Monday, August 29, 2016

interview: Ravensire

Ravensire is a traditional heavy metal band from Portugal that began around 2011 or so. In 2012 their first recording was released and it was called Iron Will (EP). Then, in 2013 their debut album We March Forward came out. That year they also did a split recording. More recently, in 2016 the Cruz del Sur Music label put out The Cycle Never Ends, the band’s latest full-length album. As you will read in this interview, they had a clear idea of what type of music they wanted right from the start, and in that respect, The Cycle Never Ends is another chapter in their journey of writing hard-driving, riff-charged classic-style cult heavy metal with big choruses and memorable songs. Their newest album in its entirety is available for listening at the Bandcamp link at the end of the interview.
Your band is new to me! Can you begin by telling us about where you live and how life is for your metal band? How are the metal scenes in your city?
First of all, cheers to Metal Bulletin Zine for this opportunity to let us speak our minds! Well, we’ve all been living here in the Lisbon area all our lives. It’s the capital of our country Portugal and it’s basically the biggest city here with its population of nearly 3 million people living in it’s urban and suburban area. The last 10 years have seen a steady increase in the heavy metal legions. Whereas before that, most people would be into the more extreme metal side or the gothic overtones, these last few years people have started to acknowledge that heavy metal is still a valid proposition. Quite frankly, personally speaking, it’s a bit indifferent to me, as I’ve always liked what I like and don’t need acceptance from the others to continue my path. But in terms of shows, bands and the scene in general, it’s very interesting that local shows that in mid-00’s would draw 50 people (if lucky!), now regularly reach sizes of 100 and maybe more. Also, this increased interest also led to the swelling of the numbers of bands playing heavy metal. If you want to dig a bit into our underground, I suggest you look for bands like Midnight Priest, The Unholy, Inquisitor, Wanderer, Cruz de Ferro, Attick Demons, Deadlyforce, Shivan, Leather Synn, Perpetratör and the veterans Alkateya and Filii Nigrantium Infernalium, just to name a few.
I live in the Seattle area, which has the reputation of being rainy and grey. How is Lisbon right now in the summer time? I recently saw a video that said that Portugal has great beaches. Is that true, in your opinion? We don’t have real beaches here in this area. We have forests and cold rivers!
It’s scorching hot! This last few weeks (since late June, actually) the temperatures have risen regularly to 35-40ºC [95-104 Farenheit] and sometimes even more. Yes, we have lots of beaches, but sometimes it’s so hot that being on the beach is no real relief! I would gladly trade a 40ºC beach for a nice coldish mountain, with a fresh stream running by. In any case, if some of you might want to come by looking for great sea and maritime views, I recommend you the Sagres - Lagos area (Southwest Portugal) for great beaches with crystalline waters, some of them still untouched by the tourism plague that destroyed so many interesting places around here.
Can you tell us about the history of your band? Who are the members of the band?
Although Ravensire started “officially” in 2011, I (Nuno - guitars) was thinking about doing a band like this for quite some time. The problem I always faced was the lack of like-minded individuals to pursue this “orthodox” heavy metal approach. Around 2005, I talked to Rick (bass and vocals) about these ideas and he told me he would be up to it, as he was also thinking about doing a thrash metal side project. So we started jamming on both this “orthodox” metal ideas and his thrash project. Unfortunately, due to unforeseen life events, things had to be put on ice for quite some time. Fast forward 5 years, and I start talking to F (drums) about my ideas for the band. Since we used to jam a bit (back then he was playing guitar), I showed him my riffs and songs and he liked them very much and asked why I wasn’t putting a proper band. I told him that I hadn’t yet found a drummer who was in the same wavelength as I was, so right there and then he volunteered to learn how to play drums! And so he did! And he also found a place to rehearse. So that was basically the kickstart of Ravensire. We started rehearsing the songs, but we still lacked a vocalist and, ideally, another guitarist. So I asked a veteran of our scene Zé Gomes (he recorded a demo in the 80s with his old band Wild Shadow) if he wanted to give it a go. He agreed to attend our rehearsals to see if he liked our stuff, and along with him came Zé Rockhard on the guitars. And that’s how it all started! We recorded our first mini-CD “Iron Will” one year later and after the mini-CD was released, Zé Gomes had to leave due to some personal issues. Instead of looking for a singer outside of the band, I challenged Rick to try to sing. He had such a great voice, that we looked no further. With this stable line-up, we spent the next few years rehearsing, releasing our two albums (“We March Forward” and “The Cycle Never Ends”) and playing live. Unfortunately, after the release of the last album, Zé Rockhard also had to leave the band, so we ended up welcoming Mário as our new guitar player. Right now we’re playing a few live shows and soon we’ll start working on new songs, since some ideas are already floating!
I have read that some people think that your music (maybe not the vocals) is a bit like old Manowar. Do you agree?! How do you see or understand the music that you make nowadays in 2016? Do you consider your band old-school heavy metal?
