. Honestly, had vocalist Markus Becker been around in the ’80s, when this style of metal was at its apex, he would be considered a god. Now, with so many bands using growls and shrieks (especially with the overflow of death and black metal), his work might feel like a shock to the system. I’ve even heard it suggested before he’s an acquired taste. I guess he is if you have to adjust to expertly delivered clean vocals that rivals singers such as Bruce Dickinson, Ronnie James Dio, and Michael Kiske, but if you do, that’s kind of sad. His vocals just kill, and so does this band on their incredible second record.

Another note is Atlantean Kodex are a heady group of folk, delving into history, folklore, war, and more, and going through their lyrics sheet might have you keeping Google handy so you figure out just what they’re on about. We’re going to concentrate more on the music here, as we could be here all day breaking down and analyzing the words. Plus, I found it half the fun reading up on what’s going on (I did the same with 2010’s “The Golden Bough”), and maybe you’ll end up doing the same thing. That’s one of the reasons I loved Maiden growing up (and I still do) because I’d get a killer record and I’d learn something.

The intro piece “I. Trumpets of Doggerland (There Were Giants in the Earth in Those Days)” takes almost as long to hear as the title is to say, and it’s a regal opening complete with trumpets, chants, and glory. That leads into “II. Sol Invictus (With Faith and Fire),” a track dedicated to author Paul Busson, one of Europe’s great fantasy writers, and the track just bristles with energy, from the bellowing opening call from Becker to the exploding melodies and charging anthemic pace, and the great, infectious chorus that keeps coming back and causing your blood to rise. After another short instrumental “III. Bilwis (Sorcery and Witchcraft in Eastern Bavaria),” complete with acoustic passages and fires crackling, it goes into the monstrous “IV. Heresiarch (Thousandfaced Moon)” that thunders like a classic Metallica track in spots, and bathes in heaviness but also maintains its melodic edge and furious hooks for which the band is known. The song paces itself through raucous hills and more tranquil valleys, and the awesome storytelling never does anything but completely enthrall. “V. Twelve Stars and an Azure Gown (An Anthem for Europe)” begins with a clip from Winston Churchill before it launches into one of the most breathtaking songs on the record, a track I hesitate to call a ballad that’ll trigger the wrong thoughts, but it is full of emotion and passion, with Becker declaring, “Our new Jerusalem we found.” It’s eight minutes of brilliance, one of the best epic metal songs in a decade that deserves to fully unfurl across stadiums for the masses to witness.

“VI. Der Untergang der Stadt Passau (Flaming Sword of the Watchers)” is the third and final instrumental cut, with acoustic guitar and waves lapping at you, and it sets the stage for “VII. Enthroned in Clouds and Fire (The Great Cleansing)” that opens by robbing you of your breath, and unleashing chimes and gothic undertones that create a sense of murk. Along the way, Becker sings of “a winter without end” and an “ancient harbinger of the end,” as he envisions religious shackles being broken, people being overcome by disease, and the apocalyptic fears of many coming to pass. Closer “VIII. White Goddess Unveiled (Crown of the Sephiroth),” a song awash in images of Kabbalah and that brings to full steam a collection of the band’s incredible lead guitar lines that conjure great feelings of nostalgia in this writer who grew up feasting on epic and power metal in the ’80s, huge choruses, and a majestic performance that puts a gigantic, fiery exclamation point on this record and brings down the curtain on one of metal’s most impressive performances of the entire year. If this record came out in 1987, it would be a time-honored classic. That’s not to suggest it can’t still be one.

So hype sometimes serves a noble purpose. Atlantean Kodex may only be two records into their run, but they’re onto something special. “The White Goddess” is a record that could bring people back into the metal fold who perhaps gave up on the music in the ’90s or ’00s because something this brilliant is raising up the genre. And it could be a great lesson for younger fans who think all bands have to growl and snarl their way through everything. This is one hell of a great heavy metal record by one of its finest new bands, and this one should stand the test of time, long after we’re all gone.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.atlanteankodex.de/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.20buckspinshop.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.20buckspin.com/site/

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