Alexander Krull and Thorsten Bauer very kindly took time out after recording to answer some questions I set him. Again, thanks must go to Andy at Napalm Records for organising the interview.
Atrocity have quite the history. Many say the first extreme metal band from Germany, one of the first to use blast beats and so on. Now you’re pushing the boundaries with a trilogy of albums. Do you feel pressured to keep trying new things or is this just how you are?
Alex: Some call us the “metal chameleons” because we combined so many different music styles under name the Atrocity, and crossed borders no other metal band has gone before, too. We were always looking for new challenges and ideas. That is the philosophy of the band, and the reason we are still alive after so many years I guess (laughs). 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 setlist 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!
Tosso: Openness towards new influences is the idea behind every album we’ve recorded, also as we started to compose and gain ideas for Okkult. Atrocity has a very creative “soul” and personality. All these different facettes 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 of bringing the same kind of albums on the market over and over again. 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.
The sheer scale of Okkult (and its part in a trilogy) is, frankly, incredible – the kind of thing most people would associate with bands such as Metallica or KISS. Is the whole trilogy hinging on how well Okkult is received, or is it effectively all being worked on right now?
Alex: Thank you for your compliment! 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. We collected a lot of ideas already for the other two parts to come!
Tosso: We started already a couple years ago with the songwriting for the Okkult trilogy, so we have already a lot of material, which might be on one of the next two albums. You can see the Okkult trilogy like a new and own era for the band. So this album is the start of something new for us which will be continued in a dark and murderous way.
Alex: The start of the Okkult trilogy features some very obscure stories actually. 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 of the concept of the Okkult trilogy was born 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. In fact 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. We dug out some very obscure stories like the one of the super sinister lady “La Voisine” (we use this pronunciation of the name). This song tells a dark chapter in the history of mankind, and actually was discovered in connection with the “Affaire des poisons” in France. It’s set in Paris of the 17th Century and the song is about Catherine Monvoisin, which was known as “La Voisin” as witch and poisoner. She told the the 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. This shows how the so called “magic world” is part of the “real world” and this crime story turns occult. An important aspect on the album Okkult is the intersection of power, politics and religion in our world. Because religion and superstition occur exactly where the man pushes his knowledge to its limits, primal fears can take control over the mind. This concludes in a policy based on the principle of fear. Religion and politics play on the fears of the people, thus they control. For mankind the greatest fear is darkness. The best example is processed in the song “Masaya (Boca del Infierno)”. The cave system of the volcano in Nicaragua Masaya was regarded as an input for the indigenous population in the dark underworld. To ward off evil spirits, there were rituals of human sacrifice. When the Spanish conquerors emerged in Masaya, there was a cross erected to exorcise the devil. The Spanish conquerors thought that this was one of the entrances to hell. Two completely different cultures with different languages and peoples, and yet a common fear …
Any hints as to how the rest of the trilogy will play out?
Alex: We will continue to combine epic brutality with darkest lyrics. There are more weird and obscure stories to tell! First we will tour with the Okkult album, moreover to grab the energy of the live shows and the audiences before we will produce the second part.
Tosso: If you listen to the Okkult album, you will realize that this is definitely one driving force in this musical trilogy: We enjoy writing and playing extreme and brutal metal music. And we consider and will play more extreme metal on the Okkult trilogy.
I notice that you brought in a sound designer (Katie Halliday) whose work on the Saw films obviously caught your eye / ear. What has she managed to lend to the Okkult experience?
Alex: The cooperation with the Canadian sound designer Katie Halliday (Saw movies) was supercool, she made some really dark atmopsheric sound effects! We met Katie on tour in Canada. As we told her about the Okkult concept, she was excited to take part in such a huge metal production. As she is a big metal fan, too.
Tosso: We wanted to have a very dark atmosphere on the album, just like in the great old horror movies. You find these elements in the orchestra on Okkult and of course also on Katie’s great sound effects, that she contributed to the album. If you just listen to the opening track off the album, “Pandæmonium”, you’ll get an idea of what I’m trying to describe. It leaves a hell of impression on the listeners!
Sander: We wanted to add some occult sounding soundscapes and add an extra layer to the music and concept. The first name who came up was Katie’s and she was very excited to be a part of the album and made us a lot of eerie, occult sounding soundscapes and samples to work with which imho gives even more depth to the tracks.
You’re almost thirty years into your career as a musician, at least with Atrocity. What is your secret for keeping things fresh and interesting for yourself and the fans?
Alex: The fans, the live experience with our audience. Moreover, this band is a very versatile group of crazy musicians, I guess haha. We’ve always been looking for new challenges in our musical career. It was never our cup of tea to do the same album all over again. That’s why we are still alive after such a long time I guess and that is also the reason that the name Atrocity stands also for pioneering new ways and genres in the metal scene. My advice to all artists: 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.
I’m always impressed by bands which manage to write songs in a language other than their own. Did you find this a challenge in your younger years, and do you find that German may sometimes work better for certain songs?
Alex: When we started back in the day to use German lyrics on some songs and album titles it wasn’t that easy, because the people weren’t used to that and even some people blamed us for using our mother tongue! Nowadays it seems to be not a big deal any more, thanks to our friends of Rammstein I guess (laughs). And yes, you are right, sometimes it’s just the feeling, it works better in another language than English, that’s the reason we actually started to use our own language in the past, too. The title “Todessehnsucht” sounds like dark poetry in German, so we used it as the album title in 1992. On Okkult we use some original Latin ritual chants in “Necromancy Divine” or the French name “La Voisine”, too. From the beginning I thought “Satans Braut” has to be a song with German lyrics. It just fits it perfectly! Besides that the lyrical background is very brutal. It is inspired by a story in the times of witch hunt from our area. A strong woman was accused of witchery but it couldn’t proved at all, even after she was tortured. But still she got arrested in a prison tower. After getting raped by her tormentors and guards, she got a still birth. She was hiding it below straw in her prison cell. She tried to get rid of the already mummified corpse, and throwing it out of the window of the prison cell. But people on the street found it and finally she could be accused and executed by her tormentors for infanticide!
Given the orchestral and choral sound to many of your songs, how do you carry this off in a live show?
Sander: Although it would of course be awesome if we could perform the material with a live orchestra, normally it is just not possible because of the sheer costs and logistics in making it happen. But who knows maybe sometime at a special event! I think it would be absolutely great to do a big production like that and added special stage elements etc., etc! With a normal show we have the orchestral sounds running along via computers to the band playing.
I don’t see Yasmin listed as one of the band for Okkult. Is she still involved in the new production?
Tosso: Yasmin did Calling The Rain and After the Storm together with us. She had a very important role on these albums with there voice and flutes. But she isn’t involved in the Okkult album.
Alex: Atrocity feat. Yasmin is actually a separated project with my sister Yasmin. My sister is living New Zealand and I hope to visit her soon on her big farm over there. Maybe we’ll come up with some musical ideas for future projects.
Thanks for your time :)
Alex: Thanks for the interview!
Sander: Thank you! Hope to see you all on tour, tell all live promoters about Atrocity ;)
Tosso: Thanks for the support and everybody is welcome to join our Okkult treasure hunt!