Lunar Shadow are a traditional heavy metal band from Germany who have never paid attention to the scene’s trends. Characterized by their unique blend of influences that ranges from post-punk to black metal, Lunar Shadow’s guitar lead driven sound sets them apart from their peers. They released their sophomore full length album, The Smokeless Fires, earlier this year on Cruz Del Sur Records.
Thanks for interviewing with us, Max! How do you feel having just released The Smokeless Fires?
Thank you, Marco. Relief is the first thing that comes to my mind. I am glad that now I can just lean back and don’t have to do anything anymore. It was interesting to read people’s opinions on the new album, though I have to say that after some weeks it gets sort of dull, because *everyone* these days has an opinion about everything and of course everyone is a music-expert on the internet. Don’t get me wrong, I am thankful when people write about my music, may it be positive or negative, that doesn’t really matter. Yet the one review doesn’t like the vocals and gives me 4/10, the other one thinks it’s the album of the century and gives me 105/110, the other one doesn’t like the bass and the vocals are too loud or too silent or the pianos suck and he gives me 5,77 out of 7,8. You know what I mean? At some point I just stop reading reviews, because it has become a little bit too much.
Yet the feedback is mostly good as far as I know, which is always nice, we were featured quite a lot in magazines and other media. As I said, just lean back and let the good times roll.
As I look at Lunar Shadow’s first effort with the Triumphator EP to the debut album Far from Light and now to The Smokeless Fires, I see a clear evolution in songwriting. What has the songwriting process been like for you from release to release?
I agree on that. For TRIUMPHATOR I picked shorter songs with a clear edge, songs that aren’t too progressive, I wanted them to be straightforward. On FAR FROM LIGHT there appeared the first long-tracks, which were more complex and in my opinion work better on a full-length album. THE SMOKELESS FIRES then added new elements to the sound, the piano, clean guitars with lots of reverb. Yet let’s not forget that songs like “Laurelindórenan” or “Red Nails” are about 8 years old already.
More interesting to me personally is the change in the way I see this band, *how* I see this band. I always had a strong vision in my mind about Lunar Shadow, I always knew, what I wanted the band to look like, the attitude behind everything, the message I wanted to transport. This has changed a lot over these four years. When we started I was into this full-blown Heavy Metal thing, you know, studs, tight leather, the more the better. Motorcycles and shit. I still like these aesthetics, but I have changed, my personal style and taste has also changed a little. These days I tend to move away a little from the classic Heavy Metal-style of dressing and appearing, for I find it a little bit dull sometimes. I like these post-punk-aesthetics a bit more at the moment, for they are more depressive, distant and intellectual all at once in my opinion. I don’t see myself anymore in this whole jeans-vest-with-patches guzzling beer-environment.
How different is the experience of writing, releasing, and promoting a second album from your debut?
The writing process wasn’t that different in my opinion, I did, what I always do, I write my songs in Guitar Pro and send them to the others. Also the release was similar, though I have to say that for example our Invisible Boxset definitely was the most ambitious thing we have done so far with a special backpatch, glass vials, a poster, booklet illustrations and so on. I put a lot of work into this, I can tell you. Promotion is a little bit more this time I think, people know us already and we got some good rankings in the magazines, so I did lots of interviews like these, there definitely is a certain interest into this album.
The new album has just as many kick ass melodies as ever. I noticed this time around though that many felt faintly familiar and that I could tell where they were going, almost like a throwback to Far from Light. Was this use of familiar melodies intentional? If so, is there a deeper reason for this?
Damn, no that wasn’t intended haha. I think it has to do with the fact, that I simply got a certain way of songwriting, things that sound good to me, a way of writing melodies. So I suppose it can happen, that some things may sound familiar.
While Lunar Shadow’s core sound fits the traditional metal mould, I hear a lot of outside influence, especially with the latest album. What kinds of sounds and styles are you actively bringing into the mix?
I am mainly influenced by the music that I actively hear in the moment of writing songs. And in my case I am moving away a little from classic Heavy Metal, I listen a lot to bands like Fields of the Nephilim, The Chameleons or Pink Turns Blue recently. There are many aspects of the HM-scene where I don’t see myself anymore, many things to me seem very dull, stale and uninspired. This whole New Wave/Post Punk-scene is more aesthetic, introspective and intellectual in my opinion, things that I prefer at this time in my life. “Roses” is certainly the track where you can hear those influences the most. The pianos I wanted to use because of my all-time love for Chopin and related composers like Mahler or Rachmaninov.
