Exclusive Interview: Atarka talk Soilwork, Bloodstock and The Mountain!
Returning after a little time in the wilderness are imposing Birmingham Melodic Death Metal bruisers Atarka with a fresh plan for World domination, a new guitarist and a new EP. The first single from that record is one titled “Barbarian” which finds the band joined by a living legend, so ahead of the 14th April release of “The Mountain” we got talking to the band about what they have in store for us in the not too distant future…
It’s been three years since your 2020 debut “Sleeping Giant” so what can we expect from your April releasing EP “The Mountain“? How have those three years changed your outlook, the dynamic within the group and your idea of what the Atarka sound is? “When we released ‘Sleeping Giant’ we had the unfortunate luck to have set the release date just in time for UK lockdowns. It was frustrating not being able to play any shows in support of the release. We had such a great response in the underground live scene before that and it kind of took the wind out of our sails. But in that situation you can either sink down with it or push forward, so we set our goals with our next release.
All five of us just got super focused on what was coming next. We wanted to make new music that was an evolution of the Atarka sound and ‘The Mountain’ definitely achieved that. We collaborated a lot more on this than we did on our debut album, which i think helped us create a much bigger and more mature sound.”
When you wrote that first record, guitarist Daniel McCarthy was on board but exited stage left once it was complete to be subsequently replaced by Haydn Edwards. So having earned his stripes in the live arena, what did he bring to the King’s table in a writing capacity for the upcoming EP? “Dan actually left Atarka after ‘The Mountain’ was written and recorded because of health concerns. So it’s his writing contributions, riffs and guitar work you can hear on the upcoming EP. He was one of the co-founding members and a long time friend to us all, we parted on good terms and he’s still vocal in the current push for the EP behind the scenes. Being totally honest, without his work during the making of ‘The Mountain’ it probably wouldn’t have been completed by now.
Haydn came in as favour to cover a show we had booked when Dan had left, and we were so happy with his performance that we asked him to stay on full time and he happily agreed! So when it comes to his input in a writing capacity, we’re currently trying some new things for after ‘The Mountain’ and it’s already sounding like a further evolution of the Atarka sound”
The first single from the record is a juicy one in “Barbarian” which has a guest vocal appearance from Björn “Speed” Strid of Melodic Death Metal masters Soilwork in it. How did the collaboration come about? “Well, we grew up listening to the likes of Soilwork, In Flames, Dark Tranquillity and At The Gates – so to be completely honest, we were beside ourselves when we got the email from Björn saying he was quite keen to feature on the track. He was really easy to work with, and a consummate professional. He was very accommodating when it came to shooting his parts for the video too. Meeting your heroes is one thing, but working with them – that was a new one on us. As lifelong metal fans, it was a certainly a moment where we found each other pinching ourselves in disbelief”
Looking at the track listing and cover art for “The Mountain” it looks like the EP might be inspired by tales of Arnold Schwarzenegger in Conan The Barbarian or Red Sonja or perhaps even the Sega classic that is Golden Axe. Set us right, what were your inspirations for the record? “I think with the wide variety of media we all have access to these days, it’s easy to mix and blend so many different inspirations to get something quite unique. Anime such as ‘Berserk’, video games like ‘Elden Ring’, trading card games like ‘Magic: The Gathering’. We could list everything that has had a conscious or subconscious inspiration on this record but it truly is a big melting pot of so many different things.
The EP has a disjointed narrative, there is a story. It just doesn’t play out in order, chapter by chapter. The actual mountain in our story acts as a deity and coming of age ritual for a tribe of warriors from an ancient land. Young men are tasked with ascending the mountain and those who come back home are treated as protectors of the clan. Our protagonist reaches the summit as is met by a Lovecraftian outer god. He then returns to his tribe, not as a warrior but as a tyrant”
What’s the dream? How far would you like “The Mountain” to take you in its life cycle? Tech-Fest? Bloodstock? or do you have your sights set on opening for someone like Nekrogoblikon for 20 shows across Europe? “Our first ever show was for the Wolverhampton leg of Metal to the Masses back in 2019. We actually got to the final that year and I think it’s become a collective goal of ours to play Bloodstock now. Of course opening for any band that inspires us would be a dream come true too. Nekrogoblikon would be amazing, they’re such a great outfit and put on a great show. To be even considered for a tour like that would be an honour”
Aside from the EP release, what’s next for Atarka? “We just want to get out on the road and play as many venues in as many towns as we can. We’re always writing new music so if we get enough tracks that we’re happy with maybe we’ll release a second full length album, who knows? We’re just enjoying the response from the first single and looking forward to seeing what everyone thinks of the full EP on April 14th”