If you haven’t read the interview I did with Manuel Trummer when Atlantean Kodex released the acclaimed debut, “The Golden Bough”, you should visit https://metalsquadron.com/2012/11/02/atlantean-kodex-maybe-frazer-was-right/ for an insight into the early days of the band as well as all the details on the first album. For this new interview, conducted by phone, once again with Manuel, the focus is mainly on the brand new album “The White Goddess”, but I also tried to catch up on some of the questions and some of the themes from the last interview. To start off, the band performed in Bergen, Norway about one week before this interview was done, and of course I asked Manuel about his feelings about this particular gig at the Beyond The Gates-festival.
– I think all in all it went pretty well, it was pretty solid. It was our first gig since almost two years. We know that we don’t have the same fan base in Scandinavia as in for instance Germany or Greece, but I think we won the crowd over, so I am pretty satisfied.
Funny that you mention Greece, since you’re doing the release party for the new album there. I guess that alone tells us a lot about your status among the Greeks. Normally, there is a huge contrast between the Norwegian audience and the Greek one, the former being calm and restricted while the latter are an explosion of commitment and emotions. From a musician’s point of view, is their love for epic metal simply that strong, or is there a cultural explanation?
-I am not sure, but I think there is some kind of cultural thing as well. When I talk to the Greek fans they always argue their love for epic metal with their Greek ancient heritage and that it’s a Greek thing to be into epic stuff like “The Iliad”, “The Odyssey” and stuff like that. They say that this stuff is in their blood and that explains their love for epic metal. It’s really fascinating, cause they really stand out from the other crowds in Europe because they’re so much into this epic thing. There are so many Greek bands playing some kind of epic stuff, I am talking about the likes of Battleroar, Wrathblade or Arpyian Horde. It’s always truly epic storytelling, so I guess maybe it’s a cultural thing with the Greeks.
I can’t remember having read a lot about the recording process of “The White Goddess”, so I ask Manuel to give us the boring, but necessary details.
– We did it in our own studio again. It was totally do it yourself this time, with no external producer or mastering. Last time we used the Rosenquarz studio, but this time we handled everything ourselves, totally independent!
Does this mean that you weren’t fully satisfied with some aspects about the sound of the first album?
– The sound of that record is pretty good, very powerful and raw. However, we chose a quite different approach this time. Most of the stuff on “The Golden Bough” are first, second or third takes. For instance the drums in “A Prophet In The Forest”, from start to finish are a first take. We tried to keep the atmosphere raw and live-like on that album. This time we have went one step further and everything is more thought through, sounding more powerful and produced in a way.
Most of the material on the first album was done by yourself, with a little help from some of the other members with some music and lyrics. Is it the same this time around?
– Pretty much the same, a lot of stuff is coming from myself. I guess you could call me the main guy, but Mario brought in a lot of ideas, and Florian too. For the song “Twelve Stars And An Azure Gown” for instance, he wrote some wonderful lyrics. When it comes to song writing, I am the lead guy, but when we speak of lyrics and melodies, Mario and Florian have a huge input as well.
– Yeah, it makes it much easier when I am not the only guy who’s writing songs. I am really happy that there are two or three other guys coming up with ideas of their own. It makes things so much easier. I was really overwhelmed when I first heard “Twelve Stars And An Azure Gown” for instance, or the ending part of “White Goddess Unveiled” written by Mario. It’s really amazing stuff, and it’s really cool that these guys are into the same kind of songwriting as me.
Looking back, did you expect the reception that “The Golden Bough” received? Is your confidence really that high?
– Haha! No, not really. We didn’t expect it at all. Not that were not self confident, it has more to do with the fact that the music is very peculiar you know, and not really a mainstream kind of metal. The album had some unusual songs and some pretty obscure lyrics too. We didn’t expect it to sell well at all, but kind of hoped it would be popular in the more narrow underground, among the people at Keep It True or in Greece where the interest in epic metal is really strong, but we never thought it would end up as “Album of the month” in Rock Hard Magazine for instance. That really came as a big surprise to us all.
People often talk about the difficult second album. Was the songwriting for “The White Goddess” a bigger challenge compared to what you did for “The Golden Bough”?
– If you look at the press and the internet, there was a huge expectation which could create some pressure on the band, but the most important thing was the break we took in 2012 with no shows or no music at all. Before the break, we felt tired and to be honest, the rehearsals didn’t go that well, so we decided to take a break to bring the fun and the inspiration back. At some point in 2012, suddenly the ideas started flowing again, and that was when we decided to really go for the second album.
