Atrocity – Diving Back into the OkkultFriday, 13th July 2018
Forever pulling double-duty with Leaves’ Eyes, Atrocity frontman Alexander Krull is a busy man (as is the rest of the band). With the buzz that Leaves’ Eyes has generated over the years, sometimes it means that Atrocity has to wait a bit for a new album. Hence, Okkult II, the second in a proposed trilogy of albums, has finally been released following up 2013’s Okkult. But the wait has been worth it in the end.
Okkult II is a visceral feast of death metal, done in a timeless manner. While Atrocity has long been in existence, they have always updated and changed with the times. So you get a classic vibe from their music, but it’s never been stuck/relegated to the ‘old school’ bins. It implements choirs and synths, but never at the expense of a good, brutal experience. We caught up with Krull to talk about many facets of Okkult II, including guests and a treasure hunt, along with what he feels are some of the band’s greatest accomplishments over the years.
Dead Rhetoric: With this being Okkult II, what do you feel that you have improved since Okkult?
Alexander Krull: I think, personally, it’s probably more riff-oriented. It still has all of the ingredients – choirs, atmospheric parts, and some of the symphonic elements, but there’s less of that and more heavy guitars and great riffs. I like Okkult II because we wanted to make great, death metal songs and some refreshing music – you can call it old school, but I think it sounds very fresh due to the killer production. The feedback is overwhelming now that the album is finished and people are getting to listen to everything. It seems like everybody is very happy. We don’t release an album every year, so I think we can start celebrating now [laughs]!
Dead Rhetoric: What did you enjoy about having LG Petrov and Marc Grewe as guest vocalists?
Krull: They are old buddies of ours. Marc toured with us with 1989 with Autopsy and Pestilence…killer package by the way. He would visit us when we were touring with Leaves’ Eyes and Atrocity and he was in The Godless Years documentary. Same for LG – I’ve known him since Entombed came over to Germany for the first time. There was a death metal festival called Support the Underground. There was Carcass, Atrocity, Pungent Stench, and Entombed…a young band from Sweden for the first time in Germany. None of the big agents wanted to book this kind of music or bands, so I was one of the guys making the first death metal festivals over here. Also they were on tour with Carcass and Atrocity in 1990. The Left Hand Path album came out and the guys were super happy to have quite a kickstart with these shows, as a lot of people were attending.
It was absolutely great when I asked the guys to join us on the album as guest vocalists. They were totally happy and honored, and the same [for me]. We have some great friends and death metal icons on the album, which is very special. The collaboration was very cool. Marc was recording in Berlin in the studio, and LG did it in Sweden. We exchanged ideas – I told LG it would be cool to have kind of a death metal duet, and there were six screams and shouts from Marc on “Gates to Oblivion” – it was perfect.
Dead Rhetoric: You are bringing up all these old stories and Atrocity has been around for over 30 years now. What do you feel are some of your strongest accomplishments?
Krull: That’s a very brutal question. There was so much happening. There was a fantastic underground scene back in the day, and we had a very good network and we were sending letters back and forth to the UK, America, and all over Europe and Scandinavia. That was very special at the beginning when we started. It was exciting to be one of the driving forces in death metal – being the first German death metal band, and things like that. Then it was having a Morrisound production with Scott Burns and having our HR Giger cover. That was already outstanding! For us as young kids it was amazing.
There are some great memories through each period of the band. When you never expected to play outside your own area or your own country, and you’ve toured in 50-60 countries now and 5 continents and headline festivals like Wacken, that’s just crazy! That’s like dreams coming true! It’s very hard to just pick out certain moments. Fulfilling your dreams with this kind of music and going further and further, touring around the world, that’s a great gift also. I’m very thankful for that.
Dead Rhetoric: There’s also a musical evolution that the band has continued to go through, where many bands just churn out more of the same. What keeps you at the forefront of advancing the band’s sound?
Krull: When Hallucinations came out, the band was already in existence for 5 years. Even then, we did not put out a ‘regular’ death metal album. Not to sound arrogant, but we just wanted to be different. We made darker stuff, we made some classical influences on the second album and used choirs and German language. We had a very technical approach with the band, and it was probably the first technical death metal album. But all in all, I was always up for the music going to the extreme, taking in my personal music taste, and exploring new horizons…even doing acoustic stuff with a band like Atrocity was impossible for any other death metal band back in the day, or even using female vocalists like my sister Yasmin back in 1994, or 1993 on the demos. You can’t always explain your art – it’s something inside of you, and then when you have ideas like Werk 80 [laughs]…a friend of mine was listening to all this ‘80s darkwave and pop music and I said, “I hear some really heavy guitars” and then years later, you do it because no one else would do it at the time.
Dead Rhetoric: It’s funny that you mention that one, because nowadays, you do hear bands reaching back and covering Depeche Mode or bands like that. But back then it was much more of a rarity.
Krull: It was probably a disgrace to metal [laughs]! I’m sorry to say that, but some people are very harsh and say, “Oh, that’s not metal.” That’s bullshit. There’s one song by Judas Priest called “Breaking the Law.” If that’s not possible in metal, then that’s not ‘true,’ that’s not metal. I also wanted to say that it’s not always about being out of the box or something, for the sake of it, there has to a great musical concept behind it. For me at least, it has to be challenging and make sense and make a good musical output in the end.
