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From The Wicker Man (1973) to Atlantean Kodex: Extreme music, alternative identities and the invention of paganism

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The German epic heavy/doom metal band Atlantean Kodex has written two concept albums based on the folklore and paganism of old Europe and the West: The Golden Bough and The White Goddess. The two albums owe their titles to two books that have influenced the rise of modern paganism, though they remain deeply problematical. In this article, I explore possibly the most important influence on Atlantean Kodex, which is also one of the most important influences on modern paganism: the 1973 horror film The Wicker Man. I discuss the ways in which the film uses the speculative folklore of Frazer and Graves to construct a set of invented traditions about paganism and its alternative, counter-Christian nature, which have made paganism appealing to extreme metal musicians and fans. In this discussion, I use examples from other metal bands and fans who have name-checked the themes and the traditions of the film. In discussing the folklore of the Wicker Man, I also explore the folk music used in the soundtrack, which has also contributed to the invention of modern paganism and extreme folk music. I conclude by suggesting that, although many pagans have adopted this extreme music and myth into their world-views, the myth of the Wicker Man is also used as a playful rejection of Christianity and its authority by those of a secular or humanist persuasion.
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Keywords: Atlantean Kodex; Iron Maiden; Paganism; The Wicker Man; folk; goth

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Leeds Beckett University

Publication date: March 1, 2020

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  • Metal Music Studies is the journal of the International Society for Metal Music Studies.

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