Atrocity - Interview


Legendary German death metal pioneers Atrocity recently released closer album of their "Okkult" trilogy (read review here) which became a very old school album that might be one of the death metal highlights in 2023. I skyped with band leader Alexander Krull to talk about that trilogy and the band's history. During the interview I also discovered some more dark facets of the band that I somehow forgot during all these years but are worth reading about. Do you want to know what Atrocity has to do with German Schlagermusic – go ahead and read the interview! Have fun reading and thank you Alexander for taking the time.

Michael

Hello Alexander, how are you?

There have been better times, we live in a crazy world. But I'm fine, if you look at the artistic side. There are 10 years of Occult to celebrate - in January the album will see the light of day and then we let the beast off the chain (laughs). We just had video shoots and there were the signed editions, the whole rat race then comes after, but in a positive sense. But other than that, what also gets to me personally is that the past few years have not been pretty, especially in terms of the live sector. You couldn't meet all the people in person, we played on five continents and in fifty different countries; Leaves' Eyes is my other band and with them we postponed one tour after the other, until now, at the end of the day we couldn't tour again. It's very frustrating and the point is that, of course, we also very much want to party with the fans in person and now the whole tragedy with the war is added to that. We have two crew members who live in Kiev, our live mixer and our backliner and that's a drama in itself and we also have friends there. We also have friends in Russia who, you can say, fear for their lives because they don't agree with the politics of the regime. These are times that we would not have wished for and could not have imagined. And with this whole issue of war, which puts people in fearful states and which causes many to be unable to go about their daily lives, we are now getting a little bit into the "occult" issue as well. It's a big part of the trilogy that has to do with the fact that in any system - dictatorship, democracy, kingdom, whatever - in all these political systems and also - above all - in religion and in religious associations, there's always one very big factor above everything: Fear. With fear you control any system, any belief system - if you don't follow this and that, then you go to hell or to prison - fear works everywhere and that was also a basic idea when we started with the trilogy, that we process the dark side of humanity there. No animal would do such cruel things to another animal as man does to man and also the way people are driven by politics and religion - in Iran you see that right now, people are oppressed and at the same time the rich and powerful of the world keep taking everything for themselves. These are actually the outlaws who can get away with anything and that is closely connected with spiritual violence and then the physical violence from the state side comes on top of that. Here in Europe the church had the scepter firmly in their hands, that they also tortured and enslaved people at the same time. Fortunately, they are no longer allowed to do that (laughs). The whole thing is interwoven in that often the dark human side comes out when man has the power or the money to do so. This opens Pandora's box, when man has the opportunity, people suddenly turn into monsters. You saw that in the Third Reich, for example, where a normal office boy became a mass murderer in a concentration camp. For us as a band that has done a lot of different things, we're always looking for a new approach, vision or challenge. When we did Atlantis I also did a huge research and found out that this flood legend was all over the planet. So not only in Greek mythology, but also in Africa, it was called "Atlantioy", in South America "Atzlan" and in the Bible it was the biblical flood legend. In Asia there is also something like that.  There I had many points of contact, from complete esotericism over ufologists up to Nazis, who searched for Atlantis - there was already a very large range. Especially in esoteric circles it was said that these are the origins of mankind or "my ancestors were Atlantids". That was a big theme that you don't expect at the beginning. This is not a Walt Disney story with some underwater men - no, there is much more behind it. So after the Cradles of Humankind it was clear to me that the dark history of mankind with all its facets would come next and that one album would not be enough for that. Then it was also clear that the musical direction must be brutal, evil and epic.

Did you find it difficult to write lyrics on the overriding theme across three albums? Although, with this theme, there's always something new to add....

I didn't want to dig up the common stuff; I wanted to filter out stuff that not everybody has kind of addressed. 'Bleeding For Blasphemy', for example, is about the Knights Templar, but not about the sunken treasure and everything that has already been associated with it in heavy metal, but that it was a brotherhood that first participated in the Crusades in the name of God and was more or less the blood hand of the church, and in the end they themselves were doomed by their initiation rituals. It was much attributed to them that they held satanic rituals, worshiped Baphomet or spat on the cross. The other facet was that when the high priest was burned, he still cursed the two main players, the French king (Phillip IV) and the pope (Clement V), and they actually then died in the same year. So there are aspects in there like the inexplicable, the mystical but also historical events and places. We also had the occult treasure hunt with the 24-carat gold CD, the bonus track they must first find and start this treasure hunt.

Is the treasure hunt still going on?

Yes, the first one is still not completed. I mean, it's also going through six countries. The problem is, we don't know ourselves yet. Before, we didn't want to start the second one and now we're already on the third one. On the other hand, it's kind of cool that it's lasted so long, but we'll see what's going on soon and then we'll see.

Musically "Okkult III" is quite dark and brute and the atmospheric parts are not so much in focus anymore. What would you say makes the difference to the two previous albums?

