Interview with LUNAR SHADOW
The Band: Lunar Shadow
Answers by: Max “Savage” Birbaum (guitars)
Believe me when I tell you that LUNAR SHADOW has booked a place in the history of Epic Heavy Metal with his first full-length “Far from Light”. Max, the mastermind behind this great German act, has accomplished a new level in terms of melodies and epic tunes, kind of their own sound and a path to follow for other bands to come. The work on guitars is absolutely amazing in this new chapter, the natural evolution from their EP and genuine Max’s epic concept. It’s a pleasure to talk with Max again, he writes music as well as he writes about anything, just check it below.
Hello Max and congratulations for you new and fantastic album, Far from Light
Ave and thank you, friend. First I’d like to mention, that I’m glad to speak with you again, you supported us from the very beginning and I don’t forget such things.
Thanks Max, I am also glad to talk to you again and see that Lunar Shadow continues to grow. Last time we talked you had just released your first songs included in your Ep Triumphator. Around two years later we get your first full-length, Far from Light. How satisfied are you with the final result?
I am quite satisfied with the result and believe me, it has been a long and hard road. Sometimes I even struggled to see the light in the near future, but getting all this positive feedback now makes me see, that it was all worth it and I am proud of this album.
Triumphator was good, but I think with Far from Light you have given a tremendous step forward in terms of composition, melodies and feeling
I agree. This has mostly to do with the fact, that this time we had much more time and therefore could work more detailed and calm. “Triumphator” was recorded in a few days, most time being in a hurry, our drummer recorded his tracks in one fast session, mainly first-takes. This time we took our time, worked everything out and you can hear the result. Also it was clear to me, that on our first EP we would feature my faster, shorter songs, that are more direct. For this album we finally engaged the longer, more epic ones.
Absolutely true. How long have you been working on Far from Light and how was the composition process?
The production started in early summer (May) and lasted til autumn, late October/early November. It was quite an exhausting process for me, because I nearly attended all studio sessions, not only my own guitar tracks. We sometimes worked 12 hours per day on the songs and at some point you’re just done. Tired, nothing works anymore, then you have to stop and return another day. As “Far From Light” is an album about Death, strange things occured in the studio. On the very first day, our producer, who felt fine all day, suddenly started to feel bad, he got high fever then and even ended in hospital, so we had to postpone the recordings for some weeks. Our singer suddenly got sick while recording, also our drummer. Guess it’s the touch of decay, that somehow flowed into this album.
Nothing comes for free, and surely “Far From Light” has left blood and tears in his path. All the pieces fit perfectly in your new album, but I was absolutely surprised by the tons and tons of great riffs and solos you deliver. Is Max responsible for all that huge work or you have had some help?
No, in fact the songs were all written by me alone. It’s always nice to hear, that people appreciate your work. This time we worked on all the small details, the overdubs, the riffs, if I didn’t like a take, we just recorded it anew, on “Triumphator” we often had to use takes, that maybe weren’t perfect, but we were under time pressure. Only my guitar solos are still 90% improvised and often first-takes. Only the solo of “The Kraken” had a planned structure.
There is also a brilliant development of melodies compared to your previous work, I even think that this has become one of your trade marks, it’s really hard to find another act so inspired in that field, you could become kind of inspiration for other bands in the future…
I agree, that there aren’t that many acts these days, who work with that many twin-guitar leads. Dark Forest, our friends, are masters in that field too, I also like Seven Sisters fe. If we are able to inspire, which is a strong word, other bands I cannot really tell. If others like our music and get a bit of inspiration from it, that’s nice. But please don’t just copy our sound, I’m quite satisfied with the rather “Unique” sound we have achieved now haha.
Hahaha I guess it is not that easy to copy it. It seems there was not change in your line-up since the Triumphator release, this probably has helped to get to a higher level in terms of composition?
Absolutely. One important thing fe. was, that on “Triumphator” our singer Alex was relatively new to the band. This time he was part of the band for longer, we had many a gig together and I think you can hear this in his singing. It’s wonderful when your band mates are your friends and you can fully rely on them. Another example, one of the few recording sessions I didn’t attend was bass guitar, because I know Sven and he is so trained and technically excellent, I knew he’d do a great job and not fuck things up, haha.
Hahaha, really good. I suppose your followers have been growing steadily since your first songs were published, you have been touring around and the word of mouth seems that have worked very well, do you feel that warm welcome from fans?
Certainly there will be new fans, when “Far From Light” is finally out and we’re already rehearsing a lot to present things properly on stage. I really love our fans, they are very loyal, they travel for hours and hours from for example Munich in South Germany to the West just to hear us play and sometimes even leave, when our set is finished. This dedication means everything to me and I will never forget to be thankful.
