2018 is not over yet! On December 26th Eternity’s End will release their second studio album called Unyielding. PowerMetal.no had a talk with the founder Christian Muenzner about the bands history, the new line-up and of course the new album.
You founded the band back in 2014. Before that you’ve played in a handful of bands; what made you found Eternity’s End in the first place – what was the “idea” behind the band?
Christian: In all my previous bands, I was mainly a side man. In bands like Obscura and Alkaloid I also wrote songs or contributed riffs to the band, while in bands like Necrophagist, Spawn Of Possession or Paradox I basically only played guitar and did my solos.
I wanted to have a band that is completely my own band and completely revolves around my ideas and concept. Although I am mainly known for playing in death metal bands, I have always favoured the more classic, traditional forms of metal from the 80’s and 90’s, classic heavy/power/speed/epic/progressive metal, with a powerful clean vocalist and a more melodic approach to the song writing and guitar playing.
Eternity’s End is the band I dreamed of doing since the mid/late 90’s when I got into the more high skilled forms of guitar playing and all those bands who had a more technical, over the top approach to the power metal thing popped up. Ssomething that has gotten lost nowadays and many bands in the genre sound more like watered down AOR bands to me, but that’s another story.
Back in the day I lacked the skill and experience to do a band in that style on the level we do it nowadays, and I always had a busy schedule with all the bands I was involved in. But it wasn’t satisfying to me anymore to mainly play music which was mainly someone else’s vision and I decided it’s time to do my own thing.
You released the debut album, The Fire Within in 2016. On the bands bio it says that the album “did not get the support it needed due to the band’s former label vanishing”. Can you tell me a bit about that?
Christian: Shortly after the release of the album, a couple of months maybe, the label owner disappeared. It was not possible to contact him anymore; he did not respond to e-mails, WhatsApp, Facebook etc. After many months, he sent an e-mail to all the bands telling that he suffers from burn out syndrome and they will close down the company. One of his co-workers was supposed to handle all the contract issues and make sure all bands at least still get paid their royalties – which never happened. They are still in debt to me for a few thousand euros which I will never see again. The same thing happened with all the other bands.
After a while the new person in charge did also no longer react to any contact attempts from anyone. It was all handled very unprofessionally. The rights went back to ourselves since they broke many clauses in the contract, and we continued selling the album ourselves through Bandcamp.
In Japan the album was handled by Avalon/Marquee, and they did an excellent job and promoted the album really well. And because of that the album did really well in Japan. While the label in Europe still existed, they did absolutely nothing except for a few Facebook posts and a YouTube channel. There were no features, advertisements or even reviews in any of the print media, we got no interviews, nothing. It was all a very disappointing experience.
While the album didn’t get the support it needed, it did get good reviews from fans and journalists. Was that one of the reasons why you decided to keep going?
Christian: This is true. The majority of people who heard it and are into that style of music loved the album, and the large majority of the reviews was overwhelming. We built a modest, but very dedicated and faithful fan base. I figured it was mostly people who are into the same things that I like musically, and who understood the vision, who really liked the album. Of course, a part of my fan group are people who only like death metal and don’t like anything that has clean singing and no blast beats, so of course the album did not grab their attention. But fans of the neoclassical, technical power metal thing all loved it, also people who mainly liked me for my guitar playing.
Of course, this was a big motivation to continue with the band. I feel we have the potential to reach beyond the small underground niche we are currently in, but the main reason to keep going was that new song ideas came to me. When that happens it’s not really a deliberate process, it just comes to me. I felt the drive again to write new songs because those ideas just popped up in my head and I started hearing entire songs in my mind, even when I wasn’t playing guitar.
When you start a band of that kind and in that genre in 2014 you don’t do it with dreams of glory, fame and money in mind. I think that should never be the intention when playing heavy metal; it’s something that comes from deeper within and that you just feel the need to do, regardless if 20 people or 200.000 people like it. So as long as I still feel I have something to say, something to express musically, I will continue to make records as long as it’s possible to finance it, regardless of the commercial success – which is mainly an online gratification success if we’re honest these days , as there is no serious money involved anymore for starting band in that scene.
