Words by Peter Tanski
For those in thrall of fantastical, metallurgical musics, there is an unspoken bond between the heft and pummel of a well wrought, hair flailing epic. It must be heavy, it must be fast. These are the rules. When the tales woven into the chainmail are high concept fantasy novels in album format? I’d dare say the the mage that had cast that particular spell were a cagey one, indeed. Eclipse of the Dual Moons is as much Powerslave as it is Houses of the Holy, blending metal classicism with thrash accuracy and allowing the whole of all that is Metal to be used as seasoning to a most intoxicating brew.
Off Shelf: For a moment, let’s presuppose that I am the first alien anthropologist to visit Secartha. How would the inhabitants of this world appear? Are they anthropomorphic? Do their customs as far as cultural mores and familial units translate? Are they a character of us?
Kevin Fitzgerald: Yeah, for the most part the people you’ll encounter in the Third Realm will seem more or less like a primitive reflection of ourselves. Secartha is the largest city in the realm, and its residents, although stoic and intimidating, can also be inviting and very hospitable. They worship an ancient tree named Aiea which produces enchanted mushrooms or “fruit.” Through communing through these it’s said that they are guided to their true purpose. That’s how their community has thrived for so long. As far as the other realms? Who knows what vile creatures lie beyond?
OS: Did the idea of this world find impetus before the band was formed, or did the band’s formation ignite the initial spark of creation?
KF: The idea of the lyrical themes was an afterthought after the band’s formation. At first I was originally playing drums but moved to vocals before we recorded our first material. That’s when the idea of Secartha came to fruition.
OS: Your style of aggressive music has deep and divergent roots, harkening back to the porto-metal of Black Sabbath, the Power Metal of Iron Maiden, Bay Area Thrash ala Obituary, Slayer, Exhorder, and that magical period known as Crossover when Hardcore and Metal wed, birthing C.O.C., D.R.I., Suicidal Tendencies, Ludichrist, The Cro Mags. I even detect a mild Deep Purple nod on this record. These elements work well together in your capable hands. It begs the question, which of these came first for you? What was that first kiss that drove you to a fervor?
KF: For me it was Black Sabbath, the first album I heard by them was Paranoid and I must have played that CD multiple times a day for years. Air drumming to “Rat Salad” and shit. But what really blew me away was when I received a copy of And Justice For All when I was a kid. That was game over for me. Metallica is a huge reason why we started this band in the first place.
OS: Eclipse of the Dual Moons feels quite apocalyptic, as if the Secarthan civilization is about to face insurmountable odds. Is this chapter in their history the worst that they have endured via your continuing mythology?
KF: Yeah, the people of Secartha are tough as nails. They’ve been through some insurmountable odds over the years, but this chapter feels very much like impending doom. The rare dual moon eclipse allows a celestial rift to crack open while legions of automaton soldiers rain down from the sky. The fate of the entire realm lies within Secarthan steel.
OS: Has the new millennium’s renewed interest in Thrash, in your opinion, given rise to more groups of as fine a quality as yours, or has it emboldened as many mediocre bands as it has greats?
KF: Thrash and metal in general seem to be in a solid place over recent years. There’s a ton of sick new bands killing it right now. Some might say it’s over-saturated but I think that’s a sign of a strong scene. The cream of the crop will always rise to the top in the end.
OS: Your bio lists a number of incredible Fantasy authors that you site as inspirations. From Howard to Vance. Have any less notable wordsmiths? Is a Heinlein or R.A. Salvatore waiting in the wings of your library? Perhaps even a Dungeon Master’s Guide?
KF: To be fair I’m a lot more in line with Beavis and Butthead than someone who might have an extensive library. Lately I’ve been reading comics and graphic novels. I’ve been really digging Jason Aaron’s The Goddamned series.
OS: “Spires Of Secartha”, track 8 on the record, is the final and most cinematic song on the album. It is also the most epic. The monolog in the beginning is from the point of view of the mortal enemies of Secartha. Who are these fiends, and why do they aspire to dispatch our heroes?
KF: The monologue on that track is a quote from Tytericon, our main villain, and ruthless leader of the nefarious Lunar Dawn. He’s wandered the realms beyond the stars for years but greed and a permeating grudge leads him back to Secartha to settle the score.
OS: After having been fully indoctrinated into the culture of the embattled people of this world, I wonder, do you intend to continue this mythology throughout the life of High Command? It appears that the very nature of the narrative is highfantasy. It’s malleable. One can conceivably mold it to whatever storyline you can summon.
KF: Yeah I definitely plan to keep it going, it’s been really fun so far. Like you said fantasy is malleable, and there’s endless possibilities of what can happen within the worlds that you create. With each release I plan on expanding the lore with new adventures.
OS: Has a more tactile visual element to the mythology been considered, be it cinematic or literary? A graphic novel perhaps?
KF: Yeah over the past year we’ve been working on a comic book series entitled Secartha. The first story arc will be eight issues that offer a deep dive into the Third Realm and the events of Eclipse Of The Dual Moons. Each issue reflects a different song on the album. The great Jerry Hionis, aka Wyrmwalk is handling the artwork. Really pumped for people interested to get a visual glimpse into the world of High Command.
OS: How do the symphonic elements of your record translate to the stage? There is a great deal of classical instrumentation to “The Spires of Secartha” in particular. Will the more Morricone aspects be omitted in a live setting.
KF: While for the most part we just get on stage and throw the hammer down we do appreciate dynamics and creating an atmosphere. We’ve been triggering sounds with samples for a while now. We’re always trying to make our live show bigger and better though. So don’t be surprised to see strings, a gong, dulcimers, or a Hammond organ on stage someday. Maybe with a broadsword stabbed through the keys.
OS: Can you impart any wisdom from your realm of wizards and warriors? A stanza or two from a grimoire?
KF: “A hand holds the key. Reaching from beyond the stars. The light of the Dual Moons shines through the threshold. Upon their coronation the very sky will tear open! Lifeless dark astride winds of steel. The Circle of The Void returns… No time for a feast, saplings, lest sacred lands be scorned by a sea of flame. Lest we forget our oath to the Ironwood. War is coming! Death wears a gilded mask! Your delusions of tranquility, strangled beneath a cloak of ash!”
OS: In closing, this is an album one can easily pour over, during repeated listenings, envisioning Castle keeps and chainmail. Was There a particular album that had inspired such fantasies in your youth?
KF: Iron Maiden’s Powerslave and Dio’s Holy Diver.