Sometimes, you just know. It hits you right in the heart, squeezes, and never lets go. That’s how I feel about every record that ends up my favorite of the respective year, and I had that overflow of emotions from the first time I experienced Atlantean Kodex’s unbelievable second record “The White Goddess (A Grammar of Poetic Myth).” The emotions I had were overwhelming, and with each subsequent listen, my love and devotion for this record grew like a raging fire. It is the best metal record of the year, so say we. Really, as much as I love everything from 2-40, nothing could topple this.
The first words I started to hear about “The White Goddess” came from their North American label 20 Buck Spin and how proud they were to be handling this release. It made it sound like this was going to be a landmark record, and that certainly is not an understatement. This is a glorious collection about dark, oppressive, sometimes infuriating subject matter, and they make each song feel like they’re taking you with them to soar through the stratosphere. Their epic, true heavy metal isn’t exactly in style, yet extreme music listeners the world over embraced this album and band because sometimes you have to acknowledge and praise true quality, trends be damned. And this band of Germans destroyed any guidelines developed by tastemakers by reminding people that the power of classic heavy metal is alive and well, and people who dig bands such as Bathory, Helloween, Iron Maiden, Dio, While Heaven Wept, Candlemass, you name it, could find a group that wasn’t afraid to trumpet the sounds that made this genre the powerhouse it has been for decades.
Building off the momentum they created on their debut “The Golden Bough,” this great band–vocalist Markus Becker, guitarists Michael Koch and Manuel Trummer, bassist Florian Kreuzer, and drummer Mario Weiss–upped the ante in a huge way. This record is like a huge, rich, epic movie, rising up with a breathtaking “Sol Invictus (With Faith and Fire)” that has a rousing chorus that’ll stick in your head forever; heading into the seething “Heresiarch (Thousandfaced Moon)”; boiling over into a dramatic, sobering history lesson of ballad “Twelve Stars and an Azure Gown (An Anthem for Europe)” complete with Winston Churchill’s words opening this stunner; to the epic climax of “The White Goddess Unveiled (Crown of the Sephiroth)” that brings this majestic story to a close. This is a modern classic, a record that should live through the ages, and the album that hopefully reignites people’s interest in the power of heavy metal. Nothing is as true as this album to that lasting spirit, and we celebrate every awesome second of “The White Goddess,” a record that makes me feel young and vibrant again.
Our thanks for Manuel Trummer for taking time to answer our questions about this record, the band, their lyrical influences, and when you might be able to see them live and in the flesh. All hail Atlantean Kodex.
We are naming “The White Goddess” the No. 1 album of the year. It’s a true adventure, an epic document that never fails to move, and in our opinion, it’s far and away the most impressive record of the year. How do you feel about it now that’s it’s been out and you’ve had time to digest it?
Manuel Trummer: Thank you, it’s really amazing to hear that. Actually we’re still quite overwhelmed by the positive feedback we’re getting, even three months after the records has been released. We knew “The White Goddess” was a big step forward from the previous album, but we didn’t expect it to be received in such a amazing way in the wider heavy metal media and scenes. It still feels pretty strange though. I still can’t really explain it, because our music is so far away from the mainstream. You know, lyrics about neolithic fertility rites and song lengths of 12+ minutes aren’t exactly what I‘d call “radio-friendly.”
Obviously the record is very European, both in musical style and lyrically. What was the aim as you were sitting down and getting ready to create?
MT: Well, that doesn’t really come as a surprise. We’re Europeans after all. I’m convinced that a real piece of art or a real heavy metal album always reflects the personality of the artist behind it. It not only shows his interests and sorrows at the time, when the album was written, but also his cultural background and values. So, I can‘t really say that it was our aim to create something European; it came quite natural. “The White Goddess” basically is just our beliefs, interests, and cultural roots brought into sonic and visual form. I can’t deny, though, that the mythology of Europe has always been one of the main themes for Atlantean Kodex.
What is the meaning behind the title “The White Goddess”?
MT: The White Goddess is a deity which shows up in religions, mythologies, and folklore all over Europe. Almost always she’s connected to aspects of life, love, and death. Traces of this threefold White Goddess can be found, for instance, in the fate-weaving Norns of the Nordic mythologies, in the figure of Virgin or Mother Mary, or in the cult of the goddess Kybele at Attis. Her pan-European scope and the way she embodies life and death made her a perfect metaphor for our album, which deals with questions of downfall and rebirth of nations, individuals, or civilizations.
