ZT INTERROGATION: TEUTONIC TITANS ATROCITY HAMMER HOME THE HORROR
As the pulverizing middle leg of their Okkult series of albums is released by Massacre Records to widespread acclaim, Atrocity vocalist Alexander Krull and guitarist Tosso Bauer, share their thoughts on the German veterans’ new album, and plenty more besides, with ZT’s Paul Castles.
ZT: So your new album, Okkult II, has just been released – how are you all feeling feel about it? Alex: We are all very excited about the new album and it turned out killer! All the feedback from the fans has been amazing!! The international reviews for the album have been fantastic, too! Wow! Okkult II went immediately into the German album charts on rank #37 after hitting even the German trendcharts at #10 and the German Alternative Charts on rank #3!! Moreover, we had a fantastic release festival show in July at Sunstorm Open Air in Germany.
ZT: Has your approach to writing a new album changed much over the last 25 or so years? Tosso: I think the basic steps haven’t changed that much. Usually it all starts with a vision and what we want to achieve with a new album. This time we wanted to have a really brutal and powerful sounding album with songs like a fist in the face. At the same time there is a deeper, more occult facette on the album which is often displayed by the real sung choirs and the amazing horror effect sounds. For me as a guitarist it was exciting and challenging to come up with a lot of great and heavy riffs, that are demanding but also recognisable after the first time hearing. So an important part of the magic of this album is, that you have brutal songs with choruses and riffs that get stuck into your ears.
ZT: Just explain how you worked with Katie Halliday on this album and what extra she brought to the table? Tosso: Katie has done the sound effects for movies like The Saw so she is a real pro when it comes to sound effects. We met a few times on North American tours where she visited us. When the idea of collaborating with a metal band came up, she immediately liked it. Katie added some extra okkult and evil vibes to the songs. If you just check the intro to our video song ‘Shadowtaker’ (above) ... it gives me goosebumps every time I hear it. So cool and sinister!
ZT: Do you still have that sense of pride and achievement when finally getting a new album out? Alex: Sure!!! Always when we finish our work I’m proud as fuck! We are doing this band for so many years and still we have a driving force inside to be creative and crazy with all the metal music we do! That’s very important! As I’m also the producer of the albums and work at Mastersound Studio to me the whole production process means a lot, too. I always have a vision of sound when we write and record. For Okkult II I wanted to have a very powerful, organic, brutal and unique sound and still you should hear all the nice details. It was also very important to create this horror-like atmosphere in the songs – it’s like a red line through the album. Darkness vs brutality!
ZT: You’ve got some wonderful choral sequences on this album that help build the suspense, are you pleased with how that has gelled? Tosso: We wanted to have choirs that sound like in the old horror movies, the ones that give you this vintage goosebumps feel, ha ha. I think we took the right steps with the album to achieve this. With our other band Leaves’ Eyes we recorded the last two albums with the world famous London Choirs at Angel Studios in London which is fantastic. For Okkult II we recorded everything here at our headquarters in Mastersound Studio together with friends who sing in a local choir. We have created our own session choir called Fullmonn Choir at Mastersound already some years ago and we recorded also the choirs for the first Okkult album and some Leaves’ Eyes stuff, too. Btw Elina, singer of Leaves’ Eyes joined us as 1st Soprano. It was a lot of fun to record and we had all aspects regarding the sound and the arrangements under our own control. I think that helped a lot and paid off.
ZT: While having some ambitious sections, the core central sound is still a brutal one, does that stay true to the essence of Atrocity over the years? Tosso: Basically the sound of Atrocity has always been rooted in Extreme Metal. In fact Atrocity was the first Death Metal band here in Germany. But unlike other bands we also did a few brave and challenging musical adventures in our career, like the two Werk 80 albums or the project album Die Liebe together with German electronic and Gothic pioneers Das Ich. So we have always been the ‘open-minded extreme metal band’.
