ETERNAL ASCENT: "One thing that I love about the metal community is that our passion for music transcends cultural and geopolitical divides"
"Reclamation" by ETERNAL ASCENT is the third powermetal album having been released in the same week in January 2022 to appear on our musical journey, and again, our trip takes us to the US, more precisely to New York. Christian Rush and Mark Bellafatto created this project together with some illustrious guests, and told me more about their background, the mystic cover artwork, and the album's topics.
Welcome to read our chat here:
Hey, thanks for making time to answer my questions. How are you today?
We’re doing great. It’s nice to finally be getting some rest after 2 years of writing and recording, but we’re honestly already feeling the itch to get more content down onto the paper.
That's awesome :-) Could you please introduce yourself and ETERNAL ASCENT to our readers?
Most definitely. We are Mark and Chris of ETERNAL ASCENT, a powermetal band based out of New York, though it seems most people are calling us a symphonic metal band specifically as of our recent release.
You just released your debut album “Reclamation”. How do you feel about it, and how was the reception so far?
It’s been really amazing so far. We're both really excited and exhausted. We’ve never done anything more than an EP in our 10-plus-years of making music, so this whole experience has been surreal and difficult, but it seems like the payoff has been worth it. The attention we got so far was a LOT more than for anything we’ve ever released before. In comparison to our first two singles, “Reclamation” has probably increased our reach tenfold.
Definitely well-deserved :-) Let’s take a look at the mystical cover artwork: What can you tell us about its origins, and how does it reflect the album thematically?
Chris: We wanted to use the same artist that we went to for the artwork on our single “Take to the Skies.” The style is just really awesome and has a somewhat old school Dio vibe to it. As for the content of the image itself, we wanted something like you said “mystical,” that could represent the album broadly as a whole with the powermetal aspect, but also to showcase the heavier side.
If we were to really dive in deep, the original idea was to display a character who had all the riches in the world, but the only thing that remains is a lonely tomb. We both have come to points in our lives where we think we realized what’s really important, and as sappy as it might sound, we see it as family, friends, music, and overall staying happy and positive. So the character on the cover serves as a warning to ourselves to stay on the right path, lest we end up with no one to share in our success...
Could you dive a bit into the album’s topics with us, please?
Mark: Musically, the album is very much an experimental project. As such, I didn’t feel constrained to write into the lyrical tropes of a certain genre… though I do love me some dragons. The majority of writing took place over the course of 2020, which, for me, became a period of much self discovery. Over the course of the album, I explored my emotions ranging from anger and rage to levity and genuine joy. "March to the Light" and "My Right Hand" tend to explore the darker side of humanity, whilst "Being Human" and "Reclamation" are songs of hope and gratitude.
One thing that I love about the metal community is that our passion for music transcends cultural and geopolitical divides. It’s why I felt so strongly that the song "Reclamation" was a fitting end to the album.
How did you come up with the project’s name, and is there a deeper meaning behind it?
Chris: Mark originally came up with the concept of a name that would cover the idea of contrast and juxtaposition. Even really early on we knew that we wouldn’t just be doing straight up power metal. We wanted just about any song that sounded good to make it’s way onto the tracklist. So we basically just bounced ideas back and forth on Messenger, and eventually came up with ETERNAL ASCENT.
Music-wise, “Reclamation” is strongly powermetal themed, but you’ve already worked together in other bands. What is your musical background, and where do your main influences come from?
Mark: I feel that Chris and I work so well together because we came from such diverse musical backgrounds and find common ground in power metal. Other publications have highlighted our unique sound and how we stand out from other power metal bands because we don’t follow the typical playbook.
Chris has a strong affinity for Japanese power metal bands that are balls to the wall speed and technicality. I tend to favor music that is more melodic and emotional by nature. It’s not uncommon for me to write a hook that could be found in a 90s rock song or shape my voice similarly to a jazz crooner.
Could you briefly describe your writing / recording process, please?
