Hello guys! Congratulations with ‘Okkult II’, the sophomore part of your occult trilogy! How are you doing? What’s going on in the Atrocity camp at the moment?
Alex: Thank you, we are all doing great. The album release date is getting closer and we are very pleased and proud of the result. ‘OKKULT II’ turned out killer yeah haha! It will be exciting to see and hear the reactions of our fans. So far the international reviews for the new album have been fantastic. Moreover we are preparing our release festival show, which will take place on the 6th July at Sunstorm Open Air here in Germany.
The first part ‘Okkult’ was released in April 2013 and for that album you toured a lot I guess. Can you tell a bit more about all the trips you did and memorable concerts that stood out for you?
Alex: For the first ‘OKKULT’ album we did a lot of touring worldwide! Tours and shows in Europe, North America, UK, Latin America, Russia and Asia. In 2014 ATROCITY did a full North American tour together with MOONSPELL and LEAVES' EYES and we also played on the awesome 70.000 Tons of Metal Cruise and Puerto Rico. It was quite demanding to play every evening two shows. Besides that it was a tour that reached from Carribean heat to snow storms and all kinds of weather you could ever imagine, haha. We experienced very moving moments on tour that you will not forget so quickly. When we played for the first time in Puerto Rico, El Salvador or Guatemala, we met fans of the first hour, who have been waiting since the early nineties for a live performance of Atrocity. Tears flowed when they saw and met us. And when you play in Chile or Mexico and the whole club is going crazy, that's magic and goose bumps. Last year we also played the first time in Belarus, which was also an amazing experience.
Tosso: It is always a big privilege to travel the world with music, experiencing so many different countries and meet many friends and people. It was very exciting for me to do an Asian tour and , as a history nerd, visiting the forbidden city in Beijing. We also had an amazing boat trip in Bangkok through the clongs in the middle of a thunderstorm. These are unforgettable moments of course, haha.
Five years have gone by since then and a lot of things happened. When did you actually start writing the new songs for ‘Okkult II’ and how do you look back at the writing process this time?
Tosso: Together with our great new label, Massacre Records, we had the idea to release a 7 inch vinyl upfront the album. This resulted in the ‘MASTERS OF DARKNESS’ EP, which was released in December 2017 and already gave us a great start for the new ‘OKKULT II’ period. The basic song-writing for the new album started roundabout two years ago. The first ‘OKKULT’ and the ‘MASTERS OF DARKNESS’ EP helped a lot to focus 100% on what we want to achieve with this new album. We spent a lot of time on all details of the production and everything is handmade, played, sung and growled.
Alex: For me, the album has the perfect mixture – darkness meets brutality! Merciless guitars and drums! Brutal vocal performances still with a lot of variety at the same time. Choirs, symphonic elements and the horror movie-like sounds are perfectly integrated into the brutal metal sound. I personally like the fact that besides all the extreme sound and raw power we manage to write really cool songs, create a very dark atmosphere and transport this occult mood in the songs.
I remember you did a lot of research before starting this trilogy. Occult themes are a wide range of topics you can cover. Can you go deeper into the specific topics that inspired you for these songs now?
Alex: I was always interested in dark topics and writing these kind of lyrics for Atrocity. Already with the ‘Blut’ album (1994) and its dark vampire concept, it was fascinating to do research in Transylvania, home of my grandfather, and to dive deep into a topic and film a video clip on a spooky Transylvanian castle. Then in the very extensive work on the ‘Atlantis’ concept (2004), there was an incredible range of different sources and points of contact on the subject. This went from scientific, archaeological work, mythological perspectives on esoteric theories, obscure interpretations of occultists in the Third Reich to the far-out world of ufology. Then it was almost obvious to me that the next concept we would come up with could be about the mysteries of world history and the dark side of humanity. And one album would not be enough, so here we are with the ‘Okkult’ trilogy. You shouldn't always have to explain your art, also to give the listeners enough freedom for their own interpretations and visions of the music and lyrics. Anyways, regarding the specific subjects of the songs on ‘OKKULT II’, here are some own words to the themes of the songs:
Masters Of Darkness
‘Masters Of Darkness’ describes the madness and the occultism in the Third Reich: Inhumane ideologies, an absurd world view and interpretation of world history united as "Black Order" of the "religion of blood“ and sworn the oath on the "blood flag".
