ETERNITY’S END “Embracing Eternity”
By Dr. Abner Mality
The German power metal tradition is a long and a noble one, stretching all the way back to the 80’s and the rise of HELLOWEEN and BLIND GUARDIAN. As the years have rolled on, though, things started to get just a little stale and maybe watered down with an over-emphasis on poppy melodies and symphonic elements. Enter ETERNITY’S END, a band that embraces the enduring trademarks of power metal but brings back some of the grit and thunder to the sound.
This is especially apparent on the band’s newest record, “Embers of War”, which fairly throbs and pulsates with huge riffs, brisk speed and ripping lead guitar work. The edge comes from the band’s guiding force, Christian Muenzner, an axe master who has made a name for himself in technical death metal band OBSCURA. In the following interview, Christian explains his clear vision for ETERNITY’S END and what makes it different...and superior...to most European power metal...
WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: Greetings to ETERNITY’S END! “Embers of War” is the third album from the band. What was the main goal you wanted to achieve with this one and what makes it different from previous albums?
CHRISTIAN MUENZNER: We wanted to create an album that was a little bit more immediate, aggressive and “in your face” than our first 2, embracing our classic 80’s Speed Metal influences more, with more focus on the riffs, which is why we dialed back the symphonic elements completely except for the big choirs - which, of course, are a big part of the ETERNITY’S END sound. We also wanted to have a better production, especially in terms of the drum and guitar sound compared to the last album, and I think we achieved that. I also think the new songs are a little bit catchier and less long-winded than the songs on “Unyielding”, without dialing back the technicality of the songs.
WC: A lot of European power metal tends to have a very polished, “shiny” sound, but the guitar on “Embers of War” has a lot of grit and heaviness to it. Was this a goal from the beginning or did it just happen naturally?
CM: It was definitely deliberate. To me the riffs are such an important aspect of metal music, and a lot of Euro Power Metal falls short in that regard. That is also why I see us closer to a lot of US Power Metal bands like HELSTAR, VICIOUS RUMORS, RIOT or SAVAGE GRACE than a big part of the European scene, although there are amazing bands too. The Euro element in our songs are probably mostly the big choruses and choirs and the neoclassical inspired lead guitar playing.
Shredding the Axe...
WC: I know you take a lot of influence from classical composers in your playing. Was there one particular composer that inspired the work here?
CM: My biggest influence is Johann Sebastian Bach, he started it all. A lot of the progressions, counterpoint riffs, arpeggio sequences, neoclassical passages and key modulations that I write are inspired by him. But there are no parts on the new album that are directly taken from a classical piece, everything was written by me, using the composition techniques I learned through studying J.S. Bach’s music. Another composer that has inspired me in recent years and whose influence you can detect on my last solo album “Path Of The Hero” as well as the current ETERNITY’S END album is G.F. Händel. He is another German composer from the baroque era. Some of his Harpsichord Suites sound like pure Heavy Metal.
WC: How do you guys compose songs? Are you (Christian) in the driver’s seat or is it more of a collaboration?
CM: On this new album as well as on our debut “The Fire Within” (2016) I wrote all the songs on my own, including all vocal melodies and lyrics. On “Unyielding” (2018) I collaborated a lot with our former guitarist Phil Tougas on the songs. Usually I do brainstorming of riffs and I keep big files where I store them. When I come up with a really strong riff or vocal melody or chord progression, I figure out the parameters, like the key and tempo it works in best, and then I continue brainstorming the best fitting parts, not limited to the parameters set from the first idea. I am usually very fast once I have one very strong idea, I write an entire song within 1-3 days very often. Sometimes it can take longer and I need to let something rest for a while before the best fitting ideas fall into place naturally. Then I make demos of the songs for the other guys in the band to hear and to record their parts to. I usually write the vocal melodies before I write the lyrics and then try to fit the syllables to the notes. I try not to sacrifice melody for lyrics and in that case rather compromise in favor of the melody.
WC: Do you find songwriting to be an easy process or does it take a lot of tearing apart and rebuilding to come up with the tracks?
CM: That differs a lot. Sometimes I find it very easy, sometimes it takes longer. For example, for this new album I wrote the songs “Call Of The Valkyries”, the title track “Embers Of War”, the Japanese bonus track “In The Wake Of The Carrion King” as well as 2 other songs that did not make it on the album within a time frame of only 5-6 days between Christmas and New Year 2019. I was just inspired and could not stop writing, sometimes forgetting to sleep or to eat. Other times it can take longer, songs like “Shaded Heart” or “Arcturus Prime” took me longer to finish and sometimes I needed to get away from them for a couple of days and get back to them later. The hardest part is usually to find that one initial strong and catchy idea, once that is there finding the rest of the song is for the most part rather easy for me, but sometimes I just may not have a strong idea for weeks or even months.
WC: You had some pretty cool lyrical influences on the album. I understand “Hyperion” by Dan Simmons was the source for one song. Let us know more about that particular song and how it relates to the novel.
CM: I always loved that novel series for its complexity and crazy creative ideas, from the Shrike and the Timetombs to the Singularity and Farcaster systems and the trees of life, it’s just overflowing with creativity and crazy ideas. “Arcturus Prime” is loosely based on the 2nd book of the series, “The Fall Of Hyperion”, and describes how the A.I. which has developed to a god like state threatens humanity and resides in the Farcaster portals that people use to travel between the different worlds of the Hegemony. The A.I. can only be fought by destroying the Farcaster system and thus ultimately ends the way of life for humans as travel between the worlds would otherwise take many, many, years. The name “Arcturus Prime” though does not come from the novel, I have taken some liberties with it, that name is actually a moon from the Isaac Asimov world.
