"The Golden Bough"
By Earthdog

Attention headbangers everywhere, real Heavy Metal still exists...not Black, Death, Thrash or even really Doom, this is pure Heavy Metal, the kind of Metal that excited fans 25 to 35 years ago. Atlantean Kodex reminds me of the best early Manowar and later-day Bathory material but with a much more 70's progressive doom, epic edge in the style of Solitude Aeturnus and Candlemass. This German band has been around since 2006 and before this album, I had only heard a live album titled "The Annihilation of Koenigshofen" so this is my first taste of the band in the studio and to my amazement it's even better than I could possibly have imagined. The concept of the album that begins with the art which is a a reproduction of the painting 'Die Toteninself' by Arnold Bocklin (1827-1901) and the remarkable story based on 12,000 years of  European mythology, "The Golden Bough" by Sir James George Frazer that states that every religion on Earth happens to be originating from the magical and mystic rites of our ancestors. The album is epic in every sense of the word, from the song lengths themselves to the story-telling that goes along with it. It features everything from crushing doom riffing to soaring vocals and really thoughtful arrangements. The guitar work from this five piece is also stirring stuff and the assertive rhythm section is exceptionally tight.

The opening "Fountain of Nepenthe (Journey to the Island of the Blessed)" kicks this journey off in a mellow vibe before crushing riffing blends with melodic-driven guitar solo runs and the lyrics already capture your attention with their depth. The second song is even better, titled "Pilgrim (Through the Ruins of Europa)", this is simply one of the best epic Heavy Metal songs I have ever had the pleasure of hearing. Along with the huge sound you also have the vocal choir that harks back to the classic days of Uriah Heep. It's important to say at this point that the songs are a little drawn-out, the first two tracks combined take up more than 20 minutes of the disc but the playing has so much attention to detail that it is still a pleasurable musical journey despite extended arrangements that verge on overkill at times. Third track "The White Goddess (A Grammar of Poetic Myth)" is a pleasant one minute acoustic interlude before "Temple of Katholic Magick (Trinity of Steel)" brings it down into classic Doom Metal traditions. It's a lethargic and weighty track with a majestic feel as it is a amalgam of bare-boned 80's Heavy Metal and epic-doom in the vein of Candlemass and Solitude Aeturnus.

"Disciples of the Iron Crown (From the Grey Twilight)" brings the pace up a notch but comes off as sounding a little thin compared with the other tracks on the album. The same can be said for "Vesperal Hymn (For a long-gone Friend)". While the playing is still incredibly rich, there is something missing here that there is no shortage of in the earlier tracks. The album however recovers with "The Atlantean Kodex (Commanding the Iron Bataillons)" with the band paying homage to Black Sabbath. It's an faster paced sections but fast in Sabbathian terms and AK keep you intrigued with their arrangements... some of this is mind-blowing especially for a band that is still young. "A Prophet in the Forest (Through Years of Longing)and the following outro "The Golden Bough (A Study in Magic and Religion)" will test your patience. Taking up close to 17 minutes, these two ending pieces are ambitious, mature pieces of well crafted Heavy Metal that cross over different moods and styles. The running time is not a issue for me and to be honest, if this track went for a hour I would be more than happy to listen to it all the way through.

I read a article about this band at Dangerdog and I must mention two of its quotes, as they're so true. The first states: "today's ADD metal youngsters will probably cringe at this (But there's no accounting for taste or stupidity)". The second quote is "This outstanding work flies in the face (better: slaps the face) of current modern metal redundancy with formidable metal acumen and power". I have something to say about this and I will come off as a whining old fart but here we go. I am increasingly tired of the current metal scene with its triggered drum sounds, mechanical guitars that are devoid of any warmth, feeling or true grit and the computerized production values of a large proportion of modern metal that goes against the grain of what original Heavy Metal was all about. These young punk kids today are largely missing out on what made Heavy Metal what it was and is still suppose to be. Heavy Metal used to be "People's Music", music made for the working classes to escape the mundane existence of modern life through infectious but heavy riffs and intelligent lyrical themes. Most of this is currently being swept under the rug of commercial greediness and narrow-minded radio and TV programmers. It's time for people to take some time out, step back and take in bands like Atlantean Kodex.

Atlantean Kodex have produced a album here that is beyond their young years, the musicianship is outstanding as are their musical themes that are thoughtful and engaging. If there is a problem, it's that some of the songs are a little too long for their own good, I personally love them but lets face it the short attention span of the average listener will find some of this too over-blown. However its refreshing to hear old-school epic metal played with this much thought and imagination.....9/10