Eternity’s End – As Embers FadeThursday, 30th December 2021
Taking power/progressive metal to intricate levels of neoclassical / shred measures, Eternity’s End arrive at their third album for Embers of War. Combining a love of fantasy, science fiction, and horror on the lyrical level with music that pushes the tempos, riffs, hooks, melodies, and harmonies to superior performance levels, it’s a magical combination that rarely rears itself in today’s scene. Embers of War is the group’s third album, featuring seasoned players who give their all for the cause.
Once again, we reached out to guitarist Christian Muenzner to bring us up to speed on the lineup changes, label shift, songwriting process, extra assist from Piet Sielck of Iron Savior for the choirs and what he brings to help the final record, plus thoughts on his prolific workload during the pandemic between Obscura, Paradox, and his own work – and hopes for the future plus underrated bands/albums to look into.
Dead Rhetoric: Embers of War is the third Eternity’s End album – and third record on another label as you moved up to Prosthetic Records. What are your thoughts on the songwriting and recording sessions for this effort – and where do you see this record slotting in the catalog compared to the first two records?
Christian Muenzner: The reason we switched that many labels that many times is because the first one Power Prog… was a bit unprofessional and they ended up going bankrupt. Ram It Down is a very good company, but then we got the offer from Prosthetic, they are a little bit bigger, and they can do more for us, so we switched to that one.
In terms of the songwriting, I don’t think it was that different from the last two (albums). I always try to have a spontaneous approach when it comes to the writing. I don’t like to overthink things or analyze and over plan things. The first song I wrote for this album was “Deathrider”, and I wrote that in 2019. And from there the ideas came to me very quickly. The big difference compared to the last album is the lineup change with Phil not being here, and I had written a lot of new songs before the lineup that’s here now in the form that it is. I did everything on my own this time, writing the music, lyrics, vocal melodies – in that sense it has more of a similar approach that we had on the first album.
Dead Rhetoric: “Hounds of Tindalos” seems to have the spirit and feel in the main guitar riffs and harmony angles as a tribute to the work of classic Running Wild and other domestic Teutonic acts put through a neoclassical/Shrapnel lens. What can you tell us regarding the development of this song?
Muenzner: Yes, that’s true. I’ve always been a big fan of Running Wild. I am a fan of their 90’s catalog, albums like Black Hand Inn and Masquerade, those are my favorite. A lot of that song was influenced by my love of Running Wild, and as you said the idea was to combine that with the neoclassical/Shrapnel approach with the riffs and solo approach. Even though I would say this Running Wild influence isn’t totally new to our sound, there are other songs like “Triumphant Ascent” from the Unyielding album had that influence as well as “Beyond the Gates of Salvation”, although it may not have been as obvious. This kind of music of the neoclassical elements on the first album with the more German kind of sound, makes it a little bit different and unique compared to other bands in this style. When I write these things, I don’t really have any rules, but generally I am thinking that I take the things that I worship and gradually move away from them to carve our own niche with our influences – German influences like Running Wild, Helloween, Scanner, Heaven’s Gate. That’s a big element of our sound on this new album, a lot more than the previous albums.
Dead Rhetoric: Tell us about the lineup shifts with bassist Linus Klausenitzer returning and the addition of second guitarist Justin Hombach – and what do you enjoy most about the styles and abilities of these players for this outfit?
Muenzner: The main reason for the lineup change is I wanted to move Eternity’s End from being an online project to a touring band, getting together and playing live shows together. Apart from the fact that I have known these guys for a long time, there is a good chemistry, there is also the logistical thing with location and we all live closer to each other. Linus is one of the best bassists I’ve ever worked with, he is a professional and can play in any style I ask him to work within, he knows a lot of theory so I don’t have to explain a lot of things to him. He works very fast and has a very good sound. It was super easy. He’s very reliable. It’s the same with Justin – he’s an amazing player technically. He plays a little differently from me, which is good as you can tell the differences in style between his and mine. He also helps us a lot with the band’s social media, he’s good with the video stuff and he knows how to help promote the band, especially when you are a smaller band, and you don’t have a bigger label backing you up.
Dead Rhetoric: How did you decide upon the fantasy, horror, and science fiction-oriented story line for this record – as you take inspiration from various authors like Michael Moorcock, Robert E. Howard, Frank Belknap, and Dan Simmons among others?
Muenzner: I have always been a big fan of fantasy, horror, and science fiction. At one point in my life I actually wanted to become a writer, but music took over most of my life. I hope to still be able to do this one day. It’s something I’ve always been interested. The thing with power metal is it’s always had this kind of escapist kind of life to me, it has the ability to take people to another world, far away from their daily realities. I always thought this kind of fantasy, science fiction element is a very good fit with the music. The stories have these dark kind of feelings. There aren’t too many bands that bring this kind of style within the power metal realm – especially the darker stories. I write the songs, the riffs and vocal melodies, but the vocal melodies exist at first without the storyline. Then I think of the storyline, and I don’t force the words into things. I always notice when something is able to work by itself, and then I know I am on the right track.
