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Lunar Shadow's Max Birbaum: it’s good that there isn’t a way back, because we would only copy times that are long gone. Why would we want to do that? We should try to create our own era... I don’t think most bands understand this"

Interview with Max Birbaum from Lunar Shadow
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 27 June 2019, 4:51 AM

From Death to life's passions, including strolling through the outskirts of pain. “The Smokeless Fires”, created by the Lunar Shadow, tells quite an interesting story, from start to finish. There is a future to expect to from such a talent. Steinmetal had a chat with the band's main songwriter, Max "Savage" Birbaum, about the new album, new recruit, classic Heavy Metal and even Manowar

Hello Max, it is a pleasure having you for this interview for Metal Temple online magazine, how have you been doing mate?

Thank you, I’m fine. It’s a little bit busy at the moment, for I do the whole PR for Lunar Shadow on my own, for Interviews like this one and I have exams coming up, but I am always glad when people are interested in Lunar Shadow and our work.

Just recently your band Lunar Shadow issued its sophomore album, “The Smokeless Fires”, once again via Cruz Del Sur Music. Congratulations first of all. Second, I would like to dwell a bit on the title, which is pretty mysterious, can shed some light on it?

‘The Smokeless Fires’ are our passions. Things inside each one of us, that keep us going in life, things that shatter us and break us down. It is love, friendship, anger, sadness and sorrow, determination and perseverance, the things that we burn for and the things that burn us. Those are ‘The Smokeless Fires’.

There is also the album’s artwork, made by Adam Burke, which is a marvelous work. What can you tell about the inspiration behind it? It is quite intriguing I might add

Adam had already done the artwork for our "Triumphator" back in 2015, so we already knew each other. I always liked his way of painting and I knew he was the right choice for the motive I had in mind. I told him though, that I wanted a painting that was a bit unusual for his style, something different. It was important to me, that it is not a classic Heavy Metal cover, no swords, mountains, castles or barbarians, I am a little tired of this. I wanted to depict one of the smokeless fires that we all know, one of the strongest ones there is: love. Love can ascend us to the highest spheres and tear us down into the deepest darkness. Love is incredibly strong and fragile at the same time, it is everything when we don’t have it and sometimes thrown away, when it is there. Love is strange and beautiful, somehow like our own music.

A question that is a must to be asked, in your opinion, do you see Lunar Shadow’s music advancing with “The Smokeless Fires”? For one thing, it feels rather atmospheric, almost spiritual, it is nature as a whole

There certainly is a certain, slight change in our sound. That is just something natural that happens, because I don’t want to record the same album over and over and over again, that would be boring. I just try everything that I want to try, artistic freedom is extremely important to me. As of the atmosphere, "Far From Light" was an album about death and therefore extremely dark and pessimistic. "The Smokeless Fires" has quite a different approach, also speaking of the lyrics and the overall concept, which is way more humanistic and introspective, turned to the inside of man and its struggles. There are even light moments, moments of fighting and winning, of overcoming mountains and issues. That is in my opinion the reason for the slightly different atmosphere.

What mainly inspired you to write the songs on “The Smokeless Fires”? What was your vision throughout the songwriting process? Did the end result meet your expectations?

I really like the outcome of this album, which is a rare thing for me to say, as I am very critical when it comes to my own music. I think we all did our best on this album, there is a lot of work and effort into it and I guess you can hear that.

Well, I wanted to explore these feelings that all of us have, that I have. Feelings of being lost, of fighting against everything, of loving, of being loved, of hate and sorrow and desperation. I wanted to write about these things, for they are the essence of our lives, the reasons we live.

You recently recruited Robert Röttig as your frontman. In comparison to your previous Alex Vornam, how did Röttig become fit in your vision of how the songs were meant to be sung on “The Smokeless Fires”? What extra features did Röttig bring with him to the plate?

Robert was already a good friend to most members of the band, so he basically never was the “new one” or had to be introduced or something, that made things very pleasant for everyone. Robert has a bigger vocal range than Alex who sang on our first two releases. We were able to do things with the vocals in the studio, that simply weren’t possible before technically, that was interesting. I think you can hear this on the album, how different his voice sometimes sounds, from aggressive, fast parts to the silent and fragile ones. Also Robert was very determined from the beginning, he learned our whole set in about two weeks and brought new fire into this band with his enthusiasm and positive attitude.

