Interview Alex, Tosso, Sander of Atrocity
Long running German Atrocity, with 25 years on their back release the impressive “OKKULT” and there a sense of a ‘real treat’! We spoke with vocalist Alexander Krull and guitarist Thorsten “Tosso” Bauer about their new CD and their experience with the artwork and Atrocity ‘treasure hunt’.
HMA: Thanks for joining Heavy Music Artwork! Promoting Metal as art and culture!
Tosso: Thanks to you for giving us the opportunity to do this interview and lots of respect to you for promoting the music we also love: Metal.
HMA: ‘Okkult’ marks the 12th album mile stone, how the band evolved since you started back in 1985?
Alex: Some call us the “metal chameleons“ because we combined so many different music under name Atrocity, and crossed borders no other metal band has gone before, too. We were always looking for new challenges and ideas. Well, besides all experimental stuff we never gave up our heavy side or denying it! We played the heavy stuff live, classics like “Necroplois”, “Blut” or “Fatal Step” from our first albums have been in our live set list as you can see on the Live in Wacken DVD. This band certainly stands for creativity, perfectionism and depth. To put our compositions and albums in an over-all view, past to present, I think “Okkult” contains many elements from our musical past, especially the very heavy stuff from our 1990’s album releases but also “Atlantis”. “Death by Metal” is the best example for that: Our tribute to Death Metal actually contains the main riffs of the song, which I wrote originally in 1991 and also brand new riffs! So “Okkult” combines our roots with new musical ideas, and this is simply a new era for Atrocity after such a long history of challenging metal music!
Sander: From my perspective, no Atrocity Album has ever been the similar to another and the band have always just did artistically what is in the heart with really no boundaries or rules. Now, considering the release of „Okkult“, I think this album is in a way coming full circle and reconnecting with the metal roots of the band. In my opinion this album feels maybe like a logical step forward from the “Atlantis” album and I think it’s a mix between the classic death metal albums, the “Atlantis” record and new added influences that go from black metal to modern sounding metal. It’s also the best and heaviest sounding production on an Atrocity record ever.
Tosso: It is interesting to consider the artistic ways and developmental steps in the career of Atrocity as one long and intensive movement, moreover, somehow, with the release of „Okkult“ summing up past and present. On “Okkult” there are some elements in which can also be found on the first two Atrocity albums, like 5/4 bar blast beats etc. But all in all the intention behind our latest release was to make lyrics, artwork and music fit together very well…to obtain this kind of “okkult sound”. Surely, it is a question about a basic band concept. There are bands being very happy doing the same music for decades. I don’t think that’s the concept of ATROCITY. Nevertheless, the OKKULT trilogy will have a clear line in all three parts. So “Okkult II” and “Okkult III” will certainly follow the paths of the first “Okkult” album.
HMA: ‘Okkult’ does have a certain mystery to it; what secrets are canceled and does the record hold central theme or topic?
Alex: “Okkult” features single obscure and dark stories with their own backgrounds. I was always very much into history, legends, myths and the dark backgrounds and secrets of mankind and researching them from different sources. The idea to start the “Okkult” trilogy came up after the release of the “Atlantis” record (2004). The research of the “Atlantis” secrets have been very inspiring, so the next step was to make an epic trilogy about the mysteries of the world. An even bigger challenge and concept, this is why we decided to make an album trilogy. The lyrics relate to occult magic, mysterious places, conspiracy theories and mysteries that are still unsolved. Actually it’s great to take the listener and ourselves on a heavy trip through the dark and mysterious tales, happenings and places of all times. And there is another very interesting aspect connected to the whole topic: Forever, religion and politics control and manipulate people by their own primal fears…and darkness is mankind’s fear ever since.
HMA: What do you demand and require in a recording a new record?
Tosso: Openness towards new influences. That‘s the force behind creativity. All these different facets and evolvements of our band have never been planned or decided rationally. They happen because of our love to and passion for music and the will to push the boundaries.. to move in exciting and new musical territories. We always took a high risk with these musical adventures and made it difficult for the press to categorize the band. But its not our intention to be categorized… we wanna play the music that we feel, instead if bringing the same kind of albums on the market over and over again.
Alex: Yes, don‘t be afraid to move on, to break boundaries and be creative. In general, for me music is good or bad, the style doesn’t matter so much. And yes, being a perfectionist, I am the kind of artist and producer who would work through the nights to achieve the maximum. I sleep much better when we‘ve reached our artistic goals production-wise.
HMA: The choice of photography instead of the typical digital art, what was the creative direction?
