Atlantean Kodex have been making huge waves in the underground metal scene for a while now and recently released their debut full-length album The Golden Bough to massive critical acclaim. Time to find out a little more about this enigmatic group!
Atlantean Kodex will be a fairly new band to most people. Could you tell us how the band formed and what is the meaning behind the mysterious sounding name?
We formed in the end of 2005 with the aim to fill the void which was left behind by the demise of Bathory and Manowar's style-change. We felt that no one was left to play exactly that kind of metal we loved - Viking-era Bathory and Into Glory Ride-era Manowar. So we did it ourselves. At first it was just a fun thing, we did for ourselves, but when I uploaded some of our tracks to MySpace, things exploded. That's when we decided to turn into a real band. We were at first joined by Phil Swanson who recorded the Hidden Folk EP with us and in winter 2007 by Markus Becker who recorded the Pnakotic Demos and the new album with us.
The name is based on one of the forbidden tomes mentioned by H.P. Lovecraft. The difference is that there really is historic evidence for the 'Atlantean Kodex'. A copy is said to be in the possession of the Jagiellonen library in Krakow, Poland. The name's supposed to invoke an archaic atmosphere of doom and of power.
What have been the high and low points for Atlantean Kodexso far?
The high points certainly were our shows in Athens at Up The Hammers and in Lisboa, where we did an 2-hour headlining gig. It's also a great feeling to see how much people actually love our new album. Regarding low points, there haven't been any so far, I guess.
When you were writing the Pnakotic Demos did you have any inkling that you were creating something extraordinary? Were you surprised at the reception it received?
Yes, we were totally surprised by the reception it received. In fact we still can hardly believe what's going on. You know, Atlantean Kodex was formed without any plans to record albums at all. The Pnakotic Demos was basically recorded to still the demand of the fans who wanted to hear some more songs from us after we released the Hidden Folk EP. We thought we'd maybe sell 200 or 300 copies and then things would turn back to normal again. But the opposite was the case. People went nuts, we sold all 1,100 copies in a matter of months, then the vinyl-repress, live shows, etc. - it went out of control. It still feels unreal doing interviews for webzines on the other side of the Atlantic for instance. We never expected things like that to happen with the band.
The Pnakotic Demos was highly praised by all who heard it. Did this increase your own expectations for The Golden Bough?
Hm, not really. A lot of the songs on The Golden Bough were already written when we released The Pnakotic Demos. So we were pretty sure that they're exactly the same style and quality as on the Pnakotic Demos. But it is true that there was a lot of pressure from the public for the new album. The expectations were huge, but we knew that anyone who loved the Pnakotic Demos would also love The Golden Bough.
What made Cruz del Sur the best choice for you to release The Golden Bough?
Two things: Firstly, Enrico is working in a totally professional and trustworthy fashion. Just look on the great bands he has on his roster. Moreover we know him personally and were absolutely convinced by the way he would handle things for us, regarding distribution and promotion. And secondly: we are 100% in control of the band. He leaves all decisions regarding the band to us, which is very important to us.
The response from critics and fans has so far been massively favorable for the album with some people, myself included, hailing it as the best album for years. This must fill you with a tremendous sense of pride and achievement!
Yes, it does. But it still feels kind of unreal to us. We're totally happy and proud that people love the album that much, but we still can't quite believe it. Obviously we hit a nerve. It almost feels like people were waiting for an album like that to be released. I think there's generally a huge demand for honest handmade music again. It seems like people are finally getting sick of these overblown, artificial and digital productions which are sold under the moniker 'heavy metal' nowadays.
The whole album is a perfect, homogeneous entity with every element complimentary in really evoking the theme of the album, even down to the cover art. The painting seems like an odd choice for a metal album but really works in mirroring the feelings evoked by the music. Was this why you choose it? Do you think any metal fans would be intrigued or put off because the cover is so different to the norm?
