Atlantean Kodex – The White Goddess
2013, Ván Records/ Cruz del Sur Music
So, she’s back after an age and not even talking about USPM. Galling, no? But trust me, this is a fun story, so let me bring you up to speed. I can hardly believe that it’s been over three years since I started this blog, a little project, nurtured with personal (if somewhat self-indulgent) ramblings on a subject I hold so close to my heart. The crazy thing is, I don’t think that it, or any of the amazing things that have happened would have been possible if not for an album that most ‘true’ heavy metal fans will be intimately familiar with – The White Goddess.
I first heard murmurings of the band whilst at medical school, where, try as I might, I vividly remember just not fitting in. I was shy, barely attended lectures, and when I did, it seemed that band shirts and shorts were not exactly fashionable. No number of socials, drinking quad-vods and half-heartedly singing along to Sex is on Fire made me popular, and some of my best friends in the profession now don’t even remember ever seeing me during our five years at the same university.
It was all too comforting to fall back on old favourites, and the drive to seek out new music started to wane. Most ‘true metal’ gigs seemed to be in London, which as a student rapidly became unaffordable. The London ‘scene’ was fairly cliquey and at times even felt a little hostile to me (no doubt in part because I was a young, drunken, elitist twat), and eventually I became less and less inclined to go. The only time I felt a part of something was with my bandmates – even if our tastes were incredibly diverse, rehearsal was still a sanctuary, a melting pot of influences where we could talk about music, and afterwards drink cheap cans of Kestrel and watch Metallica DVDs.
Back to Kodex, though – in 2010, The Golden Bough featured on a few people’s end of year lists, and my curiosity was piqued enough to read a few reviews. One reviewer kindly referred to it as ‘The Golden Bore’ – I am ashamed to say that this really stuck, and I never ended up giving it more than a half-arsed listen. So much wasted time!
2013 was a strange year for me. I was in my second year of full-time work as a doctor, and I was frantically saving for my wedding. Mere days after our marriage, my mother was diagnosed with locally advanced cancer. I rushed to India, and after many hard weeks supporting Mum with her extensive treatments (5+ years cancer free – what a trooper), I returned, unhappy, embittered, and, as I had failed to apply for core surgical training as per my Grand Plan, soon facing unemployment. I applied for a non-training post in a hospital an hour away. Between long hours and endless commuting, I barely listened to music at all.
In the midst of real personal solitude and unrest, I perused end of year lists on social media, having barely listened to enough new music to scratch up my own, and one album seemed to dominate – The White Goddess. It would be the only album I listened to for months. I played it to my best mate, T, and he was hooked as well. We saw that they would be playing Glasgow at the end of the year with Solstice and Dark Forest and booked our tickets immediately.
The night before I was due to drive us to Glasgow, I went to a party – a sixtieth birthday party, not exactly heavy raving, but thanks to the waiter-service canapes and champagne, I woke up with perhaps the worst hangover of my life. I could barely crawl to the bathroom never mind drive us into another country. Then T, in an act of sheer heroism, bought us two train tickets, for a nauseating sum, I may add, and, having paid £.20 to projectile vomit in Sheffield train station, we were off.
I think this was really the first time that I had been to a gig predominated by people my own age, and to my surprise, I was surrounded by battle vests emblazoned with bands like Riot and Manilla Road. I remember everything like it was yesterday – Cirith Ungol was playing between bands, a bottle of lager was sweating in my hands as I tried to force down a bit of hair of the dog, Marcus Becker was wearing a Satan t-shirt, and Glasgow was completely annihilated. Hearing Sol Invictus live for the first time remains one of my favourite moments ever. I carry my signed ticket in my purse.
The official after-party had a DJ playing old school metal and a bunch of people were ‘dancing’ to Swords and Tequila. Lulled into daring by beer, I approached a peripheral member and complimented his jacket, which proudly displayed a Mercyful Fate patch, and the Cirith Ungol praying skeletons. He merely shrugged and curtsied awkwardly at me, sending me scuttling back to the bar in embarrassment, reminded of why I disliked ‘the scene’. What a douche. We left soon after.
Not long afterwards, Kodex announced their Castle Theuern (Annihilation of Bavaria) gig, and T and I were on our way to the Upper Palatinate to watch The White Goddess played out in all its magnificence. I cannot stress what a pivotal show this was for me. Apart from being one of the best musical experiences of my life, I also met the wonderful O.W.K here, who opened up many doors for me, including paving the way to my first Keep it True, after we bonded over our mutual love for USPM. He also felt that I had a knack for writing and encouraged me to blog, even helping me compile my list of essentials.
And so, The White Goddess helped me fall in love – with music, with beautiful Bavaria, with a whole new tribe of people who cared about what I had to say. It was like a veil had been lifted – I saw a world I had never known existed, and realised that I now had to be a part of it. My marriage fell apart, I moved across the country, my record collection blossomed as my bank balance suffered, but like a blind man who finds sight again, I was happy.
However – as I was saying, I should bring you up to speed.
I returned from Hammer of Doom last year with the usual sadness and fatigue. Well, turns out it was a little more than post-festival depression – I was growing a little person inside me! A tiny parasite that would sap all my strength and creativity for the following nine or so months. Any time spent not at work (or barfing) was for nibbling at crackers and napping. In spite of that bodily chaos, and moving house and job (again!), we still managed to catch a few gigs, including Up The Hammers in Athens (at 5.5 months pregnant!) which I heartily recommend every metal fan attend at least once, and had I any energy at all, I would’ve written it the glowing review it deserves.
Currently, Atlantean Kodex are playing a string of shows across Europe, heralding their new album – The Course of Empire – and it physically hurts to not be at a single one of them. Despite having now seen them several times, the novelty never seems to wear off. And as I sit in my puke-stained dressing gown watching these amazing videos of a packed audience singing along to Sol Invictus, I am halfway to making my peace with the fact that it might be a little while before I see Atlantean Kodex again.
A few years after that Glasgow gig, of all people, jacket-douche contacted me after reading an interview I had done with Max from Lunar Shadow. Not so douchey as it turned out, merely socially inept like me. We got talking, and then began collaborating, initially with a little writing for his Cimmerian Shadows zine. Some eighteen crazy months later, we found a little nook in the ‘acquired taste’ division of the mighty Cruz del Sur Music roster, with our album (as Lethean) – The Waters of Death.
Then, of course, came the ultimate collaboration – our wonderful little boy, and I fell in love all over again.