When I listen to a song like “Heresiarch” from the new album, images of Manowar spring to mind, but with Becker’s more laidback and mellow vocals, it sounds rather different to the stuff Eric Adams is singing on. Have you ever thought about how much of Atlantean Kodex’ identity that lies in the vocals? I mean, you performed some gigs with Johannes Korda as a stand in for Becker, did that change your perception of your own music?
– Not really, because I always have Markus’ voice in my mind when I write the songs. We expected it to sound different with Johannes, but you have to remember it was only in the live situation. We played, I think, only three shows with him. Regarding songwriting, I always work with Markus’ voice in my head. The songs are basically made for him, and he has a non typical voice, so crystal clear, almost like a folk singer. He is not your typical metal screamer with big balls or whatever. He has a really delicate, intricate and fine voice and could probably have been in folk rock band from the 1970s for instance. His voice is one of the things that make us stand out from the regular metal bands of today.
What was the original deal with your Italian label, Cruz Del Sur like? Did you only sign a contract for one album and then extended it for “The White Goddess”?
– Yes, exactly! We signed a contract for “The Golden Bough”, and it gave Cruz Del Sur the rights for seven years to release it in every possible format. For “The White Goddess” we signed a new contract, and now they own the rights for seven years again to release the songs in all formats. We are really satisfied with the work Enrico has done for us, so it was a no-brainer to extend the cooperation with him.
And after seven years, the rights go back to the band?
– Exactly. Then we can decide whether to go with another label or to continue working with Cruz Del Sur.
You mentioned that you are satisfied with Enrico’s work. What is he best at?
– What I always say, is that he merges the best of the underground and the mainstream. He really has a great distribution, as he’s working together with Soulfood. In terms of promotion he is also pretty good, cooperating with Sure Shot from Germany, one of the most important promotion agencies. So, on one hand he has a very professional attitude, but still he is just one guy running a label, which means that there are no barriers between him and the bands, no big PR- or A&R guy, just a personal thing which is great. He also has good contacts with the magazines, but at the same time, he is still very much a part of the underground. If you write a mail, he’s answering at once, cause there is no one between us, so it’s really efficient working with him.
– Haha! Well, I won’t mention any names, but there was some interest from two pretty huge labels, but I won’t comment on the ones you mention.
We’ll leave it there then, but I will not completely quit the talk about labels. This time, the vinyl version of “The White Goddess” is done by Ván Records, and as you put it yourself, they do some awesome looking vinyls. How do you think this one will fit in your collection alongside the very minimalistic “The Annihilation Of Köenigshofen” that you put out yourself on Temple Ov Katholic Magick in 89 copies back in 2009?
– Haha, I guess it will be a totally different thing. I think “The White Goddess” will stand out in the collection as well, and I simply can’t wait to have it in my hands. It will include a 24 page booklet with gold print, and also have a gold printed cover. It’s going to be pretty stunning.
The latest Attic-album, titled “The Invocation” is one Ván-release that Manuel thought turned out really impressive looking.
– The die hard-version with the gold embossed logo and the huge booklet was really quality stuff, and I wanted a bit of the same for our album.
In the last interview we did, you told me that you were a little tired of the so called die hard-versions…
– I have to point out that this time we’re not gonna do a diehard-version. It’s going to be just one version, unlimited, so that everyone can get it. But this version is going to be of such a high quality that no one is going to ask for a diehard-version. Basically it is a diehard-version, with the main difference that it’s unlimited. We just want to get away from this Ebay rip-off thing, where dealers just buy albums to resell them on Ebay two weeks later. With better control of who the diehards went out, we would probably still do diehards because then we could ensure that only the most diehard fans as well as our closest friends, could get this particular version. However, the fact is, we can’t control the sales, everyone can buy these and put them on Ebay some weeks later. These people are not really fans of the band, but just buy diehards as an investment. That pretty much sucks. We try to get away from this and create a more democratic, or maybe communistic way…Haha!
It seems like many musicians, at least those in the underground are getting tired of this bullshit. I spoke to Felipe from Procession some months ago, and he was also a bit angry about people who bought their stuff and sold it for insane prices on Ebay and Discogs.