I think we will continue to do this more in the future. Hopefully there will be stories that I can develop on my own and write a novel one day down the line. Something like Howie Bentley, he has a band with Cauldron Born but he also writes his own swords and sorcery novels. Or maybe even do a concept album, a King Diamond-ish kind of horror story, something like that.
Dead Rhetoric: How was it to work with Piet from Iron Savior on the choir stuff for this record?
Muenzner: We worked together before on Unyielding, this time he only did the choirs. He is a big help, I am not a vocalist myself. I may sing like scratch demos, mostly like an octave lower. I don’t have the same experience that Piet has, it’s a big help. He will let me know if I have too many words for the choir to sing, it sounds better if you take things out a bit. He will talk to me about phrasing and arrangements, and he works very fast with this stuff. He has decades of experience, he has worked with Iron Savior, he has worked in the past with choirs with Blind Guardian and other bands. When I work with someone like Piet, I trust his judgment and there is no arguing going on. When he says I think there are too many words, or make a change, I trust him. He made little changes, and all the changes he made sounded better. When it comes to the vocals I am very happy to work with someone whose experience I value. I hope to work with him again, we’ll see.
Dead Rhetoric: What can you tell us about the cover art this time? You’ve worked with the same artist over the last two albums as well, I take it you enjoy his work?
Muenzner: Yes, the concept came from my mind, I described it to the artist. What I wanted to do, we have influences of the dark fantasy and these 80’s science fiction aesthetics. I wanted to combine the elements of both. You see these two characters on the cover fighting, the muscular dude with the white hair is based on the Elric character, he is the main character in “Bane of the Blacksword” and the other character is based on the Dan Simmons Hyperion saga, these two characters come from two different worlds and you see in the background this medieval castle. The idea was to combine those aesthetics – and Dimitar Nikolov the artist is also a big fan of these styles. He put my vision to life – he liked the digital idea so much he offered to do a hand drawn version, which I liked a lot. In power metal, a lot of the digital art looks all the same. We did a hand drawn cover for Unyielding, and I am very happy that he wanted to work this way again for Embers of War.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you consider the biggest challenges right now for Eternity’s End in terms of establishing more of a foothold and footprint in the scene with your music?
Muenzner: There are a couple of challenges. The first real challenge is to get recognized as a real band. Because we have this impression as an online project. We’ve never played live so far, so it’s difficult to get booked by promoters and agents as we are now on album number three. I am pretty positive though that in 2022 we will be playing live. To make people see that we are a real band. Once we have a couple of live gigs, it will become easier to have more shows down the road. We want to get together, rehearse, and be able to tour. It’s quite difficult for smaller bands, there isn’t a lot of money in the scene, and the offers are tough. It’s much easier now though compared to having band members spread out over the continents.
The other thing is, with our style, we are stuck between two universes. We are in a power metal style, but aren’t as poppy, which I have nothing in common with. The other popular style is the New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal, which I like a lot. But for this kind of scene we may be a bit too bombastic with the choirs. We are in between, and we don’t fit into a preexisting niche, even though we do our own music. We may be too heavy or technical for fans who like the smoother type of power metal. We align more with the American power metal bands like Riot or German bands like Running Wild, Scanner with the neoclassical element. It doesn’t fit in with most of the niches that sell well nowadays. It means that people may not necessarily take the time to check us out as much as they would if we fit in that niche. They will ignore us because they expect something else.
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve also returned to Obscura and Paradox after a few years away from both acts. How are you able to handle the workload and do you enjoy the ability to spread your talent and skillsets out through various genres in the metal realm?
Muenzner: Yes. I enjoy this a lot because I enjoy so many different styles of music, not just doing one thing. I am very happy; I am able to express myself in so many different outfits. I put my own stamp and influence this time on the new Obscura album, and with Paradox I was able to do long solo parts and some key changes. The reason I was able to be so productive was because of the COVID-19 lockdowns. There were no live shows. If Obscura had touring that took place in 2020-21, I wouldn’t have been able to be as productive. For eighteen months I was constantly recording and writing for these things simultaneously. It was enjoyable because every morning I would be excited to work on something, solos, and performances for the three albums. Towards the end, and now with the promotional activities, it’s a little stressful. I hope next time the activities may be spread out a little bit more, and not all fall together. The Paradox album was released last month, Obscura and Eternity’s End’s albums are being released around the same time. Last year it was possible, even with my teaching schedule.
Even when an album is completed, it doesn’t mean the work is over because of the promotional side of things. We have lots of playthroughs for the bands, interviews, lots of stuff happening. It can be a full-time job just on this alone, but I couldn’t make a living without the teaching.
Dead Rhetoric: Outside of your music activities, how did you handle the downtime due to the pandemic? Did you gain any new hobbies, interests, or passions that you put time and energy into beyond your music endeavors?