This is about the Revenant Slavic coinage. An interesting source is reported by Karl Ferdinand von Schertz, who wrote the book ‘Magia Posthuma’ in 1704, and by inexplicable incidents of revenants that attack humans. The victims die within a few days. In 1732, a report on the vampirism of the medical officer Johann Flückinger at the Viennese court caused a great sensation and fueled the interest and belief in the existence of the undead. Actually, such investigations were carried out on vampirism on behalf of the Habsburg authorities with the aim to erase the rural superstition in the Slavic areas. In 1755, the so-called "vampire decree" was even issued specifically for this purpose with various prohibitions under threat of punishment. Among other things, the opening of the graves, the staking, beheading and burning of corpses believed to be revenants were banned and punished.
Bloodshed And Triumph
The Celtic Druids are known for their high reputation, magic and authority. The magicians belonged to the elite of the Celtic tribes and their fortune-telling had great influence on the Celtic leaders. They allegedly sacrificed human sacrifices in their rituals, and could interpret the future through a stab and the death bouts of the victims. Large wicker wreaths symbolized an image of the gods (‘Wicker Man’) and were filled with living humans who were cruelly sacrificed and burned therein. Celtic Druids allegedly foresaw the downfall of Rome.
Spell Of Blood
Magic with the help of a blood spell is associated with ancient witch cults. It means blood gives a magic special power. Blood magic has been used by Aztecs, Druids and completely different cultures in human history. The song ‘Spell Of Blood’ describes a blood curse, which is to bring corruption with the help of black magic.
Gates To Oblivion (feat. Marc Grewe)
‘Gates To Oblivion’ is about the "Saeculum Obscurum", the dark century of the Vatican and the „rule of the harlots" and "pornocracy". A swamp of intrigue, killings, incest, debauchery and fraud. The mistresses virtually took over power in the Vatican. Marozia, mistress of Pope Sergius III, stood out in particular, she made through murder and intrigue that the Pope's chair passed to her son John XI and later her grandson John XII.
The tales of the ‘Cathedral of the Devil’, the caves of Zugarramurdi in the Basque Country, where witchcraft and witches Sabbaths were practiced until the 17th century, have been recommended by Maite Itoiz (Elfenthal) as a source of inspiration for ‘Occult II’. A magical place where locals are said to have held debauchery pagan rites and festivals under the presidency of the devil himself. The Spanish Inquisition has struck here particularly hard and cruel. Several "witches" were sentenced to death, some didn’t survive the torture during interrogation and instead dolls were symbolically executed and burned.
All Men Must Die
At the time of the Thirty Years' War, there were a number of female prophets who made prophecies. They sometimes had very dark visions, which they communicated to their fellow human beings partly through their own agony and recurring paroxysms. One of those „obsessed women" was Anna Fleischer from Freyberg, who was supposed to be in a trance and floating above the ground, making her prophecies.
At the end of the 19th century, as part of the Occultist movement of Modernism, was also the heyday of necromancy. In a so-called "séance," meetings to summon souls from beyond, they met in secret meetings in darkened rooms to attend the spectacle. A "medium" should reach the deceased in the afterlife. Levitations and moving objects, ghost voices or apparitions were considered special attractions. Many charlatans mingled with the people, and in part, the events were subsequently exposed as deceptions and cheap tricks. However, not all sessions are fully explainable to this day. Anyone who has perhaps even supernatural experiences that you cannot explain, knows what I'm talking about.
