What is “epic” in musical terms? A prog rock track that lasts the entire side of a record? A classical opus, in several movements, composed for a full orchestra? A song that made Faith No More famous and is played constantly by shit rock club DJ’s? It’s all those things, but is also a term that too many writers slap on anything with a whiff of power metal pomp and circumstance to it and thus it loses much of its impact in the context of a review. Just like the word “genius” means little or nothing thanks to a wealth of people posting something slightly amusing on Twitter using that particular noun as an adjective, “epic” now means a song longer than 5 minutes with some twin lead harmonies.
So how do I describe the new one from Atlantean Kodex? Grandiose? Majestic? Monolithic?
Well, all of those are appropriate, but when it comes down to brass tacks this is superbly written, finely honed, enthusiastically delivered classic metal behaviour.
‘Trumpets Of Doggerland’ heralds the opening of a tale of history and myth, fire and magic, pagan ritual and desire and segues perfectly into first song proper ‘Sol Invictus.’ Glorious shimmering guitar and galloping bass nod affectionately towards Iron Maiden and Manowar, but the layered vocals of Marcus Becker instantly call to mind the peerless While Heaven Wept.
Whilst Becker‘s pipes sound fuller and stronger than ever before, it is very hard to hear his soaring tones without thinking of Rain Irving‘s flawless range and power, and then wanting to slap on “Vast Oceans Lachrymose” instead. That may seem a somewhat unfair comment, because Atlantean Kodex are no copyists, but the similarities in style and in particular the vocals, remind me why I love While Heaven Wept so dearly.
The whole album is thoughtful, finely crafted and each track builds with skillful aplomb. ‘Heresiarch’ is one of the finest pieces these chaps have ever recorded and goes from moody to jubilant to aggressive with sweeping grace and carries the listener along. ‘Twelve Stars And An Azure Gown’ has such a goose-bump inducing refrain that it demands repeated listens so that you can holler along and the thumping ‘Enthroned In Clouds And Fire’ boasts some of the heaviest riffs they’ve ever laid down. The chugging, growling guitar hints that they may have been listening to some classic Celtic Frost whilst closer ‘White Goddess Unveiled’ is beautifully tinged with flavours of Steve Harris‘ “Powerslave/Somewhere In Time” era masterpieces.
Atlantean Kodex have built on the foundations of previous album “The Golden Bough” and soared to new sonic heights. With a few European dates lined up, including one in Scotland, one can only hope they hit the rest of the UK this year too. Things are looking up for these Bavarian metal titans and the only question remaining is where can they possibly go from here?
The only way is epic.