Some of that outside influence sounds like the Dissection strain of melodic black metal. Was having black metal influence in the riffing and songwriting an intentional decision from the start or is that the case of what you like to listen just unconsciously shaping up your own writing and the mix of melodies came out unplanned?
You see, I don’t do most things by intention. Intentional moves in music are terrible, it’s like “Hey, this time I am going to do a faster album, ha!”. Dissection is one of my favourite bands and an extremely important influence on my songwriting. This strain has always been there, it’s just something that flows into my music all naturally and I think this is how it’s supposed to be when writing music.
The Smokeless Fires features piano passages in addition to the acoustic guitars we’ve become accustomed to. Why did you choose to add another instrument this time around?
As mentioned above, because I like to listen to Chopin for example. The piano is a very melancholic instrument, you can build up a lot of atmosphere with its help. The idea to include something completely new was very exciting, I don’t want to do all the same kind of music over and over again. Luckily our drummer Jörn is a piano builder and we were able to record the piano parts at his working place on a 65.000 euro piano, that was cool.
As Lunar Shadow’s sound evolves and gradually pushes outside the boundaries of traditional metal, so do the aesthetics. The lyrics and album art for The Smokeless Fires are a departure from what we typically see. Can you tell us about the ideas behind it?
Yes, that is correct. I spoke about my “dislike” with most recent Heavy Metal, its aesthetics and attitude. Aesthetics have always been extremely important to me in a band, in fact I always said (and I still second this statement) that it’s 50% music and 50% aesthetics, presentation, vision, you can also call it “image” if you like, though I don’t like that word.
This time I planned everything on the album through very carefully, all the artworks, the booklet itself, the booklet illustrations, the band photos. All were my very own ideas.
The artwork was supposed to be a non-heavy metal cover. I wanted, that people weren’t able to guess what genre the album is by just looking at it. I love to confuse people. I wanted , that later generations pick this album out of some shelf and say “What the fuck is this shit?”. The booklet illustration is linked to the artwork and it’s important to understand that both belong together. The booklet illustrations were all done by Lupe Vasconcelos, I love her works. The two figures of the front cover are depicted as a pair of lovers, they are embracing each other, two becoming one. Love and also a love that is lost has always been an extremely important aspect of all my music. On the booklet they are shown from a back perspective, they are from a different world obviously. I wanted to give this whole album something otherworldly, something from far away, from a distant time, from a distant place on a distant shore.
In an interview with Thumri on USPM Doctor, you discuss your love of literature and mention that you were writing poetry. Are you still writing poems? Did any of your poetry work its way into the lyrics of The Smokeless Fires?
No, not in some time. My last poem is several years old already, I don’t find the motivation anymore to write something like that. The lyrics for my albums are something different then, they are linked to something, to structure and form. Poems are more fragile, it you don’t look after them carefully they can be blown away like smoke in the wind.
We’re only half way through 2019, but already it feels like a landmark year for traditional metal. Have you been keeping up with new releases this year? If so, what have been some of your personal favorites?
Vulture’s Vengeance is a highlight for me, a very unique sound and vision and also fantastic people. I bought the new Arch/Matheos but didn’t really listen to it that much, guess I’m just not in a prog-mood at the moment, maybe in some months. But it’s good to hear John again, I always liked his singing. The new Slough Feg sounds solid, though I think that I prefer the previous outputs a little bit more. Gygax sounds cool, something like BÖC and Thin Lizzy and I don’t even like Thin Lizzy, ha! The new album by Drab Majesty is a killer and Grabunhold will release a sinister EP later this year.
What are the next plans for Lunar Shadow? Still not big on touring?
Absolutely not. It’s funny, we have an album out that gets loads of great reviews, we are featured a lot in the music press and we do…nothing! I can’t help it, but the mere thought of standing on a stage and playing guitar at the moment is absolutely impossible. We have two shows confirmed for 2020, one on a good festival [Editor’s note: The festival has since been confirmed and is called the Hammer and Iron Festival] and another one with some awesome bands, both in Germany. I don’t think we’ll play anything in 2019.
Anything else you’d like to say to your fans?
Max: When you listen to “Hatred” by Manowar, at 4.47 Min. it sounds like Eric fell into a swimming pool full of mousetraps.