AtlantNow THIS is how you do an Epic Metal album.

There has been a simmering sense of anticipation surrounding this Bavarian 5-piece for a good few years now – 2010’s ‘The Golden Bough’ and their Pnakotic Demos certainly caused something of a stir within the ranks of the die-hard ‘Keep it True’ brigade. Certainly, there has been a definite burgeoning revival in the sort of epic, doom-soaked metal that Atlantean Kodex deliver but it feels as if people have been waiting for that one album to break the dam and open the floodgates.

With ‘The White Goddess’, it would appear that album has now arrived. Make no mistake, this record is HUGE. From the opening strains of the ludicrously-titled introduction ‘Trumpets of Doggerland’ to the closing bars of ‘White Goddess Unveiled’, there is not a second of this album that isn’t delivered with the utmost conviction and unswerving dedication to forge Heavy Metal of the most pounding, fist-raising kind.

‘Sol Invictus’ starts the proceedings proper and I defy any listener to not have that chorus buried in the brain for days following those opening acapella strains. It gallops out of the blocks with furious double-bass drumming and harmonized Maiden-esque leads but really, this is only part of the picture. The sound here is defiantly unique – it’s unremittingly heavy, the rhythm guitars boasting a real chunk, powerful and clear without any of the polished sterility that so undermines much of the so-called ‘power’ metal scene. Put simply, it has real balls and is the perfect vessel in which to deliver these five meaty anthems.

This opening track alone is enough to establish Atlantean Kodex’s manifesto completely – utterly uncompromising metal laced with all-important hooks. Indeed, the hooks are key to what makes ‘The White Goddess’ such a compelling listen – sure, the metal is excellent but it’s the massive choruses and wonderfully arranged vocal lines that really serve to elevate this record. The vocals of Markus Becker have taken criticism from some quarters for sounding ‘thin’ but to anyone familiar with the first Warlord record, the purity of tone and clarity of the delivery will be instantly familiar. The vocals here are charismatic, laced with passion and the various harmonies that weave in and out of the tracks are simply breathtaking. The man can hold a tune without a doubt – just listen to the chorus of ‘Heresiarch’ for proof of that – and the arrangements of those huge hooks are the central strength of ‘The White Goddess’.

Of the five tracks here, it is nigh-on impossible to select a high point, so consistent is the quality of the songwriting. ‘Enthroned in Clouds & Ash’ is colossal, taking elements of Hammerheart-era Bathory and distilling it into a pounding, relentless march into battle. Meanwhile, what could perhaps be considered the ‘poppiest’ song here in ’12 Stars and an Azure Gown’ is an exercise in infectious writing, boasting a chorus that cries out for repeat listening. It screams ‘hit’. Closing it all out is ‘White Goddess Unveiled’, bringing all of the elements explored throughout the album to a rousing conclusion. Again, infectious guitar harmonies and soaring vocal lines combine to form an addictive cocktail. This is one of those albums which has you reaching for the ‘play’ button as soon as the disc stops spinning.

Much has been written as regards to the lyrics on The White Goddess so I won’t go into too much detail. Suffice to say, meticulously researched paeans to pan-European mythology, the occult and proto-Christian ideologies are abound here. At the risk of sounding a little pretentious, it’s far deeper than your traditional ‘muscles, might and magic’ musings that constitute the majority of epic metal narratives. Couple this with some frankly splendid artwork (the hand-drawn lyrical manuscripts that adorn the inlay are incredible) and you really have the complete package.

Some albums just demand attention and ‘The White Goddess’ really feels like a game-changer for this genre. It’s difficult for me to find any real faults with this album and for a picky so-and-so like me, that is truly saying something. Blending the best of early Manowar, Solstice, Bathory, Warlord, early Iron Maiden and Manilla Road and distilling it into a cohesive, compelling whole is a bold undertaking indeed and one that Atlantean Kodex have managed with aplomb. It won’t be too everyone’s tastes – the songs are LONG for a start – but for those with the patience to dig in, the towering songwriting and those soaring hooks will have you returning again and again. The ante has been upped. Get on board.

(9.5/10 Frank Allain)