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Manuel Trummer (Atlantean Kodex)

Interview with Manuel Trummer from Atlantean Kodex
by Grigoris Chronis at 04 October 2010, 2:10 AM

Bands like ATLANTEAN KODEX and releases like “The Golden Bough” are the mere example of Metal music’s everlasting magical charm. The German heavy/epic Metal outfit finally released its debut album and…what a great piece of Metal magic this is. Needless to say, devotees of early MANOWAR, ‘epic’ BATHORY and CANDLEMASS shall save money for this splendid piece of art (on vinyl, preferably) but –until then -let’s see what kind of information guitarist Manuel Trummer provided us with.

Manuel, hello from our mag! Thanx for taking the time to answer to our questions. Well, many Metal fans were eagerly waiting for a good full debut album from ATLANTEAN KODEX but I must admit “The Golden Bough” sounds way beyond our expectations. First of all, should we talk about a concept album? I came up with such an impression while reading the Press release but no lyrics were available at the time. Can you give our readers a brief introduction to the new album?
I wouldn‘t call it a ‘concept album’ in the classic sense of the word, since there’s no story, which is unfolding throughout the songs of the album, and there are also a couple of songs which delve into other topic. But you’re impression is correct! There is indeed something like a main theme on “The Golden Bough”. Most of the songs - more or less - deal with the relationship of magic and religion, delving into Frazer’s ideas that all European religions originate from the same stone-age fertility cults of the dying and resurrected Sacred King.

Did you keep any songs – or songparts – from past years so as to make it to this specific album, or all songs are newly penned? Something that’s also sticking to my mind is: does the music or lyrics come first? Or it depends?
Yes, in fact, there are a couple of parts which were firstly written already in 2006 and 2007, “The Atlantean Kodex” for example. Same goes for “Pilgrim” and “Vesperal Hymn”. On the other hand “Fountain Of Nepenthe” and the ending of “Prophet” are brand-new. But there was no special plan behind it. We just had all this song fragments and tried to make the best of it.

Starting from the cover artwork, I could virtually smell the album’s music. Who came up with the idea of putting this great Arnold Böcklin painting at the front, you?
Yeah, that’d be me. “Die Toteninsel” (“The island of the dead“) as it’s titled is one of my favourite paintings. I wanted to use it for a long time, but it never felt quite right. This time it’s perfect though. Böcklin’s idea behind the painting was to depict the last European - representing ancient Europe’s culture - leave this world, behind the background of the dawning modern age.

Did you have this specific recording sound in mind from the beginning? The album sounds so ‘live’, I must confess. What critical timelines did the recording sessions have?
It’s cool that you say that, because the plan was to make it sound ‘live’! Yes, we had a special sound in our minds. We felt that a classic Rock production with loud drums and dominant vocals wouldn’t fit to our slow anthemic songs. Therefore we mixed the album in a way that every instrument had roughly the same volume. This way we could make the album as a whole sound much, much heavier, just like a huge, dense wall of sound just coming at you and crushing you senseless.

On the other hand by mixing it that way, we could make sure that the album didn’t sound too clean and artificial. It was important to make it sound natural, no triggered drums, for instance. The deadline for the recordings was July 2010, which wasn’t a problem since studio work went pretty smoothly without any major fuck-ups.

Did you use any special instruments or effects to capture this special atmosphere in the new album, by the way?
Yes, we used a wooden flute for the intro of “Pilgrim”, an Irish bouzouki and a gong. And we were working with layered vocals to create that ‘choir’ sound, you can hear for example in “Vesperal Hymn”. And lots of acoustic guitars of course.

While preserving your identity, I think “The Golden Bough” shows an ATLANTEAN KODEX style capable of bringing the band in front of a wider recognition. I’m pretty sure you do not care that much ‘bout general acceptance and commercial success and such stuff, but credit should always go to those who deserve it. You think “The Golden Bough” has a perfect timing as the band’s debut full-length?
Hm, I really don’t know about the timing. Maybe you’re right, though. Although it took us three long years to come up with our debut album - which is usually deadly for a band - we were obviously able to build up a special reputation by doing live shows and couple of more smaller releases. So I guess, yes, 2010 may be good point in time to release our debut album. I had a feeling people were waiting for it. I also agree with you about the fact that “The Golden Bough” might address a bigger crowd than “The Pnakotic Demos”. The songs are more varied now, the production is bigger and yes, I think, we’ve come up with some really memorable tunes. The most important part though, is that our fans in the European and worldwide underground scenes - the people who supported us from the start - like the album. This album is for them.

