Morean – guitars, vocals
Christian Münzner – guitars
Linus Klausenitzer – bass
Hannes Grossmann – drums
Alkaloid are metal’s maddest scientists. The Bavarian band have crafted songs about what lies beneath the Arctic crust, on top of an ongoing, multi-part saga about a galactic civilization that ascends to god-like levels of domination.
‘Numen’ is their most intricate, thought-provoking and batshit insane album yet. Alkaloid are still bonded together by their love of extreme metal. After all, they are a super group that’s assembled from foundational members of Obscura, Dark Fortress, Triptykon and other genre heavyweights. The fiery, finger-tapped solo that squiggles loose halfway through lead single “Clusterfuck” is crushed like an ant between colliding moons. But their new album finds the band playing around with all kinds of experiments. “The Cambrian Explosion” flips death metal on its horned head with seductive flurries of jazz and flamenco, while the title track is a dizzying seven-minute yarn of how a supermassive black hole came to burp up an unheard-of cosmic artifact that gives both the song – and the album – its name.
“We proudly present our third album ‘Numen’, says Alkaloid. “Where ‘The Malkuth Grimoire’ dealt with the rearrangement of existing particles into new forms
, and ‘Liquid Anatomy’ with the creation of new particles, this album looks at the universe from the perspective of imaginary deities detached altogether from the cycle of life and death of incarnated organisms. This hypothetical viewpoint is reflected on the scales of both biological and cosmological processes. If one could shape and manipulate life and the cosmos itself, how would one go about it, and what would it mean for everything in that cosmos?
1. Qliphosis (7:48)
2. The Cambrian Explosion (3:58)
3. Clusterfuck (6:00)
4. Shades of Shub-Niggurath (6:11)
5. A Fool’s Desire (8:10)
6. The Fungi From Yuggoth (6:06)
1. The Black Siren (Instrumental) (1:39)
2. Numen (Dyson VII) (7:03)
3. Recursion (Dyson VIII) (3:29)
4. The Folding (Dyson IX) (6:54)
5. Alpha Aur (13:23)
Progressive extreme metallers Alkaloid prepare to unfurl their new many-tentacled full-length, Numen via Season of Mist. Featuring members of Triptykon, Obscura, Dark Fortress, and Obsidious, the Germany-based quartet of Morean (vocals, guitars, concepts), Hannes Grossmann (drums), Christian Münzner (guitars), and Linus Klausenitzer (bass) construct upon, expand away from, and journey between previous full-lengths The Malkuth Grimoire (2015) and Liquid Anatomy (2018) on Numen. In every respect, Alkaloid recommence the purposeful warp of various metallic genres they dimensionally blur. Tracks like the video single for “Clusterfuck,” “The Cambrian Explosion,” and “Numen” posit heavy cosmological/Lovecraftian theoretic themes on top of musically-adept songs that are accessible yet undeniably intricate.
“We’ve all been around the block a few times by now as metal musicians,” says songsmith Morean. “The feeling that we’ve outgrown the narrow niche of pure extreme metal was a main motivator to start this band in the first place, ten years ago. The ‘prog’ tag is handy for us because, per definition, it already encompasses a wider range of possible styles and influences we can get away with than any one specific metal genre. This means we could ensure from the beginning that we’ll always be able to write whatever we want, no matter how crazy our ideas become. The heart of this band is always the songwriting, and we all like complex and virtuosic music in all its diverse manifestations. However, we do share a love for death metal as the smallest common denominator in the band, and we wanted to make sure no one thinks that just because we include melodies, clean guitars, and influences from other genres, we’d automatically sacrifice the brutality and relentless esthetic of extreme metal.”