ZT: Does the new album carry any particular theme? Alex: The concept of the Okkult trilogy contains some of the darkest and most obscure mysteries of the world. I was always interested in dark topics and writing these kind of lyrics for Atrocity. I also like the dark spirit of German poems of the expressionism. Already with the Blut album (1994) and its dark vampire concept it was fascinating to do research in Transylvania, home of my grandfather, and to dive deep into a topic and film a video clip on a spooky Transylvanian castle. Then in the very extensive work on the Atlantis concept (2004), there was an incredible range of different sources and points of contact on the subject. This went from scientific, archaeological work, mythological perspectives on esoteric theories, obscure interpretations of occultists in the Third Reich to the far-out world of ufology. Then it was almost obvious to me that the next concept we would come up with could be about the mysteries of world history and the dark side of humanity.
ZT: The new album is the middle part of a trilogy. Why did you decide to go down this path? Alex: The first Okkult album was released in 2013 and we toured with the album around the globe. When you are dealing with subjects like occult magic, strange places and events, conspiracy theories, dark prophecies and still unsolved mysteries you have a bright field in front of you, like I mentioned before. For me it was immediately clear that one album would not be enough, so here we are with the trilogy of which Okkult II is the second part.
ZT: What will be the timespan for the following album? Tosso: We don’t know yet – depends on the touring schedule, ha ha. Between Okkult and Okkult II we did a lot of worldwide touring like Alex mentioned. Tours and shows in Europe, North America, UK, Latin America, Russia and Asia. Besides that we also signed a new record deal with our former label Massacre Records, that released several of our classic albums such as Blut, Willenskraft and Werk 80. For 2019 we definitely want to play many live shows with Atrocity. This will already be a new inspiration then to start writing on the third and last album of the Okkult trilogy.
ZT: The song ‘Menschenschlachthaus’ is a real stomp. Just explain the historical background behind this song about the pacifist writer? Alex:‘Menschenschlachthaus’ describes the real horror of World War I on the basis of a true story. Already in 1912 the German teacher Wilhelm Lamszus had wrote a book of a machine war of annihilation in detail, a dark prophecy that was to become a cruel reality. Two years later, he himself had to be a soldier in the First World War and witnessed his dark visions. Initiated by the mighty of the world and their agitation, hundreds of thousands were carried away in the mud of the trenches by the modern war machine.
ZT: You’ve invited a couple of notable guest vocalists to join the party on this album… How far back does your relationship with LG Petrov and Marc Grewe go? Alex: LG and Marc are old companions of ours. We know each other from the ‘golden days’ of the Death Metal underground in the late 80s, early 90s. In 1990 we toured with Morgoth, Autopsy and Pestilence. Since that time I’ve known Marc. In 1990 I brought LG and Entombed to Germany for the first time on the ‘Support the Underground’ festivals with Carcass, Atrocity, Pungent Stench etc. I organized the festivals myself, and they were some of the first Death Metal festivals on an international level and took place in Germany, France and Belgium. LG and the Entombed guys were very grateful for that. Marc and LG were both on the Atrocity film documentary The Godless Years and did great interviews for that amazing documentary for our DVD. When we asked them whether they would like to be a guest vocalist on Okkult II both were immediately enthusiastically present. The co-operations turned out fantastic!
ZT: You must be pleased with the impressive artwork by Stefan Heilemann? Alex: Heile is a good friend of ours and already did the artwork for the Masters of Darkness EP, Okkult and also several other Atrocity and Leaves’ Eyes releases along with shirt and artwork designs. He did a great job also for the new album! When I came up with the Okkult trilogy concept, we already spoke about the concept and cover artwork ideas. The Mediabook looks actually like a kind of note book of occult discoveries. Love it!
ZT: As one of Germany’s longest serving and most respected extreme metal bands, do you feel the German metal scene is in a good place at the moment? Tosso: The German metal fans are very loyal and we have a lot of really well organized and growing festivals over here, like Wacken or Summer Breeze. Of course you have some German flagships like Accept, Kreator, Helloween, Blind Guardian and others. But for German bands it’s sometimes quite tough to survive because here you don’t get any support from the state, unlike in Scandinavia or in the Netherlands. Our friend Schmier from Destruction calls it “Germoney”, ha ha. In our Mastersound Studio we also work with many bands from Germany, so I know there a lot of good bands with great ideas and potential.
ZT: Finally guys, what tour plans do the band have at the moment – Any UK dates? Tosso: We hope to return to the UK very soon. It has always been special and great fun to tour in Great Britain! Alex: Yeah, bring us back – bring the Okkult back to the UK! Thank you very much for this interview and your support!