Interview – Alexander Krull of Atrocity

atrocity (43)webMusic should be approached without boundaries and limitations. Germany’s Atrocity have proven over the past thirty years that heavy metal does not have to be limited to one simple characteristic. Combining elements of gothic, folk, electronic, and industrial within their own brand of metal Atrocity have become one of Germany’s most successful and inventive bands. With the first chapter of their latest trilogy of albums Okkult unleashed in 2013, the band look to surprise audiences yet again. Recently we sat down with frontman Alexander Krull to talk about the history of Atrocity, their openness to experiment with sound, their latest album Okkult, and much more.

CrypticRock.com – Atrocity has been together for almost three decades now and experienced many changes from beginning as a death metal band then turning more to thrash metal, and then experimenting with gothic metal and folk metal.  What inspired you to alter the band’s direction so often over the years?

Alexander Krull – The metal genre is the topic of Atrocity.  Of course we started with death metal and grindcore.  We were out there as one of the first in Europe.  We were actually the guys doing the first death metal festivals, we  also went on tour with Carcass.  Actually, one of those tours, no big agency wanted it.  It was always, for us, a challenge to be a different band and do something that is not the usual play of metal.  It is maybe the reason we did what seemed like extreme changes to other people.  Not for me, for me it is always a natural step, such as death metal band playing ethno stuff with female vocalists in the early 1990’s or that we had incorporated classic elements and singers on the second album.  Also things like experimental projects we did with Die Liebe (1995) or the Werk 80 (1997) albums; turning 80’s classics into metal songs in the Atrocity style.  For us it is basically exciting and keeps us going, looking for new musical challenges.  I think it is also the way for us to express our artistic view in a way not everyone else probably does.  I have a lot of musician friends who say, “you guys can do that”.  Maybe a lot of other metal bands would suffer if they changed that much.  We are called the metal chameleon, or something like that.  Not everyone has to like all the albums and music; you can pick what you want.  I think a lot of people pretty much get along with everyone we do.  Fans say, “Wow I like this, it is different” and for that reason we are still going as a band, it is never boring (laughs).  We have a lot of fun doing this, of course we always stick to our roots, and we always have been connected to the extreme and death metal scene.  We always will, we just spread out.

Massacre Records
Massacre Records
Massacre Records
Massacre Records

CrypticRock.com – It is good to be diverse and not be cornered into one style.  It was around the late 1990’s into the early 2000’s in which you went into a more gothic metal style with your vocals transforming primarily too singing only.

Alexander Krull – Yes, we did that in the mid 1990’s.  The release of the Blut (1994) album was probably the big game changer that we had complete freedom for ourselves.  I was working for the record company at that time and no one was worried that the album would be something that could not be released.  We had that problem in North America where the distribution company for Massacre Records went bankrupt.  It was really bad, all the records we wanted to distribute in the states at that time were stuck and on hold in a supply room somewhere in Los Angeles, thousands of CDs.  People might have thought Atrocity was not playing anymore.  We were constantly releasing stuff but there was not so much going on with the internet back then.  We were in the position if fans wanted to know about us they had to research with other people from Europe and get the albums via import.  That was the only possibility for us back then.  For the artistic way of the band, it was very important to have the album.  We did the record Calling The Rain (1995), which was a lot of acoustic stuff, which is very unusual for a death metal band (laughs).  Then we did the project with Das Ich called Die Liebe.  It was one of the first times a darkwave/gothic band played with a metal band. So it was very important pioneering territories for metal and getting new audiences.  Probably a lot of electro or darkwave fans were not into metal at all, but then it started to roll.  I remember in the darkwave/gothic clubs they would play Atrocity all the time, it was quite cool to make this step.  It was not that we turned into a gothic band.  We were always the same metal guys.

Massacre Records
Massacre Records
Swanlake
Swanlake

CrypticRock.com – That is understandable and you were experimenting and challenging yourself.  It is clear you have a love for 80’s new wave music by the two cover records mentioned prior.

Alexander Krull – The funny part was I was completely into metal at the time.  I wasn’t listening to all that stuff.  I heard it on the radio and said to my friends, “hey there should be some guitars in there”.  I had a friend who was completely into Depeche Mode and darkwave, she brought her friends to me with my metal friends there.  When we had a party there were two rooms, there were the metal guys, and there were the others (laughs).  Maybe at that time I was thinking why don’t people mix together?  Maybe the idea to do such an album was born back then.  It was a crazy idea, we had no idea it would be so successful.  It was a big success for us, and the songs are played all over in the clubs still today.

CrypticRock.com – They are great renditions of those classic tracks.  You really added your own elements to them.

Alexander Krull – Yes exactly, that was the plan.  We also did the second part; we wanted to have another approach.  We incorporated orchestra and choirs.  We replaced the electronic elements with natural instruments to have another approach within the concept, so it made sense to do a second part.  People are asking about a third part, but now we are working on the Okkult (2013) trilogy (laughs).

CrypticRock.com – Yes and on Atrocity’s most recent album Okkult (2013) we see you go back to the band’s death metal roots.  What was the writing and recording process like for the album?

Alexander Krull – Actually, it was quite interesting.  We felt like after Werk 80 II (2008) and After The Storm (2010), the second album with my sister, Yasim Krull, we would bring back the brutal side of the band.  It was already planned many years in advance, back during the Atlantis (2004) album.  We were planning on doing a trilogy about the mysteries in the world to make an even bigger concept than Atlantis, which was already the biggest myth on the earth. I was researching so many things in that period of time.  There was so much really cool stuff, but was not fitting into the Atlantis concept.  So I thought about making an album trilogy about the greatest mysteries of mankind.  I have always been into the dark side of human history; let’s say the hidden stuff not everyone knows.  Like the occult in general is a very bright field, it is not only religious; a lot of it connects to politics.  I am very into that.