Alex: I saw it as a necesity to use real images, i.e. living “creatures” and not imaginary, fictional ones. It was just superb that we discovered the female snake-artist Cara. Moreover, some friends made it possible to do the photo session in a historical vault. The cover artwork is dedicated to the story behind the song “Necromancy Divine” which tells the cruel tale about the ancient witch Erictho. She was a necromancer and lived in the times of the Roman civil war between Caesar and Pompeius around 50 AD. She took dead bodies into her tomb and brought them back to life with painful rituals, filling boiled blood into the corpses and whipping them with snakes. By bringing back the dead to life, she forced them to forecast the future. We actually used the original Latin lyrics of the rituals in the song “Necromancy Divine”. When we recorded it, Sander was joking if we continue to record those ritual chants like that in the middle of the night we may risk a Zombie attack at the studio haha! Mastersound Studio is based far out on the country side, surrounded by fields and forests – not far away there has been a battlefield, too…
Sander: We were just lucky (laughs)!
Alex: By the way this is a real photograph; we took the picture in an old vault. It was quite an experience for me to put the snakes around the neck of our witch “Erictho”!
HMA: Who is the man behind it?
Alex: I had a pretty clear idea about the artwork by picking one song of “Okkult” as the main theme, and Stefan Heilemann did an amazing job visualizing our conceptual ideas of “Okkult”.
HMA: We believe that the art is an integral part in making a great album. Atrocity sleeves have always lived up to this approach.
Alex: Yes, I consider myself being an artist by flesh and blood. I like the strong visual impact for our music very much. My driving force is artistic freedom. I, and my band, love to make our music without limitations. To fulfill our visions within the metal genre isn’t always easy because some people just don’t get the origin idea of Metal: Break down the boundaries! We are like painters. If a picture shall be horrifying and brutal we use different colors than on a dark but beautiful painting. And the pictures of “Okkult” are the most obscure paintings we ever did!
HMA: I must say… sensuality is an element quasi-omnipresent, can you tell why this is?
Alex: Haha, I don‘t know, I guess we just like the female beauty as a contrast to our heavy music in general. If you look at the HR Giger Cover of “Hallucinations“, that is actually also a female sculpture. Actually it looks a little bit like the forerunner of his “Alien“, too. The concept story was also about a girl. Well, I always liked contrasts within art and of course dark beauty (laughs).
HMA: ‘Okkult’ also holds a sense of decadence, what would you say to the uninitiated?
Alex: Yes, I agree. The subject of decadence can for example be found on the track “La Voisine”. This song tells a dark chapter in the history of mankind. The story is set in Paris of the 17th Century and is about Catherine Monvoisin, which was known as “La Voisin” as witch and poisoner. She told fortune for money, selling poisons and love potions, magic plant and broke off unwanted pregnancies. She and the former priest Abbé de Guibourg celebrated black masses where also infants were sacrificed which she had previously bought from the poor people. The blood of the children they used as ingredients in potions, too. She was booked by many members of the nobility, among others, the mistress of King Louis XIV, Madame de Montespan, who wanted to get through the black masses more power and influence in society. Madame de Montespan used the potions in order to get the love of King Ludwig upright, and she mixed the potions in his food and drink. There were rumors members of the nobility were killed by poison, and so research was driven. One day a young woman from the aristocratic circle close to King Ludwig died. Then investigations were intensified to find the poisoners’ source and to smash the conspiracy. La Voisine and other witches of the Paris witch circle were arrested. Due to the good contacts with the mistress remained La Voisine long spared from torture. Nevertheless, she was sentenced to death at the end in the “Affaire des Poisins”. La Voisine was executed. Later, they found the remains of 2.500 infants in her backyard of her house, and so after La Voisine’s death, the entire extent of her cruel deeds obvious. The paradox of the story: It turned out that the young woman died of natural causes and she was not poisoned as many other nobles. What a sick story!
HMA: How was the orchestral part arranged? I believe Victor Smolski (RAGE) served as a conductor?
Tosso: Victor is an incredible guy, as guitarist as well as classical director or racing car champion. He took all our orchestral ideas and lines, transcribed and directed them for the Lingua Mortis Orchestra in White Russia. For such an ambitious project you need people with great musical knowledge of course. Victor did a fantastic job with the directing of the Lingua Mortis Orchestra. We wrote the orchestra arrangements by ourselves but Victor was very important because he “translated” all our lines and ideas to the orchestra musicians.
Alex: The idea was also that the orchestra should not sound too clean and beautiful, it should sound much more evil like in good old Horror movies! Victor is outstanding in achieving this.
HMA: Any plants for a full on tour here in the UK?
Alex: We will have our first show for the new album on 27th of april here in Germany. Of course we hope to come back to the UK as soon as possible. The shows in UK were always very intense and a great experience for us.
HMA: Thanks again and see hopefully on the road.
Alex: Thanx for this interview. Greetings to all our fans in the UK! Join our treasure hunt!
Tosso: Thanx! Check out our new record, its well worth!!
Sander: See you on the road!
Copyright 2013 © Alex Milazzo, Heavy Music Artwork. All rights reserved.