– Yeah definitely. You know, you put so much effort into a diehard release, trying to come up with cool ideas to make it worthwhile for your fans and friends, and you definitely don’t want some money grabbing scum to buy it because they want to earn some easy money. The fact is, as a band you don’t earn money with a diehard release, because they’re so damn expensive to produce. Basically the regular version pays for the diehard-versions. The only people who are making money from these releases, are those who are buying them when they come out and putting them up on Ebay. This really sucks. As I said, bands want the diehards to go out to the closest fans and friends, not some stock brokers. At the moment, it’s probably better not to do diehards all, and that’s what we’re doing now with the unlimited version.
What qualities does the song “Sol Invictus” have that makes it perfect both as a first taster from the album as well as the “real” opener of “The White Goddess”?
– Well, I think it’s a pretty fist raging tune. It’s got great melodies, a huge chorus and basically it’s pretty catchy. It will take the listener by the hand and introduce him or her to the album. Also the lyrics are very good to introduce the readers to the world of “The White Goddess”, to this European folklore/mythology thing. It’s a good door opener.
The tune is also a little bit different from the rest of the material, but in your mind, obviously not too different…
– You are right, it’s basically the fastest song of the album. It’s got this classical, power metal touch to it, with double bass, big drums and it’s quite fast, while the other songs are more doom metal-oriented. “Sol Invictus” is not really a typical Atlantean Kodex-song.
“Regressive metal” is a term that you used to describe your music in the past. Do you still feel this term it’s relevant?
– Haha…Yeah, I think so. Mostly because we are looking to the past for inspiration, there are not many, if any, bands from the past ten years that have influenced us. We are mostly inspired by the bands from the nineties, the eighties and the seventies. I guess you could call it regressive in a way, but on the other hand, I think being regressive doesn’t mean that you are standing still. It’s about being creative with the past, trying to create something new based on the foundations of the past. You know, walking in the footsteps of giants, but leaving your own footprints. That’s what we’re trying to do. I think we found our niche, we found a quite unique style. I can’t think of any other bands that sound quite like Atlantean Kodex at the moment.
If you are not standing still, where is the development from “The Golden Bough” to this new album?
– First of all, I think the production approach really left its traces on the album this time. The songs are more worked through, details worked more on, something that makes the album fuller, rounder and more complete. “The Golden Bough” was very raw, and this time we took a lot of time to work on the details and the mix. I think that’s one difference. The mix is more powerful, clearer and heavier in a way. On the other hand, the songs themselves are also darker and heavier. You can hear death metal and maybe even black metal-influences in some tracks. That’s probably the biggest difference, the work on the details and on the other hand the darker edge to the album, making the album more serious compared to “The Golden Bough”. There are no happy anthems like for instance the song “Atlantean Kodex” on the album, it’s all pretty serious stuff.
– No, I think you’ll get the best experience by listening to the album from start to finish. Especially the interludes are creating a lot of atmosphere and link the songs together. Also there’s no pause between the songs so you can enjoy the album as one huge song. I think programming the CD-player to random mode would disrupt the flow of the album.
Apparently “Enthroned In Clouds And Fire” is a song you are very satisfied with. Is this song your vision of how Atlantean Kodex should sound?
– Absolutely! When we started this band in 2005 a song like “Enthroned in Clouds And Fire” was exactly what we had in mind. You know, these huge riffs, the apocalyptic heavy atmosphere, the lyrics from Bavarian folklore. We already came pretty close to this vision with “The Hidden Folk”, but for me “Enthroned In Clouds and Fire” is even one step closer to that perfect Atlantean Kodex-song in my head.
“The White Goddess” was the title of one of the short instrumentals on your first album, “The Golden Bough”. The new album also has the same subtitle as this instrumental. What’s the link between this one and the new album as well as the song “The White Goddess Unveiled? Did you have the idea back then to make this the title of the next album?
– Yes, I like it, when albums are linked together by some small details, maybe a melody or maybe some titles or lyrics. Actually we had the idea with the title pretty early. It was quite logical to go for “The White Goddess” after “The Golden Bough”.
If you continue in this way, your third album should take the title from one of the three instrumentals on the new album. Maybe “Trumpets Of Doggerland” would be a fitting title? At least, the story of Doggerland is really exciting story. Have you investigated it closely?
– I don’t know what title will be next yet, but yeah, a read quite a bit about it. The fascinating part is that you had this huge island between England and Norway with lots of people living on it, villages, pastures, animals and then it’s gone. It’s basically a real-life Atlantis based on archeological proof. The curious thing about it is that it sank exactly during that period when all the great flood-myths are taking place as well, for instance the fall of Atlantis or the annihilation of the Nephilim, the biblical giants of olde of the book Genesis. We had to link that together in a way.
