Alexander Krull (vocals): “People talk about conspiracy theories and it does not matter in which system we are talking about. It could be democracy, aristocracy, dictatorship, or in religion itself. They all use fear. That is their number one weapon to control people. If you behave, you are good. You go to heaven/ If not, you go to hell or even worse in dictatorship. And that is why people very often have this disbelief, they don’t believe the rulers anymore.”
Een lijvige trilogie over duistere krachten en occultisme heeft het artistieke leven van Atrocity jarenlang beheerst. De Duitse band van Alexander Krull bracht onlangs de grote finale van dit werk uit. ‘Okkult III’ is een wervelende rollercoaster doorheen ver vervlogen tijden, maar toch ook te reflecteren op de huidige tijd. We praatten maar al te graag bij met Alexander over één van zijn geliefde levenswerken, want daar weet hij altijd wel interessante dingen en details over te vertellen.
Vera Matthijssens Ι 15 februari 2023
Hi Alex, how are you doing, because it has been a long time since we talked? Since 2018 I think when the second Okkult album came out…
Is it that long? Oh my God, well you know we have a crazy world now. In a way it is infecting everybody, but especially the musicians and the music world. We had the covid-19 crisis and now we have a huge energy crisis. It is a huge problem. All tours become very expensive and the costs are over the top. It is not very cool to be honest. It is not fair at all, because I think multinational corporations or oil companies, they make profits they never did before, three or four times more and they ask us, the people, we have to pay the price. That is ridiculous actually. It is insane. The thing is, I don’t know how long people will accept all of this. Yet I don’t want to be negative. If you see how the metal family sticks together, that is great to see, they are supporting each other and also making the album was kind of tricky, because it was right in the middle of the corona crisis. We could only bring one guy into the studio/ In a way it was quite an adventure (laughs).
Indeed, because you are now arrived at the third chapter of ‘Okkult’. Was there a kind of approach or selected songs that would feature this last part of the trilogy?
Yes, the thing is that it is all related to the former ‘Atlantis’ story, because this is a huge concept as well. It has a lot of variety, ‘Atlantis’ as well. You have the Greek mythology and we know Atlantis from movies and series. But there are other theories about destroying a civilization in Africa and they call it almost the same/ In the deep outskirts of South America, they called it Atsla. They had their own Atlantis so to speak in which basically they talk about the same issues. You can all find it in the Bible, that a civilization is going down and reborn again. But we also have the spiritual aspects, talking about the rumours or theories that people nowadays are still talking with people from Atlantis. It is a spiritual connection or they are a medium. And then you had the world theories by the Nazis. They mismatch everything and they had like expeditions to Himalaya to find the roots with the inner race and Atlantis. It is really a huge range of stuff. Then, at that time, I was thinking of making a new concept. That would be about Occultism, which is also a huge range of stuff. It has nothing to do with religion or Satanism or black magic and stuff like that, you have all these conspiracy theories, also related to the occult. You have the role of the goats, also connected to the occult, multicoloured prophecies, all kinds of things connected with religious groups and politics. You see it now. People talk about conspiracy theories and it does not matter in which system we are talking about. It could be democracy, aristocracy, dictatorship, or in religion itself. They all use fear. That is their number one weapon to control people. If you behave, you are good. You go to heaven/ If not, you go to hell or even worse in dictatorship. And that is why people very often have this disbelief, they don’t believe the rulers anymore. And indeed, if you go back in history, you find a lot of these things that became true while nobody knew about it. So that are already really interesting topics right there. I have always been very much interested in human history and especially when it is dark, so to say or things that may have impact on a century or an era for humanity as well. It can be locations or people or a person who has power, their way of politics and what they could do… what they do to others, no animal would do that to anyone. This is a kind of sum up of the ideas. So I thought: okay, one album will surely not be enough. So at least we had to do a trilogy.
Yes, but then you are bound to that subject for a while. Wasn’t it kind of frustrating sometimes? Now you are already almost ten years stuck within that topic?
Yes, but for me, I was looking into the topics, writing the songs, going into details, but it was a very great journey. It was a fantastic adventure and it is still going on. We still have the treasure hunt going on, where people can find the bonus tracks on the golden CD. This is also timeless and disconnected from the album releases. So there will be three more songs hidden somewhere on the road. You have to go out and find it. That is something people can find out on our homepage. Also, to be honest, if you have a concept like this, for us as musicians or especially as artist, you want something to say in the lyrics to express yourself in many ways, also with the visuals, with the artwork, with the videos, and all that. It was an absolute fantastic background for a metal band like us, to go with that topic. It is also very much up to date. Take ‘Fire Ignites’ as example, that is absolutely what is happening right now, and we wrote the song before the war broke out.
Strange, but that means that history repeats itself all the time…
Yes absolutely and it comes in waves. It is incredible. I don’t know the exact measure, but it is always coming in waves. It is all kinds of things repeating themselves. Back in the twenties last centuries, there is a lot of similarity now. You cannot believe that: a war in Europe! They all said: ‘never again, no more wars’ and stuff back then. You cannot believe that, right? Everybody thought okay, political issues will be solved with talking or whatever, but not by bombing cities in Europe. We never thought that would happen again.
And there is nothing we can do about it, because it is a game between politics and economists…
It is very tricky. The global world means that everything is affected so much and we also depended on people you better not depend upon with energy and sending goods and everything like that. That happened already during corona and maybe that was also an amplifier of things to come. The digital civilization result in people who stand more at themselves, they were more controlled, we have to pay with cards and no cash anymore and stuff like that. It is a tricky situation, but we have the perfect soundtrack for that: ‘Okkult III’, the new album (chuckles). Crazy times demand crazy music, so here we go.