“Sol Invictus” is a song that just grabs you by the ears and takes you on a spectacular journey. The song is inspired by J.G. Frazer’s idea that all religions come from the same source, and if you’re not totally paying attention, you might think it’s a rousing Yuletide carol. Talk about what’s going on with this song and the message it’s hammering home.
MT: We were also joking about “Sol Invictus” being our very own Christmas carol, but you already got the message right. The lyrics are playing with Frazer’s idea that the folk customs and a lot of the religious holidays we’re still celebrating today are far, far older than the Christian church. Frazer thought that you could find traces of fertility cults in some of our European rites which actually go back as far as the Neolithic age. We found that a fascinating idea and started playing around with it. It’s a great, atmospheric narrative.
Another great song is “Twelve Stars and the Azure Gown.” I love the guitar textures in that one, as it really takes me back to the glory days of epic and power metal. And then there’s the emphasis on Europe. What is the message behind this, and how do you feel about the power this song packs?
MT: Regarding the music, we were quite unsure whether to put it on the album at all. We feared, it might sound a little too cheesy. But now – to our surprise – it’s probably the song on the album people love the most. I guess we found a pretty good balance between these melancholic, ultra-melodic leads, and the powerful and epic chorus. The music somehow also reflects the lyrics, which are pondering the downfall and crisis of Europe in a very melancholic, one could also say nostalgic way. But on the other hand they spend a lot of hope, courage, and strength. Despite the huge melodies, the song has a lot of power on many different levels, I‘d say.
It also should be noted the special edition vinyl package is a stunner, with the full-sized booklet that looks like an old folk book. Whose idea was this, and how do you feel about how it came out?
MT: Yes, the booklet is created in the style of an early medieval illuminated manuscript, for example the Book of Kells. The hand and brain behind it is Ben Harff, an incredibly talented artist from Cologne, who also happens to be a fan of our band. When he showed me what he had in mind for the artwork, we were all blown away and agreed at once to let him do it. It’s still pretty mind-blowing to me, every time I look at it. Be sure to check out his illuminated version of Tolkien’s “Silmarillion” as well!
You used “Der Monch am Meer” painting as the cover art. It’s a fascinating piece that seems to hint at both isolation and the hugeness of the world. Also, seems to be a religious connotation. What was it about this painting that made you decide to use it for the cover? What does it say to you?
MT: I think the painting is working its magic on many different layers. I love the transcendence which Caspar David Friedrich managed to capture in the painting. On the one hand you‘ve got the monk, rooted firmly in the sand and the earth, while facing infinity all the time. It’s not only a wonderful illustration for the album’s main theme – life, death and resurrection – but also a wonderful (comment) on life itself: we humans as pilgrims between two worlds. We’re forced to wander through this material prison, while we’re all facing death and infinity each and every moment. The White Goddess is always at our side, giving us life, passion, and leading us home to that acosmic place we were born from.
The record is out on 20 Buck Spin in America. How did that relationship come about and how do you feel about it? The label really has gotten the message out about the album and clearly loves the record.
MT: Since “The Golden Bough” didn‘t get a lot of PR in Northern America, we thought it might be a clever move to have an American label handle the release in the USA and Canada. As far as I can remember, Enrico (Leccese), the owner of our European label Cruz del Sur, proposed Dave (Adelson) and 20 Buck Spin to do it. We wrote a few mails back and forth and the chemistry was really good, so we just did it. I can already say now, that we’re very happy with 20 Buck Spin. Dave and his PR guys have really given us a lot of exposure in the American media. It’s a huge improvement compared to the first album. So, thumbs up for 20 Buck Spin.
What do Atlantean Kodex have in store for 2014? Live shows planned? Any chance we could see a U.S. tour, even though the band’s shows are fairly spaced out?
MT: Yeah, we’re gonna play about a dozen or so live shows all over Europe. No tour, just select festivals with bands we wanna see ourselves, for example Hell over Hammaburg, Dutch Doom Days, or the legendary Keep it True festival. So far there hasn’t been an offer from promoters in the U.S. or Canada. But we definitely would love to play for you guys.
For more on the band, go here: http://www.atlanteankodex.de/
For more on the label or to buy the album, go here: http://www.20buckspinshop.com/