Similar to the feature I did when Convixion and Wrathblade released their split-EP “Alive Aftershock” via Eat Metal towards the end of 2013, I decided to hook up with Eternal Champion and Gatekeeper to discuss both bands contribution to the recently released “Retaliator/Vigilance”-split on No Remorse Records. This first part, focuses on Eternal Champion, and all the questions are answered by singer Jason Tarpey.
So this idea to release a split with Gatekeeper, did it come from the bands involved, or was it initiated by the record label?
– It was an idea between Jeff Black from Gatekeeper and myself.
Is this split release just a one off collaboration with No Remorse or will you continue working with them for future releases?
– There is no contract for another release, but No Remorse is an excellent label with superb taste and honest intentions, I’d love to work with them again in the future.
When you do a release like this, how important is it to share it with a band that you like? What is you honest opinion about the Gatekeeper-material on this release?
– I think with a split release there has to be a reason for the pairing. Whether the reason is aesthetic, or thematic or sonic there should be something obvious to the listener that these two bands are on the same record for a reason. In our case it was all of the above, with the bonds of friendship being the most important factor. I love the Gatekeeper material on the split, it’s got the balls of Manowar with the emotive vocal delivery of Warlord.
If I am correct, you have a relationship to the Gatekeeper-guys from some years back. Is it about more than sharing some of the same influences, both lyrically and musically?
– Yeah I’ve known Jeff for some time now and while it’s great that we share the same influences in art, literature, and music, beyond that I would consider him a true friend and comrade. Hilarious guy, with a great taste in beer. He’s actually the only member of Gatekeeper I’ve ever met.
Gatekeeper and Eternal Champion are considered as two of the most promising epic metal bands of recent times. What do you see as the similarities and main differences between the bands?
– It’s difficult for me to pick out what’s different about our bands, but we both love Robert E. Howard, we both want to have that primitive power sound, maybe my vocals are a bit dissimilar from Shorre’s? They have acoustic parts? I think we have more in common than we don’t and that’s why we did the split.
After the tape edition of “The Last King Of Pictdom” was sold out, demand for a release on another format came. It took some time to get it out, but in the end, are you satisfied with how the 7” turned out?
– Yeah I think the 7″ looks great, it sounds like a demo but I’m happy with it.
I must say you have created a lot of interest out of just three songs and an intro along with some live shows. Has moving slowly, been part of a strategy from your side?
– Yes, and I’m grateful for the interest we’ve garnered. Moving slow is the only way for me now. I busted my ass in my twenties doing music, playing lots of gigs and trying to release shit all the time, but now I have a career, school, a wife, and I only want the things that come in between to be truly worthwhile. Only record songs we really like, only play quality shows with great bands, only release things we are happy with. This is my time to enjoy music, I’m not trying to make a living out of it or be on a schedule.
You said in the interview we did last time (you’ll find it right here at Metal Squadron), that your next release would be a full length. Why the change of plans?
– Ha yeah I did say that huh? Well I think we knew that our LP was going to take a long time to write and record so we figured we would track the only other two songs we had at the time for the split. I was talking to Jeff and he had a couple of songs too, so we came up with the idea for the 12″ to give the people something to chew on while we prepare our full-lengths. Little did I know that this split would take so much time and effort but I am still very pleased with the result. We recorded two songs, “Retaliator” and “Invoker” but after we tracked the drums for “Invoker”, I realized it was too fast and I couldn’t sing on it so we scrapped it, thus the one song per side idea was born.
What about this release was taking so much time and effort?
– Since Eternal Champion was or is split up between three or four cities, Austin, San Antonio, DFW and Philadelphia, and we had to work in three different studios, it just took time to get it all tracked, mixed and mastered to our liking. Arthur (Rizk, drums) had most of the work on his shoulders, he did our intro and the mixing and master for both bands. We had two very talented artists working on this record, Lionel Baker and Burney, so there was a lot of greatness happening and as we all know you can’t rush greatness.
Was the new material on the split, the intro “Ride For Revenge” along with “Retaliator” made with this release in mind, or did you choose it amongst tracks already composed?
– “Retaliator” was written shortly after Our first gig while we were still trying to fill out our live set. It was the fourth or fifth song we wrote and it was Blake and Carlos’ first song written for Eternal Champion. We thought it was going on our full length but when the split idea came about I thought it would be a good song to release because it shows a new, more powerful facet of the band. Our demo had a different drummer and both guitarists were replaced so we thought it would be prudent to show people the direction we are going towards instead of shocking them when the LP is released. The “Ride For Revenge” intro was created by Arthur to give the song a little more drama, and length. It is the sound of Corum riding against the Fhoi Myore.