I think it’s very important at the end of the day to be creative and make the best music you can. With death metal, because there’s a strong connection to that period of time in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s in my own life. It was a very important time in my life. It will always be there, that death metal kid inside of me. You can’t change that. That’s something that you want to do with your band. There are kind of regular albums with Atrocity and there are kind of project albums. The Werk 80 stuff, or the Okkult trilogy is also like a big concept, but it’s also a very clear death metal statement I would say.
Dead Rhetoric: There’s a lot of research that goes into the lyrics of Leaves’ Eyes and Atrocity. Was there anything this time that came up that was interesting?
Krull: There’s a lot of great stuff on both Okkult albums. The whole Okkult concept started by my interest in the dark side of humanity, the dark history and mysteries of the world. All of the occult stuff, and stories that no one really heard about. There’s much more nowadays in the media and television, and I’m a fan of that. When we made the Atlantis album in 2004, there was a lot of research done by myself, and it crossed into a number of different topics including the occult world. Everything from the esoteric to science-y to historic stuff. People researching things trying to find the place – in every culture you have myths about a big flood and a big civilization. Two very obscure science fiction mythologists believed that Atlantis was built by aliens…it’s really crazy!
The Nazis had their interpretation on world history, which was based on the Atlantis myth and other myths around the globe. There were researchers who sent out experts around the world to find evidence for their theories and things like that. We have one song, “Masters of Darkness,” which describes the madness of the Third Reich and their absurd worldview, and the Black Order. But there’s also other stuff too, like “Shadowtaker,” which we just did a video for, which will be quite interesting. In the Slavic region, back in the 1800s, the authorities were sending in full investigations with medical officers to witness a revenant and prove that it was all wrong, but it happened to do the opposite and more and more people believed in these vampire/revenant stories. They even had a vampire decree out, especially for the habits that they had – opening graves, staking, burning corpses – they made a law against it! It was a serious matter. There was no Dracula book from Bram Stoker, it was something that people in those areas still might believe today. This revenant myth was also around in other cultures, it’s not only in the Slavic regions. We made the Blut album in 1994, which was a more traditional vampire story, but “Shadowtaker” is more brutal.
We also dive into the world of the Celtic druids with “Bloodshed and Triumph,” which is also very interesting, because the Romans had this great fear of the magicians, which had great reputations and seen as wizards in the Celtic tribes. They were very influenced by the druids and the Celtic leaders, and they had brutal human sacrifices. They had the Wickerman, for example, which they filled up with people and sacrificed them. There’s some really interesting stuff throughout the album, and I think people are really going to like it if they want to get into some information from the occult world.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you find it easier to put a lot of time into the research because your vocals are so intelligible and discernable, where many people have vocals that are just more like an additional instrument?
Krull: That’s true. First of all, I try to have a variety within the songs, and putting out some expression within the death metal vocals. I always did that. I always was a storyteller. The songs and the atmosphere had a meaning as well. For the concept of Okkult, I preferred to write about real stories – places that you can go and people that you can research yourself. You can see the stories that are connected to the occult world, and it means much more to me than just having a fantasy lyric, for instance. When we write the songs, I’m inspired by the music, and when you do the guitar riffs, they have an evil feel in the music. I like that we are able to produce something that is smashing you in the face, and on the other hand is producing a very creepy sound.
Dead Rhetoric: You had a treasure hunt for the first album. Do you plan to do another treasure hunt for Okkult II?
Krull: Absolutely. This one will be in the United States and Canada. The first one was in Europe, and it was set up in six countries. It was quite an effort to find the song. There was a Facebook group where people gathered together. In the beginning, I hoped that people would help each other, like, “You live in this country, go find the next container” and it happened that people went for themselves instead of having groups and searching together. They did in the beginning, but for some reason, people didn’t want to share with someone else. I hope with this one it might be different. It’s up to the fans themselves what to do with it. It’s out there. In an age where you can download everything, you have to go to some places to find a song. I think it’s quite special.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you feel that with Atrocity and Leaves’ Eyes, you have people that follow both, or discover one through the other?
Krull: Oh yeah, that was happening a lot in the beginning of Leaves’ Eyes. People at that time were already thinking it was an Atrocity project. We had to tell people that it was a band. People through Atrocity were getting to know Leaves’ Eyes, but it’s also the other way around. We’ve toured together, especially in Latin America, and there’s a lot of people who like both bands. We were on the 70,000 Tons of Metal tour with Leaves’ Eyes this year and then everyone was asking me when Atrocity would be playing on the boat due to the new EP. It was quite amazing.
Dead Rhetoric: What are your plans for Atrocity and Leaves’ Eyes for this year and into next year?
Krull: We will play summer festivals with both bands. We will have the release show for Okkult II, and we will tour with Leaves’ Eyes with Kamelot across Europe in the fall. Then we will also have another festival – Metal Hammer Paradise – and we already have offers for Japan…we will see what we will do with that. We are planning on going on the road with Atrocity in 2019 and also have offers for 2018 for Dubai and a Spanish festival. But the main part of the touring will be next year.