Devil's Covenant (Feat. LG Petrov)
Gilles de Rais is considered one of the most ruthless and brutal mass murderers of all time. Once he was a godly nobleman, great general and brother in arms of the Maid of Orleans, Jeanne D'Arc. After her execution, he squandered his fortune and drifted off into a sadistic, bizarre world of horror. He tried to regain wealth through satanic rituals, ghost summonses and alchemy. At the same time he carried with him a delegation of churchmen in his retinue. He and his companions murdered and tortured countless children, whom he had kidnapped by his servants from the villages of his people. In a bestial way and in the blood rage, he became a unrepentant monster and organized "beauty competitions" with painted, severed children's heads. Prior to his sentencing to death, he made a perfidious speech in which he urged parents to take better care of their children.
The Golden Dawn
This is about the magical secret society "Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn". The basis of the Order were the scriptures and teachings of the "Cipher Manuscripts" and its containing ritual sketches. The alleged source for this was a certain Anna Sprengel from Nuremberg, a member of the Rosicrucian movement. Her true existence is unlikely. The secret society of the Golden Dawn was founded in England at the end of the 19th century and became known worldwide through prominent members such as Aleister Crowley.
I think this record is even more brutal than its predecessor, however without losing that gothic and dark feel you always had. What do you think about the direction and the musical development yourself on ‘Okkult II’?
Tosso: That is an interesting observation. We wanted to have a really brutal and powerful sounding album with songs like a fist in the face. At the same time there is a deeper, more occult facet on the album which is often displayed by the real sung choirs and the amazing horror effect sounds. As a guitarist it was exciting and challenging to come up with a lot of great and heavy riffs, that are demanding, but also recognisable after the first time hearing. So an important part of the magic of the album is, that you have choruses and riffs that get stuck into your ears.
A title which illustrates that brutality is ‘Menschenschlachthaus’. What is it about?
Alex: ‘Menschenschlachthaus’ describes the real horror of World War I on the basis of a true story. Already in 1912 the German teacher Wilhelm Lamszus had written a book of a machine war of annihilation in detail. A dark prophecy that was to become a cruel reality. Two years later, he himself had to be a soldier in the First World War and witnessed his dark visions. Initiated by the mighty of the world and their agitation, hundreds of thousands were carried away in the mud of the trenches by the modern war machine.
Classical gothic choirs have an important role on the record, as contrast with your death growls. Please tell us a bit more about the cooperation with this choir...
Alex: To get this creepy horror-like sound, you have to record real choirs! You can't achieve it only relying on computers and plug ins. So once we had the songs with my vocals ready as demo versions, we wrote the choir parts down. The choir recordings themselves all took place at our MASTERSOUND Studio, we invited friends who are choir singers to join and contribute for the album. In the soprano female section you can also hear Elina Siirala, our front lady and main singer in LEAVES' EYES. I think the choirs on this album sound amazing and just like what we had in mind.
This record marks the switch from Napalm Records to Massacre. What can you tell us about this label change?
Tosso: After the release of the ‘OKKULT I’ album in 2013, our recording contract with Napalm Records was fulfilled. After that we took some time to check who would be the best partner to work with together on the future of our band. To be back now with Massacre Records is just a fantastic story for itself. We had a great and very creative time on Massacre in the nineties with band album classics like ‘BLUT’, ‘WILLENSKRAFT’ and ‘WERK80’ for example. The first time Alex and me came back to the headquarters of Massacre Records, which is not very far from our own headquarters MASTERSOUND STUDIO and met the guys there, especially Thomas Hertler, who was Alex colleague when he was working there himself at Massacre back in the day, I could only see smiling faces... including myself. We are very happy to work with Massacre Records now and in the future.
Why and when did guitarist Sander van der Meer leave the band?
Tosso: Sander van der Meer had severe back problems and also a spine surgery here in Germany, which forced him to stop touring and being with the band in early 2015. There was no bad blood or anything.
