A Band of Extremes
There is hardly another German rock act able to compete with ATROCITY in the arenas of versatility, self-sufficiency, and constant musical reinvention: Beginning as progressive Death Metal and evolving around front man Alexander Krull so distinctly in the course of the band’s history that the press saw it mistakenly fit to describe them as Metal, Rock, Gothic or even Ethno. ATROCITY, however, chose to remain true to their artistic inclinations without ever discrediting their roots: Always exciting and always unpredictable.
Their latest album “Atlantis” represents a type of comeback, after a three-and-a-half-year sabbatical, which could have hardly been better thought out and spectacular. In proven tradition, the quintet is not content with singular views, but rather prefers a concept that shapes the entire album: “Atlantis is a very dynamic and musically complete work”, explains front man Alex Krull. “It stands for bombastic, epic songs, in which heaviness, atmosphere, and melody work together to tell the story of Atlantis and the Golden Age. I am sure that many of our fans, who prefer the harder releases, will be thrilled with this album.”
“Atlantis” torpedoes categorical thinking and explores the limits of the Metal and Rock genres. For starters, the band’s first single “Cold Black Days” exemplifies an ever-evolving understanding of songwriting, permitting the band to use spherical sounds and melodic hook lines. The result is to be heard from beginning to end, and by no means should any nightclub involved in the dark scene be without it. Those who chose to stereotype the musical framework of “Atlantis” will commit a grave error: “Reich of Phenomena” delivers bombastic arrangements, blast beats, brutal riffs, and harsh vocals; “Superior Race” is a double bass firestorm of blazing emotion and atmospheric arrangements; while “Ichor” provides Death Metal with an epic alternative and “Enigma” dares to journey into the world of opera. “I see us as a band similar to such artists as Laibach or Diamanda Galas, who try to either change something already in existence, or completely create something new,” explains Krull. “That such a goal is unusual for metal bands makes us different than the majority of acts in our genre. In principle, we combine the musical ingredients used in our past together with new and fresh ideas. Thus, our music has many changes and is paired with extremely heavy, as well as melodic hymnlike vocals. Aside from the dominant factors, partially much guitar work, the classically inspired string and vocal arrangements are the center of attention in this release.”
The latter outstandingly supports the majestic, overwhelming picture that the myth of Atlantis wakes in humans and also woke in Alex Krull: “Atlantis, even today, remains one of the greatest mysteries of our time. The topic works for ATROCITY because it reflects an end-of-the-world atmosphere and also paints a very mystic and occult picture. There are some very dark parts on the album: the guidelines, so to speak. The music attempts to portray the rise and the fall of an extinct and very advanced culture.” In order to not only captivate the listener musically, “Atlantis” features a multimedia section with detailed information about Atlantis. “It was wonderful and inspiring to work on it. I personally like the album because we allowed ourselves to let go and allow some things to run their course - the album contains many first takes and as such, the original ideas as they were created.”
“Atlantis” was recorded in the band’s well known Mastersound Studio, which was conceived and furnished by the band over the course of the years to fit their special needs. “It was important to me that we possess a much more earthy and hell-raising sound on this album,” explains Krull, who also served again as producer for this release. “In composing a concept album, such as “Atlantis”, there is little room to step outside the framework. In this case, the typical choosing of the best songs is nonexistent. More often than not, ideas within the theme are collected and the tracks are purposely composed. If I, for example, during the songwriting process of the track ‘Clash of the Titans’ visualize an ancient battle - Atlantis’ last stand - then it is a concrete visualization, which will be interpreted in musical form. At the same time, I want to be able to incorporate the ideas of the other band members - and I do know these well!”
The current ATROCITY line-up consists of Alex Krull (vocals), Christian Lukhaup (bass), Martin Schmidt (drums), as well as the double-guitar prowess of Mathias Röderer and Thorsten Bauer. The return of Thorsten Bauer in the spring of last year drastically changed the songwriting process. Ninety percent of the already written material was rejected as the Atlantis concept took shape. “I had the idea for some time,” recalls Krull. There are always concepts in the back of my head, which I would certainly like to machinate with the band when the time is ripe - that was also the case with ‘Work 80’, by the way. We already work rather independently of our actual calling - our guitarist may take up the bass, or I may sit behind the drums for certain songs. It works well and always continues to bring us forward musically, since our points of view are quite different that often very unique ideas are born. This album differs from our previous release in that the harmonies and melodies served as the foundation, not the rhythmic structure as in the past.” Nevertheless Krull views the experimental basic structure of ATROCITY as further strengthened.
“There are sufficient crazy ideas to found on ‘Atlantis’ - just listen to the guitar work! Noticeable are the somewhat soundtrack-like parts, which we allowed to flow within the compositions. Certain vocal lines are also unique and follow a style, which I have yet to hear from another band,” states Krull proudly. “I wanted to produce an album that would crawl under the skin. In a time of sensory overload, it is certainly not easy to create something that will grab the people’s attention.” Yet “Atlantis” has manage to meet this difficult requirement - an overwhelming testimonial of purposeful creativity, which differentiates them from their competition. “People always tried to categorize ATROCITY into a concrete style - whether Death Metal, Dark Metal, Gothic Metal, or even Neue Deutsche Härte - which I find totally ridiculous. We are ATROCITY, the somewhat different metal band - and that is that!”
