Atlantean Kodex. There are times when listening to this album that I forgot I was listening to a band; the concept that this was ‘simply’ a band seemed inadequate to contain what I was hearing. But of course that would be pretentious of me and pretentious is the last word I would associate with epic metal band Atlantean Kodex. Restless explorers, relentlessly inquisitive, naturally intellectual.. yes, all that but nothing about them is straining for unwarranted attention. They are what they are, and what they are is….
Even Atlantean Kodex must have had pause for thought about how you follow up their meisterwork and recipient of almost universal ‘classic’ accolade. But their journey marched on and from spoken word and instant recognisable signature sound on ‘The Alpha And The Occident’, and Markus Becker’s soulful, powerful tones rising into ‘People Of The Moon’ it is clear their journey, along with this album, marches ever Westward.
Ah, where to begin, truly? Little has changed sound-wise. With the sad retirement because of health issues of Michael Koch, stalwart guitarist, and the recruitment of Coralie Baier there is a slightly different tone in some guitar sound maybe but nothing shocking. And as to the concept this time around, well it is no less weighty than either ‘The Golden Bough’ or ‘The White Goddess’. This time we follow ‘The Course Of Empires’ travelling through centuries from ancient civilisations in the East and the spread towards the West and the formation of Europe. And once again have your favourite encyclopaedia handy as you read the lyrics because you will need it. Ten songs, around 65 minutes, in the company of poetic and philosophical historians. This is where myth and history mingle and time wraps a layer of the occult around events. To go into the lyrical concerns more than this here would be a fruitless task, better to read the lyrics yourself and absorb them at your own pace. Suffice to say the meal they offer is rich, heady and simply beyond a mere ‘superb’.
As ever there is a stately majesty about the songs, a true doom root that rising into a full charge on songs such as ‘Chariots’. There are the rousing, swelling choruses. There are the vocal led moments of glorious harmony on ‘The Innermost Light’ where already you can almost hear the crowd singing along.
‘He Who Walks Behind The Years’ just as an exemplar, has a classic, slow riff and the vocal melody that rises from it is so powerful your head begins to swim. But when the refrain is reached? Oh! The heart goes, the butterflies flutter around my stomach. The hairs prickle. I’m in a crowd of one singing along with all my strength. I want to see them live now, at this moment. I want to be there, being part of that sound, that glorious, soul searing chorus. I want to share and be part of something bigger. That is what only the greatest music can make you feel. There is such a sense of memory, of tragedy and of joy reaching across the years here.
And then there is the title track. Almost a companion piece to ‘Twelve Stars And An Azure Gown’ from The White Goddess’. Fiercely Bavarian but seeing no conflict with being European too, this song echoes the melody of that earlier one but where one was about hope from tragedy this has more despair. Read into this what you will but when I hear lyrics like ‘the old enemy stirs discord…’ and ‘False prophets spread his gospel…’ within a song about Europe, the modern parallels seem strong to me. Weave this into a song with simply glorious guitar leads and impassioned vocals almost pleading with us, the emotional impact is a hammer blow of epic metal.
In truth I had no idea how Atlantean Kodex would follow The White Goddess but, strangely I had real faith. There is something so self possessed about this troupe of visionaries, without a trace of the arrogance they could have, that they engender belief. They have a heart that is so enthusiastic to share that it pushes through all doors.
This is an album ablaze with life, with intellect but most importantly with an overflowing capacity of talent and generosity. These unique gentlemen and lady have such a promethean flame within that it imparts a fearlessness, it seems. They will not hide their learned nature, they will not dumb down their words or their music. They strive to be the best they can be and rail against the anti-intellectual tide with the one voice they have and the voice the times need.
There is no doubt. That voice is simply extraordinary.