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Eternal Champion's Arthur Rizk: "We could have made a record pretty similar to the debut and do the safe route but we chose to try some different stuff and did not really worry too much about how much people loved the first"

Interview with Arthur Rizk from Eternal Champion
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 09 January 2021, 11:26 PM

It is all a matter of perspective. In most cases, fans of a band are looking for each new record that would continue the band's musical spirit, not really hoping for any wild changes that may take their attention away, looking for the next best thing. Of course, it is subjective, as freshness, and taking that extra mile by the band to forge a new path for future possibilities, isn't that bad, and some would not call it risk. The US Metal band, Eternal Champion, made a glorious debut album, voted by many as a classic. However, things turned a bit on the new "Ravening Iron", keeping the old yet also offering the new. Steinmetal had a conversation with guitarist Arthur Rizk about the journey of the record, taking that right turn to become a little more than a reproduction of the earlier stuff.

Hello Arthur, this is a true honor to have you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing?

Hails, the honor is all mine! All is good in my part of the world thank you!

I guess that up until late, meaning prior to the pandemic, you still have been enjoying the fruits of your debut, “The Armor of Ire”, especially since that it was deemed as one of the best releases of the last decade. Does it feel like living the dream in a way?

I think that just being able to release music on our own terms is living the dream. The respect of our fans and people who have praised the record is just a bonus to everything.

Speaking about this pandemic, would you say that it lowered your motivation a bit due to the cancelled shows and festivals? How are you going through all of this mess, in particular in the US?

A lot of people might have that outlook but I feel like every day I am getting hungrier and hungrier to get back to playing. We want to be blasting full steam when it is safe and responsible to get out and do some gigs finally. The pandemic sucks, and there has been major events this year beyond just cancelled stuff that are trying to crumble our world but we are warriors in this life. We push through!

With the early mentioned factor of the debut album in mind, have you felt any kind of pressure to come up with the same level of stellar quality for the next album?

There was certainly a little pressure to make a quality record which is good for motivation.  However it is a bit the opposite… We could have made a record pretty similar to the debut and do the safe route but we chose to try some different stuff and did not really worry too much about how much people loved the first. The next album may be different from "Ravening Iron" and that is something I will not lose sleep over. We just want to do what we like!

Entitled “Ravening Iron”, which for me it also appeared quite fit for a fantasy book title at first glance, would you say that it is the continuance of the themes, or one of the themes on the debut? One of the reasons that I am asking due to the appearance of the “Armor Of Ire” title on one of the songs.

Yes we did include a little throwback reference to "Armor…" as the themes are very much similar and there are many Easter eggs throughout the record giving nods to "Armor…". Mostly the theme of Sword Worship is continued.

What kind of stories are being told on “Ravening Iron” that you believe that are bound to make an impact on the listeners’ imagination and how they interpret fantasy driven tales?

Most of the stories are one’s of war. I think my favorite being "Cowards Keep" is the story of one who has intentionally been captured by the opposition with the intention of taking their keep from the inside out. I think the lyrics are not so proper specific that people can paint their own pictures in their head. People have compared that story to the Trojans which I love, connecting our song to one of the greatest epic stories ever told. Our label Sword Worship released Jason Tarpey’s book The Godblade which contains many stories of the LP I would highly suggest purchasing that for more clarifications!

Is there any moral out of the themes presented on “Ravening Iron”? Perhaps any sort of analogy with the current state of affairs worldwide? Are there any insinuations that are worth mentioning concerning our daily lives?

Jason and I have always agreed that songwriting rooted in reality was boring as we’ve always meant to create our own reality through the epic journey of music. A lot of our songs can be applied to life for example the underlying theme of persistence in pursuit of one's enemy and conquering one's challenges. I believe everyone can resonate with this sentiment whether the enemy is a real person or a metaphorical thing.

“The Armor Of Ire” presented a strong suit of certainly one of the perfectly made mixtures between British Metal and US Metal, 80s oriented of course. As I see it, “Ravening Iron” is a continuance on the musical level, yet from your point of view, how do you think that this album took Eternal Champion forward in terms of your progress as musicians, as songwriters?

The songwriting was more or less the same formula but this time we consciously made the songs more linear in the terms of parts.  I think the change was to include some more “Hard Prog” aspects which are a term me and Jason invented. Hard Prog would be like if YES were DOOMED out and mosh worthy. We made more key changes and different time signatures.  I think it gives us more confidence to continue to try different things. I am a music fanatic personally and there is a lot of outside genre that go into the influence that I would combine with the USPM and NWOBHM.

With you taking your time after the debut, and in relation to the previous question, what changed in your songwriting process to perfect your efforts for this record?