And at the time you started working on the second album, the band’s line-up was completed with Phil Tougas, Iuri Sanson and Mike Lepond. What was the reason for this line-up change? And how did you end up with these guys?
Christian: The songs in Eternity’s End were always written for a 2-guitarist situation. All songs on The Fire Within were already written for 2 guitars and I always knew if we ever play live – which we haven’t yet up to this point, I would need a second guitarist to perform the songs live. T
he twin guitar harmonies and counterpointual riffs are essential for my vision. Phil is an amazing guitarist and songwriter with an incredible knowledge about metal, and our tastes and influences, as well as our entire philosophy about metal and towards writing and playing music, is the same. I have been following what he did for quite some time and we have always thought that at one point in time it would be cool to have a band or at least a project together. Even more so after I did a guest solo duel with him on the album Dasein  by his band First Fragment, we both thought we have to do this more often.
After I had finished the demos of the first 2 songs and noticed how heavy the emphasis was on harmony leads this time, I thought it would be much cooler to really have a 2-guitarist band also on the album. I have always loved the twin guitar approaches of bands like Racer X, Cacophony, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Helloween, Mercyful Fate, Hibria, Gamma Ray, Crimson Glory, Helstar, Angra etc. And after I made a Facebook post stating that the new demos made me consider adding a second guitarist to the line-up, Phil said, jokingly: «hey, I’m available». Then we were like, yeah it was a joke, but let’s think about how epic this would be if we did an entire album after our collaboration on Dasein, and we gave it a shot. Not only does Phil have the perfect soloing style for this type of band, but he is also a phenomenal riffer and songwriter, and I noticed instantly that we can only win from this decision.
Ian Parry, who sang on the first album, is an amazing singer and a great personality. But, on The Fire Within we were still more of a project, and he would not really have been available for live shows and wants to focus more on his own projects. He is also more into classic hard rock and AOR as he does on this solo records.
Our new material developed in a rougher and more aggressive direction also, and we thought that a more high pitched vocal style would fit the new songs better, so we decided to go for a new vocalist. Ian and I are still great friends, and we might collaborate in the future on one of his own projects, and he wished us all the best. He did a phenomenal job on The Fire Within and really helped us to get started.
Both Phil and I have been long-time fans of Iuri Sanson ever since we heard Hibria’s Defying The Rules  album, which we both consider the best power metal album of the 2000’s. He is basically our favourite contemporary vocalist. We thought; man, it would be amazing to have him sing on our material, but he’s with Hibria. Then one day Phil wrote me and said; hey, have you heard? Everyone just quit Hibria! So, we wrote him a message and gave him a shot. We thought there is a 1% chance that it works, but let’s give it a try, in the worst case he says no. But he was really into the material, and so it all got started, and it’s a dream come true. I have wanted to work with him since more than 10 years. And he is super easy going and such a cool personality, and working with him went incredibly smooth. He’s simply one of the nicest people in the entire scene, despite having this monstrous talent.
The contact with Mike came through our keyboardist Jimmy Pitts, because they play together in another project. Linus Klausenitzer, who played on The Fire Within, is also still in Obscura and the band have a very busy touring schedule and he made clear long time ago that Obscura will always have priority over anything else that he is involved in. And since he also has job and family obligations, he can’t invest any additional touring time for other bands, which is completely understandable. This works as long as you are a project, but I really wanted to make sure Eternity’s End becomes a band and not just a side project of current and ex Obscura members, and that we can really build the thing up like a real band. He is an amazing player and a great guy and we still play together in Alkaloid and will collaborate on many more projects in the future. In Eternity’s End we were all great fans of Mike’s playing, and when we noticed how the songs turned out, including more over the top bass parts with a lot of crazy tapping licks and lots of Steve Harris-ism, he was the first guy who came to mind. And since Symphony X are on a bit of a hiatus right now and he loved the material, he was in.
How did the line-up change affect the work towards the second album?
Christian: Of course, initially now all the songs were written with the 2-guitarist situation in mind and we deliberately put a lot of emphasis on that and made sure every song has twin guitar leads and trades and harmonies.
