“Sunset, darkness had fallen on the hill/A storm was raging on outside the abbey.” With eerie organs and a flash of lightning, German metal coven Attic begin the central nunnery-set narrative of murder and intrigue that propels their concept album Sanctimonious. Luring the listener into an offering of upper-echelon trad metal riffs and giallo horror, comparisons to Mercyful Fate and King Diamond’s late-’80s solo work are understandable. Sanctimonious also conjures contagious choruses that invoke vintage Judas Priest, while embodying elements of Ken Russell’s blasphemous shocker The Devils. But Attic plunge Sanctimonious into even darker territory, scorching their riffs as the bodies pile higher in the abbey. From its fiery intro to the chilling reveal of the denouement, Attic’s sophomore record balances grandiosity with crypt-haunting atmosphere. Out August 18th on Ván Records, pre-order Sanctimonious now, or the penalty will be 666 billion demonic salutations.
Stream Sanctimonious in its entirety below. Also check out vocalist Meister Cagliostro’s thoughts on concept albums, religious themes, and nunsploitation. But first: Press play and submit to Attic’s twisted narrative.
When Attic formed in 2010, what was the band’s goal or intent?
Meister Cagliostro: At the time we formed the band our only goal was actually to play the music that we love, and later to present it to a small audience. It may sound quite simple and unspectacular, but I think it’s not advisable for any band to start with a disproportionately high ambition to get success or with to much intent to establish themselves in the scene.
Don’t get me wrong, it is of course very important to be ambitious and to have goals for the future, to keep things running. But it’s just a bad thing to start with, since you probably ruin the inspiration and a natural development in the first place. The most important thing for a new formed band is to keep the motivation and energy level as high as possible, because you’re maybe sitting in a rehearsal room for 2 years without anyone listening to your music. I’m a singer for about 15 years now, and I have seen so much bands with great potential split up before they even started because of that issue.
Besides creating a concept record, did you have any changes you wanted to make to the band’s sound or approach after The Invocation?
MC: We knew long before The Invocation what Attic should sound like, so when it comes to the overall feeling and spirit of the music the changes are very minor. In detail, however, it was a lot of work and fine-tuning in the studio. Since the atmosphere is an essential and very important component in our music, we gave every song the time it deserved, and everything was very well observed by our producer Mersus, who already recorded our first album.
I think the biggest change is the drum sound, since this was a part of the debut that people criticized the most. Nothing was triggered this time, so the sound is way more organic and natural now, which fits our overall old-school sound much better.
The narrative of Sanctimonious unfolds like a surprising mix of Gothic horror, crisis-of-faith drama, and grindhouse nunsploitation. What inspired your concept for this record, and how long were you preparing the story?
MC: I had the first ideas for the concept story way back in 2011 when we wrote the songs for The Invocation. But it’s very hard, I would almost say impossible, for a band to start with a concept debut album. You first have to learn how to work properly with your new band-mates, you have to craft your style, image, sound, and the atmosphere you want to transport, etcetera. Over the past 5 years we got more experienced, played so many shows together and got to know each other way better, so that a mammoth project like Sanctimonious became finally possible.
Even though the whole band is highly influenced by horror literature and movies of the ’60s and ’70s, there is no specific inspiration for the story of Sanctimonious other than my imagination. I use music and old horror and giallo movies to get into a specific mood now and then, but most of the time the story starts to unfold in my head when we start writing the first riffs for a song. In the case of Sanctimonious, I wrote the whole story in detail right after the music for the title track was roughly written. After that, we proceeded by writing song after song alongside the ups and downs of the story. Even if there are no clear influences, you can still find some little references in the lyrics. For example, to Francis Thompson’s poem “The Hound of Heaven,” some medieval poems, and a lot of biblical quotations, of course. There’s definitely a lot of hidden stuff in the lyrics, waiting to be discovered.
While it wasn’t a concept record, The Invocation also explicitly explored religious hypocrisy and violence. When and why did those themes become important to you?
MC: To me, the best stories for lyrics are about great contradictions and tragedies like a dramatic hero’s downfall, etcetera. You always need two extremes, since you cannot show pure evil without having something good or pure being desecrated or destroyed. Lyrics just filled with pseudo-satanic tropes that don’t have any meaning or impact on the listener are pretty boring, but unfortunately very common in the metal scene.
Anyway, you can find the biggest and most interesting contradiction conceivable in the Catholic church, of course: the contradiction between most excessive clerical ideal and the spiritual abyss it leads to. Nowhere is the hypocrisy and bigotry bigger than in the Roman Catholic Church. This why these themes are so prominent in my lyrics.
Nevertheless, a simple bashing of the RCC or religion in general is not the important point, since this topic in general is not quite innovative and really overdone by many, many bands. It’s more about the atmosphere and the images in your head that can be created with a certain topic.
Are there any nunsploitation flicks you would recommend to those interested in the obscure film genre?
MC: Nunsploitation is indeed a very interesting genre, even though it’s not really a source of inspiration for the lyrics, as I said before. I can really recommend the following movies:
The Devils, Satanic Pandemonium, Behind Convent Walls, Killer Nun, The Sinful Nuns of Saint Valentine, and Flavia. These films are, nevertheless, only for real fans of the genre, since some of them are quite campy and strange.
What’s next for Attic in 2017 and beyond?
MC: We are planning extensive touring in the beginning of 2018 to spread and promote Sanctimonious all over Europe, or even better all over the world. Hopefully we also get the opportunity to play in the US during the next year. We get a lot of requests from fans in the states and hope to finally make it possible.
Pre-order Sanctimonious from Ván Records HERE.
Also, follow Attic on Facebook to see when they’ll come corrupt the nearest convent.