WC: Could you see ETERNITY’S END doing a concept album revolving around one single story?
CM: We already did that on our 2nd album “Unyielding”. It was a concept album about an alien spacecraft crashing on Earth in an alternate timeline, where the barbaric and socially not very developed inhabitants of the planet then make use of the technology they discover in the crashed spaceship and start to wreak havoc across the universe. That said alien race takes note and starts an intergalactic war with the inhabitants of Earth to stop their expansion across the cosmos.
WC: The keyboard work on the album is pretty subtle, not as upfront as it is on most power metal albums. Could you see keys taking more of a part in the music or maybe even adding a full-time keyboardist?
CM: We did have a full time keyboard player on our first 2 albums, even with keyboard solos. His name is Jimmy Pitts, he is one of my best friends, but he lives in the USA. I still love key solos, but when we decided to turn ETERNITY’S END into a full European based band it was impossible to find a keyboard player here who was into that music and able to play the way we need it. Since we completely reduced the keyboard arrangements anyway and some songs do not have keys anymore at all we decided to go without a keyboard player from now on. If we play songs from the first 2 albums live we will sample the keyboards. The new songs developed naturally the way they did and because of their riff dominated nature there was just no place for keyboard arrangements. But even on our first 2 albums we were grittier than the average Euro Power band. I have never been a fan of overly symphonic or fluffy stuff, many bands put the keys so much upfront that they take away a lot from the guitars and the riffs and the heaviness of the music and it often resembles something I would call Walt Disney Metal. Nothing wrong with it, but it’s not what we do. We have always been a guitar centered band. I don’t think we will bring back a full time keyboard player to EE at this point, but the future is not written yet and you never know.
WC: The cover art on “Embers” is obviously sci-fi influenced. What’s the story behind the picture?
CM: I have always been a fan of both Sword & Sorcery stories, movies and aesthetics as well as 80’s Science Fiction. Our lyrics are inspired by both of these genres. That’s why I always loved the aesthetics of the original Masters Of The Universe series, because it combined elements of both worlds. So I wanted to have a cover that represents both worlds and I developed the concept for it. What you see on the cover is a scene from the title track. The warrior with the long white hair is inspired by Elric Of Melnibone, the robot he is fighting is a mix of a robot Thor and the Shrike from the Hyperion saga. In the background you see a gothic cathedral burning and spaceships invading. I described the scene to Dimitar, and since he is into a lot of the same sci-fi and fantasy characters as I am he instantly understood the vision. It is painted in acrylic colours and not digital. Too many power metal bands these days rely on digital art and it all looks the same, we wanted more 80’s aesthetics with this.
WC: How did the Covid pandemic affect the writing of “Embers of War”?
CM: It took a lot of pressure off and gave me a lot of time to fine tune details and spend time on the songs. Since there was no chance of live shows happening anyway and no outside appointments to go to, it made me a lot more relaxed and chill when writing, even though the situation as a whole is rather dark and unpleasant.
WC: Do you guys have the chance to play live much? Any live plans for 2022?
CM: We have never played live with ETERNITY’S END so far. In the past it was not possible because everyone was spread out across different continents. Nowadays it would logistically be a lot easier since we are all based in Europe and I would love to play live with ETERNITY’S END if we get the chance. But the way the music business is, you always have to work your way up from zero, investing, playing shows for free or for food and beer, being treated like a dog, in the hope that one day you will be able to at least get your costs covered, and since I am not 20 anymore I am not doing this anymore. I will only do live shows that make sense financially, and if we’re not well known enough for that I will accept it and simply not play and just continue to make new albums, which I find much more important and rewarding anyway. We have a couple of things on the horizon for 2022, but of course the still ongoing pandemic makes it difficult to plan anything 100%.
WC: Your other band OBSCURA also just released a new album. With that being on Nuclear Blast, does that mean OBSCURA takes precedence over ETERNITY’S END?
CM: Well, ETERNITY’S END will always exist as long as I am alive and still have something to say musically and it is my own band that I started and my own vision. I always stick to what is confirmed first. If I confirm a show or a tour with one of the bands and the wheels are in motion, I can’t just pull out of that. But if that is the case and at the same time another show offer that is too good for either of the bands to be turned down, ETERNITY’S END or OBSCURA will in that case play with a session player. But of course OBSCURA is the way more established band and since I am making a living off of music my main focus for the live sector is on OBSCURA.
WC: If you could ask any 3 people from history to dinner, who would they be?
CM: Johann Sebastian Bach, Fyodor Dostojevski and Jimi Hendrix.
WC: What was the last release you picked up for your own enjoyment?
CM: I think that was “Legacy Of Atlantean Kings” by CAULDRON BORN.
WC: Has ETERNITY’S END ever had a “Spinal Tap” moment where things went crazy that you could share with us?
CM: Well, not really with ETERNITY’S END because we have not toured or played live yet, we have only been together in the same room as a band for one day recently when we filmed our first music video. However, there were lots of Spinal Tap moments on tour with other bands. One time Steffen and I got arrested in the USA on one of the OBSCURA tours in 2009 because we were walking through a McDrive that was close to the hotel when we got hungry in the night and we were imitating the sound of a car as we did so, and so someone called the police. Another time I got stuck in the seatbelt of the van we were touring in while I was sleeping and could not get out anymore without our technician cutting open the belt. Lots of dumb things happened over the years, I could probably write a book about all of that one day.
WC: Any last words for the fans?
CM: Thank you to everyone who supports ETERNITY’S END and helped to spread the word, who bought our album or said something nice about us. We take none of this for granted and appreciate each and every one of you!