The biggest change is that I did not write the entire album alone as on The Fire Within, but co wrote it with Phil. There are only 4 songs that I had that were completely finished before Phil joined. In the beginning he just sent riff banks where he had random riff collections of ideas that he thought would fit well with the style of the band. All those ideas were so incredibly good, and there were many occasions where his ideas were really the missing link where I had song ideas but somehow got stuck and could not finish the songs because I couldn’t come up with more fitting ideas. For example, the song “Under Crimson Moonlight” was written like that; it was a 50/50 collaboration and it turned out so good. The song “Cyclopean Force” was basically my song, but the entire middle/harmony solo section was written by Phil, and it fell into place as if those different sections had been written for each other.
After a while Phil started sending complete songs, sometimes, as in “Into Timeless Realms” or “Triumphant Ascent” I then contributed the solo and harmony/middle sections. It was an extremely inspiring process and we could have easily written 2 albums in a row. There are not many people I can compose with that well, because you really have to share the same vision, otherwise it never works.
Another big change in approach is towards the vocal melodies. On The Fire Within I wrote all vocal melodies and lyrics myself – except for «White Lies». I recorded the vocal melodies with a guitar to send Ian guide tracks. There are still a few songs where we did it like that,;where Phil or I would do vocal guides, but for the majority Iuri came up with the melodies himself, because he had really sick ideas of his own. The lyrics where for the most part written by Phil, I wrote the lyrics for 2 songs and Iuri for one song.
You have stated that the upcoming album will different musically compared to the debut, that had “progressive elements and keyboard-driven production style”. Why this change?
Christian: It was rather a natural development than a conscious decision. The riffs we ended up writing were a lot more straight forward, faster and aggressive. You can hear influences by German speed metal bands as Running Wild, old Blind Guardian, very early Helloween or Scanner, as well as elements from US Power Metal bands like Savage Grace, Crimson Glory, of course Racer X and Cacophony, even Helstar, and we combine that with the neoclassical elements and trademarks you find on our first album.
Phil and I had always had those influences, this time they just came through more naturally. Of course there are still keyboard leads like on old Yngwie/Tony MacAlpine/Vinnie Moore/Joey Tafolla albums, and you will find lots of harpsichords and textures backing up the riffs. But, there are no odd meters in any of the tracks, and the structures of the songs are very straight forward and in your face. But, the vocal melodies are much more epic than on the first album, and the choruses are much bigger. I think people misunderstand when we say we stripped away the progressive elements; there are not really many Dream Theater/Symphony X-isms on this album, but the songs are incredibly technical, a lot more than the ones from the debut, and some of the stuff is ultra-hard to play, sometimes even harder than some of the tech death stuff we did, but all in very accessible structures. There is a difference between progressive and technical in my opinion.
The raw production style we went for on purpose; we got very tired of all contemporary metal productions sounding the same, with processed amps, over quantized and over digitalized drum sounds etc. This time we wanted to go for all natural drum sounds, only real tube amps, and have it all sound very powerful, raw and real. I think a lot of atmosphere gets lost with the current production standards. Very often I like the songs, but don’t feel like listening to many of those modern records because the sound aesthetics remind me more of metalcore bands. Imagine applying the current production standards to albums like Walls of Jericho or even Storm Of The Light’s Bane, or Painkiller, or so many others, a lot of the atmosphere would get lost. We also went for a hand drawn cover for the same reason, to represent the same kind of aesthetics as the songs and the production style.
The new album is more aggressive, riff-oriented, with speed/trash-influences; how would you describe the album musically?
