Heavenwood | Interview with Ricardo Dias

Heavenwood once threatened to become a serious phenomenon of popularity when the Portuguese band signed a multiple record deal with German label Massacre Records following hot on the heels of Moonspell successful partnership with Century Media. Following an auspicious start with the release of two highly acclaimed albums, “Diva” from 1996 and “Shallow” from 1998 and well projected tours with the likes of Theatre of Tragedy, In Flames and Atrocity the band entered a downwards spiral of inner turbulence that culminated in Heavenwood’s dissolution in 2001.
Thankfully, the band sorted out the problems that hindered their evolution and reunited two years later, assembling new songs for a comeback album that will finally see the light at the tunnel later this year. Guitarist Ricardo Dias was gentle enough to enlighten us with details of “Redemption”, Heavenwood’s long awaited third full-length album.

In a period of clear ascension of Heavenwood, following the release of their successful second album entitled "Swallow" in 1998 and tours in support of bulky names like Atrocity and Solitude Aeturnus, the band entered a turbulent period that culminated in their dissolution in 2001. At the time predominated a certain feeling of consternation, considering it was a group that could have done far more and perhaps achieve the success Moonspell have conquered throughout these long years with lots of blood, sweat and tears. Is this something Heavewood members have also experienced at the time, a feeling of an arduous unfinished business?

"Yes, overall after spending countless hours of our lives dedicated to a dream and to a musical style it reached a point where the rational side collided with the emotional side. I’m sorry for the HEAVENWOOD fans for this hiatus, but if they had been in our place, they would certainly make the same thing. There were many justifications for us to put HEAVENWOOD on hold, justifications that in my opinion are anti-art.
Currently we’ve reduced the group to a strong nucleus of three people where I, Ernesto Guerra and the Bruno Silva took the reins of the universe of HEAVENWOOD and after nearly a year of extra-human devotion channelled into the pre-production of our new album that will come out in September we saw the light at the end of the tunnel... we even wrote this in our first demo and our first theme "See the light and follow it"... see the irony of our destiny!"

And the current feeling is that Heavenwood are here to stay?

"I believe in free will hence I believe that what we must make, feel and construct or destroy only belongs to us. We ended up making the best option by freezing HEAVENWOOD during these years instead of launching one or two albums to be in the drawer, a fact proven by innumerable recognized bands in the musical panorama when they understand that they want to evolve or should I say... when they want to express themselves through other musical channels. In this in case, we would be sticking a long knife in the backs of HEAVENWOOD fans. We’ve made the best option for sure, we have kept ourselves actives in the musical universe either at level of producing either in participating in other musical projects... music was born with us (of blood and soul)."

During the absence of Heavenwood, its elements had never moved away from the world of music and had developed some projects with more or less notoriety. Could you describe your course in particular during these years where you have been away from the group?

“I had fantastic experiences in concern to projects and participations.
I produced some themes with bands that I appreciate outside of the spectre of Metal: The Fury, Dynamo, Quing of Qong, etc. I was involved with Plasma (Well known Portuguese band in the vein of Suede-editor) exploring my old passion for Pop music. I’ve supported the legendary The Melancholic Youth Jesus where recently I participated with the mentor Carlos Saints in a 2008 theme called "Detroit" that has an Indie-Rock vibe.
Currently my heart and soul are focused on HEAVENWOOD and only this way the group will rise from the ashes like a Phoenix."

Both albums "Diva" and "Swallow" had placed the sound of the band close to a Metal-Gothic style, a musical genre that enjoyed an enormous success at the end of the 90’s. Currently, the scenery is somehow different and where names like Theatre of Tragedy, Tiamat and The Gathering were once at the forefront of the Metal scene, nowadays they lurk in the shadows of the underground. The Heavenwood of today consider themselves part of that movement or they would rather avoid any labels?

“I believe that the old and new fans of HEAVENWOOD will have a fantastic surprise with this new "Redemption".
All our feeling, melody, melancholy and aggressiveness are well carved in this register, the anger of Rock, the fury of Metal, the melancholy of Goth, in the end we managed to recreate a formula or musical salad with a unique flavour which is actual and nothing that could be easily labelled or called clich├ęd. To prove these descriptions we had in the past weekend a listening session with members of the press and we had some very positive commentaries, with the looks and expressions of a breath of fresh air in the national and international scenes."

And how does this Heavenwood differs from the Heavenwood of the past?

"We’ve lowered in tone, we increased the emotion, we press harder in the accelerator and at this moment we are a locomotive of feelings going full steam ahead."

Heavenwood are now a trio, a strong nucleus formed by guitarists Ricardo Dias and Bruno Silva and by vocalist Ernesto Guerra, a structure that has resulted in full and that the group already revealed publicly they want to preserve. Do you think the inclusion of a new member can modify in some ways the chemistry and diplomacy that exists between you three?