Napalm Records
Napalm Records
Napalm Records
Napalm Records

CrypticRock.com – As you said, it is going to be a trilogy; the first part was released last year.  What can fans except from the second chapter?

Alexander Krull – The second chapter, we have another bunch of obscure stories.  Musically, those people who ask are you changing or do you do everything backwards, it would not make much sense.  Musically we will stick to the brutality of metal, facing epicness, opera, classic elements, horror soundscape, and cinematic types of things we did on the first Okkult.  We actually recorded some stuff in between the tours right now.  It is important we play live, grab the energy and go back to the studio.  We have the flexibility and freedom since we have our own studio to record in different sessions.  It is quite amazing for us that we have that nowadays for a foundation to be really creative.  We have a lot of eyes already in our pocket and now we are working them out.

Napalm Records
Napalm Records

CrypticRock.com – That is something to look forward to.  Seeing the band has such a colored musically history, when you do perform live is it difficult for you to construct a set list to play?

Alexander Krull – Sighs… Yes!  (Laughs) It is really difficult, especially now, we have a lot of requests to play old stuff from when we started with death metal classics.  We try to incorporate it into the set, we always did actually.  We have a pretty hard time choosing and picking the songs.

atrocity (295)web

CrypticRock.com – It has been quite some time since Atrocity has played in North America.  You are now on tour with Moonspell and your other band Leaves’ Eyes.  How is the tour going?

Alexander Krull – The tour is going really well besides some weather issues.  It has been quite adventurous.  We started in Puerto Rico, going out on the 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise.  We played really cool shows on the ship.  The tour is going really well.  The only thing was the weather situation which is crazy.   We hope we will not lose so much time in between tours next time.

CrypticRock.com – Hopefully you will be back to North America soon.  What are some of your musical influences?

Alexander Krull – When I started really listening to music I was really young, around six or seven.  Deep Purple I remember, and that was maybe the kick-start for the kind of music which was not called metal back then.  Then metal came up, this genre which is not only listening, it is also a lifestyle.  I was always very much into it.  Besides that, I always really like bands out of the metal scene like Pink Floyd and Dead Can Dance.  I think a band like Laibach is really cool because they release all kind of different albums.  They don’t sound the same, they sound different from album to album.  These are all influences for us that our own band sounds different than usual metal bands.  I do like traditional metal bands like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Motorhead.  When the more extreme stuff came out i liked that too. Slayer is a fantastic band and I like Venom also of course.  For me it was always great to have extreme music.  I also like stuff from the new generation.  I think a very good band is Lamb of God.  I am still a metal fan, musician, and producer, like any one person.

Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.
The Grey Area
The Grey Area

CrypticRock.com – It is good to have a diverse taste in music.  It all somehow bleeds through into your own music.

Alexander Krull – That is right.  The thing is we wanted to find our own way to play stuff in the metal scene.  Also we wanted to maybe bring something out that is influential to the metal scene.  Maybe not everything was on premise, but by doing it even the first Hallucinations (1990) was the first technical death metal album.  For us we were just playing progressive, and nowadays it is a genre for itself.  They have great musicians, very technical guitar, drums, and bassists with fantastic abilities.  It was something we wanted to do, not just be brutal but play on another level.

CrypticRock.com – That is great that you wanted to push the envelope.  My last question for you is regarding films.  Crypticrock.com is a rock/metal and horror news site so we like to focus on all genres.  Are you a fan of horror films and if so what are some of your favorite horror films?

Alexander Krull – I like the classic style of horror movies.  There are of course great new ones out.  Even the True Blood series. I think it is entertaining if there is an exciting story behind it. I like the connection of historical events in a horror story like Dracula, that is something I think is a really cool aspect.  I think a lot of movies nowadays always have the same thing.  If you listen to let’s say mainstream music, and if you want to see a mainstream horror movie, that is probably not 100% what I like.  I like movies that are different.  I am not the biggest horror movie fan.  I am more from the darker side; it doesn’t always have to show everything.  If it is an exciting story like a good book, I prefer that, and if it has historical background as I said, and has a meaning.

Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures
HBO
HBO

CrypticRock.com – A story is the most important thing with any type of film.  I agree that a lot of mainstream films have stepped away from great stories and more eye-candy with special effects.  People are definitely yearning for great stories though because if you see what is popular now on television it is series like The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad with amazing story-lines.

Alexander Krull – That is true and I agree with that.  That makes it fun to watch a horror movie or series like that again.  A fantasy movie also, like Game of Thrones is fantastic.

CrypticRock.com – Speaking of fantasy type films and having an appreciation for a historical back-story, what did you think of the film 300?

Alexander Krull – 300 is no doubt a very influential movie.  You look at Spartacus and movies following with the video technique and comic-like aspects that are also featured in Sin City (2005) as well.  Then it has this historical myth of 300, they took it from the comics and turned it into a movie.  I think it is really cool, but in general I like more if it is filmed from real occasions, has a more organic feeling, and not everything is animated and made by computer effects.  Of course it was the style of that film, but you look at the old Star Wars movies, it was all models.  It was something you can touch and feel; now you have all this green screen for movies.  I have to say I like it more in the old way.

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