Christian: I don’t think the album contains anything that is radically new in the genre, but I can’t think of any band that sounds exactly like we do or combines all the different ingredients as we do. As I said before, you find a lot of elements from classic German speed metal bands in the riffing, we were inspired by bands as Running Wild, Scanner, old Blind Guardian, very early Helloween, combined with the US school of riffing, inspired by bands like Savage Grace, Crimson Glory, Helstar, Apocrypha, Racer X etc., but then imagine that combined with the neoclassical soloing, inspired by everyone from Yngwie to the classic 80’s Shrapnel era to the modern Japanese neoclassical power metal bands, with the harpsichords, J.S. Bach type chord progressions and keyboard solos. On top of that you have the powerful voice soaring voice of Iuri Sanson, who in my opinion laid down his best vocal performance since Defying The Rules, backed up by Piet Sielck’s huge, epic choirs in the choruses. In a way these are all the ingredients that when you put them together should define the cornerstones of a modern power metal band, but the genre has become incredibly watered down in recent years, mostly due to labels only signing bands who strip away all the exciting elements and approach their entire music more like pop music with distortion. That was never the direction we intended with our music. I think our new album has at least as much fire, attitude, aggression, power and over the top-ness as the stuff as we did in our tech death bands and projects. To me, all of that, no matter if you take a power metal band like early Hibria or Galneryus, or a fusion group like Mahavishnu Orchestra or Return To Forever, or a tech death band like Spawn Of Possession or First Fragment, to me all of this falls under what I like to refer to as “high energy music”, in which being as over the top and wild and untamed as you can go becomes a form of attitude and artistic expression, with no regards to commerciality or air play or appealing to a specific target group.
As you mentioned: on this album you also got contribution by Piet Sielck. How did that happen, and how was it to work with him?
Christian: Both Phil and I are huge Iron Savior fans. Unification  is an under appreciated classic, to us this is the pinnacle of 90’s European Power Metal. We always loved Piet’s production style, especially the way he arranges the choirs and how they cut through in the music, but also the guitar tones, the way he mixes the keys and how the albums often have this warm kind of production that fits the pure escapism that we want to express. It makes you feel like you are part of a sci fi story. You do not get that with a super dry, modern ultra clean production that resembles metalcore aesthetics.
I knew Piet because we played together at the Bloodstock festival in the UK many, many years ago when I was in Majesty and he played there with Savage Circus. And he is good friends with my colleague Daniel Galmarini, who did the keyboards on my first solo record.
Working with him was great, because he works very fast, and understood our vision in terms of the song writing and the sounds we wanted to go for, and his contributions with the choirs, and what he did on the Japan bonus track where he does the lead vocals, are beyond epic. He is very direct though to tell the musicians if something does not work, or he does not like it or it simply is not good, and at times we had to learn certain things the hard way and it was sometimes a bit of an exhausting process, but it was all worth it in the end. I prefer that, when someone gets that involved in a project and sees the potential and tries to get the best out of it, instead of always just telling the musicians what they want to hear.
Unyielding is a concept album. Why did you want to do a concept album, and how have you worked with the story; have you written the story yourself, and how has the story affected the music?
Christian: In the beginning we just started writing music, collecting riff ideas and songs and went with the flow to see where it takes us. When we discussed the lyrical direction of the album, Phil and me quickly agreed that our music represents pure escapism. When you listen to an over the top power metal album like that you want it to take you into another world, as far from reality and real life problems as possible. It should not remind people of their days at the office, or their relationship problems or their future worries and sorrows, it shall take the listener as far away as possible, into another time, another world, an alternate reality, where none of this matter or exists, almost like if you’re tripping in a way. Some people call that approach cheesy, but to me personally escapism is one of the highest forms of artistic expression. When we started collecting lyrical ideas we noticed that many dealt with topics such as extra terrestrial beings, epic battles in space as well as in medieval settings, time travels, alternate realities, intergalactic death races, robot fights, but also uplifting heroism and self-glorification. It all fit together, it fell into place almost as naturally as the music. Then Phil came up with this crazy story and this huge concept that embraces all the songs and goes over a time span of 900 years, and created all those different characters that appear in the story. We want people to listen to the music and think, «wow, those guys are crazy», then we want them to open the booklet and dive into the story and go, «wow, those guys are even more crazy than we originally thought», haha.
It has affected the music in a way that for example the 2 most baroque and medieval sounding tracks tell the story of a Necromantic, one of the characters resurrecting his ancestors through forbidden witchcraft, just to give on example. The music is very descriptive, each song has a certain unique atmosphere that evokes the picture and the feeling of the part of the story that is being told. We always liked concept albums like Unification, or Scanner’s Hypertrace, or Hibria’s Defying The Rules. We did something similar as Scanner on Hypertrace, that the song order on the album is not the chronological order of the story. But the chronological order is hidden in the story if you read it.