Do you hear any new promising new bands within the same style as Atlantean Kodex, or do you, find most of the interesting new releases within other genres of metal?
– There are some good bands, you have probably heard of Gatekeeper from Canada. They’re very promising, even if they have some work to do, especially in the drum department. They got a great singer and guitar player and their ideas are pretty awesome. They’re working on a new album now, and I think it’s going to be much better than their demo. You also got Ravensire from Portugal, another pretty epic band in the Ironsword- and Manilla Road-vein. It’s a pretty awesome band too, and they have Rick Thor from Ironsword singing. I dig them very much. There is another band from the US you could quote as influenced by us, they are called Visigoth and have a song called “Seven Golden Ships”. They’re also quite epic, pretty much influenced by Manilla Road with some really thought through sword & sorcery-lyrics. On the other hand, I think in the traditional metal scene as a whole, there is not a lot of movement right now. For the past three years there were a lot of bands doing this Iron Maiden-thing dressed up in spandex. There is not much new stuff, most bands are just recreating the eighties. These bands are not really unique. In my opinion, the most fascinating things are happening within the German death metal-scene right now with bands like Necros Christos and Venenum. There is so much going on right now. Many of the newer bands are sounding very unique, they’re not just recreating the old stuff. It could have something to do with the fact that most of the guys in these bands didn’t experience the original death metal-bands, because they were only kids at the time. Instead they add their own experience into it and create relevant and unique music that stands for itself.
Manuel admits that it’s nice to see some of the new epic metal-bands naming Atlantean Kodex as one of their influences.
– We’re pretty honored by it. It’s the same thing we did when we started out. When people asked us back then, we named old Manowar, Bathory and Solstice as our sources of inspiration. Now the new bands answer the same, only adding Atlantean Kodex to the list. It’s pretty funny, but at the same time pretty amazing.
When we spoke together last time, around the release of “The Golden Bough”, you told me that you worked a lot on the final mixdown on that album. Listening to “The White Goddess”, it’s easy to hear that there are a lot of tracks involved this time too. Was the mix just as time consuming this time around as well?
– We worked quite hard on the mix, but it went down pretty smooth actually. We had lots of problems with “The Golden Bough”, because we tried to go for a live approach, which made the mix really difficult. This time we worked really hard on the songs from the start, and this made the mix much, much easier.
– I think so yeah. I think things have to be perfect, everything from the artwork down to the last songs. It all has to be perfect.
Are there subjects or certain ideas that your want to pass on to the listener through the lyrics this time?
– Yeah, I think so… This mythology-thing is also motivated from the need to present an alternative view of the current world. This album is really influenced by the European crisis, the current state of Europe. Maybe we can give the listener a different perspective on the European crisis? It’s not just a political or economical crisis, it’s mainly a cultural crisis. People still haven’t understood that the European community is not based on economy or politicians, it’s based on common heritage. I think it’s important to get that out to the people, and maybe we can help with that.
In the song “Twelve Stars And An Azure Gown”, you are using a bit of Winston Churchill’s speech from Zürich in Switzerland in 1946, where he talks about the European tragedy. Do you still feel his words are relevant, or does his speech fit the theme of the song really well?
– Both of them actually. First of all, it totally fits the meaning of the song, it was just what I had in mind when I first read Florian’s lyrics. I also think Churchill’s words are more relevant than ever. People need to understand that Europe is not just an economical union governed by a couple of greedy politicians, Europe is a cultural union based on shared civilization and a shared cultural heritage. This is what makes his speech totally relevant.
How do you see the future for Europe, is the European Union the answer?
– Yeah, we can’t survive without the union. China will emerge, and the next century will be China’s century. All these tiny states in Europe will not stand a chance. We need to take the thought out to the people in the world, because the world’s population is pretty sceptic towards Europe as they only see Europe as a political entity which are trying to take freedom away from them. We need to get away from this political and economical, nationalistic discussion and get the feeling out to the people that we all belong together and need to speak together, or otherwise we won’t stand a chance in the 21st century.
Do you view us Norwegians, who are standing on the outside of the union as egoistic?
– I think there are two sides to the way the Norwegians are doing politics. I totally can relate to it and understand your politicians. The main goal for politicians is to take care of and do the best for its own people. I think this is exactly what your politicians are doing. They’re taking you out of the European union at the moment, because it’s too risky for you. You might lose a lot of your wealth and your economic stability. I totally understand it. On the other hand, of course I would like Norway to be a part of the European community. The role of the Scandinavian countries is pretty important. Maybe one day…