The time we took was arbitrary to the album because most of the writing happened in 2018-2019. The first two years that the album was out 2016-2017 we mostly played shows and worked on our crafts. I took producing very seriously in this time so I had no time for songwriting and honestly in that may be some answer. A break from writing and an increase of production work may have sharpened my skills for cutting out all the bullshit from a song.

As the next musical impact in line, in the image of “Ravening Iron”, and the expectations out of the record, what do you think that it brings to the label in regards to freshness, even when aspiring to revamp the classic 80s era of Metal?

I think while we make music that could be described as a nod to 80s metal, we also have a lot of DNA that is not rooted in that takes a different road than the usual suspects. This is how people who enjoy other forms of metal are able to enjoy our stuff. I think because our inspiration is so varied there are other dimensions that are not explored in the newer bands playing “traditional heavy metal”.

Which elements on the record do you believe that would make that fine click with the fans and newcomer listeners to the album’s music?

I think there is a nice assortment of metal on "Ravening Iron" and if fans like riffs solos and ass stomping marches than there is something for everyone. To be more direct, though I personally believe Jason’s voice, lyrics, and arrangements are the collective thing that will always bring us new fans. He is Eternal Champion from the demo to this album.

Without a doubt, at least for me, the album’s toughest and mightiest is “Worms Of The Earth”, displaying the wholesome power of the ol’s enticing US Metal scene that is sadly lost in translation, at least until the next revival. The riffs are addictive and the singing top notch. What is your appreciation of this tune?

"Worms of the earth" was the last song written for the LP (besides the instrumental track "The Godblade"). I had felt that the album had a lot of doom laden tracks and wanted to add one more fast song to balance the journey. It started with the death of Mark Shelton (Manilla Road) whom I wanted to try to do a tribute track for him, as Jason and I had just met him a couple years ago in Germany. I had a couple misfit riffs and so did John Powers and we put it all together as a massive epic piece originally it was well around 7 minutes but we chopped it down. I love the singing on it. We laid down the vocals for it in Jason’s “mancave” pretty much at the end of vocal tracking. When it got to the middle section of the song with the fast tempo change and Jason laid down the vocals for the first time I swear even right now as I tell you this I had goose bumps it pretty much went untouched unpunched. A total natural moment as I cannot imagine how many hours he has spent in his car or at his forge singing Manilla Road songs it was totally natural for him.

The opening track, “A Face In The Glare”, had me thinking of the debut Exodus album’s finest, “Bonded By Blood” tune, perhaps also due to the similarity in sound patterns. When it comes to a chopping slow tempo epic, this is the one to lead the charge. What can you tell about the creation of this track and its impact on the record as overall?

This was actually the first track we wrote for the album. Jason had been throwing around the idea of having some really hard hitting tracks on the new record. I had always wanted to do something that was crossover influenced but epic by nature so I came up with about 10 complex riffs that were on the first “Face in the glare” demo and literally everyone I played it for was like “this is uhhh… interesting?”. Haha it was way too much… and after many revisions all of the technical stuff disappeared and it was stripped down to a war march. The impact on the record was we had a starting point!

“Coward’s Keep” took a somewhat doomy turnout, making it different than the larger part of the tracklist. Its diversity within traditional Metal is quite electrifying. What is your take on that notion? What is this tune all about?

"Cowards Keep" was something of an anomaly that I had written and re-written many times. I always had wanted to write a song that was headbang worthy but was led by the snare drum much like an army into war. I see it as a testament to pretty much every genre of metal. I said it before but it is likely my favorite song on the LP from the intro to the lyrical themes and the guitar solos and the pummeling non tonal breakdowns.

A lot of bands nowadays slowly understand that to perform live it is going to take some time and suddenly those found themselves within the newly found live stream actuality. Where does Eternal Champion stand in light of that? Have you considered doing the same?

We do not have any live streaming planned. I do enjoy the live streams but we are not overly anxious to perform our material until it has been perfected for live consumption. We do not even have a live lineup as Blake Ibanez was always tied up with Power Trip stuff. So a lot of times we would either have someone fill in on Drums and I would play guitar or we would have Steve of Crypt Sermon fill in on guitar and I would resume Drums.

Let’s say that this entire pandemic is over, what are your plans forward for the band? Where are you going to end up in the next several years?

Wherever the wind takes us we will go. We are just happy to put out a quality record for people to love and hate.

Arthur, many thanks for your time mate, it was a pleasure and I am glad that US Metal is going strong through bands such as yourselves, and I bet that “Ravening Iron” would crush some skulls. Cheers.




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Edited 08 December 2022

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