Will you use “Retaliator” for other releases, or is it meant to be exclusive for this particular release?
– It will be exclusive for this release.
As Moorcock and Howard were inspirations for the two tracks on the demo, I was wondering if there is a writer whose work inspired “Retaliator” as well? If not, what are the lyrics about?
– “Retaliator is inspired by Moorcock as well, but more directly influenced than before with “War At The Edge Of The End”, which was my own take on an Eternal Champion/Multiverse tale. The lyrics are inspired by the saga of Corum, The Prince in the Scarlet Robe, and The Silver Hand. Highly recommended reading!
I found the track really impressive, and you can almost sense from the title alone, that it’s gonna sound a little bit more aggressive than in the past.
– Yeah it is more aggressive, a bit harder, and that was the result of getting Blake Ibanez (Power Trip) and Carlos Llanas (Cruxiter) in the band and having them taking over a lot of the writing. When our demo tape was recorded we had a different feel and approach because Greg and Bongo have a very raw, dare I say “loose” sound, and I love it. We had a good thing going but like all good things it didn’t last and we had to move on. I think we traded a bit of melody and some of our NWOBHM flavour for a bit of violence and force when the new members joined. Still epic heavy metal but it’s tighter, more focused now.
As original members are the rest of you comfortable with placing the songwriting duties in the hands of members who have just joined the band?
– Well they aren’t new to the band, Blake joined the band immediately after we recorded “The Last King of Pictdom”, he played our first show and has been writing ever since. Carlos joined the band right after our first gig in 2013 and he’s been contributing since then as well, so I feel like this is the true lineup of the band. The salad days of practicing, writing and recording our first songs with Greg and Bongo were great but they had to focus on their main band Venomous Maximus. They are releasing a deadly new album on Shadow Kingdom very soon, look for them on tour everywhere. Blacke and Carlos have written most of the new material since the demo. Blake writes most of the harder, hammer riffs and Carlos has a more melodic tendency, creating a canorous barbarism, if you will. The full length will also have at least two songs written by our drummer Arthur and those two are very different than anything we’ve done before, live or otherwise.
Sounds interesting. How would you describe Arthur’s songs? What sets them apart from the rest of the material?
– They are a little more intricate, I know melodic is a vague descriptor but that’s the only way I can describe it. They were stuck in my head the moment he sent me demos without vocals on them, that’s a testament to their catchiness. We might even put keyboards on one of them but we’ll see about that…
Can you give us some further details on the album? The already mentioned song “Invoker” has shown up in live form on the internet, will this one be included?
– Yep we are done writing for the most part. Seven tracks for the full length most likely and yes “Invoker” will be included. We still have some fine tuning to do, a few leads and lyrics to write, but I’m going into the studio this weekend to start tracking demo vocals on a song that Arthur wrote. So the wheel of pain is in motion and if everything goes as planned we will finish recording this summer so we can release our debut LP at Up The Hammers 2016.
For a short while, you jammed with the drummer Rick Colaluca (ex-Watchtower), and even wrote material with him. Why didn’t it work out in the end?
– I’m not really sure, he just wasn’t that into it I suppose. I mean the guy played drums in Watchtower, we are pretty simple in comparison, maybe it was boring for him. We’ve released three songs, did four gigs, and had eight drummers.
“Swords Of Steel” is an anthology featuring fantasy/horror from heavy metal musicians, including yourself and bass player Sean Weingartner. How did you get the chance to contribute? Do you feel that this goes hand in hand with writing lyrics, or is it something different?
– We met Dave Ritzlin last year at Ragnarokkr Fest in Chicago, he was getting this book together and I thought that was the best idea anyone’s had in a long time. He asked if I would write a short story and I always wanted to continue the saga that I started in some of my old Graven Rite lyrics so of course I agreed. I found it completely different than writing lyrics. When I write songs I think first of the phonetics, the phrasing, the melody, then the words. Writing a story is all about the words, making them flow and hold interest throughout. This was my first story and I found it very challenging. I hadn’t taken an English class in 18 years but somehow I wrote a pretty long yarn. When I was done I swore I’d never write another, now I’m working on a novelette.