Alkaloid formed in Bavaria in 2013. While the members, starting with Morean, were already ensconced or had partaken in activities with Necrophagist, Dark Fortress, and Obscura, they saw the band as an outlet of limitless expression, a vehicle for traversing miasmal worlds host to ancient squamous things residing in Cyclopean architecture. Indeed, Morean’s lyrical hard sci-fi subjects are as critical to the totality of Alkaloid as the music. Tracks like “Cthulhu” and “Carbon Phrases” (both from The Malkuth Grimoire), as well as video single “Azagthoth” and “Kernel Panic” (both from Liquid Anatomy), found critical acclaim not just with extreme metal enthusiasts the world over, but also the press, with Metal Hammer Germany calling Liquid Anatomy a “work of art” and Metal Injection enthusiastically stating the album was a “phenomenal juggernaut.” New album, Numen, will undoubtedly rise above its predecessors with its ubiquitous, thought-provoking sophistication.
“Every new Alkaloid album builds on the previous ones,” Morean says. “As we have different songwriters, we also have different stories and styles on every album, which develop in parallel and are picked up again on the next album. We didn’t know this yet back when we started out, but three albums in, we see different song cycles being created across albums; apparently, many of the stories we tell don’t want to end but lead us to new chapters that want to be written. Examples are: the sequence of ‘Funeral for a Continent’ from the first album, which asks the question of what’s under the Antarctic ice sheet, leading in a direct line to Cephalopods becoming the next dominant species on the planet on the second album, and turning into a space-faring race in this installment; the growing ‘portrait’ gallery of the Lovecraftian pantheon, where each of his deities is linked to real-world phenomena in cosmology and biology; and of course, the ever-growing Dyson saga that sketches a path how a galactic civilization is born and climbs to god-like levels.”
Numen was written during the pandemic, but it was planned long before the scourge of disease wracked humanity. As a result, the songwriting sessions were predictably not “in the room” but over the Internet after the band members had isolated and worked on their constituent parts. Demos flew back and forth. Then, Tunker left amicably for personal reasons. Alkaloid could’ve folded, but the close-knit group
soldiered on. They intensely relied on the professionalism and dependability of the collective to drive Numen to completion. The complications of the two years it took to sonically inscribe the album into aeonic vastness didn’t fragment the end result. Instead, the process accelerated Alkaloid’s lambent, eldritch explorations. “Clusterfuck,” “The Cambrian Explosion,” “Numen,” and “A Fool’s Desire” expertly bridge the past to the future, where Alkaloid’s originative, daedal storytelling captures (and holds hostage) the imagination.
“‘Clusterfuck’ is a rather moderate track for us,” says Morean. “It’s mid-tempo, not too long, pretty straightforward, has its brutal moments and a catchy chorus, and is the one track where the lyric is more philosophical and less based on imagery. ‘The Cambrian Explosion’ is a nod to tech death, even if we always work hard to escape that niche. Danny conceived it as a less cheerful cousin to ‘Alter Magnitudes,’ another hyper-condensed grenade of excessive shredding; Hannes and I then added elements you’d never find in tech death. ‘Numen’ then shines a light on how the ever-growing Dyson saga continues. Musically, it explores polyrhythms, extended sound design for the guitars, and a unique combination of ingredients that tell a gargantuan story of galactic architecture that needed to be reflected in the many complex layers of the music. ‘A Fool’s Desire’ offers yet another of our personalities, starting as a ballad that becomes an epic rock song before being inevitably ground up in blastbeats towards the end. It’s a perfect example of how Hannes’ songwriting focus these days is happy to sacrifice instrumental virtuosity in favor of an epic character, unashamedly embracing traditional metal without becoming banal in it or denying the other aspects of this band.”
The title, Numen, got its start at the dawning of Alkaloid. It’s a word that Morean fell in love with immediately, and he knew it had a place in his creative endeavors. Whereas The Malkuth Grimoire talked about combining existing elements into new structures, and Liquid Anatomy dealt with the creation of new elements, Numen tries to look at the universe from a kind of meta-perspective from an imaginary god, as if the space that everything happens in was given a voice and a role as observer and shaper of everything that happens. In it, sentient panspermic mycelia are swathed in Lovecraftian nastiness—like Shub-Niggurath and the Fungi from Yuggoth—while the new Dyson chapters interpret the aspiration to reach divinity rather literally, reshaping the entire galaxy by manipulating spacetime itself. Desperate to escape their doom, the Cephalopods from previous songs have returned, too. Numen is dense but not impenetrable. In fact, from the first moments of opener, “Qliphosis,” to the final contemplation of closer “Alpha Aur,” Alkaloid prove to be more charismatic than ever.
