Epic classic metal on LUNAR SHADOW’s firebrand sophomore effort! From the explorative mind of Max Birbaum comes “The Smokeless Fires”, the second full-length from LUNAR SHADOW, a band pushing the boundaries of classic metal with an album that explores themes of passion and the human condition. They continue to walk with sure step, opening their own way in the middle of thousands and thousands of bands.
Hello Max, as every new release by Lunar Shadow we are prompt to talk about it with you, a classic already 🙂
Max: Nice to chat with you again, Alberto. Always a pleasure.
The Smokeless Fires is your sophomore album to be relaesed on June 14th. The second one is always harder to achieve than the first, usually, or that they say, especially when your debut was so much acclaimed?
Max: I agree, that it’s somehow different. One album is out already, people know your band, you have a solid fanbase. Yet I must say, that I didn’t really think much about that, I’m confident enough about my music and always believed in what we did as a band.
Cruz Del Sur Music, with good sense, continues to bet for you
Max: I’m as happy with Cruz Del Sur as always, if Enrico still wants me after this album I’d happily stay there.
I bet Enrico has no doubts about it. Max Birbaum, this is you, is still the mastermind behind LS, how much percentage of the new album has gone out of your brain?
Max: 100%. I again wrote everything, all the music and all the lyrics. It’s the only way Lunar Shadow works.
I knew it but I had to ask it! Talking about members, there is an important change in the vocals position with the entrance of Robert Röttig, but listening to the new album it seems it has been no traumatic, has it?
Max: A change of the vocal section is always hard. Good thing was, that Robert actually never was “the new one”, because he was a friend of the other guys already. Robert plays in a 70s Hard Rock band called Orbiter, he’s from the same region where we rehearse and everyone already knew each other. That makes things a lot easier and it was fantastic to work with Robert. When I was looking for a new vocalist I remembered him and his good reputation as a singer, so I asked him if he’d like to come to a rehearsal. He didn’t know Lunar Shadow and was a bit careful at first, I think he thought we’re some kind of local dragon-unicorn Power Metal Band haha. But after he listened to our music and we rehearsed together everyone knew, that thinks worked out and he was the right choice.
Haha not bad suprises after all for Robert. That was in terms of results but the departure of Alex Vornam put the band in risk in any moment?
Max: It was clear that I would look for a new singer, but of course I didn’t know how long it would take us to find someone. To be honest, after Alex departure I thought ‘Oh my god, what will I do now?!’. Finding a good singer these days who also fits into the band from his whole attitude and personality is damn complicated. Luckily it didn’t take nearly as long as I feared.
I think another important change in this second step by LS is that you have changed a little the lyrics approach, from the more epic fantasies to some themes of passion and human condition, right?
Max: I would agree partly. There are still the Tolkien- and Howard-inspired tracks, but others delve deeper into the human understanding, into emotions that form us, tragedies that shape us, our joy, hate, our inner fire. That is something I am interested in and wanted to write a little bit more about.
When did you start working in the new songs and how was the process, Max?
Max: Some of the songs like “Red Nails” or “Laurelindórenan” are basically about ten years old already. I wrote a lot of songs in my life and some are still good to use and it’d be a shame to let them die unrecorded. “Roses” is the newest one, I finished it only several weeks before we entered the studio. I dropped two other songs from the album for this. Our drummer Jörn almost killed me, because he had to learn a completely new song in short time haha. Most other songs were finished around 2017 when Far From Light was released.
In terms of style, I would say The Smokeless Fires continues to show the trademark that you made your own with your debut album Far from Light, that is black melodic heavy metal with very elaborated riffs
Max: It definitely sounds like Lunar Shadow and it’s important that it does. I wanted to add some new elements, like the piano or some Post-Punk-Guitars, yet in its essence it is still this Manowar meets Dissection kind of thing, yes.
This second album was harder to accomplish than the first one? Or when you touch the right key everything is smoother?
Max: The writing process was basically the same. This time we took a lot more time in the studio, all of us were able to work very concentrated on their parts. We recorded the album in Leipzig in an old barn and I think everything sounds a little bit more clear and relaxed. Yet the recordings were terrible for me personally as always, very long and exhausting, long recording sessions and I won’t touch a guitar in the coming months, believe me.
Absolutely. The Smokeless Fires is shorter than the previous album, has less songs, but that means nothing about lazy nature, because you continue to be deliver hard worked songs
Max: Far From Light was actually a little bit too long, so the pressing plant already had to lower the volume on the vinyls because of this, so I watched the length this time a little bit sharper. Fun Fact: Both Sides of the vinyl are almost of exactly the same running time. I think there is only a 2 second difference. Maybe I should have started the B-Side with a 2 second “Arrrghhhh!”
Hahaha In my opinion, in terms to put on the paper the main differences between your two albums I would say that The Smokeless Fires is somehow slower and has a more a intimist approach
Max: Slower? I would actually say that the album has become a little bit faster, with all the Dissection -stuff going on, even some blastbeats. I would agree though that there is more of an introspective aspect in the music and its lyrics, something slightly philosophical about this album. It is not a typical Heavy Metal-record and that’s what I wanted exactly.
If we look at your live shows dates we can conclude that LS popularity is growing steadily, you have the same perception?
Max: It is always hard to guess the “popularity” of your own band. You sometimes see a review, you sometimes do an interview like this, sometimes someone shares a song of your band and you see it, but that’s basically it. Especially because we do not play live much and we do not tour. We don’t have this “direct” contact to our fans like other bands. Recently we played in London, our first gig abroad and some guy told me, that he and his wife drove 2 hours to London just to see us. Another fan had our logo handpainted on the back of his leather jacket, I had never seen something like that before, that was insane! In such moments I vaguely realize, how much this little band means to others.
Logos on the back of leather jackets means you are on the right way, that’s for sure. If you continue this path probably in then years from now or so we will see Cruz Del Sur Music re-realeasing your first albums as true classics with bonus tracks…?
Max: Of course, with a hologram of Christopher Lee singing our songs in Russian. No, seriously, I don’t know. If people ask for the albums and someone is willing to do a re-release, why not. But like Nick Cave said: “Who cares, who cares what the future brings?”
That`s right. Any tour dates fixed in the calendar for the promotion of The Smokeless Fires? A visit to Spain may be?
Max: I fear that I have to say, that we probably won’t play outside of Germany anymore. I really don’t like to travel, I don’t like to be away from home and I don’t feel able to do such trips anymore. Basically everything will remain as always: we will play few, very selected shows a year, there will be some gigs to be announced in the near future, but it will be Germany only.
Oh damn it 🙁 With an EP and 2 albums, five years of career, Lunar Shadow is where you imagined it would be when you started the adventure?
Max: Yes. It is. We got our loyal fans, we add some new ones to the phalanx with every new release. We have a wonderful label, I’ve got the chance to share the stage from time to time with bands that I am a fan of myself. That’s everything I ever asked for.
Congratulations for it, Max, a pleasure to talk to you again, with another winner album under the arm. If you wish to add something…
Max: Thank you Alberto, also for the insightful review. ‘Into Glory Ride’ by Manowar is the best thing on this planet and it’s so strong, that it parallelly exists in the past, present and future!