ETERNAL CHAMPION: Leaning into strenghts

If you dive into the archive section of this site, something I strongly recommend you to do as there is a lot to read there, you can already find three interviews I did with Eternal Champion in the past. The first one was published right after the band released their demo, while I spoke to the guys again when they did the split release with Gatekeeper back in 2015. The last time I hooked up with the band was of course when the put out their debut album, the mighty “The Armor Of Ire” was hot off the press back in the autumn of 2016. Like always, singer Jason Tarpey is the one answering my questions. Looking back at “The Armor Of Ire” with a bit of distance to it, is he more satisfied  with it now compared to when you had it finished, or is it perhaps the other way around?

 – I probably feel the same about it as I did then. I love the songs on that album and Arthur (Rizk) has always known what he is doing as a producer and so we are still very satisfied with “The Armor Of Ire”.  It’s hard to think in terms of less or more because it’s difficult to remember exactly how I felt four or five years ago but I remember being surprised I could even pull it off back then, I’m still surprised.

Since the release of the debut album, there have been a couple of digital/tape only releases, in form of “Parallel Of Death” and “Terminus Est”. The first one featured cover versions of songs by Legend and Mystic Force while “Terminus Est” was very different in approach, containing two instrumental songs. What were the purpose of these recordings, and why do you think it makes sense to release “Terminus Est” as a work by Eternal Champion?

 – They are just some things to do on the side while we work on our day to day tasks and careers and original song writing. We wouldn’t put a cover song on a full length album but like every other band we think it’s really fun to do covers, so why not put out a little cassette. It’s not an actual record it’s just to another element of the band to pay respects to our influences and give the fans something to chew on while we write new material. As for “Terminus Est”, it isn’t obvious to some people why a heavy metal band would put out a release with no guitars on it, it’s because we don’t give a shit what anyone thinks about it, we will do anything to build the atmosphere between releases and that “Terminus Est” tape is a cinematic piece of synth music, epic and melancholy like most of our music. Already I’m getting the urge to do another EP or something, I’m still feeling very creative but definitely don’t feel like putting together a whole LP yet.

People are often speaking about the “difficult second album”, sometimes caused by the fact that a band often has a lot of time to work on material for the debut album and usually a lot less time for the follow up. Did this or other factors make “Ravening Iron” a more difficult album to create than the debut?

– Not to sound cocky, but it’s going to, that’s just not a problem with us. We wouldn’t put out a minute of music that we don’t feel is really strong, so if we’re putting it out that means we think it’s at least as good as “The Armor Of Ire” if not better. It was pretty obvious when these songs started to come together that the new album was going to be a beast and by the time we got to recording vocals I was feeling very confident in the songs.

Has songwriting been a continuing process since  “The Armor Of Ire” was released, or are the songs on this album, apart from the re-recording of “War At The Edge Of The End”,  a result of a more compact period of time devoted to creating new songs?

-Yeah we didn’t do much songwriting the first two years after “The Armor Of Ire” was released, we were traveling around doing weekend gigs and really enjoying the fruits of our labor with no pressure to rush back in the studio. We started writing songs in earnest in 2018, then mostly in 2019 we finished it.

When you re-did “The Last King Of Pictdom” for “The Armor Of Ire”, Jason told me it was mainly because he wasn’t fully satisfied with his performance the first time around. Is this one of the reasons why you have made a new version of “War At The Edge Of The End” for this new album? Are there other reasons as well?

– Yes I was less happy with my performance on “The Last King Of Pictdom” on the demo but with “War at the Edge of the End” we thought the whole song could use some beefing up while retaining it’s unique, “weird” atmosphere. That’s basically the thought behind redoing it.

With the debut being such a success, how did you balance the potential wish of recreating some of that success by penning songs in the same style against the desire to create something else than just “The Armor Of Ire Pt 2”?

– That style of epic metal on “Armor Of Ire” just is our style, so we knew there wouldn’t be a huge difference in the songs on “Ravening Iron”. We leaned into our strengths and did what comes natural while making sure we weren’t repeating ourselves. The goal is to not stray too far from the path but to still push ourselves creatively, that’s why this new album for all its similarities is a more complex album.

This new album, like its predecessor clocks in at around the 35 minute mark. A coincidence, or do you feel that between 35 and 40 minutes is the perfect playing time for an Eternal Champion-album? If so, why – especially in a genre where many bands go for long compositions?

– It’s a perfect amount of time for an LP, many of our favorite albums are 35 minutes so it seems instinctual to us. I don’t know why bands starting recording such long albums, if you’re Blind Guardian I understand, but we’re definitely not Blind Guardian. And the reason why is the genre, and the industry, even the fans don’t factor into our decision making when writing an album.

