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Atlantean Kodex's Markus Becker: "Actually, the only time I had tears in my eyes was when the album was finally done and Manuel played the final mix to us and showed us the cover art"

Interview with Markus Becker from Atlantean Kodex
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 30 August 2019, 12:21 AM

Creating a foundation for Epic kind of Metal is quite demanding, numerous have tried and failed, yet some garnered plenty of power and influence within the Metal scene, whether old school fans or newly bred that new of the name. However, maintaining the kind of depth, and putting one's heart out between the lines of the music, well, that is quite a challenging task. Return to the Metal scene with a new album, after nearly three years, Atlantean Kodex release “The Course Of Empire”, via Van Records, continuing their journey into history and fiction with sense towards the classics. Steinmetal had a chat with vocalist Markus Becker regarding the new album's concept, musical effort, Manowar and more…

Greetings Markus, it is a pleasure having you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine, how is everything going sir?

Hey there, thanks for having me! Things are great right now in the Kodex Camp, the record will be released in two weeks, and we can’t wait to play the first shows in its support.

It has been quite a long time ever since the eventful release of “The White Goddess” and now Atlantean Kodex is back with a new offering from the studio. What has been going on all this time? Was it a natural hiatus due to a will for a rest or something different?

It was a bit of everything, to be honest. After we released the "White Goddess" and promoted it live for about 2.5 years, we took a step back due to many different personal reasons, the birth of children, the loss of family members, a high work load in our regular jobs etc. We also needed a creative break from AK, to reload our batteries and be able to write new music at some point. In addition, our way of songwriting is quite time consuming, as we put a lot of efforts in the details. Finally, there were some adverse conditions, e.g. we lost our practice room/studio about 2 years ago, and it took almost one year till we found a new place.

 “The Course Of Empire”, released via Van Records, instantly launched my state of mind to the Roman Empire, though I had a few wonderings in the Crusades as well. A true name for an Epic Metal album. What is that course you are referring to?

The course of every human empire in history is pretty much this: its initial rise from the savage and arcadian states, through the pomp and arrogance of its heyday, to its eventual decay and fall, either by being conquered by other cultures, or by losing its strength and invulnerability due to the destructive contentment and satiety of its population. This cycle can very well be observed in the painting series “The course of empire” by the American artist Thomas Cole, which was a great inspiration for the album. Pretty much all of its lyrics deal with certain aspects of this course, by telling stories and combining fictional components with historical ones, without trying to refer too much to a specific hirstorical epoch or culture. Some of these stories could very well be put in relation to very modern developments and examples. But again, they are stories with no aspiration of historical acuracy.

What would you say influenced you while writing the songs for the new album? Any new inspirations that came to mind or merely relying on the same sources that has been the bread and butter of the previous albums?

Musically, the foundation is very similar to the previous releases, although the focus might have shifted a bit and some new influences were added. Regarding the lyrics, the overspanning arch is certainly a bit different and maybe more consistant, yet very connected to the old albums.

Musically, I believe that “The Course Of The Empire” is the band’s heaviest album to date, yet with that collection of those mighty riffs of pure epic caliber, there is also a masterful vocal line, like on “He Who Walks Behind The Years”, consisting of great backing vocals production and of course the lead chantings. What do you make of this release in terms of the music?

I fully agree about the heaviness. The production is also much more balanced than in the past. A term that always comes to my mind when I try to generally describe the music on this record is “majestic”. At first we thought that the album would become a bit darker than it eventually turned out. I think it still contains a lot of melancholy, but it also conveys feelings of strength, hope, maybe even optimism, despite the fact that the lyrics often talk about decay, downfall and death.

Was the vocal work for this album the most complex you ever made? Is sure sounds highly invested with a lot of energy put to it

Thank you, that is again a good observation. Yes, we invested much more time and energy in the writing, arrangements and recording of the vocal lines and harmonies for this album than for the previous ones. It was hard work but also a lot of fun doing the vocals, because there was so much space in the music for these “big” arrangements.

Do you think that musically, “The Course Of Empire” is an impactful step in the career of Atlantean Kodex? Is this your big step into a high league? What is the key difference that made the album special than others before it? Do you deem it as your most creative work?

It is always hard to really judge your own work, especially shortly after you finished a new record. Subjectively, if the band is satisfied with the result, the new stuff is always the best and most exciting, because it’s still fresh and you are eager to present it. But only time will tell how it really compares to the previous records. However, in fact, personally I do believe that it is the most creative and thought-through AK record to date, we stayed very true to our trademarks but were still able to broaden the musical foundation by introducing a few new elements and some quite complex song structures. But even this more complex stuff is quite catchy and the choruses are big and invite to chant along. With regard to the “big league”, I don’t know if such a thing even still exists for a band like Atlantean Kodex…we actually feel quite comfortable and happy in the position we’re in.