Occult III was supposed to be the grand finale. It's very retro, very brute, you put it well, and we changed a few things in the production. For me, it was important that the atmosphere and what makes the Occult trilogy come across like a steamroller. We really wanted to have a very powerful record and the requirement was that we write killer riffs. Tosso, my longtime collaborator, is no longer with us since 2022, but we knew that beforehand. One riff is still from him and we then wrote together with Micki. That was partly still in Corona times, where you were only allowed to be in the studio with one other person. We're all happy, including Tosso with what he heard, which of course makes me very happy and that was just the right continuation and a great transition. The premise that each “Okkult” album can also stand on its own was also clear from the beginning. We don't want to do something that sounds all the same and differs only in sound. It is interesting that there are more symphonic elements on the first "Okkult", that many find the choir arrangements on the second album more remarkable. There are a few choirs there, that's true (laughs)....

Haha, exactly, as with "human slaughterhouse", I find that really blatant!

That is the contrast. Of course you can ask why we put a choir in there, although it doesn't have to be so obvious. The band is called Atrocity and we do things like that (laughs).

You have already released two videos - 'Desecration Of God' and 'Born To Kill'. The two videos are already quasi small films. Can you tell a little bit more about it?

There will be three more videos from us. I've been active in video productions before and I also produce videos for other bands, I just did the new Eisregen video. For such a topic like Atrocity I also want to have a nice visual realization. I personally don't think much of lyric videos, maybe I'd rather not make a video at all (laughs). This cinematography is also a passion of mine, since Corona I've been more involved with it. My sister used to have a film company and I introduced her to the bands in the 90s. She did everything from Skyclad to Lacrimosa and also the first Wacken film. But now she lives in New Zealand and is completely out of it. I was involved in the editing back then, when it was all still done on celluloid and you have to have a bit of an eye for the stuff. The problem with some video producers is that they can't connect the images properly with the music. These are technically very skilled people, but they lack the access to it. After a few videos, where a lot of people asked me about it, it was clear that we will also do this with Atrocity - high-quality videos - and gradually I mutated to a video producer, because I get more and more requests, which is not bad.

I have the promo in front of me, where you have recorded all 10 tracks again as an instrumental version. Will this be added as a bonus CD or are they included with the regular CD?

The mediabook is our regular edition and with Okkult II it was already like that, that if we don't have any other bonus tracks except for the treasure hunt, it's a cool thing that you can discover so many details. We already did that with Leaves' Eyes and that was really cool. Or, if someone wants he can also sing karaoke on it ( laughs).

Haha, yeah, a Sing Star Atrocity edition for the Playstation would be cool!

Yeah, we need to have a contest sometime - Atrocity Karaoke, haha!

Are you going to release different editions with different covers like you did in the past?

There is definitely this mediabook version and then a box comes out that looks really cool and there are also different LP color versions. The mediabook is without any frippery, but there is a flag in the box. I haven't seen it myself yet, but the graphic designer told me it was the absolute bomb. The artwork is fantastic too, especially on the LP it flashed you and it's all very tastefully done too. With the box are also various cards, which we have also signed, there are also patches.

Let's go back a bit into your past - your breakthrough "Todessehnsucht" just turned 30 years old. Are there any plans to do an anniversary gig or something? What does it look like with a tour?

We have the request again and again, also for Hallucinations, which was released two years before. But I'm glad when we can bring the Occult trilogy live on stage and we will probably lack the time for anniversary gigs. Something like that can always be considered, maybe when we celebrate another band anniversary. We celebrated the 25th band anniversary with a big show in Wacken. But let's wait and see. 2024 is the 30th anniversary of Blut and there I already know what everyone wants (laughs). That's how it goes on and on. Every album that has an anniversary should immediately get an anniversary concert. But that's also nice, because it shows that people still have a great affinity for it. There was a new LP edition of Todessehnsucht, which was sold out immediately, of Hallucinations as well - I don't know how many re-releases there are of it - and there will always be new vinyls. The last rumor was that there will be a double album of Werk 80, but there are problems with the pressing plant.

During your career you have also released some albums that were received quite ambivalently, like "Blut", the EP "Calling The Rain", where your sister sang along, or also "Werk 80". Would you change anything in retrospect or maybe even record something like that again nowadays?

0.0 I would change something there! That is set in stone. That's music history, we don't even need to discuss it. An example of this - let's take the mini-album with my sister Jasmin. The Blood album was released and there she was with 'Calling The Rain' already with this acoustic song in a death metal band, if you want to categorize it that way. We were of course death metal pioneers from Germany, there was no techno-death metal before, we generated that with Hallucinations, with Todessehnsucht German lyrics, no one had that either and then we fell out with our label at the time Roadrunner, which was so the biggest label at the time, because of this creativity. We said that we will have a German title again and if that is changed again in the USA, then we are out.

Yeah, I remember that "Todessehnsucht" was called "Longing For Death".