Some people, myself included has pointed out some similarities between the title track of the debut album and the title track on the new album. Not only are they title songs, they’re also the second song on their respective albums. All coincidence, or is there perhaps a connection between the tracks, or at least at thought behind it?

 – Yeah I think it come down to our tastes when sequencing an album, it’s still the same as back in 2016, we still feel we should put on the hardest song first, then follow it up with something a bit more juxtaposed after it, something melancholy and fast as is the case with both title tracks. There are actually a couple more callbacks to “The Armor of Ire” on the new album, we hope the listener has fun finding them.

If I ask you to be completely honest, do you think you have created a song that is better than “I Am The Hammer” this time?

 – Ha-ha! I can always count on Europeans to be upfront. Yes of course, again every minute of our music has to go through our fine-mesh filter, so we think “Sing a Last Song of Valdese”, and “The Armor of Ire” and every song on the new album is as good as “I Am the Hammer”. We love that song, it’s one of our babies but trust me there’s only one of those and we’d be fools to do something as transparent as milking it and writing another song that sounds like “I Am The Hammer”, we’ll let other bands chase that dream..

If I am correct, Blake Ibanez, who played on the first album, doesn’t play on this new one. Is he still a member of Eternal Champion? If so, why isn’t he performing on the album?

– Yes while we were putting this album together and recording it, Blake was busy writing and demoing the new Power Trip record, which as you know has been put in limbo due to the death of Riley Gale. So the timing was terrible for him on this album and it has turned into a nightmare since the loss of our close friends and bandmates. The door is open for him to come back in an active roll at any time and he knows that.

Did you look for a similar type of production to the one you had on “The Armor Of Ire”, or were you looking for something a bit more different this time around?

 – Yeah we wanted something similar to what Arthur did the frost time around, but since 2016 he has probably worked on more than 300 records in some respect, so he has grown a producer, John has learned a lot as was even able to track himself a lot during his guitar-tracking and so everyone is more competent at what they do now. We wanted the same sound as “The Armor Of Ire”, but maybe even kicked up a notch, which is what Arthur did in my opinion.

I have understood that Arthur is an important member in Eternal Champion. What was his role in getting this album together?

– Yes Arthur is integral to the band, truly without him there is no band. He writes the bulk of the music, plays drums, guitar, synth along with John Powers, engineers, produces, mixes and masters our stuff, so yeah this time around he was more important than ever. A true musical genius and I’m not just saying that because he’s my best friend, he’s a fucking genius.

You once described the recording  process of the debut as a bit “chaotic”, with Arthur playing many instruments. Still performing drums, guitars and synth, at least I noticed that Arthur didn’t play any bass this time around, does this mean that that the recording was less chaotic compared to the one of the debut album?

– The chaos at that time had to do with getting all the material together for “Armor”, and maybe a result of not making peace yet with Arthur playing drums and tracking guitars, and even bass at the time. We still had Carlos in the band which gave us three guitar players and that was too many cooks in the kitchen and only added to the chaos. But it was not that bad, I actually remember it fondly. Now things are much smoother, everyone has made peace with their role and this time around everyone seemed to really enjoy working on the album.

It seems like the lyrics to many of the songs are based on characters from the fantasy world Arginor from the book “The Godblade” which is soon to be released. How was the experience of working on lyrics and this book simultaneously? Do you feel it added to the quality of both the lyrics as well as the book?

Jason – Yes working on both the book and the album at the same time was boon to both the music and my writing. The words were pouring out of me, honestly I’ve never felt more creative and it hasn’t really stopped, I’ve continued to write and feel like working on new music already which is new for me. Doing the book helped me put more into the lyrics, more feeling, more emotion, more detail. I’m glad for it.

Writing this book, was it more time consuming and demanding than what you thought, or was it easier than you pictured it to be?

– It was definitely time-consuming. I don’t’ know if this is true for most writers but I need to take the day off to get any writing done. I need to sit in my office with the lights out all day and night and write. Because if I have my normal day of blacksmithing and lifting weights/running that’s about 10 hours of hard labor and my brain is tired after that so no writing can get done. So to get the book done I had to take days off from the forge and shut myself in my “cave” to get it done. It wasn’t hard to write though, I actually enjoyed it and found it to be a worthy challenge I would like to take up again.

You have started a new label called Sword Worship. Why have you decided to do things yourself in North-America instead of working with a label? Will Sword Worship be only for Eternal Champion-stuff, or will you sign other acts to the label?

Jason- Yes there isn’t much need for us to be on an American label these days, we can handle selling the albums and getting it to stores that want it over here we only need help outside the country. And we also own our music so we have as much control as possible. We’re control freaks. We will probably release another band eventually, we might have something cool in the works right now.

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