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18th January 2014
Self-proclaimed "metal chameleons', German scene stalwarts Atrocity have incessantly transcended their death metal roots and diverged into areas of musical experimentation that continue to surprise their established fanbase. However, with the release of last year's 'Okkult' album, the first in a planned conceptual trilogy about the darker side of humankind and mysteries of the world, they opted to return to death sonics of yore, albeit with a contemporary slant. Metal Discovery met up with frontman Alexander Krull in Birmingham during his double-shifting UK headline shows in January 2014 before he was due to hit the stage later in the evening with both Atrocity and Leaves' Eyes...
METAL DISCOVERY: How have the UK shows been so far because you’re doing double shifts with Atrocity and Leaves’ Eyes? It must be quite tiring?
ALEX: Actually, yeah, it can be demanding, of course, playing with two bands. Especially when you go overseas and the travelling is so long but I guess, here, it’s very close distances so we’ve had a great tour and enjoyed playing with both bands.
(Alexander Krull on Atrocity's musical divergences)
"There’s probably a lot of people get a little bit confused in the beginning if they don’t really get what we do as a band, and the philosophy that we’re not focussed on just one style on one album and do it over and over again."
Alexander Krull in The Institute, Birmingham, UK, 18th January 2014
Interview & Photography by Mark Holmes
Photograph copyright © 2014 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
Atrocity Official Website:
Thanks to Andy Turner for arranging the interview
Atrocity Official Facebook:
Hallucinations (1990)
Todessehnsucht (1992)
Blut (1994)
Calling the Rain (1995)
Die Liebe (1995)
Willenskraft (1996)
Werk 80 (1997)
Gemini (2000)
Atlantis (2004)
Werk 80 II (2008)
After the Storm (2010)
Okkult (2013)
MD: And you have the Gruesome Twosome joining you onstage in London tomorrow…
ALEX: [laughs]
MD: How did that come about; performing with a couple of ladies… not wearing too many clothes?!
ALEX: Yeah, that’s right! They were actually onstage with us before, in the Czech Republic at the Masters of Rock festival. That was really cool and spontaneous. We’ve used, here or there, female artists onstage for Atrocity… it suited very well with them! [laughs]
MD: How does Liv feel about a couple of semi-naked women up there with you?!
ALEX: [laughs] She’s used to that! In a way, yeah, we also had shows with more women. Like the twenty fifth anniversary at Wacken, we had go-go dancers in cages. She actually likes it that she’s not the only girl on tour.
MD: Oh, there we go, yeah.
ALEX: [laughs] At least somebody to talk to… [laughs] Yeah, usually it’s no problem. We just thought it’s a cool part of entertaining, and it’s very cool for a metal show. We don’t want to have too much focus on that part of the show but it’s a good spice in the soup!
MD: The new album, ‘Okkult’, deals with some very dark themes about the mysteries of the world and occult magic. That’s quite a wide topic so how did you approach researching it; and did you already have specific ideas of stories, myths and history you wanted to delve into?
ALEX: Yeah, that’s something I’ve always done lyric-wise; inspired by some dark topics from history and the dark side of it, and the connection between the real world and this more mystery world which has a lot of unsolved things. Dare I say, there’s like a red line in-between all those individual stories we write. It’s like the primal fear of mankind is darkness and it also is abused by politicians and religion to control people.So it’s not that we wanted to have just some horror stories or fantasy; we always wanted to have a real connection to mankind. And, I guess, when we did the ‘Atlantis’ album in 2004, we were writing about the biggest myth on Earth, and it was the story about the rise and fall of empire which nobody was ever finding… and nobody really knows where it was, where it could be, and all those kind of things. Then we thought, okay, maybe it’s a cool idea to have real stories, spread out, about the mysteries of mankind, on a trilogy. Although my folder was really big for one thing like ‘Atlantis’, now it’s three ‘Okkult’ albums! We had two albums in-between – ‘Werk 80 II’ and the one with my sister, ‘After the Storm’ – and, I have to say, that was something that was cool; that we now come back with a brutal strike, after being experimental in-between.
MD: Was it an educational experience researching all that stuff for ‘Okkult’, and did it force you to think differently about any of the preconceptions you might have had?
ALEX: Yeah, yeah, sure. You don’t know everything, of course, in advance, and so you have to research, go deeper and find out stuff. I’ve actually read a lot of literature and all that stuff I find interesting myself to look behind the curtain as to what’s going on. You know, all these conspiracy theories and, sometimes, very wild imaginations of people, it seems to be there’s always a little hint in there of what’s really there. Like, somebody might want to hide, from the people, a scandal and all those things coming up. In the past, of course, there were all those scandals, like the poisoner of the song ‘La Voisine’ where, actually, the king’s family were celebrating black masses to get power. But they were discovered all the time by the royals, and they were actually discovered after the same circle of witches were delivering poison that they could kill each other, and they made a criminal research. They said it was getting dangerous; do they want to attack the king, and stuff like that. In Paris, there was very serious research going on and then they found out it was a mass murder of babies, what they actually did.
MD: Very dark stuff then.
