The highly anticipated third full-length album of ATLANTEAN KODEX is here. Formed around 2005/2006 the band quickly managed to become the centre of the new European epic metal movement. The White Goddess (2013) established them as of bands leading the heavy doom around the planet. With their new album after a long wait of six years they are back with a new chapter ready to extend their legend, know more details about it in the following chat with the voice in command, Markus Becker!
Hello Markus, at last the long wait comes to an end, because your third album The Course of Empire is here. What are your sensations about it?
Markus: We are very happy that – after almost two years of working on it – the new record was released on September 13th. For a long time, we were not sure if it would ever happen, but now it is here, and we are very satisfied with it. Reactions have been overwhelming so far, so we could not be happier.
As I said, a long wait, what is the main reason for it?
Markus: There were different reasons. The first two years after the White Goddess we promoted that album live. Then we basically took a creative break, just like we did after the first album, only that it lasted a bit longer than last time because a lot of things were happening in our private lives. When we finally started working on the new songs, we lost our practice room and band studio, and it took almost a year to find something new. And on top of that, we parted ways with our longtime lead guitarist Michael Koch, because of his health issues, and had to replace him with Coralie Baier.
Enough reasons to understand the long delay. Talking about Coralie Baier, she is the new face in the band, on the guitar tasks, how did you fnid her and what has been her contribution to the new album?
Markus: Coralie had already been friends with our Drummer Mario and we knew about her work with Thrashers Antipeewee. The album was almost finished when she joined, but she still was able to contribute a few Solo parts.
The departure of Michael Koch is so overcome? No cracks?
Markus: None. Coralie picked things up quickly and we are very lucky to have her. We are also still good friends with Michael and he is still part of the Kodex family. Both can be heard on the new album, and Michael was also part of our two release shows in Hamburg and at Stormcrusher Festival.
Nice to hear that. “The White Goddess”, which even took you to the top 60 German album charts, put you in the map definitely and also as a reference in the epic doom heavy metal. That helps when composing a new album or on the contrary is a heavy stone on your mind?
Markus: When we started talking about a new album, of course we wanted to create something that would be on eye-level with TWG and we promised ourselves that we would not release anything new that would not fulfill our own quality standards. Had TCoE fallen short of TWG in our own minds, we would not have put it out, period. But we also felt the pressure coming from the fans who were desperately waiting for something new and had to have a lot of patience with us. That wasn’t always easy, but we simply tried to focus on ourselves and to ignore all external influences.
Since the publication of that cornerstone other bands like Visigoth, Gatekeeper, Grand Magus, Lunar Shadow have appeared in the map making themselves strong along time. That is also a motivation, to be at the level the fans expect from you?
Markus: Of course it motivates a lot and makes you proud, when you get positive feedback from the fans and even from other bands who list you as a reference or inspiration.
What has been the process on the composition an recording of The Course of Empire?
Markus: As with the previous records, when the songs slowly took shape, we first recorded some demos of most of the songs, and then started re-arranging things over and over again, until we felt we had reached the optimum for each song. Then we recorded the final versions, whereby Manuel played all rhythm guitars. We did it all by ourselves in our own studio, including the final mix and mastering. Which is another reason why things took a bit longer than expected.
What element in your opnion has a greater weight on the album: the epic or the heavy doom?
Markus: I am not a big fan of categorizing music too much, but to me it would be Epic Heavy Metal with a strong Doom reference.
Is there a general theme in the lyrics, a connection between songs, or each one is a story apart?
Markus: The main lyrical theme is the everlasting cycle of the rise and fall, the birth, death and possibly rebirth of human empires and cultures. It was inspired by a series of paintings by American painter Thomas Cole from the 1830’s, depicting the usual development of human civilizations from the savage and arcadian through the wealthy and prosperous state and finally to destruction and downfall. The songs are somewhat connected through this theme, but each one also works individually, there is no story or concept over all songs.
Markus, listening to The Course of Empire I have the perception that you have more presence or control over the songs than in previous albums, what do you think?
Markus: This is a feedback that we received quite a lot on the new record. I believe this has different aspects: The vocals are produced differently than on the past albums, they are more dominant in the overall mix and sound more direct and with less reverb. We also focused a lot more on the vocal arrangements, the choirs and layered vocal lines, which gives the vocals a much more majestic feel. And maybe I might also have developed a little bit as a singer since the first releases, although this is for others to decide.
Regarding the previous question, it’s obvious that you, Markus, continue to deliver a great performance. Your parallel work in Septagon has not changed that although there you sound more rough
Markus: Thank you. I agree that my vocals for Septagon sound quite different, as does the music itself. Septagon is a Speed/Thrash/Power Metal Band, which of course also requires a bit of a different singing style. I’m lucky that I can play in both bands, because it also reflects the fact that my personal musical spectrum is not limited to the bands that generally influence Atlantean Kodex.
My favourite song is The Course Of Empire and it heavyness fits perfectly, in the right place and right moment of the album?
Markus: I agree that it is a perfect climax to the album, it is quite complex and has many different parts, and therefore sums up all the different musical and lyrical elements of the album. My personal fave is “He Who Walks Behind The Years”.
Anyone can have an opinion about if The Course Of Empire is better or not than his predecessor, but what I think is undeniable is that AK continues to show an elegance and a feeling that is beyond more current bands
Markus: Well, thank you! If you ask me personally, I would rate The Course of Empires slightly above TWG, but that is certainly something that most musicians would say about their new album. But it is not my place to compare AK with other current bands, I think there’s a lot of great stuff out there. Our sound might be a bit more unique than that of many other bands, but I am not going to judge quality.
The cover art with the army marching transmits an epic feeling, was that the intention of it?
Markus: The painting we used for the front cover was done by contemporary artist Mariusz Lewandowski from Poland. It looks quite majestic and has a powerful aura to it, which makes it a perfect fit for the music and the lyrical theme. I should also mention the booklet of the Album, which again was done by our incredibly talented friend Ben Harff. It is essential to the total package of The Course of Empire, which is always of high importance to us.
A great job indeed. Can we expect a long tour around the globe?
Markus: Certainly not, touring has never been our thing. But of course, we intend to play as many singular shows as possible, either at festivals or smaller club gigs, and in as many different countries as possible.
Well, then we must enjoy every chance we may have to see AK live! Thank you very much Markus and congratulations for your great come back, if you wish to add something…
Markus: Well, thank you very much for the support. Hope to see you on the road some day.