Greetings to you, Mark Kelson, guitarist and vocalist with Melbourne doomists The Eternal – and thanks for being the first up to the plate to explore the seven ages of metal with us!
Here you are then – entering the world of metal, probably in your early teens, mewling about the unfairness of it all and puking on cheap white cider… Which band was your introduction to metal? How did you find out about them? And which bands generally do you think make the best ‘entry level’ metal music? “I guess when I was about twelve or thirteen my mother married a gentleman in a local metal band, so I was exposed to the early records of Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer & Candlemass… I remember Candlemass being different out of the bunch, being so slow et cetera… No doubt an effect on my future career, but the first one that was ‘my own’ was Metallica’s And Justice For All… I was nuts for that; Metallica always seems like a good gateway drug into the world of metal, it always surprises me when I work with young metal bands in my studio, that Metallica even all these years later seems to the be the one that got them started”.
You’re on your way! The magical and bewildering world of metal lies at your feet… you’ve assembled a small collection of records and tapes, CDs even – but you’re still very much a Schoolboy, whining because the olds won’t let you go to a gig – until the scales fall from their eyes – and you’ve got the Golden ticket in your sweaty little palm! Who were the first band you saw in the live arena? Did it confirm your suspicions about just how massive this hidden world was, how inspiring? Or was first ‘in the flesh’ contact a little disappointing? “The very first was Mötley Crüe on the Dr Feelgood tour as a family member got tickets and knew I liked heavier music. Of course I’d been listening to heavier stuff, so this didn’t quite set my soul on fire… but step dad came to the rescue and took me to see Iron Maiden at Festival Hall on the Fear of the Dark Tour, that was freakin’ amazing, those guys had so much energy and then I was off and running”.
You’re now a full-grown acolyte, a fully-fledged lover of the dark arts, as it were. But listening and watching isn’t enough. You need to consummate your love, by forming or joining your own metal band – tell us about your formative bands and what life was like on the bottom rung of the ladder… “In high school (years eight to nine) I formed a band called Battle Axe. we played Metallica and Iron Maiden covers and attempted one or two of our own, making the whole school watch us do lunch time gigs… tight black jeans, flannel shirts and mullets were all the rage in eighties! My first original band was Cryptal Darkness when I was about eighteen, they were a grind/gore band, and although I knew nothing of this music it was my introduction to doom death et cetera… not long after I joined, we got the first My Dying Bride and Paradise Lost albums, changed style and I’ve stayed on the dark path ever since…”
Mission accomplished – you’re in a band. A Soldier of metal mired in the trenches fighting for our way of life, possibly on a tour of the toilet venues of your home locale – what was your first tour like? What valuable lessons were learned? Or was there just to much fun to be had to worry about tedious life craft? “We did a bunch of local stuff with Cryptal Darkness, but my first real European tour was with my current band The Eternal around fifteen years ago… that was rough and ready! We drove all around Europe in a van, slept on the side of roads, wallowed in our own filth and generally abused ourselves for three weeks (laughs). I learnt that when playing fifteen shows in a row trying to look after your health was mildly important, because as we continued to do this over the years I learnt I wasn’t as immortal as I was on that first one, but I would say overall through the ups and downs that first one was a magical experience; I couldn’t believe I could travel playing music I wrote and that people would come and see it (more laughter)… but fifteen guys shoved in a small van is not as alluring as it used to be, I do prefer the occasional hotel and shower in my old age!”
Away from you now – your career is in full bloom. But what of the elder Statesmen, the justices who still reign, Saturnine and all-knowing? Which of the old-but-still-living Gods still command the most respect in your eyes? And why? “That is a tough one! So many of the old Guard still reign supreme! Bands that influenced me in the early nineties like Anathema, Paradise Lost and Amorphis still hold a soft spot, it’s great to see they still tour and make records and have careers and it has also been great to tour with the bands like this that have influenced us – it leads me to thinking twenty five years into my career I might just keep having a crack!”
And what about those who’ve maybe pushed it a little too far, those bespectacled and pantalooned ‘legacy’ artistes on their nth farewell trip across the globe? Is there anyone in our world you think might like to think about hanging up the old Les Paul and giving themselves and us a rest? “In my teen years I was a huge Queensrÿche fan… huge! Chris DeGarmo was my god…. Although the band they have now is good, it is not Queensrÿche and I feel that if they changed their name it would take the ache out of my heart when I put on Rage For Order…”
And the final age, of course, is death. We’ll all be left Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything eventually. Which deceased metallian do you miss most? And what are your happiest memories of them? “That’s a long list of fallen heroes … Jon Lord… Cozy Powell …. And all the other forefathers of this epic journey …. I think Layne Staley’ of Alice In Chains’ death had an effect of me as I was young when I saw them and they also solidified my love for slow and heavy…. But it was my mothers husband that got me into metal; his name was Ron Cartledge from a Melbourne band called Renegade and when I heard of his passing I was heartbroken …. If it was not for that man, his black strat, bullet belt and Motörhead T-Shirt I would probably not be talking to you today. RIP Ron!”
The Eternal wind up their Australian tour this Saturday at The Enigma Bar in Adelaide – get along if you can! But before that take a squizz at their new video…