ALEX: Very dark, yeah. The irony of the story is one of the ladies became the king’s mistress after a black mass so everybody believed it was working. She became very powerful after sacrificing and all that. Actually, it was a Catholic abbé who did that. So it’s like a criminal story turning upside down, like ‘From Dusk Till Dawn’ or something like that! [laughs] That was a real thing. It’s not that I like the splatter or horror thing that much as people might think, it’s more I find it very interesting and it suits very much to the music as well.
MD: Style-wise, the album mixes the old with the new as it harks back to an older Atrocity sound but also has a very contemporary edge. Was it your aim to mix the old with the new?
ALEX: Yeah, in a way, you could think like that. Actually, we were really sitting there talking about bringing back the spirit from the good old times of death metal. But, of course, we also wanted to do it in a refreshing way. We also did brutal stuff with ‘Atlantis’, I would say. ‘Reich of Phenomena’ and ‘Apocalypse’ were brutal as hell so we wanted to have, like on those songs, the addition of the epic element as well with the orchestra and the choir, but not as a duty; not like everywhere. Where we thought it’s cool to write a song like that and combining it, it’s very nice, and also having Katie Halliday.
MD: She’s a movie sound editor isn’t she, who’s worked on some of the ‘Saw’ sequels and that recent Liam Neeson film, ‘The Grey’?
ALEX: Yeah, she’s really good and she has the right tastes because she’s a metal fan as well! [laughs] We met her on tour and we spoke about it and then, yeah, it came out she was doing this soundscape stuff for horror movies and effects, so we said, “wonderful, what about doing something for a metal band?” She was like, “yes, that’s perfect.”
MD: I guess ‘Death By Metal’ on the album is the perfect example of mixing the old with the new because I gather some of those riffs are from over twenty years ago, and you’ve combined those with some new riffs?
ALEX: That’s actually the one song, yes…[laughs]… I wrote it, by the way.
MD: I read it was 1991 when you wrote those old riffs?
ALEX: Yeah, the main riff and the riff in the chorus as well. Also, that’s quite funny because I had another band called Corpus Christi and we never released that stuff so I found it very cool to use it now. I said, “hey, come on, that’s like the real thing from back in the day.”
MD: There’s a strong symphonic element on the album too; it sounds almost like a black metal record in places. Did you derive any inspiration from the black metal genre when composing the songs, or maybe production-wise?
ALEX: Yeah, in a way you could see it like that. For me, it’s like I see it without using a particular genre. But I’m very much sure that people who are into extreme metal, black metal, or death metal, or people who are open-minded, like the combination with the symphonic aspect as well, they would love to hear that record. I think that’s a very cool combination and we didn’t have any intention to copy any styles, we just made music. In a way, I think a lot of people are always thinking, “yeah, Atrocity just turned into a gothic band or something”… [laughs] It’s just that we always use, in a way, the so-called gothic elements but, on the other side, for me, as long as a song is good I like it. Of course, I like black metal, death metal, or some gothic metal but, whatever it is, for me it’s very important that the music has spirit, it has soul, and I can feel it, and that’s what we try to do, like a painter who’s painting. Or a director who’s making a movie and wants to give his input that it’s becoming a cool movie, and we just do it in not only one direction. I think a good director, he has to do good work for a horror movie, an action movie, or maybe a romantic movie… then it’s a diverse director, and I think we are a diverse metal band.
MD: There won’t be a ‘romantic’ Atrocity album in the future though, I presume?! Like a film such as ‘Love Actually’ or ‘Notting Hill’…
ALEX: No, probably not! [laughs]
MD: Or ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’… you’d have to do ‘Four Funerals and a Wedding’ maybe!
ALEX: [laughs] Yeah, a dark, romantic album!
MD: Have you ever considered doing a joint Atrocity/Leaves’ Eyes album?
ALEX: Combine the bands?
MD: Yeah, combine all the styles.
ALEX: Oh my god… [laughs] Erm…I think it’s cool to keep it separated!
MD: If you ever did, I found an anagram generator online, and I put in Atrocity and Leaves’ Eyes, and it came up with some suggested names using all those letters. You could be called ‘Yeasty Cloister Eave’…
ALEX: [laughs]
MD: ‘Easy Velocity Easter’…
ALEX: [laughs] Oh god…
MD: ‘Society Yeast Leaver’ too, but my favourite is ‘Vocalists Eye Eatery’…
ALEX: Right… [laughs]
MD: So if you ever did combine the two bands then you have four names there to choose from.
ALEX: [laughs] That’s actually funny!
MD: Atrocity have been around for 25 or so years now, so do you feel like you’ve nothing to prove anymore so can enjoy more creative freedom and enjoy surprising people with different musical directions?
ALEX: Actually, that’s what we always did from the start, and we still do. There’s probably a lot of people get a little bit confused in the beginning if they don’t really get what we do as a band, and the philosophy that we’re not focussed on just one style on one album and do it over and over again. So I think the best thing is, to get the philosophy of the band, to watch the DVD ‘Die Gottlosen Jahre’. I think it’s a really cool twenty five years of Atrocity. It’s like eighty interviews on there; not only us speaking as most of the time it’s other people like other musicians, journalists, label people. And I think they actually explain it very well, I would say. It’s actually very well explained what we do, then people understand and so we continue like that.
MD: A good plug for the DVD there!
MD: Thank you so much for your time.
ALEX: Thank you, yes.