Muenzner: Not really, there wasn’t any time. I have been writing and recording nonstop. I like to go out and do mountain biking and hiking, which I still do a lot in my home area. I like getting away from everything when I need to clear my mind. I still like reading a lot, watching horror movies from the 70’s and 80’s, and reading a lot of novels. My interests haven’t really changed. I was working on music 95% of the time. I have never been bored – I can’t remember the last time I experienced boredom. I can’t really understand when people say they are bored, I wished I had five times the amount of time available. I have so many things planned now, I may not be able to finish everything that I want to.
Dead Rhetoric: Now that you are 40, what do you want to be able to accomplish more as a guitar player and songwriter that will push you into the next segment of your career that you haven’t yet achieved during your twenties and thirties?
Muenzner: I feel like in my twenties I lost a little bit of my time because I didn’t really make full use of my time. I only released three albums when I was in my twenties. I really tried to make up for that in my thirties. And I’ve been more productive over the last few years. I think I have done twelve or thirteen albums in my thirties. I have accomplished most of what I’ve wanted to do – I wanted to make a solo album, I’ve made three solo albums. I wanted to have a power metal band – I have three albums with that band. I have had some commercial success with Obscura. This is also very cool. Artistically I have achieved what I wanted to, got a lot of positive feedback from fellow musicians. I like being recognized as an equal by peers. It’s very difficult to monetize when you are playing extreme music. I would like to make more money with the music, which would help me focus more on the writing. I would never change my music in order to appeal to a bigger audience. With Eternity’s End, I still feel there is some potential to appeal to people who wouldn’t normal like this music. Everything that happens career-wise now is just a bonus, you know? I would like to get bigger shows, but if it’s not possible, I’m happy doing what I’m doing right now. I don’t know if there will be another solo album, but I’d like the bands I’m involved with to get a bit bigger and still continue what I’m doing now.
Dead Rhetoric: Where do you see the state of power, progressive, and speed metal worldwide in 2021? Do you believe there is even more of an interest in younger musicians and bands putting their take and stamp on things, especially given the nostalgia factor of the original movement of artists from the 80’s and 90’s who developed these styles?
Muenzner: That’s a good question that I think about. On the one hand, I see this Tik Tok and Instagram world, the younger generation isn’t into full songs as much as watching twenty second clips. But on the other hand, there is this new wave of traditional heavy metal movement, and these musicians are in their early to mid-20’s. It’s really hard to tell. I have no idea with the bands I’m in what type of age demographic we appeal to. I remember in Obscura ten years ago the fans of our band were in their late 20’s – are they still with us in their late 30’s?
Are there any younger fans into our work, or has the entire audience just aged along with us? I don’t really know. I like to believe this passion for this music never goes away and there will always be younger kids into that. I don’t think it will ever be as big as it was in the 80’s, there are so many bands nowadays and its easier with home recording to make more music. Nowadays as a musician what you need is a working man image – it’s not glamorous and it’s really hard work. You put a lot more hours into this than what you are actually paid for, but it’s about the passion. What I think is cool nowadays the people who are playing the music, it’s for the passion. The new wave gives me a lot of hope.
Dead Rhetoric: What have you changed your mind about the most over the last three to five years – and why?
Muenzner: That’s an interesting question. For me, personally, a big change or shift in the last two or three years now is I feel a lot more grounded in the time before that. I went through a pretty rough time around 2016-17, and now I feel a lot more self-confident than ever before and accomplished. My outlook on life has changed. A lot of things happen in your late thirties and early forties where your perception changes. It’s like halftime for your life, you are recharging. In my twenties for example I was just searching for things, meaning in life. There was always this element of doubt creeping in. I don’t regret any decisions in my life though, I feel happy that I am able to do what I do. I feel a lot calmer now, less anxious and less rushed. I feel more grateful for what I have nowadays, grateful to be living where I live. I’ve come to a little more peace now. That’s a very positive and very good feeling.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you consider a few of the most underrated albums or bands in the history of music – metal or otherwise?
Muenzner: There are so many of them. For me personally, what’s very underrated is the Tony Martin-era of Black Sabbath. I love the work of that era, a lot of people look beyond the albums like Headless Cross, Tyr, Eternal Idol. That is some of the best music ever released. There is a lot more. Late 80’s bands, tech thrash bands that were far ahead of their time. Target from Belgium, Holy Moses from Germany, Helstar- Nosferatu, Toxik – Think This. I think a lot of the instrumental albums from the 90’s are underrated – guitar fans mention the 80’s albums by Tony MacAlpine but he released some great albums in the 90’s like Premonition and Evolution. I could go on and on. The first two Scanner albums, none of this stuff is talked about as much as it should be. Elegy in the 90’s- the Dutch band with Ian Parry, their catalog is very underrated. I think these are some things that deserve more attention.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the horizon for Eternity’s End and other musical projects/bands over the next twelve months?
Muenzner: For now, we want to play live. There will be tours scheduled for 2022. We have a couple of shows lined up for next spring. It’s the next big thing for us to present ourselves on stage. After recording the next Alkaloid album, it will be more about playing live. I will record ideas when I feel the time is right. We aren’t really in songwriting mode with any of the bands right now. Maybe we will do a cover song down the line.