He was replaced by Pete Streit. How did you find and recruit him and can you tell a bit more about his background?
Tosso: Pete Streit has been a friend of us for a long time. He recorded with his former band ELIS several albums at our own MASTERSOUND STUDIO and toured with his band together with LEAVES' EYES and ATROCITY in the past. So we already knew him well, and Pete became guitar player in both bands. His first show was at the DAMES OF DARKNESS Festival in UK 2015 with LEAVES' EYES, followed immediately by a full Latin American tour in April/May 2015 with ATROCITY and LEAVES' EYES.
We have two eminent vocal guests on this album. Can you tell us about your bond with LG Petrov and Marc Grewe and how this cooperation came into being?
Alex: LG and Marc are both old companions. We know each other from the "golden days" of the death metal underground in the late eighties, early nineties. Back in 1990 Atrocity toured with Morgoth, Autopsy and Pestilence. Since that time I know Marc already. In the same year I brought LG and Entombed to Germany for the first time on the "Support the Underground" festivals with Carcass, Atrocity, Pungent Stench etc. I had organized the festivals myself, and they were some of the first Death Metal festivals on an international level and took place in Germany, France and Belgium. LG and the Entombed guys were very grateful for that. Marc and LG were both on our Atrocity film documentary ‘The Godless Years’ and did great interviews for that amazing DVD. When we asked them whether they would like to be a guest vocalist on ‘Okkult II’, both were immediately enthusiastically present. The cooperation turned out really cool!
The mediabook version will be a special issue! This is the moment to tell the fans what extra gems they will have when purchasing this...
Alex: The mediabook version contains two CD's, with the regular album and also the instrumental versions. As Die Hard Fan you shouldn't miss the strictly limited Deluxe Metal Box edition of ‘OKKULT II’! This awesome looking black metal box contains 2CD mediabook edition of the ‘OKKULT II’ album, the killer ‘Shadowtaker’ T-Shirt, so far only available in this box. Moreover you will get a signed autograph card, two postcards and one sticker with the album artwork. Truly a premium edition. The album will be released on two splendid Gatefold Vinyl editions, as Jewel Case and Digital release.
I see you are working on a video clip for ‘Shadowtaker’. Please tell us about the making and location for this video and if there are other plans for visual attractions?
Alex: The band performance was filmed in an old mine from the 18th century here in Germany . We had to get all our gear 40 meters below ground and 500 meters from the mine entrance into the mountain. Quite a challenge and not recommendable for people with agoraphobia, haha. When we shot the band scenes it was 35 degrees outside, 6 degrees inside the mountain.. what a difference! There is also a thrilling and exciting story line in the clip. So be prepared for a killer video clip!
Stefan Heilemann is a trusty artist for your artwork. Please tell us a bit more about the creation and its symbolism this time?
Alex: Heile is a good friend of us and already did the artwork for the ‘MASTERS OF DARKNESS’ EP, ‘OKKULT’ and also several other ATROCITY and LEAVES' EYES releases and shirt and artwork designs. He did a great job also for the new album! When I came up with the “OKKULT” trilogy concept, we already spoke about the concept and cover artwork ideas. The Mediabook looks actually like a kind of note book of occult discoveries.
How far are you in the process of making a third part? Is there anything you want to reveal about it already at this moment?
Tosso: Right now all our time and energy is on ‘OKKULT II’ and promoting the album with interviews and also planning of live shows. But of course there will be the time when we start working on the third part of this trilogy and of course we already have many ideas for that.
But for now of course, we enjoy ‘Okkult II’. There will be a release show early July but what are further plans on touring or playing gigs? And seen in a larger context: what are the plans for the near future?
Tosso: We have several international show offers, also one for a show in Dubai. But since we are on an extensive European tour with LEAVES' EYES together with KAMELOT in September and October this year, we will do most of the worldwide touring for the new album in 2019 and 2020. Just keep an eye on our web pages.