If you described Attic as a traditional heavy metal band from the famous Ruhr area (Kreator, Tankard, Sodom), obsessed with occultism and dripping in late 19th century gothic atmosphere, their guitar player and main composer Katte would be chuffed. Always a stronghold for any kind of back-to-basics subgenre, Germany has lately had an extremely healthy underground scene, where black/thrash (Desaster, Nocturnal, Cruel Force) and heavy metal (Iron Kobra, Alpha Tiger, Serpent) collide. But no matter how hard he tries to defend himself in the wake of their first European tour, opening for The Devil’s Blood, he knows too damn well about that gigantic elephant in the room.
The man knows all about the business of living in someone’s shadow: in 2006, he founded Erazor, which owed more than a large debt to Dissection. Around the same time, he briefly played in Warhammer, Germany’s answer to Hellhammer. Still, it seems impossible now not to have the names Attic and Mercyful Fate in the same sentence and Katte acknowledges it, even if he says that he’s always been more into “obscure heavy metal” the whole time and that he had a secret plan to form an occult band in this vein for a long time. Yet, it’s when he met Meister Cagliostro that his evil plan became a reality. “We got introduced through a mutual friend who made me listen to this demo tape by a local band,” Katte recalls. “The music was okay but the vocals were fantastic! They reminded me of Helstar, Judas Priest, King Diamond, Commandment and even Solar Eagle. When my friend told me that he knew the guy and that he was looking for a new band, I just knew I had to do something with him. I had to!”
In a way, this means that the whole concept of Attic is built around Meister Cagliostro. And that in a way those rasping whispers and falsetto screams pushed the music in a very specific direction from day one.
“Well, you could say that it all came down to me being inspired by his voice,” Katte admits. “Plus, I believe that if I had met somebody who was more into, say, John Arch from Fates Warning, the music would still have turned out quite sinister and bleak. Our main inspiration is, indeed, the traditional heavy metal of the 1980s but also US metal from the same era, NWOBHM and doom always weigh in the balance. As a record collector, I could fill a whole book with our influences, from A(aronsrod) to Z(ions Abyss)! Plus there’s more to Attic than ‘just’ music. There’s also a sincere interest in classic horror movies that inspired us both on a lyrical but also visual level. For instance, we used the typical colourful Giallo lighting à la Dario Argento for our first band photo. And we worship writing from ancient times and John Dee, Eliphas Levi, Austin Osman Spare, even if we eventually decided to consciously represent ourselves in a more theatrical way compared to the way it was developed by, say, Dennis Wheatley and sometimes by Gustav Meyrink in their novels. Thus, when we were writing our first songs we didn’t really think of sigils or transcendental magic, the first things that came to our minds were Vincent Price, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing in their dramatic occult horror and witchfinder movies.”
The newly-formed outfit settled for the straight-forward moniker Attic, “as it resonates in many different areas,” says the guitarist. “First of all, it’s a recurring element in King Diamond albums, especially ‘Them’ and ‘Conspiracy’. But it also appears in many classic horror movies, like ‘The Changeling’ (1980) for instance that takes place in a dusty attic. Besides, in one’s music collection, it means that we’re lined up next to Attacker so that’s a plus!”
Eighteen months after forming Attic decided to record their first meaty self-titled debut demo. Five songs plus an intro and a 27 minute long affair, it was originally pressed in 1000 copies on CD by the band and sold through selected mail-orders, such Hellion Records. Later, due to the high demand, it was repressed on both limited vinyl and tape, the latter through their bass player Christoph Erdmann’s own Sex, Drinks And Metal Records imprint with one bonus track, a live cover of Pentagram’s ‘Dying World’. Much to its creator’s surprise the response was immediately positive. “I honestly thought that only a handful of hardcore ’80s metal fans would be into us but pretty quickly, we started receiving mail from a wide range of metal fans, from heavy metal to black metal addicts.” Still, despite gigs performed next to Denial Of God, their penchant for proto-corpsepaint and artefacts such as skulls or candles on stage, they aren’t following the footsteps of King Diamond to the extent of openly labelling themselves as a Satanic band. “Being Satanic is something hard to define,” says Katte. “We are writing songs about those topics and in our private life some of us spend a lot of time studying ways of the left hand path, but we don’t limit ourselves to this Satanic direction, so we don’t only write about that. Take ‘The Headless Horseman’ [one the band’s debut full-length ‘Invocation’, out now on Van Records]; one could say it’s more like entertainment than anything else.”
Even if their debut full-length ended up being produced, mixed and mastered by drummer Chris ‘Mersus’ Menning from Deströyer 666, Zarathustra and Gospel Of The Horns, Katte admits they struggled to find the right studio to commit their music to tape: “We didn’t want to sound like a power metal band signed on Nuclear Blast, if you know what I mean. Plus, when you have this kind of vocal, you need someone who truly understands this kind of music and leaves its pure energy intact, even if that means recording something that isn’t 100 percent perfect.” It’s exactly the kind of vibe that Swedish conspirators Portrait and In Solitude also achieved on their own albums in 2010, two further acts more or less plagued with the Mercyful Fate parallel. It’s somewhat ironic when you consider that Portrait’s main composer Christian Lindell regularly cites Judas Priest as his favourite band, something Katte can fully understand: “It’s funny because we actually played with both Portrait and In Solitude at the Headbangers Open Air in Germany last July. We’re all fans of each other so we had a drink afterwards and I remember Christian mentioning something about that, yeah. And believe me, I totally understand him as I would be the first one to say that, for instance, my biggest influence is Iron Maiden, not Mercyful Fate!”
At least, Katte will have the chance to discuss this with the man himself, as among the many live appearances the band has already scheduled for 2013, including the next Keep It True Festival, they will be able to close the circle by playing Glesenkirchen next May for the upcoming edition of the Rock Hard festival, where they’ll be sharing the stage… With Mr King Diamond himself. A dangerous meeting indeed!
ORIGINALLY PRINTED IN IRON FIST #3
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