First, a confession: here at DoomMetalHeaven we have been arguing with each other.
Should we review the Atlantean Kodex album? It is Doom Metal or just slow power metal? Do the band’s pop sensibilities – and subsequent ubiquity – mean they should be shunned on a website dedicated to what is considered a niche genre?
In the end, we decided that there is sufficient ‘doom’ (and certainly plenty of ‘metal’ and ‘heaven’) on the German band’s latest opus for us to proceed. Of course, while we’ve been bickering among ourselves, you have probably already seen a hundred reviews of ‘The White Goddess’ (Atlantean Kodex have been difficult to avoid in recent weeks) so we’ll keep it brief.
This is straightforward but majestically epic metal that has much in common with Solstice, Manowar (without the biceps) and Hammerheart-era Bathory. It’s more mature and well-constructed than 2010’s often frustrating ‘The Golden Bough’ and while Markus Becker’s high-pitched vocals can grate after a while, he leads the songs into spectacular, cloud-puncturing choruses. Few bands have the ability to create such an expansive atmosphere.
The album is also pristinely produced, allowing a freshness and energy to ripple through the slow, 10-minute-long songs. Atlantean Kodex’s self-indulgence remains, however, and their excessive use of spoken word samples is an uninspiring Churchillian voiceover that serves only to interrupt. The song ’Heresiarch’, for example, should have been allowed to flow without interruption, revelling in its own glorious simplicity to become a minor doom classic. But they couldn’t resist.
Our ‘heated debate’ at DMH over whether to include Atlantean Kodex here could also be applied to the band’s Cruz Del Sur label-mates Argus, who have shifted slightly away from their doomy roots. Argus released their new album ‘Beyond The Martyrs’ at the same time as the Germans unleashed ‘The White Goddess’ but with rather less media attention.
Argus don’t soar as high as Atlantean Kodex, nor do they strive for such distant horizons, preferring a well-worn, mid-tempo classic metal path that nevertheless can trip up lesser musicians. Drawing inspiration from Grand Magus and Iron Maiden, the dual guitar-loving Pennsylvanians (including ex-Penance singer Brian Balich who brings his characteristically forthright vocals and big personality) also hark back to Doom Metal masters such as Candlemass, with ‘Trinity’ and ‘The Coward’s Path’ being standout moments. Hugely enjoyably stuff.
What defines a Doom Metal album is a question that we (or you, for that matter) may never agree on. Like all boundaries or barriers, definitions and opinions can change in an instant. For now, we’ll leave you with some songs to check out. Meanwhile, we’ll get back to kicking seven shades of Korn out of each other.