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Atlantean Kodex is a German heavy/doom metal band whose first full-length album (after a couple EPs and a live album) The Golden Bough came out last fall. I wish I would have known about it sooner, or it would have made my end-of-year list--as a dishonorable mention for worst album of the year.
I'm not sure where to start, so I'll start with the style. In all its many iterations, doom metal can basically be broken down into two categories: there's riff-based doom and there's atmospheric doom. I think this is trying to fit into the riff-based category, since there's no atmosphere to speak of. It's sometimes heavy metal, sometimes epic doom metal. Which logically leads to the production. This is not filthy black metal. This kind of music benefits from a clean production, but it's muffled. So, strike one for apparently not knowing what they're trying to accomplish.
The vocals are clean and delivered with feeling, but they're just bad. It sounds like a decent karaoke performance, which would probably be OK if you were drunk enough and were actually listening to karaoke, but these guys recorded it and presented it as something worth your money. Instrumentally the music is heavy enough, but the riffs and solos are completely forgettable. The songs are either forgettable, annoyingly awkward (check "Disciples of the Iron Crown" or the chorus to "The Atlantean Kodex"), or ridiculous (check the minstrel stuff in "Vesperal Hymn"). Strike two for not having any talent.
Finally, these guys have no concept of pacing or economy in an album. The album starts out by plodding along interminably. This goes on for a half hour, if you don't count boring wind, water, and ship noises. Then they speed things up with the awful "Disciples . . ." song (which is mercifully the shortest actual song on the album), and then end it with another half hour of songs that go on longer than they're welcome, ending on the title track, which is a complete WTF? moment. All in all, it's over 65 minutes of tedium. Strike three for failing to assemble the final product into something a person can listen to.
The Verdict: This is one of the worst albums of 2010. The only reason I didn't give it an even worse rating is, there are some almost good moments buried in some of the longer tracks. And maybe I missed the point. Maybe it's about the lyrics or something, but I couldn't really tell you.
originally written for http://fullmetalattorney.blogspot.com/
Atlantean Kodex plays traditional metal with hints of doom and epic metal very much comparable to While Heaven Wept. This is their first full length following an excellent ep. Before I continue, let me say as my title states this is true metal at its finest and not for posers or fans of modern metal. If you're a fan of modern metal with triggered drums, technical guitar leads, pitch-shifted vocals, and high production values, ignore this and continue listening to Origin and Dimmu.The songs on this album are epic; six of the nine songs last more than five minutes. All of the songs are full of great melodic, driving riffs that owe as much to Nordland era Bathory and Solstice as they do to Iron Maiden and While Heaven Wept. The main riffs in the songs are the usual driving power chords but played in a way that makes them feel much more epic rather than generic and rehashed. There are some great melodic lead breaks and fills in the songs so the riffs never feel like they are repeating for too long.The songs are structured very well, every part of the songs fit together seamlessly. No riff, fill, lead, beat or vocal line feels out of place and all these parts flow smoothly into one another. The band plays mostly slow to mid paced tempos and uses tempo changes in a very natural way. The band displays great skill in songwriting and song structure.The vocals are great, though at first they may seem a bit restrained but after some time it is evident that the singer does possess a good range and control over his voice, never going too high but altering his pitch just right so it fits the music.The production is very benefiting to the music, the guitar tone, vocals and effects create an atmosphere that feels like it washes over you and transports you to a distant long passed time and long forgotten place that may never have existed, like the image depicted on the album cover.As stated before this is not for fans of modern metal as nothing about this album and Atlantean Kodex is modern. Atlantean Kodex bring nothing really new or original to the table but they are obviously not interested in being original. Despite that nothing here sounds rehashed because everything is executed so perfectly. Fans of NWOBHM, epic doom metal, traditional metal and power metal should check this out.
Atlantean Kodex sprang up from nowhere a few years ago and pretty much knocked my block off with "The Pnakotic Demos", fueling my fever to get a hold of this, their full-length debut. The question on the minds of everyone who loved that EP was: can they possibly match it? Finally here, "The Golden Bough" proves that they can indeed.
Fear not, for this is the deliverance from false metal we all hoped for, as there is no metal truer than this. "The Golden Bough" thunders and shimmers like a storm of everything true metal is supposed to be. The riffs are worthy of Quorthon at his best, the melodies are beyond haunting, and the production is heavy as a fucking iron warhammer. The album opens up in grand style with the massive "Fountain of Nepenthe" before it gets even better with "Pilgrim" – an interpretation of the Sacred King myth that may be the best epic metal song anybody has ever written. This one song sums up everything Atlantean Kodex is about, and if it was the only song they ever recorded they would still be legendary. "The White Goddess" is a short instrumental before the mind-blowing riffs of "Temple of Katholic Magic" come thundering out and leave your jaw on the floor.
The album does hit a weak spot then, with "Disciples of the Iron Crown" – a good song but not the unadulterated mastery of the others – and "Vesperal Hymn", which is good, but not as good as "The White Ship" off The Pnakotic Demos. Fortunately, the band is about to own you with the crushing riffs of "The Atlantean Kodex" and then the super-epic fifteen minutes of "A Prophet in the Forest".
This recording is a perfect example of matching sound to a band, as the performances are spot-on but never overdone. The guitars are heavy but not layered into mush, the drums are warm and alive with no triggers or quantization used. Markus Becker sounds fantastic, as he uses no effects and goes easy on the backing vocals, keeping his voice human and preserving his haunted, lamenting tone. Another nice touch is that the backing vocals are placed separately in space in the mix, so it really sounds like more than one voice, not just one doubled up.
Lyrically "The Golden Bough" is iconoclastic and magisterial. The band draws heavily on Tolkien, but not in the simpleminded way most bands do, instead using his epic poetry and verse as the basis for their exploration of myth and the magic art throughout European history. I cannot express how awesome it is to have music that is about something for a change. You don't even know.
This review has come out long, as I don't normally go on for very long about most albums, but that is because most albums are not worth talking about. This one is. Atlantean Kodex have fulfilled all the promise of their demos with an album that is not only the best metal music of the year, but one of the most significant and deep albums ever made. With music this awesome, Atlantean Kodex didn't have to put this much thought into their concepts, but they did, and they prove once more that having something to say is what transforms entertainment into art.
Originally written for www.metalcrypt.com