The album will be released December 26th, but only in Japan. What’s the story here? And you are not the first band that releases the album in first – and only, in Japan.
Christian: The Japanese market and what is popular there is very different from Europe or America. The Japanese metalheads really seem to like the ingredients we have in our music, the soaring, high pitched vocals, the virtuosic guitar and keyboard soloing, really fast songs with epic choruses, the escapism reflected in the lyrics. In Japan, The Fire Within did really well and we got a deal over night when we announced to work on a second record.
We were hoping to get something equally in time, but European labels showed no interest. We heard that a lot of our music is too fast, too aggressive, vocals are too high, too many solos, too much focus on guitars and riffing. They rather want their bands to sound like watered down AOR when they write the stamp «Power Metal» on it; inoffensive housewife metal for people who like “a little bit of metal, but not too much”.
We would have loved to release it world wide at the same time, but it was out of our hands. So we went for the idea to crowd fund the album, and since the crowd funding campaign ran between June and August and we do not want to keep people waiting for a year, and Japanese labels have the condition that their version has to be released at least one or 2 weeks prior to any other versions of the album, we pushed our Japanese label for any early release so we can send out the crowd funding pre orders in time. They did their very best to make this happen, that’s why we have this a little bit unusual release date of December 26.
You are looking for European and American labels to release the album. How is that going?
Christian: We have a couple of smaller companies who are interested by now and we have to calculate and evaluate what is the best way to go for us. We need to decide on a solution soon so that the album can be released in due time in the rest of the world. Generally, the European and American market has become incredibly hard for more or less new bands, no matter who your members are and what they did before. I understand it from a business point of view, the market and scene is completely over crowded and swamped and no one dares to risk an investment anymore and labels rather play it safe and sign stuff where they know it appeals to a certain audience and sells. If you look at it, Yngwie or Chris Impellitteri or also bands like Hibria or Galneryus were never as popular over here as they were in Japan or South America either.
The album was, as you mentioned, financed by crowdfunding, something that is quite common these days. What does that say about the current situation in the music business? And how do you personally think about that?
Christian: I have very mixed feelings about it. It’s great the we have those options these days, because otherwise it would not be possible to professionally produce an album with world class musicians. At least through the crowd funding, if it goes well, you are not dependent on a recording advance from any label anymore. Also, it is a quite fair business model, because the actual demand for your product is realistically reflected in the monetary outcome. However, it’s also no longer what it used to be. One main issue is that Indiegogo nowadays does not accept PayPal anymore, so many people who wanted to contribute simply could not. Also, Facebook is not displaying music posts like it used to, and no matter how much self-promotion you make, many people simply missed the campaign. So again, it’s something that works in favour of bands who already have a name and a big following, but the smaller you are, the less it works for you. We have the small advantage that at least the individual musicians are relatively known, otherwise no one would have taken notice. However, the concept of crowd funding is also largely being mis-used by bands who have a big name but terribly poor work ethics and make a ton of money to build a sauna without ever delivering the actual product they run the campaign for. And that ruins the whole concept and gives it a bad reputation, because fans generally don’t participate anymore as much. Also it puts a lot of additional pressure on the band, you have to make sure everyone gets their pre orders in an acceptable time frame, but that becomes a disadvantage with potentially interested labels because you take a way a fraction of their market, you have to invest a lot of work into packing and commissioning and sending out the pre orders yourself etc.
How would you describe the current status of Eternity’s End? Are you satisfied with the situation, and how do you feel about the future of the band?
Christian: I could not be happier about the situation we have right now. This line up is an absolute army. I’m so grateful I get to play with those talented musicians, every musician is absolute world class and brought their absolute best on this album, everyone went to their limits and made sure they gave 500%, nothing on this album is half assed or done on the fly. It looks like a project and many labels don’t believe it, but we are actually a real band, intending to tour and promote this album live. Phil and Iuri joining the band elevated us to a completely new level. This is no longer a solo guitar player’s project, but a real band where each member is equally important. We will not allow to let this album go un-noticed in the flood of releases, and we are eager to perform our songs live, there is too much passion in those riffs and melodies to be treated like a side project and to be forgotten.