If someone just listens to the new CD without the lyrics accompanying the music, how much of the ‘magic’ will he lose? I can clearly recall myself desperately looking for the words in some bands’ albums.
If you listen to “The Golden Bough” without being able to read the lyrics, you’ll definitely lose some of the atmosphere. Like I explained above, the album was written around a certain theme, the lyrics therefore were actually written to be read. They are not just some cool words to accompany the music, but an important part in the total context of the album, adding to the atmosphere of melancholy and triumph. I’d recommend anyone to listen to the album while reading the lyrics at least once. It’s a different experience. After that I’m fine, if people just listen to it to bang their heads and freak out. In the end we’re talking about a Metal album!

Long – in duration – songs are a pain in the ass, sometimes. It’s risky the listener may become bored or exhausted, while surely e.g. 8 or 10 minutes of a song alone are not the ideal time for airplay etc. On the other hand, I can understand an ‘epic’ tale needs its time to be expressed or spread. Are you a time-dependant band when writing music or it naturally comes up with enough songs clocking to more than 6-7 minutes?
It’s really totally natural, I swear, haha… Seriously, we really don’t ‘plan’ long songs, we can’t do nothing about it. It‘s just like that when writing songs with ATLANTEAN KODEX. It’s always the same, in the end we always have these 10+ minutes monsters.

One thing I did not 100% expect – but found it excellent, anyway – is that Markus’ vocals are even more melodic and again completely fit to the new songs. He never had a vicious voice, anyway, but he does take you down mixing this melody with his more heroic/narrative moments. Assuming you are responsible for the songwriting – or not? – how close did you work with Markus on order to tie the music with his voice?
When we wrote the songs we already had certain vocal lines in mind. This way we already had some sort of framework to fill with melodies, riffs, etc. So when Markus recorded his vocal lines we didn’t have to start from zero, we had some point of orientation how the final vocals could and should sound. Of course without Markus creative input, we couldn’t have made it sound that great. He is absolutely brilliant when it comes to creating certain these great soaring triumphant melodies and the layered parts. So I’d say the musical framework is done at first with certain vocal lines in mind, but the final melodies mostly were created by Markus.

Is your new label, Cruz Del Sur, planning on marketing the new album worldwide or you have any other deals for other territories? ATLANTEAN KODEX sounds so ‘European’ I ‘m curious enough what kind of feedback you would receive from Japan or The States.
Yes, Cruz Del Sur has worldwide distribution partners. Although I’m not sure whether you can buy the album in Japan as well. So far the response from the US is great. It seems that people over there are also looking for an act like us, doing that epic stuff in the vein of old MANOWAR and BATHORY.

One more special question: in your MySpace page you have added some extra “instruments” next to the lineup. Archeology, anthropology, theology, theosophy and gnosticism. Is there some kind of extra ‘message’ regarding the band’s identity? Are you all keen readers of literature or poetry or history etc?
Yes, we all are. Some of us are even teachers of history, theology and anthropology. So a certain interest comes quite naturally, haha… You know, the main lyrical inspiration for ATLANTEAN KODEX - besides Lovecraft, Tolkien, R.E. Howard - are the mythologies of Europe and the ancient Near East. Therefore it’s good of course if you are familiar with what you’re writing about. If we didn’t know about this stuff we’re writing about, we might as well dress up as Vikings or Trolls and play some Pagan Metal with funny disguises and lyrics about drinking.

Would you ever imagine yourself or the band performing some more in-your-face straightforward music, really?
No, not really. We’re absolutely happy with our sound. In fact the band was formed to play exactly that kind of sound. By changing that, it wouldn’t really make sense anymore. ATLANTEAN KODEX stands for that kind of sound. If we ever wanted to play something faster or more straightforward, we’d probably form another band for that.