Right. In retrospect, they thought it was pretty stupid themselves, but that was the way it was back then and I started working for Massacre Records at that time. There was interest from the usual labels, where we were also made very good offers, we were virtually the flagship from Germany, and it would also be strange to work for a record company, but to go somewhere else with my band. But I had made the condition that I absolutely get all artistic freedoms and that the band is also supported in it. They agreed to that and I had all the cards in my hand to do it that way: video shoot in Transylvania, continue German lyrics - it was not so much, but was important for me. With 'Calling The Rain' there was a huge feedback, people were totally flashed by it, they were surprised, but somehow they liked it. My sister has this deep, earthy voice that gets under your skin, like Dead Can Dance. Then we played a show with my sister together with Goethes Erben, which was sold out immediately, that was unbelievable. We also toured with her together with Rage and the orchestra. There's also a story about that, which I don't think I've ever really told. The label had given us all the artistic freedom, but of course left out how it runs financially: "you can do that, whether we finance it all is something else". Then the distribution manager was called, who said that it was all artistically very demanding, but we will not be able to sell more than 1500 units of it. Accordingly, the budget was small. I had hoped for more, of course, but that was the assessment. I then went to the studio and told them that I had to get in there for a handout and record something with my sister. We then made the following deal: they did their regular studio job during the day and then I went into the studio from evening to morning and got a sound assistant to help me. That is, I worked at the label during the day and then went to the studio in the evening to continue working there. In the morning I freshened up and went back to the label. After three days I had my first hearing loss, but we pulled it off. The funny end of the story was that the 1500 I think 30000 units became.

What kind of music do you listen to privately?

So in general I judge music as good or bad. The genre plays a role, of course, so I don't want to listen to cast shit. So we're talking mainly about metal and rock music, although I can sometimes get something out of other things. But of course I also listen to the harder stuff, often I like the classics. On the way to the last video shoot we had a relatively long drive and my son assisted me. I then presented him with a bit of metal music history and we really went through all the genres, from speed, thrash, death, grindcore. That's my lifestyle, sure. Which is nice - I recently produced the upcoming Discreation, where Marc Grewe is the new singer and I can do stuff that I like in my private life. Sometimes symphonic bands come to me and right now I'm producing a classic hard rock band, which is also really fun. I'm open to everything that is good music.

I read the other day about a metal musician and producer who re-recorded a popular hit song with a band....something you don't do, though?

I'm someone who likes to explore extremes, but that's not my thing. On the other hand, we have also played with Heino on TV. When he made his metal album, we were more or less his backing band for a few TV shows. I got a call from an old acquaintance who used to be the label manager of Theatre Of Tragedy and nowadays does completely different things, including Heino. He said that he didn't know any metal band from Germany that he would trust to do this and I was a bit skeptical at the beginning. Our Dutch drummer Joris then said: "what, we know Heino in Holland too, let's do it". Heino then really did "Blau Blüht Der Enzian" and "Wir Lagen Vor Madagaskar" with hard guitars like Rammstein, with whom he was on stage together in Wacken and then we were asked if we would accompany that and we did a few TV shows.

Well, then maybe you'll come to the ZDF-Fernsehgarten. There was a metal show the other day, haha!

Haha, I know. Our "neighbor" is Andrea Berg, she lives one place away and there is actually a funny story about it. We were with Heino at the "Great Festival of the Best" with Florian Silbereisen, Helene Fischer was of course also there, you could have a good chat with her and that was quite funny. Everyone was really excited because these long-haired metal guys were there and Heino, who is a cool guy by the way, found the whole thing very amusing. He then came to the dress rehearsal with Andrea Berg in his arms and introduced me to Andrea as her neighbor. We then talked and she had heard of us before, which I found very surprising. Her band leader at the time, Knuth, who is a percussionist, and I got along very well with him. Knuth then played percussion on two albums with Leaves' Eyes. In principle, if something is musically well done, for example with cool electro beats, I can listen to that. Because of the TV garden - metal has become socially acceptable since Wacken and Andy Brings, the former guitarist of Sodom, went there once and then they talked to him directly and he ended up playing in a later show. The other thing is, of course, that the metal scene is not socially acceptable for everyone. On the other hand, I know crew people who usually drive with metal bands who also work with well-paid pop stars. Names are not mentioned, but they tell exactly the same stories as we do on tour. So some things are quite similar. But our metal lifestyle and the music is unique in the world. When I go to South America or Asia, the people are on the same wavelength as here. The nice thing is that the metal family sticks together so well even in times of crisis. I also hope that it stays that way, because the polarization and radicalization of society is a great danger and there is a bridge to be built. Even if people don't agree politically, they find their way back together through music.

Entered: 2/2/2023 5:36:56 PM

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Discography


Okkult III Okkult III
Full-Length (2023)
Okkult II Okkult II
Full-Length (2018)
Okkult Okkult
Full-Length (2013)
After The Storm After The Storm
Collaboration (2010)
Werk 80 II Werk 80 II
Full-Length (2008)
Atlantis Atlantis
Full-Length (2004)
Gemini Gemini
Full-Length (2000)
Non Plus Ultra Non Plus Ultra
Compilation (1999)
Werk 80 Werk 80
Full-Length (1997)
Willenskraft Willenskraft
Full-Length (1996)
Calling The Rain Calling The Rain
Collaboration (1995)
Die Liebe Die Liebe
Collaboration (1995)
Blut Blut
Full-Length (1994)
Todessehnsucht Todessehnsucht
Full-Length (1992)
Hallucinations Hallucinations
Full-Length (1990)
Blue Blood Blue Blood
Single (1989)

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