I don't really care if the cover put anyone off because it's different. The people who would really be put off by the cover wouldn't be our crowd anyway, so... The reason, why we chose it: well, you basically mentioned it already. It reflects the feelings and atmospheres evoked on the album - melancholy, sadness, triumph, splendor - in a perfect way. It also mirrors the lyrical concept - the pilgrimage between the worlds - perfectly. I wouldn't say that the painting is so unusual for a heavy metal cover artwork. Just look at Candlemass or While Heaven Wept. Even Angel Witch or Celtic Frost had historical paintings as their artwork choices.
The Golden Bough is also the title of the 19th Century book by James Frazer upon which the albums themes are based. How did you discover this book and what made it so interesting to you that you based an album around the ideas within it?
Frazer's idea that all European religions originate in an ancient neolithic fertility cult revolving around the sacrificial killing and resurrection of a sacred king, was the most fascinating part for us. We found the idea intriguing that you could find traces of an ancient ur-religion for instance in Christianity, Europe's civilization-defining religion. Frazer's concept seemed so huge and on the other hand really mysterious, delving in all sorts of myths. We found the epic scope of his writings and his ideas to be perfect to accompany our music.
I read that you have no plans to tour in support of The Golden Bough which is a shame. Is this due to other commitments or do you just not want that sort of lifestyle?
It's mainly a time problem. We all have pretty time-consuming jobs, families and other dedications. It would be very hard for us all to get two weeks or more time off to tour. We leave that to the younger bands out there. We're too old for that, hahaha....
Germany is a country with a rich tradition of great metal bands across a myriad genres. Do you think this adds to the feeling of expectation for German metal bands?
No, I don't think so. I always felt that from an international perspective German metal was always a little underrated. There are exceptions of course, like the Scorpions or Accept, maybe early Helloween and Blind Guardian, but other than that I think Germany is mainly known for straight-forward mass-produced 90's 'power' metal. I actually feel that it's even harder to be taken seriously if you're a German band. You know, people expect all these clichés about German bands: the awful accents, the bad haircuts, the straight-forward 4/4 rhythms, dumb lyrics... It's actually harder to convince people that you're not a typical German band.
How did you get into metal? Can you remember the first album you bought?
Yes, I got into metal around 1989/1990 as a young kid. Basically my older cousins got me into metal. At the end of the 1980s thrash metal was really huge in Germany. You know, bands like Sodom, Anthrax, Metallica were blasting from every tape deck. The first metal album I bought as an original was Manowar's Kings Of Metal (on tape), then Helloween's Keeper Of The 7 Keys Pt. I, and then some Running Wild, Slayer and Anthrax vinyls, if I remember correctly. You didn't have that huge underground scene with millions of bands back then and you didn't really have the information about what's going on in the underground scenes, because we basically only had the two big magazines back then.
In your opinion what are the five most important metal albums of all time?
The five most important ones, hm...
1. Black Sabbath - Black Sabbath
2. Iron Maiden - Iron Maiden
3. Metallica - Kill 'em All
4. Bathory - Hammerheart
5. Venom - Black Metal
If you'd ask me for my 5 most favorite ones the answer would look different though...
How long have you all been playing your instruments and what inspired you to start?
We've been playing in bands for 15-20 years now. I guess the main inspiration back then, when I started was to try to play the music I was listening to all the time for myself. And writing songs of my own, being creative, you know.
How important are social networking sites such as MySpace and Last.fm for music these days and metal in particular?
I think MySpace is still pretty important. It's simply a good and easily accessible platform to showcase your music to a wider audience. I think that's the most important part about it, not the networking thin, but the chance to put your music online for lots of people to listen to it. Sorry, I don't know what Last.fm is. Can't comment on this.
Thanks so much for taking the time to answer these questions! I look forward to many more great things from Atlantean Kodex in the future! Anything else you would like to add?
Gloves of Metal rule the night! Thanks for the interview.
If you're lucky Atlantean Kodex may play at a festival near you soon. The Golden Bough is out now on Cruz Del Sur Records. What are you waiting for? Go! Listen! Buy! ;)