It is positive that as the main songwriter, you are proud of all of your brainchildren, yet I would be great to know which of the tunes made the greatest impact on you? Please elaborate on your pick

My favorite track would possibly be “Hawk Of The Hills”, for it contains all of Lunar Shadow’s trademarks, fast Dissection-riffing, silent parts, twin guitar attacks and dreamy lyrics.

I also like “Roses” a lot, because it is so different from our other songs, it was really fun to write this, I had actually never written a catchy song before, that was a real challenge.

As a German band playing a kind of Metal that is classic in origin, yet with extensions driven into darker flavors of the genre, what is your opinion on the revival that has been going on in traditional Metal worldwide? Do you think that it would hold and even become stronger in time? Is there a way back to the golden age of the 80s?

There is no way back. And it’s good that there isn’t a way back, because we would only copy times that are long gone. Why would we want to do that? We should try to create our own era, with our own visions and ideas, our own ideals and aesthetics. I don’t think most bands understand this. They try to imitate something, that was already there 35 years ago, either because they don’t want to follow their own ideals or because they are unable to create them. I don’t want to follow or imitate. I want to create and burn.

I don’t like this nostalgia. Nostalgia is soothing, but pointless. Those times never come back. I am sure, that the 80s were a cool time for Hard Rock and Heavy Metal, but times have changed and it’s good that they have changed, because standstill means death.

It is also simply impossible to compare this, everything has changed these days. Ways of distribution, the labels have changed, streaming, social media, everything in music has changed compared to the 80s. The old mechanisms don’t work anymore.

There is this example I like to quote about MANOWAR, who BEFORE they even had one song finished were sent to a villa in Florida by their Label Atlantic to write some songs. Can you imagine this? Your label sending you to relax in the sun to write a little bit of music while drinking cocktails, something like that is completely impossible today. It was a different time, but things are as they are.

About Manowar. A short time ago, at Hellfest Festival in France, on the day of their headline show, the American legends Manowar, cancelled their show due to yet to be explained reasons, and a few hours later Sabaton took the slot. What is your view on that? Is this the end of an era for the Americans and a sort of a crowning for the Swedish forerunners of War Metal?

It always hurts me to see what has become of MANOWAR, for years already, because their early works are extremely important to me. I don’t go to their shows anymore too, because I don’t want to support them with their behavior. Joey is very clever with social media though and also with manipulating his followers by tricking them into the belief, that the band is constantly being harassed by promoters and all the cancellations, the contracts, the lies are just to protect the fans. And it works, I sometimes still read the comments. Yet this is only my personal point of view, people are free to do and to enjoy what ever they want. That also includes Sabaton, I don’t really know the band, I won’t rant on them here or tell you I hate them. I simply don’t care about Sabaton, that’s all. They seem to have enough fans obviously, so the decision makes sense.

Other than “The Smokeless Fires” being a fresh part of your listening sessions, what bands have been tuning to lately? Are there candidates to become the next gods of Metal in your view?

Speaking of new bands at the moment I prefer Vulture’s "Vengeance", for they have a very unique sound that really speaks to me. They are also wonderful people and good friends. I would also like to mention Turbokill with our pal Dan Kanzler on guitars.

The only metal gods are Judas Priest, ha. Thing is, the big bands are coming to an end. Those stadium-bands are history, who shall follow them? Ghost are very big at the moment (I like them). Sabaton? Volbeat? Not too interesting. There are no real follow-ups to Maiden, Priest, Kiss and Rush. The only thing, that we can do is to try to create something that is thorough, honest and strong. We must try to keep our integrity, stay true to ourselves and our fans.

I am sure that you have plans to support “The Smokeless Fires” some time soon, what have you been up to?

Right now there aren’t any plans haha. As you might know I don’t really like to play live, we also don’t want to tour. We have one festival gig confirmed for summer 2020, but that’s it at the moment I am typing this. I don’t consider Lunar Shadow a live-band, also I am tired of playing guitar at the moment and I’m happy that after three months of recording I can finally take care of other stuff instead of music.

Max, I thank you for this interview, “The Smokeless Fires” is a breathtaking piece of music and I implore you to continue making such triumphs. All the best mate

Max: Thanks a lot, it was nice talking to you!


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Edited 06 December 2022

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