Eternity’s End – Let the Fire Burn Part IWednesday, 11th May 2016
German guitarist Christian Münzner has established his proficient skill set through a number of heavier avenues in his career – probably best known for his work in the technical/progressive death metal band Obscura. Unfortunately having to step down following the recording sessions for Omnivium due to focal dystonia (a condition that impairs the coordination between his index and middle fingers) as well as the band’s half a year plus touring schedule, this doesn’t mean the man has been resting on his creative laurels. Currently balancing his guitar teaching duties with work in Alkaloid, his instrumental solo output, and this newer band neo-classical oriented power/progressive metal act Eternity’s End, Christian has plenty of ideas and songs to impress upon his steady fan base.
Eternity’s End debut album The Fire Within is probably one of the heaviest takes on the genre in quite some time – melodic without sacrificing crunch or tone, smart breaks from both the keyboard and guitar perspectives and maintain that sense of atmosphere and grit that most people prefer in heavy metal. Seeking out Christian for deeper discussion, this 45 minute plus conversation delves deep into a number of topics not only related to his output, but also his thoughts on focal dystonia, crowdfunding, guitar technique and individuality, and philosophy beyond the expected music talk. Another engaging talk that should leave you yearning to hear the man’s abilities on record or on stage.
Dead Rhetoric: Growing up around classical music and picking up the piano in your younger years, how did you end up eventually gravitating to the guitar and heavy metal? Did you have a lot of formal training as well as support from your family?
Christian Münzner: It was basically like that. My parents wanted me to play the piano so I started on that when I was 5. I grew up around them playing classical music all the time, everyone in my family. I wasn’t really interested in the piano at that age, so I stopped for a little while. When I got into playing the electric guitar, it was more through the discovery of heavy metal bands like AC/DC, Iron Maiden, and those bands- wanting to play from there. Later on when my friends introduced me to Yngwie Malmsteen suddenly the intellectual approach I grew up around from classical music aligned with the attitude and energy of heavy metal. That was a major influence for me- I did have some formal training of course from the classical lessons I had as a kid, and then I had a private guitar teacher from 12 years old onward. Later on I studied at the Munich Guitar Institute, and I learned a lot of theory there. So I did have a lot of formal training as well.
Dead Rhetoric: How difficult was it for you to walk away from Obscura following the Omnivium recording sessions because of your focal dystonia? And how did you discover what happened – plus is it a type of condition that develops all of a sudden or over a sustained period of time?
Münzner: Right. This condition basically develops over a longer time, and it’s basically degenerative. Especially when you are not working on improvement with your hand. I noticed I had some problems when we were recording Cosmogenesis, things I had to adjust because I just couldn’t play with my fingers the same anymore, the way I used to play them. I used to think it was due to a lack of practice, because of touring and recording- so I started practicing more and things eventually started getting worse and I used more and more compensating techniques. It took me three years until I got diagnosed because I went to see several different doctors and they just didn’t know what it was. There’s only one leading specialist in Germany who works with that condition. Once I got diagnosed I felt a little bit better, because once I knew the reasons were, I knew what I could do to prevent it from spreading further, and I’m on a journey to improve the condition which takes a lot of energy and a very long time.
It wasn’t really easy for me to walk away from Obscura because it wasn’t that I couldn’t play the stuff anymore, it was the busy touring schedule of 5-8 months of the year, playing shows every night of highly technically demanding stuff- I just noticed if I kept doing that, the condition will get worse and keep spreading and I wouldn’t be able to work against it. The band was at a commercial peak, touring worldwide, and I was doing what I wanted to do for all of my life. I just didn’t want to throw it away, I was in denial and felt that I could just keep doing both things at the time- working on my re-training and keep my career. The touring got more and more exhausting, I noticed when we were off touring and home for a long time that I could drastically improve my condition. I think my guitar playing has been better now than it has been at times in the last ten years. If I had to tour for half the year, it wouldn’t be possible to do the necessary steps to keep my playing in shape and actually improve the condition.
