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Interviews : “We’ve already started writing for the next album” – An interview with Mark Kelson (The Eternal)

By on February 15, 2019

How do you measure success? Just as there are different levels of success, there are also different types. The type that comes to most people’s minds of course when the word is spoken is a financial and commercial success. We have all been socialised to think this way. But there is also critical, and more importantly, creative success. Melbourne progressive doom-mongers The Eternal are probably more of a cult band than a massive money-spinner, or band with a huge profile. In fact, one could describe them as criminally underrated, in a commercial sense. But for a decade and a half, they have consistently released material of a ridiculously high standard for their loyal niche audience worldwide. And, these days at least, the main man Mark Kelson is more than happy with where things sit.

“We’ve had a lot of nine out of tens and ten out of tens,” he states, when recalling the reaction the band’s latest opus, the epic Waiting For the Endless Dawn, has received, “I guess you could call that critical acclaim. It doesn’t necessarily transfer into commercial success, but it’s very nice to be critically acclaimed.”

Sweetening that deal even more is the knowledge that virtually the entire piece of work was a DIY labour of love for Kelson and his bandmates, and that they had to overcome adversity to see it finally released. “Particularly since the whole album was done in my studio, on a budget of $0 and with no record label when we started it,” he states proudly, “we were really at a point where we didn’t know where we were going.

“Every band comes to a crossroads every couple of albums, we seemed to come to a crossroads with every album!” He laughs, “although this one we haven’t. We’re moving ahead rapidly now.”

Although The Eternal has certainly become known as a band that doesn’t stand still, that explores much different musical territory and never makes the same album twice, Waiting For the Endless Dawn was still a bolt out of blue for many people. It could be described as a sweeping, epic vista of grimness, and an unexpected return to Kelson’s doom metal roots. Opening track, The Wound, clocks in at just under 20 minutes, and only two of the seven tunes on offer are under 10 minutes. It was one of the doomiest and most non-commercial records released last year, and again, all of that is sitting nicely with Kelson.

“The Eternal’s always gone off into all these tangents,” he says, “we’ve done rock and we’ve explored all this other stuff, and with this record I wanted to pay homage to where I’ve come from, so there’s a nod to the 90s, Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride, it’s kind of like you took those bands and blended them into one. And still embracing the progressive elements that we all like, moving forward. So it’s a bit of a nod back, and a nod forward.

“It was never about not wanting a four-minute hit single, it was more about ‘I got nothing to lose because I’ve got nothing’. It just took three years to make the damn thing!” He laughs.

The band are in the middle of a run of Australian dates at the time of writing, with their big hometown album launch to come this Saturday night at Fitzroy’s beloved Evelyn Hotel. Kelson reveals that that feeling of darkness and doom that pervades the album will also very much be present in their live set.

“We have a lot of long, dark heavy songs in this set,” he says, “it goes for 90 minutes, and we’re not playing anything off the (more rock oriented) last two albums, so we’re only doing the new album and the first three albums. It’s hard, it just comes down to a time thing, if you play four songs from the new album, that’s 45-50 minutes. We’ve got four songs from the new album, and then six from the first three albums, and that’s 90 minutes.”

The band have another date in Melbourne, then the tour rounds out in Adelaide in April, and then they jet off overseas for the first time in quite some time. “We’re playing a festival in Hungary in August,” Kelson announces, “and we’re trying to book a European run around that. I have a few tentative things in place, most likely The Netherlands, Finland. The Eternal has not been to Europe since 2009, so it’ll be out first time back in 10 years.”

More than 15 years and six albums into their career, Kelson feels there is still plenty of life left in the old beast yet. “I reckon we’ve got at least a couple more albums left in us,” he says, “We’ve already started writing for the next album, we’ve got four songs already, and our creativity has been renewed with a couple of lineup changes we’ve had recently. So yes, we will keep going.”

About

Rod Whitfield is a Melbourne-based writer and retired musician who has been writing about music since 1995. He has worked for Team Rock, Beat Magazine, themusic.com.au, Heavy Mag, Mixdown, The Metal Forge, Metal Obsession and many others. He has written and published his memoirs of his life and times in the music biz, and also writes books, screenplays, short stories, blogs and more.