Having traveled a lot in Europe for live gigs, I guess you’ve witnessed the acceptance of traditional Metal fans for ATLANTEAN KODEX’s music/style. I’ve seen you both in Greece and Germany and surely applaud your sharp and honest set. How hard is it to mix the band with your daily activities? Do you rehearse a lot, really?
We’re rehearsing once per week on a regular basis. This is the maximum for us. We all have really time-consuming jobs, families and other important dedications besides the band. As a consequence the band will never be a full-time project. Now with the release of “The Golden Bough” imminent, the time we use for organizing band stuff, interviews, sending out orders etc has reached a critical level. I’m glad when the album’s finally released and we all have some more time for our other dedications as well. Currently it’s like ‘Job, Band, Sleep, Job, Band, Sleep’, hahaha… no rest for the wicked.

I guess the new album will be released on vinyl format, too. Or not? Being a record collector myself, I can see way much more releases being pressed on vinyl now than e.g. ten years ago. Apart from the ‘romantic’ side, do you see any other reason for this to happen?
Yes, of course! It’s mainly a counter-reacting to the disappearance of music as physical, palpable product. Now, that everything’s only a mouse click away, people are obviously noticing that being able to get everything in an instant takes away a lot of the fascination and the experience of buying and listening to new music. When you buy a vinyl, you have a huge cover and you have a huge disc. It takes time to put that disc on your turntable, adjust the needle, etc. Your attention is fully focused on the music when listening to a vinyl. It’s a whole different quality and experience. The vinyl reflects the value and the worth, the blood, sweat and tears of the musicians, in a much higher way, than an MP3, which you can’t even hold in your hand. Of course the visual and acoustic qualities of vinyl are superior as well. I can’t wait to finally hold the album gatefold with Böcklin’s “Die Toteninsel” in my hands. The sound is richer and warmer, too.

Would it ever cross your mind some ATLANTEAN KODEX songs could make it to e.g. a movie soundtrack? Metal music and motion picture have walked hand in hand enough times in the past with fine results!
I wonder what kind of movie that would be, haha… But yeah, why not. You know, ATLANTEAN KODEX is about telling tales, making myths, creating worlds, mixing fact with fiction, the songs should work like movies in your heads, when you read the lyrics and drift away. There are certain parallels to film-making indeed. But I have to tell you I actually prefer orchestral soundtracks. Could you imagine “Conan The Barbarian” with a Metal score instead of Poledouris’ majestic orchestration? That wouldn’t really work, would it? But maybe we’ll make a video one day. ATLANTEAN KODEX on MTV, that would be cool, huh? …. or maybe not, hahaha…

For (especially) older metalheads many bands from the golden 80s are accused of betraying their own ideals. Have you ever found yourself in this position, being let down by your idols? How do you see the ‘evolution vs originality’ battle in Metal music?
Yes, of course. I think everything MANOWAR released in the past 10 years is a big pile of shit, when compared to the stuff they did in the early 80s. The problem is not really that bands ‘evolve’ in a natural way. Just look at IRON MAIDEN! They sound totally different now than in the 80s, but they’ve kept their integrity and they still sound good. Not as good as in the 80s, but they still sound interesting. On the other hand, bands who try by all means to get airplay by changing their sound, polishing their production, writing ballads for the radio stations - they are the ones to be condemned. They are the ones who turn Heavy Metal into a standardized, McDonaldized sub-genre of Pop. Heavy Metal is about power, rage and rebellion, about being different than the mainstream culture of society, being critical about your bosses, teachers, leaders. And Heavy Metal has to be loud and wild, screaming guitars, soaring vocals, relentless riffing and pounding drums and bass. Bands should keep that in mind. Otherwise they’re just part of the nameless mass vomiting their mass-produced and polished pop songs into the airwaves.

Traditions are important, especially in times like these, when we need orientation more than ever. But these traditions have to be kept alive, not by looking into the past, but by fueling the fires. We need young bands who follow the footsteps of the old masters, but add their own style and ideas as well. Bands like STRIKER, DARK FOREST, SLOUGH FEG, FUNERAL CIRCLE, ARKHAM WITCH, THE LAMP OF THOTH… This way Metal will stay strong.

Manuel, thanx a lot for your time. Anything you’d like to add?
Ride the tiger! You can see his stripes but you know he's clean. Oh, don't you see what I mean? Thanks for the interview!


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Edited 04 October 2022

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