"There are no plans to integrate more elements for this band, there will be however some experienced musicians invited to work as session members as it was case with the recordings of drums on the new album by the charismatic “man of the seven instruments" that is Daniel Cardoso. At the same time he helped the band in the production process of "Redemption", revealing to be a pragmatic, creative and incisive individual and he also managed to catch up that locomotive at full steam ahead getting tune in to the well defined objectives of HEAVENWOOD for this new album."

It is precisely this strong nucleus that has been preparing along with producer Daniel Cardoso a new work entitled "Redemption". Considering that its gestation period, which included rehearsals, pre-recordings and recording sessions, lasted for more than three years it’s obvious that the band places a strong belief in this record since all details must duly refined. Do Heavenwood see this record as a new chapter for the band and nothing must be left randomly?

"Interesting question and very well applied. Yes, the fact we have been working hard on the pre-production of the album (which I judge to be the great Achilles’ heel of national bands or else hastiness was not to be considered the great enemy of the success) served to polish all the edges of the themes that we decide to record and produce in the ULTRASOUND Studios with Daniel Cardoso. Notice that it was our decision since we believe that Portugal nowadays has many capacities in musical terms so we didn’t felt the necessity to completely record this new album with a foreign producer and studio. At the time of "Diva" and "Swallow" yes, in fact it would be unthinkable given the quality of the works that were being produced here (with all the respect for the people in question) but Massacre Records knew that our songs or our "green years" would easily be shaped by an experienced producer that was Gerard Maghin. The option of getting the renowned JENS BOGREN on board doesn’t need more words or presentations and in this chapter JENS, who curiously knows the band and have followed the releases of both "Diva" and "Swallow" offered to mix and master "Redemption" according to our necessities in terms of timings. In the end he heard our production and felt something special in collaborating with us and with this sonority that all will have the chance to hear briefly. We needed something that I would categorize of a "musical mist" or a colder, darker colour to contrast with our Lusitanian melodies in order to join the useful with the pleasant."

And what about the songs that will appear in the new album, do they coexist with the band for how long? Are you afraid that it might lose some freshness and some enthusiasm in it comes to promote them live?

"Of all the themes enclosed in the album we only recovered two songs, adapting them to the image and overall sonority of "Redemption".

How does the band knows when they have written a good song, is it a purely intuitive process that finishes in the rehearsal room or do you leave some details to be refined and developed in the studio?

"Supposedly the theme "Obsolete" in which the vocalist Tijs Vanneste of OCEANS of SADNESS participates was not sounding like "a good song", but currently it’s one of the favourites for the band and for the studio team. Making your words mine, "Blood, Sweat and Tears" or committing yourself in musical terms and open your horizons since with his vocal contributions and common musical tastes we were able to create a fantastic song! Beyond Tijs contribution we already have confirmed a fantastic guitar solo from GUS G of FIREWIND, female vocalizations in some themes where Fado will be fused with our Arabian influences thanks to two talented voices from Braga that curiously are both called Ana. We still have a very special guest for disclosing in the song "Bridge the Neverland".

"Redemption" was recorded in Ultrasound studios in Braga with the production work in charge of Daniel Cardoso, who also assisted the band by playing the drum parts. How did the opportunity to work with the mentor of the defunct Sirius happened?

"I’ve found his vision and the "breath of fresh air" that he has imprinted in the recordings of some national projects interesting. I always liked his work in some of his most varied projects, feeling that inside him runs something that also runs inside of us... an unconditional love for music as Art. Daniel Cardoso always followed HEAVENWOOD, accepting with good will our challenge to make an album that has at the very least the same longevity that still characterizes to this day, "Diva" and "Swallow"."

The mixing of the new album however will be handled by Jens Bogren at Fascination Street Studios in Sweden. How did the opportunity to work with a producer that has recorded names like Opeth and Katatonia among others took place?

"I’ve already answered this question previously, but however I can still add that it deals with an extra necessity in terms of technical conditions since FASCINATION STREET STUDIOS is currently one of the best European studios for Rock and Metal. At the same time it’s also a “quality guarantee” for those who haven’t heard the album yet since producers of this level don’t work with any kind of band and that also makes us proud. I must mention that until now it exits a vast group of people involved in this "Redemption" where only their devotion, passion and hope in this comeback made it possible to offer to all the necessary conditions for HEAVENWOOD to launch a special album.
Recital Records was one of them, against the proposals of international record companies that only offered to place a stamp in the back of the CD and distribute this album worldwide. We know very well what we want."

And what can fans expect of "Redemption", musically and lyrically?


Following the release of the new album in September, what are the plans of Heavenwood?

"Promote it through events, signing sessions and concerts. There will be lots of activities, like summer festivals and lots of promotion related with press, in a way that I believe it might also be helpful for our national panorama and who knows opens more doors to our Lusitanian warriors."

Visit HEAVENWOOD’s official website at www.myspace.com/heavenwood for more information on the upcoming “Redemption”, which is scheduled for release on September this year.