Heavenwood | Interview with Ricardo Dias


Inspired by the words of first Portuguese female poet D. Leonor and dealing with themes of love, regret and solitude, “Abyss Masterpiece” is Heavenwood’s darkest, heaviest and surely greatest album to date. Its title will probably be misinterpreted by some casual listeners and will originate some ingenuous puns, but as guitarist Ricardo Dias clears in the following interview, “Abyss Masterpiece” has a thoughtful meaning that reflects the overall atmosphere of the new songs. 

“Abyss Masterpiece” is a very fitting title for an album which illustrates Heavenwood's own evolution into a blacker and heavier direction. There seems to be a dark undertow to this new record, it sounds a bit colder, heavier and even malevolent at times. What prompted this change?

“Yes, it’s true! The “Abyss Masterpiece” is a metaphor, it’s not a question of ego or a pompous title given that it is related with the capacity of doing a voyage into the darkest side of love and emotions, in the end, to create something positive from the most negative side of your mind is sort of a blessing or something magical for your own personality. It’s a ‘travel down to the rabbit hole’ and personally speaking I consider the process of people who are dealing with it a masterpiece. This side of the metaphor will be perceived in different ways depending on the age or life experience from the one who’s reading and listening to our music.”

Another noticeable difference between “Abyss Masterpiece” and previous works is the orchestral leanings of the new songs, there’s an obvious progression towards a more symphonic direction and that’s the result of working with classical composer Dominic G. Joutsen. So how easily did it all come together, arranging the songs with the classical structuring of Joutsen and make it sound like a Heavenwood song?

“We worked on ‘Abyss Masterpiece’ thinking on the best way to input that darker side, that kind of Tim Burton magical world for example. Although the lyrics are really deep, although we sing with emotion, although we play with a lot of expression and don’t focus solely on the best technique/progressive way of playing (that’s nor our musical personality) we believed that, the well developed, composed and organized orchestral parts present in Heavenwood’s music would be the best to offer the listener. We made a travel back in time, going into the 18th century in Portugal and the orchestral parts help a lot for the listener to imagine or even push the limits of his or her creativity considering there is a lot of musical information on this new album. It’s a not an easy listening work, we know it very well, but we have done it on purpose. We decided to make a huge musical metaphor…for example you can adapt all the feelings included into the present days as well. Dominic Joutsen made a fantastic job, it wasn’t easy at the beginning you bet, to mix both extreme worlds it’s very hard, but I think we did it and Kristian "Kohle" Kohlmannslehner did the right mix for it. You can hear Heavenwood personality added with Dominic Joutsen orchestral work and “Abyss Masterpiece” is still a fucking dark, epic and emotive album.”

What song on the album are you most proud of?

“Personally speaking, ‘Poem for Matilde’ given it is a music written from a father to her daughter, it’s a declaration expressed through music.”

I’ve seen a lot of people drawing some similarities between the opening song “The Arcadia Order” and Dimmu Borgir, do you agree?

“No I don’t, the orchestral parts of “The Arcadia Order” were composed by Dominic Joutsen and if I tell you he doesn’t listen or even like heavy-metal at all, how could Dominic enjoy Dimmu Borgir?! Perhaps people are confusing Dominic’s orchestral parts with classical periods that are somewhat standard in classical music. We decided to make “The Arcadia Order” the opening track a faster song, we’ve tried during the pre-production other drum patterns but these were the ones that fit best on the song structure. Dimmu Borgir didn’t discover the fire... Manowar, Bathory and more bands have done it before so I don’t agree with that honestly. I respect a lot their work and career, but Dimmu Borgir are not even comparable with our music, we’re from different worlds and have different lyrical concepts.”

Considering the orchestral and symphonic elements that you brought into the new songs, have you considered bringing in a keyboardist for live performances?

“No, we do it perfectly with backing tracks, it would be easier with a keyboard player than with the backing tracks since we just can’t fucking miss a tempo when playing live, it’s a challenge and a question of professionalism.”

So what’s the concept behind “Abyss Masterpiece”, I understand the title is some type of metaphor?

“Yes, we decided to deal with the darkest side of love, inspired on the poetry of the very first Portuguese female poet D. Leonor and our live experiences also… it’s romantic, it’s a declaration from the deepest point (abyss) of our soul.”

Talk a bit about the new deal with Listenable Records. What’s it like working with them?

“We are very satisfied, we made the right choice from the amount of labels interested in Heavenwood, we didn’t choose this new record deal for a matter of label status, they work with passion and professionalism just like us and I’m an admirer of their enthusiasm in releasing such good, fresh and talented new bands to the world just like Gojira and Textures for example, our A&R Laurent Merele have a respectful work in all this years in the metal industry, he’s also a visionary and the team behind Listenable Records are great hard workers too.”

Finally, what’s on the agenda for the rest of 2011? With the support of a bigger label like Listenable is there a chance of seeing Heavenwood embarking on another European tour?

“We were supposed to do this Epica tour (Revamp did it instead of Heavenwood), we were very happy to be invited, but we prefer to prepare our live gigs first and also promote the album a lot in international and national press with reviews, interviews for magazines and radios. "Redemption" our previous album didn’t get the same exposure as this new one is having, so in some countries and markets Heavenwood are just like a new band, although we have done 4 albums so far. We will do something really special and big in the future, but it’s really too soon for us to get back to touring if you do understand me. I think the band have done excellent results since we came back from our almost 10 years hiatus, without releasing any albums, so we fell like everything must be done as if we were a new band and that takes time, dedication and organization. For now our goals have been succeeded and the competition in 2011 is larger than 1996, so yes we are proud of ourselves and proud of our fans too!!
I would like everyone to visit our official website at www.heavenwoodclan.co.pt or www.myspace.com/heavenwood and get all the fresh news from Heavenwood."

Luca Niero