How would you describe the songwriting on the new album, especially with the departure of your longtime lead guitarist, Michael Koch? Unless of course he took part in the creation of the new release. Did the new guitarist, Coralie Baier, had an influence on the writing sessions, her contribution to the tunes?
Both, Michael and Coralie, can be herad on the record with some guitar solos. Just like on the previous albums, all rhythm guitars were recorded by Manuel, who again wrote 80-90% of the music as well as the lyrics. He’s the creative head of the band.

In general, what made Michael Koch to leave the band in the first place, especially after so much time? Has he been looking for new challenges or new ways to express himself?

Unfortunately, Michael had to quit the band because of some health issues. For quite some time, playing gigs has been very painful for him. But he will stay a member of the Kodex family and we are sure that we will occasionally jam a few songs together on stage again.

To be quite honest, I am sure the next question will be tough on you, as it has been for everybody, also since the album’s songs are breathtaking, each creating its own little drama, as if taken from a movie. So here goes, which of the songs made it happen for you, brought tears to your eyes after listening to the end result? Please elaborate on your pick.

Actually, the only time I had tears in my eyes was when the album was finally done and Manuel played the final mix to us and showed us the cover art. The production of this record has been a huge effort for everyone involved, first and foremost for Manuel. So these were tears of joy and satisfaction, because I knew that we created something that we were totally happy with. If you ask me for a favourite song, this could be a different one each day, because I think they are all very much on the same level, which is something we always wanted to achieve. At gun point, I would probably choose “He Who Walks Behind The Years”. Or People Of the Moon. Or the title track. Like you said, it’s tough, hahaha.

What can you tell regarding the album’s artwork? The painting looks amazing and fitting the music and themes blazing throughout the listening experience. Who made it?

The front cover artwork is a painting called "Armia“ by Mariusz Lewandowski. I could not agree more, it’s majestic character is fitting the overall mood and the theme of the album perfectly. I would also like to mention the inlay artwork, which again was created by our friend Ben Harff. As a whole, the package is simply stunning and we are very happy and humbled by being able to use the art of these incredibly talented people.

Speaking of “The Course Of Empire” in particular, in comparison to plenty of celebrated albums nowadays, it is rather an oddity rather than commonplace. There is appreciation towards being technical, low tuned, breakdowns, essentially the modern kind of Metal. Does “The Course Of The Empire” represent a set for the purpose of showing the opposite, as sort of against the grain?

The members in AK are all very old-school in their musical taste, yet quite diverse. Some are into Death and Black Metal, others into the more traditional stuff, but united by the common love of Manowar, Maiden, Priest, Rainbow, and of course a lot of the more obscure stuff, like Manilla Road, Solstice etc.. None of us has any sympathy for the kind of modern metal you are talking about. Therefore, our musical style came very natural and without any other purpose than wanting to play the kind of music that we like, the best way we can. I have no aspiration to stop others from listening to different, more modern music. But it is just not for me and the rest of us.

An off topic question, recently there was that Manowar thing in Hellfest Festival. With all that rukous, sides exchanging allegations, and the fans disappointed. Would you say that it is the first step of the fall of the Metal Gods in overall, with Manowar being the first to take the plunge?

It’s no secret that Atlantean Kodex were and still are heavily inspired by Ross The Boss-Era Manowar. There is no bigger influence to the band, especially on the new album, except for maybe Bathory. However, the way Joey and Manowar developed in the last 20 years or so is nothing that we can identify with anymore. No offense to anyone, I know Manowar still have a big following, and we ourselves went to their shows from time to time in recent years, but we always left with quite some disappointment. However, as a singer I have to say: Eric Adams is still the man and one of the greatest of all time.

What are the support plans for the new album for the remainder of the year? What is upcoming for the next year?

We have planned quite a bit of live activity. For the rest of 2019, we booked a bunch of festival gigs in Germany, including our two release shows at the Deaf Forever Birthday Bash in Hamburg, as well as the Stormcrusher Festival in our Bavarian homeland. Then, we have already planned a number of gigs throughout Germany and Europe next year. Among those, there will be our headliner show at the warm-up for the Up The Hammers Festival in Athens, which we are looking forward to very much! Greece has always been very welcoming to Atlantean Kodex, the Greek fans are the most amazing and enthusiastic you can imagine. So this is going to be a wild one!

Markus, you truly inspired me with the new album, though its length, it flew by me and had me wishing for more. Amazing work. All the best!

Thank you very much, I am truly happy for this kind of feedback! The best to you as well, see you on the road!



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