“I’m always most interested in the big picture,” Morean says. “Considering the size and depth of our universe, it is preposterous for dumb little ape-descendants like us to really get there, but I prefer to fail spectacularly in the attempt than to not try at all. You have to reach for the stars to reach the branches. I’d also presume that the only division between the physical and the spiritual world is in our knowledge and perception of it since I’m convinced it’s all part of the same world. Where science offers a wealth of objective understanding of the physical world, we’re still in the dark as far as the mind and soul are concerned. As an artist, I take my poetic license to fill in the blank spots at the edges of both domains and connect them in hopefully original and unexpected futuristic analogies. One development in the album concept is that I’m starting to be able to connect all those different story strands (which I started without much consideration for the future on the first album) with each other on this album, so finally, it’s all coming together in the same universe. And I see a plethora of grand new stories to be told in the future.”
Alkaloid technically recorded Numen individually, each member tracking their songs/parts at their respective homes. Getting everyone into Grossmann’s Mordor Sounds (Eternity’s End, Hannes Grossmann) simultaneously was logistically (and sometimes legally) impossible. So, the able-bodied drummer/producer took the pieces of Numen, stitching them together to form a cohesive, tenebrous whole. Grossman then invited Morean between government-mandated lockdowns to track his vocals. Numen was mixed at Mordor Sounds. What ostensibly started in 2021 finally concluded on the eve of 2022, with American mastering cognoscente Alan Douches (Cannibal Corpse, Death) reprising his Liquid
Anatomy role. “Clusterfuck,” “The Cambrian Explosion,” “Numen,” and “The Fungi from Yuggoth” not only sound intense and pyramided but also dynamically awesome.
“How it goes is you wake up, have a coffee, stand before the mike, and scream your guts out for sometimes 8-10 hours in a row until you forget even your name,” says Morean. “Make no mistake, though: we love the absolute concentration of the task at hand, and if we didn’t push ourselves to the absolute limit in everything we do with almost monk-like dedication, we wouldn’t feel we did our job. And we live for this, of course, so I hope we’ll still be doing this when we’re senile in wheelchairs wearing diapers and losing our dentures between takes. No money in the world can buy you the satisfaction of hearing an awesome finished mix of something you worked on for years in the privacy of your own head.”
Alkaloid’s next steps are to release Numen to an eagerly-anticipating world. From there, the Germans aim for traditional tours and unorthodox venues alike. In fact, Alkaloid are already booked to play at a science conference in Germany, as well as the Netherlands Bach Society, which orchestrates a weekend of festivals celebrating the work of Johann Sebastian Bach. The latter might come as a surprise, but not for Morean, whose off-Alkaloid profession is a classical composer for the likes of Netherlands Public Broadcasting (NPO), the Ricciotti Ensemble, the DoelenEnsemble, and others. He won the Paul Jacobs Memorial Award (2002) and was nominated for the Unesco International Rostrum of Composers (2010). Clearly, the backdrop of Alkaloid’s accomplished membership translates to the piquant, transformative qualities of Numen.
The Qliphoth stir!
Recording Studio: Mordor Sounds, Nürnberg, Germany.
Producer: Hannes Grossmann & Alkaloid.
Recording & mixing: Hannes Grossmann
Mastering: Alan Douches at West West Side Music studio in Hudson Valley, NY.
Adam Wallis, Cydney McQuillan-Grace, John Schaffer, Lauren Gill, Sara Robalo, Shannon Bedford
Additional choir tracks on “The Cambrian Explosion” and “Shades of Shub-Niggurath”
Former Alkaloid guitarist Danny Tunker contributed to “The Cambrian Explosion”
Artwork & photos: Christian Martin Weiss
Biography: Chris Dick
Coloured Vinyl (Gatefold)