When I made the decision it felt quite easy for me. Not only could I work more on my condition, but do my own projects. At the moment I’m not missing the intense touring, I’m very happy teaching at home and playing occasional gigs, recording my own music with my own band as well as my solo stuff. Being able to do what I have to do to improve my condition.
Dead Rhetoric: Have you had a chance to check out Akroasis, the latest Obscura record- and if so I’m curious to know your thoughts?
Münzner: I listened to it once or twice, the guys sent it to me. I think it’s a cool album, I really like the guitar playing as the new playing brings some fresh elements to the band. To me it’s a little bit closer to what we did on Cosmogenesis than what we did on Omnivium. My first impression although I don’t have objective distance because I was involved in the two previous Obscura albums, one thing that struck me on the new album is that in my opinion it was lacking a little bit in the hooks that get stuck in your head the first time listening to it. If I listen to the album a little bit more I might detect those parts more. It’s a really good album.
Dead Rhetoric: Eternity’s End is a departure from your heavier death past discography and a very strong neo-classical power/progressive metal record. Tell us how this band came into being and how you assembled the musicians to take part in this?
Münzner: A band like this was my dream since the 1990’s. I’m way more of a power metal guy, neo-classical traditional metal guy than a death metal guy, it was just that I got stuck in that scene since the late 90’s. Usually it was a problem from the early days to find a really good singer for that type of music. It was a big reason why I ended up playing the death metal style- this neo-classical influence has been there as well in my death metal recordings. Eternity’s End has been my dream for a very long time, so when I departed from Obscura I got really inspired to write the album that I’ve wanted to write for 20 years. The first lineup was intended to be completely different from the one that is on the album. Linus (Klausenitzer) the bass player was already in the original lineup, but there was a different drummer, keyboard player and singer- and it didn’t work out in the end due to time scheduling conflicts and logistic reasons. I asked Hannes (Grossmann) if he would record the drums because I know his style and he’s very reliable, he records really fast. Jimmy Pitts the keyboard player played on my last solo record and I really liked his style and playing, the team works so well. I knew people who were well suited for the job and when I sent them the songs they were really into it.
That came together really quick- but it was rather difficult to find the right singer to fit the group. I wanted to have someone with more of that Dio/ David Coverdale thing, a little bit more of that voice and not so much the Michael Kiske kind of stuff. It’s really difficult because in our generation there are not that many people anymore who can sing like that, good singers with a well-trained voice. I listened to different singers I liked over the years and Ian…I wasn’t aware if he would be interested in doing new things, I knew what he had done with Elegy. My friend guitarist Mike Abdow, who has played guitar for Fates Warning on the last couple of tours, he knew Ian because he sang in one of the support bands on tour called Headless. Mike recommended Ian to me, even though I was really familiar with his older stuff I didn’t consider contacting him because I didn’t know if he would be up for it. After Mike recommended me I contacted him and sent him the songs and he was really into it. I think he’s the perfect man for the job- I can’t imagine the songs with a different singer. He has a very unique style – I like the bluesy aspect that he brings together. It took me a couple of months to find the right singer.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you believe a stellar, seasoned vocalist like ex-Elegy’s Ian Parry brings to Eternity’s End that pushes certain songs like “White Lies” and “The Dark Tower” into superstar ranks, as those were two of the standouts to these ears?
Münzner: Thank you Matt. I think he has a lot of feel that he conveys in his vocals- it’s a very narrative style that is retelling the story of the lyrics. He has a dynamic style compared to many power metal singers in Europe, he still has those rock influences from singers of the 70’s like David Coverdale and Dio but he can also do the falsetto stuff. To me one of the strongest points of his vocal style is the dynamics that he brings into it- that really make you feel that he’s totally living the lyrics and telling the story of the songs.
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