Like everything these past few years, all the collaboration is done remotely. One of us will start a song and save a GuitarPro file to work on. A song is usually at least 40% - 50% completed at a compositional level before we share it with each other and present it as a contender for the album. After we both listen to it and gather some initial thoughts, the original writer will more or less finish the song. If one of us gets stuck, we simply tell the other to take a stab at it. It’s fairly simple because we end up writing very similar progressions and melodies.
As for the recording process, we basically finish writing the song and immediately will get to work on guitar stems and orchestrations. Chris will make a full demo with locked in guitars, midi drums just for reference, and then we both split the orchestrations with software that we invested in ourselves. Then the vocal stems get recorded and basically it all gets sent over to our amazing producer Randy Pasquarella, who is probably the hardest working person we’ve ever met. We actually only went into the studio a total of two times for the album. Once to re-amp the DI guitars into a tube amp, and one more time to finalize the mix.
The album was also made possible thanks to a successful crowdfunding campaign. What kind of experience was this for you (also regarding being an independent artist)?
It was kind of a surreal experience. Obviously you can’t go into that kind of thing thinking it’s going to fail. You need to believe in it and trust that people will support you with the caveat that there’s actually something worth listening to. With that being said, of course we had doubts, but clearly those all got blown away. We had a goal of $3,000, and we ended up getting something like $3,900 within 2 weeks of the campaign. It was just an absolute blessing to see that people really do care about independent artists when the right work is put into it.
We used 2 singles to showcase what the album would basically envelope, and that’s not too much to go on. But people still put their faith in us and helped us deliver something that we’re just so proud of. We keep joking about it, but we are seriously ETERNALLY grateful to all the supporters.
Do you have plans to bring ETERNAL ASCENT’s music on stage, or is it a pure studio project?
Mark: This is a complicated question. We both have careers outside of music, which inherently limits our ability to be a functional touring band. Playing live is one of the best feelings in the world, though. Seeing a crowd of people who want to listen to and celebrate your creation is one of the most validating feelings in the world, meeting fans and rocking out the purest form of entertainment for me. Chris and I have discussed the prospect of playing live at length and would love to make it happen, but I do think it would have to be under the right circumstances. We would love to jump on some festivals.
How would you describe your local rock / metal scene? And did you notice changes over the past years?
We previously played in a heavy metal band together here on the East Coast. Honestly the local scene isn’t very healthy. There’s lots of places that still require pay to play, even in smaller venues. We got to open for some great bands like Battle Beast, Unleash the Archers, Warbringer, and other big international acts, but we had to fight tooth and nail for the opportunity to give the promoters our money.
This is partially why we went straight to a full length album and funded it through kickstarter. At the end of the day, music is an industry, and the industry is evolving. Once upon a time, bands would tour to build their fan base. Today, it’s more financially sound to drop an album and invest in social media marketing campaigns. This is a labor of love for us, so breaking even is totally fine, but for bands who try to go career with their music, it is a truly cutthroat world.
What can you tell us about your future plans?
Tough to say. The current album is still really fresh in our minds. While we do have more material that is being written, and some songs that just barely didn’t make the cut for "Reclamation", we still aren’t sure whether the next step should be an album, an EP, or just singles. At this point it’s probably a “time will tell” based on how much material we can start churning out over the next year or two.
In the short term we’ll have a lyric video out soon, and maybe another music video just to keep the momentum going. We do all the music videos ourselves, so it’s a lot of fun to do those with friends.
Looking forward to this. Do you have any further thoughts you’d like to share here?
At the moment we’re just so grateful to all the support we’ve been given. We are just two dudes who wanted to push the boundaries of everything we’ve experimented with in the past, and we probably would have been happy enough to just have the CD in our own cars along with a few friends. But it’s seriously great to see so many people from around the world enjoying the album and getting to talk to people like yourself about it is tremendously fun. So there’s not much to say except thank you and the fans for all the help.
You're most welcome :-) Thanks again for your time, and all the best for you and your music.