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Atlantean Codex: The White Goddess (A Grammar of Poetic Myth)

Hwæt! Hearken! Behold! Listen! The epic is about to begin!

At least that's what this album wants listeners to think. I'm not sure exactly how epic it is in the end, but the aspiration to win that title is certainly on display here. As the promotional materials suggest, this is an album that just oozes a sense of Europe—its traditions, its culture, its aesthetics—from back to front. Consider, for instance, the grand scale cover art. Taken directly from Caspar David Friedrich's Monk by the Sea, it reminds listeners of the not only of the great German Romantic painter himself, but also of the generally grand and bold artistic ambitions of that exciting period.

Then there's the title of the album: The White Goddess, a name used by Robert Graves to describe his own efforts to rethink the understanding of mythology and poetry. The album's subtitle, "A Grammar of Poetic Myth," is equally evocative of large-scale ambition, here suggesting that this work may generally hint at a new understanding of fundamental things like poetry and mythology in a new light. Nobody can pull off such hopes; I doubt even the band members really think they can. Still, the bold claims on display here amplify the problem of understanding what's at stake here. Is this just a metal album or something more?

There are other things I could mention that would help show off this album's broad sweep and ambition. One thing is the use of Winston Churchill's resonant and brave voice on ("Twelve Stars and an Azure Crown"). I suppose that even the boat and ocean sounds of the first track are meant to convey a sense of almost-adventure, the moment before a quest begins.

If we can separate the epic grandeur of the album from the music, things start to look a little less grand, bold, and brave. The music here, traditional heavy metal mostly, does sound pretty good but it just doesn't grab tightly enough to the masts of its own ambition. Don't get me wrong, I like traditional metal, but this band seems to revel in the idea that they are the sole captains of this sound. They forget, in other words, that there are other capable seaworthy crafts that have come before and still others that will follow. I know that lots of people loved Atlantean Kodex's last album. I can see why; their music is dramatic and bombastic, similar to certain kinds of orchestral music. The large-scale ambition is also somewhat infectious. Beethoven himself roused listeners with his own bold and brash music. The problem with this album, though, is that its efforts to be fresh, bold, and aggressive never quite reach beyond traditional heavy metal sounds. Sure, the music is a full and hearty dose of twin guitar harmonies, dramatic vocals, and grand-scale lyrics, but most of us have heard these things before.

Fans of heavy metal bombast will enjoy this one. As for me, I'm turning my attention to simpler things.

Thus concludes my epic tale.

Track Listing:
1. Trumpets of Doggerland (There were Giants in the Earth in those Days)
2. Sol Invictus (With Faith and Fire)
3. Bilwis (Sorcery and Witchcraft in Eastern Bavaria)
4. Heresiarch (Thousandfaced Moon)
5. Twelve Stars and an Azure Gown (An Anthem for Europa)
6. Der Untergang der Stadt Passau (Flaming Sword of the Watcher)
7. Enthroned in Clouds and Fire (The Great Cleansing)
8. White Goddess unveiled (Crown of the Sephiroth)

Added: September 18th 2013
Reviewer: Carl Sederholm
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 2369
Language: english

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