I think I do not exaggerate a bit if we say that Lunar Shadow enters by its on right in the selected club of epic acts such as Manilla Road, Atlantean Kodex, Visigoth, Omen…, one of those bands always anticipated by fans
Oh, well that question is always a little hard to answer, if you’re a band member and directly involved. I love all the bands you listed here, if people become anywhere as loyal and dedicated to our music as they are to Manilla Road, Kodex, Omen or Visigoth, I’d be proud and could die a happy man. Guess it’s just wait and see.
If we talk about single songs in the album is really hard to choose just one or a few of them, because another feature of Far from Light is that you are able to keep the great level of intensity and elaboration from the first tunes of Hadrian Carrying Stones till the end of the album
I do have certain favourites of course and also songs, where I’m in doubt sometimes (but I don’t want to name them). Seen as one, I think the album keeps a certain level, yes. I really like the acoustic parts in the songs, “Gone Astray” is extremely important to me personally, the solo of “Cimmeria” gets me every time, I have no idea how I actually played that haha. The album should also be seen and listened to as one.
Yeah, if I had to choose anything for a live set, probably I would name Hadrian Carrying Stones or Cimmeria. Is there any truck you struggle more than the others to accomplish?
“Hadrian Carrying Stones” has already been part of our live set in the last year, so we’ll certainly play that one. Yes, sort of, some tracks are more difficult than others, “Cimmeria” fe. Has some tricky drum parts. Also it’s not always that easy to recreate the acoustic pieces on stage. But we work on that, I guess somehow we’ll manage to find a good, new set list.
There are songs like The Kraken where the melodies are simply top, it reminds me of Warlord, with Tsamis mastering of melodic guitars. This is something you have developed by yourself or it was inspired by bands as that?
I do love the early Warlord and the guitars there, but to be honest I never say “I now want to sound like Bill Tsamis!” or something. It’s something that just happened, I write and play the sort of Heavy Metal, the sort of melodies and solos, that I personally like. And if that reminds people of Warlord, I’m perfectly fine with that.
The rhythm section has accomplished a great task, a very detailed work that prepares the pace for the guitars to shine
I agree, my bandmates did an awesome job, every one of them. Without them, all my playing would be worthless.
You have been signed by Cruz del Sur Music, it doesn’t surprise me a bit, if I tell you the truth, because those guys have a very good eye for signing cool and great new bands that are rising or giving their first steps. The strange would be that you released Far from Light by yourself, as you did with the ep. How do you feel about it?
First of all, it was always clear, that I wanted this album to be released by a proper label. We released our EP by ourselves, there was no label involved, we fought for everything we have now. With the EP this was fine and the way I wanted it to be, but with this album it was different.
Cruz Del Sur has been the best solution and I’m proud to be part of it. Enrico is absolutely dedicated to Heavy Metal and his bands, the whole roster of CDS is awesome. Enrico liked the EP and we had a long talk then last year at “Harder Than Steel” Festival, I showed him some pre-production recordings and when he asked me, if we’d like to join Cruz Del Sur I gladfully said yes.
I have come to know that Max is also an author, having written a trilogy called “Sturmwind”. With that background I suppose the lyrics is only your work? Where did you get that fondness for writing? Do you still write or you are just focused in Lunar Shadow and all what is around it?
Yes, I also wrote all of the lyrics, though my prose and LS don’t intertwine with each other. I released two books in the vein of Tolkien or Robert E. Howard and one book in the style of Houellebecq. I always saw my books as a small tribute to these authors and it was refreshing and purifying to write down your own ideas and also sort of therapy yourself through this. I have stopped writing prose though, I only write some small poems from time to time, for my own pleasure.
Cool enough! Max, in the ep the lyrics followed the Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard’s themes, I suppose with Far from Light you continue this working line, right?
In a way I did, yes. “Cimmeria” was of course inspired by Robert E. Howard, “Earendil” by Tolkien and “The Kraken” is a perverted piece of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poems. These are just the things that rouse my interest, escapism in its purest form. Other worlds, other lands, far away from this place here.
The coverart, though still epic, has some a more refined air to me , I mean, in your ep Triumphator the cover was more evident or direct if you want to say it that way, it seems in this subject you have also evolved to a more detailed work that really fits your progression in the compositions
I know, what you mean. I knew, that “Far From Light” would deal with, let’s say, more serious matters. Death. Loss. Isolation and loneliness. A cover with a sword-swinging barbarian would just have been strange. Therefore this more “mature” and epic cover was the logical result.
The songs have grown in complexity and elaboration, how near is your live performance to the studio sound?
Of course we cannot play fe. all twin-leads plus rhythm guitars live, we had to hire a third guitarist for that. But we try to come as close to the album sound as possible when we play live. I do many backing vocals, our bass player Sven too and it works well.
Do you have already any tour dates programmed for this 2017? Will you visit Spain?
Right now as I am writing this there are only two shows set in Germany. We are not a touring band, that will never happen, but if we get an interesting offer from Spain, of course. I’d like to play there for sure.
Hopefully you will visit us sooner than later. Again, a pleasure to talk you, Max. Thank you very much.
Death To Life