The “somewhat different” metal band formed in 1985, and after releasing one demotape “Instigators” (1988) and the “Blue Blood” EP (1989) in Nuclear Blast, which is still a rare collector item, finally releasing their debut, “Hallucinations” in 1990. The impact this work had on ATROCITY can be inferred from the following facts: Studio – Morrisound, Producer – Scott Burns. The Death and Grind underground scene trembled in view of this German Death Metal pioneers, and ATROCITY got itself ready to take over the scene with their experimental death metal style. The cult band Carcass, for example, was to battle with all their might to resist the arising ATROCITY enthusiasm they encounter on their tour together. Even the famed H.R. Giger saw it fit to contribute the band’s album cover, which illustrated the disparate scenes inherent in the life of a drug-dependent girl.
Following extensive and successful touring, ATROCITY released “Longing For Death” (1992) on Riadrunner Records. They surprised the critics by integrating classical elements into their music, including four opera singers. The bombastic sound aroused cries of “Wagnerian” in the press and won ATROCITY the reputation of being a band “with extremely complex songwriting ideas.”
After they signed to Massacre Records in 1994 “Blut” played in the CD players. The vampirish concept shaped the entire album and beckoned the listener to roam the threatening and dark scenery and fascinating atmosphere of Transylvania. Vocalist Alex Krull went as far as to travel to present-day Romania to be inspired locally. The creative result provided for an extremely positive reaction from press and fans alike: ATROCITY disassociated itself forever from all possible categorization. Songs, like the atmospheric “Blood”, the obscure “Leichenfeier”, and most importantly the ethno ballad “Calling the Rain” described a band that was unique to the metal genre. The tours with Obituary and Pitchshifter, as well as Crematory and Hate Squad, attracted such a varied public that ATROCITY soon became known as “the epitome of the versatile rock act.”
The two EPs released in 1995, “Calling the Rain” and “Die Liebe”, were the logical consequence. “Calling the Rain” encountered such positive reactions that ATROCITY decided to pursue this path consistently. With the support of Yasmin’s beautiful voice, Alex Krull’s sister, the band reached new atmospheric levels and played with Goethes Erben in a completely seated concert hall. “Die Liebe” was ATROCITY’s first collaborative effort with the Das Ich mastermind Bruno Kamm: Both acts arranged the songs of the other, so as to then interpret them together in a new light. ATROCITY became a household name to the fans of Electro and Darkwave with this hit. Their fan base became a true melting pot.
“Willenskraft” brought ATROCITY’s past, present, and future together in 1996 with an array of brutal riffs, hymnlike parts, and atmospheric elements. Bruno Kramm in cooperation with Alex Krull produced the release, giving the work a very diverse and perfect sound. At the Wacken Open Air Festival of that same year, before ATROCITY destroyed an immense swastika in front of thousands of fans, the band proved that their musical prowess extended far beyond the metal genre. The track “Love Is Dead” became a hit with fans and a tour with In Flames followed. “The Hunt” EP, featuring brutal songs (incl. a remake of “Blue Blood”), was dedicated to the “old-school” fans for their never-ending support.
In 1997, ATROCITY decided to explore new musical ground: The intention of “Werk 80” was to mutate the pop classics of the 80s into ATROCITY songs. The result was a dance explosion in the rock clubs: “Wild Boys”, “Shout”, or “Der Mussolini” had fans dancing and ATROCITY in the charts. The German Metal scene was astonished to find synthesizers, pop elements, and heavy riffs together in one song. Along with the provocative vinyl and leather booklet art, “Work 80” was hurled into the limelight and attracted tour offers with Haggard and festival performances at Dynamo, Wave Gotik Treffen, and With Full Force, as well as a sold-out performance at the Gottlieb Daimler sport arena, during one of VfB Stuttgart’s federation games.
Shortly before the turn of the new century, ATROCITY released their first Greatest Hits Album, “Non Plus Ultra” (1989-1999), and premiered live on stage in the USA. In contrast to the oftentimes unappealing “best-of” productions found on the market, ATROCITY also delivered extensive bonus material: “Non Plus Ultra” contained no less than 26 tracks (among which were a multiplicity of rare and unpublished songs, incl. collaborations with Lacrimosa, Liv Kristine, Das Ich), as well as seven video clips. “Non Plus Ultra” was not to represent a conclusion, but a departure from the last ten years.
The last and very successful chart album “Gemini” (2000), which was released on the major company Motor/Universal, took off from where “Work 80” left off - the material integrated electronic elements and counted on a more comprehensive essential structure, without neglecting the typical ATROCITY originality. Not only did they present their fans with metal hymns such as “Taste of Sin”, “Dance the Devil”, and “Gemini”, but their extremely unique rendition of cover songs “Sound of Silence” and “Lili Marleen” aided Alex Krull and Co. in reaching their well-earned status as a German music scene giant, whose fan base stems from all areas of the rock genre.
(Mathias Weckmann, Hammer Magazine)
Alexander Krull - vocals
Mathias Röderer - guitar
Thorsten Bauer - guitar
Chris Lukhaup - bass
Martin Schmidt - drums