And the album is more brutal than ever…
The intention was, to have a grand finale, something like a big ending of the Okkult trilogy, so it had to be like killer riffs on that album, for sure.
Did this have something to do with the fact that during corona you went back to older material? Demos and stuff and ‘Todessehnsucht’ (1994)?
In a way it is very refreshing and at the same time you have this maybe nostalgic feel, or something. There is something true about it of course, because we never denied our death metal roots and treat our metal history with respect. It was clear that we wanted to show this side of the band on the ‘Okkult’ trilogy, the heaviest and darkest side you can get for Atrocity. So I think this is also something great for the heritage of the band of course.
I totally agree because Atrocity – and Leaves’ Eyes – are always going back in history in a way, cautiously telling about it…
It makes it also very interesting for us, in a way I am a storyteller or painter with music. People sometimes ask me: ‘how come you are into this for such a long time?’ It is possible, because I think we were breaking barriers. People did not understand us sometimes, but we are always trying to reach out for new challenges, even have a new vision. We were also getting critics sometimes and then years later this became a trend, what we did before (laughs). For us as a band, it is very important that we have this kind of musical and artistic freedom.
You have written the music and the lyrics during the corona era, isn’t it?
Yes, most of it. Some of it even before. We started before the crisis, but most of it was written, especially the lyrics, during the covid-19 pandemic.
You also faced some line-up changes. It moved me that Tosso left the band, because I remember from way back that he was always so enthusiastic and he knew a lot about Atrocity’s way of working and intentions… Didn’t it hurt you to see him go?
Yes, but he is not away. We are actually in contact almost every day. He just wrote me. My son has birthday tomorrow and we asked him if he wants to come with us to the cinema, but he has to go visit his family. The thing is… it was for several reasons. We had to respect it, of course, nobody wanted Thorsten to leave the band, but he always wants to give 100% or more and for his very own reasons he decided to leave. If he could not do that, he better left, he thought. We knew it a long time before, almost one year so to say. It was not something out of the blue or because of arguments and we all know that. Some things you just have to accept, you cannot change one’s mind.
And then you had to work in new musicians…
Yes, but that was also refreshing in a way. Sometimes in corona we only had permission to have one guy in the studio, so we basically wrote the album with two people. One riff is still from Tosso, but only the slot from ‘Malicious Sukkubus’ I think. All the rest we did from scratch. I thought that would be the best. It was actually a really great song-writing process. It was a lot of fun and it went really well. I was happy that we just could continue with the band as normal.
Yes, it goes fast, because I read that the album was finished recording at the 17th of November and now in January it is coming out…
Yes, but actually that album was finished before. I don’t remember exactly, but I think it was already finished in the summertime. Maybe we only posted it later. We have to speed up a little bit more on the Facebook postings with the band. With Atrocity we are not doing so much with that. That is something we have to be a little bit more active on (laughs).
You are also very much involved in the making of the video clips. Can you tell something more about that section of your art?
Yes, actually I was always very much involved, already back in the nineties, as my sister had this company and she was playing the videos of Lacrimosa, HammerFall, Skyclad and many other bands. Also I think she was doing the first Wacken movie. I helped her with connecting to labels and stuff and I also learned myself doing video shoots. I was always interested in the visual side of the band anyways, the album, the concept, all the visuals. In the end filming and directing was also something that I found very interesting, and I do it also for other bands. Now I do with my own band the videos, of course, with the new Atrocity we had so much feedback, that was awesome. It is very creative. It is a lot of work, filming, directing, editing, there is a lot of work behind but it is also great to see that people love it. There will be two more Atrocity videos coming out, for ‘Malicious Sukkubus’ and ‘Fire Ignites’.
‘Malicious Succubus’ has some guest vocals on it…
Elina was obvious, as singer of Leaves’ Eyes. I told her in the studio that I wanted a demonic voice and also another type of what she usually does. She did actually both. She can do some nice, atmospheric vocals, but also any witches’ sound. We also produced a band Catalyst Crime. When Zoë was here, I was also filming her video clip for her band ‘Facing The Ghost’ and in the meantime she is also the singer of Cradle Of Filth. Back then she heard that we were also doing a new Atrocity album and she wanted to be a guest singer (laughs). I showed her the song and said: ‘hey, we would like to have a demonic, harsh growl’ and she was absolutely up for it. And the funny thing is, she told Jonah Weingarten, the keyboard player from Catalyst Crime about it and actually he worked with us on the Leaves’ Eyes Viking spirit movie, he was doing the soundtrack. He also wanted to be part of this Atrocity album, so he made some additional orchestrations. We had some already, but then he was doing his magic on them and that was also very cool.
Could you already play live shows after the pandemic?
We had some band rehearsals but then I got corona and we could not play. We have a Dutch drummer, we have a bass player from Italy, in the Stuttgart area where I live, we have the guitar players, so we will meet soon. The other guys have to come here, so that we can perform together. We will actually meet next Monday and Tuesday. That is when the band crew of Atrocity will gather. It is absolutely the goal to get back on the road again In Europe. Also we have a request from overseas. We will see what is possible, what we can do. We have a new booking agent. We would love to present the new album with those fresh songs. As a metal band you want to play live, that is the essence. I am really grateful to all the fans who are supporting us. We like to meet them on the road again.