We make the kind of music that we love as metal fans. In my view, as long as you like what you’re listening to, things will always be relevant! I don’t follow that line of thought that says that heavy metal (call it “old-school” if you like) has stagnated and is no longer creative. Take a look at blues, jazz or even classical Music. There’s still stuff being played in those styles that are true to the roots and the true fans still enjoy and don’t complain about “originality” or the need to expand the sound. That’s my view towards heavy metal. Ok, there are bands that incorporate external influences and go on a different path. They’re entitled to it. But a) does it make sense keep calling it metal when at some point it has nothing in common? And b) why should the core genre heavy metal be dismissed or ridiculed? So, for me, I don’t mind that there are bands sounding like the old heavy metal heroes. As long as they’re not ripping off anyone and incorporate their own personality into the music they play, I’ll back them up! Look at us, for example. We certainly draw influences from Manowar, Iron Maiden, or contemporary bands like Slough Feg, Solstice, etc. But when you listen to our songs, you’re not thinking (at least I hope! ahaha) “oh, this riff is from that Manowar song… Oh that bridge is identical to that Iron Maiden tune”. We have our own personality and that’s how it goes.
I have been listening to your new album. Where can people hear your new music? What can you tell us about where you recorded it and what the listener can expect? How was the experience of recording the new album?
The best place for people to have a concrete idea on how we sound like is probably our Bandcamp page. All our releases are streaming there and everyone can listen to all our songs and decide if we’re worthy or not. Our first releases up until “We March Forward” were recorded on our rehearsal space. We’d setup the studio with our producer and great friend Paulo Vieira, and proceeded to record the albums free of time constrains and using all our gear. Unfortunately, in 2014 we had to leave that space and start rehearsing in studios so, when the time came to record the new album, we had to rent a proper studio to record some of the instruments (drums and vocals, mainly). Although the overall sound didn’t suffer from this new arrangement, it made the process less cheap, that’s for sure! Regarding the album itself, it took a longer time recording than we initially expected. We started the drums in the first few days of May, but only finished everything in September. There were a lot of schedule problems with everyone involved, so at one point things were dragging a lot. Nevertheless, we took these “off times” to listen to what was being recorded and see if anything could be improved. In the end, all was cool since the album came out exactly how we wanted.
How would describe your previous music in relation to your new album? Has your band always sounded in the same style?
I think that “The Cycle Never Ends” is a logic continuation of “We March Forward”. It’s pretty much the same style and the songs flow naturally from one album to the other. As for the first mini-CD “Iron Will”, that’s where you’ll find something slightly different, mainly due to Zé “Mastercrow” Gomes vocal approach. His vocals were much more gritty and “in-your-face”, which also led to the compositions being a bit more crude, too. All in all, it was basically a different, valid aspect to our general sound. But since then, it’s true we’ve explored a more melodic and structured side to our music, without losing our raw, passionate feeling.
What type of lyrics is important to your band and what type of lyrics do you think work well with your music? Currently, in parts of Europe, it seems like terrorist attacks have put some people put on edge, on high alert. What are your views on this issue?
In Ravensire we mostly deal with topics revolving around mythology, history, fantasy and even a bit of sci-fi / horror and we also like to mix it all up. We have lyrics like, for example, “Crosshaven” or the “White Pillars” trilogy where the historical facts are mixed with some mythology and/or fantasy to spice things up. One thing we haven’t done, and I don’t think we will, is writing about current events in a direct way. We all have so many problems going on with our daily lives, that we feel that Ravensire should act as a form of escapism and diversion to all our everyday grudges. We prefer to recite tales of woe and bravery, so that people might feel somewhat empowered to go on with their lives with their heads raised high. Regarding terrorism, it is what it is. Fanatics carrying out dirty deeds in favour of other people’s agendas. Comes in all shapes and colours and everywhere in the world. Unfortunately, innocent people have to die, and the truly guilty go on living below the radar.
By the way, in your own experience, what does your family or what do your friends or your band mates think of the terrorist attacks taking place in Europe? What are your views for the situation in Portugal?
To be quite honest, here in Portugal terrorism is not a thing that we’re particularly concerned. Unless, of course, we’re talking about other types of “terrorism” like government policies, EU policies and so on. We’ve just been through a major economic crisis (probably still are), with lots of austerity measures going on for quite a few years, impovering most of the population. That has had a much more profound impact on everyone than some lunatic deciding to blow himself up, which, by the way, hasn’t happened here. I think at some point things have to be put on perspective. Being brutally honest, for me it’s much worse having people in charge that are corrupt and downright lie to the ones that elect them. As for the terrorists, be it from the Middle-East, Far-East, Western countries, North American countries, South American countries, white, brown, black, red, yellow, they could all get together, do some kind of symposium where they would demonstrate in a lively manner how to blow themselves up and, if possible, invite the overlords and politicians above them for that demonstration. Luckily there would be no one left in the end and we all might live better off.
Metal bands often sound angry, cynical and generally negative. Then, the writers use similar language to describe the bands; reviewers says that a band is “violent” or “evil” or “perverted” or “sick” and things like that, as good characteristics. So, tell me, since metal seems so pessimistic, what are some things that you like about your life?! Do you have kids? Do you have hobbies that help you stay sane in an insane world? What are some wonderful things about life in your city or in Portugal in general?
I don’t think metal is pessimistic. I think it’s more of a catharsis on the mundane life most of us have to endure. Some consider it merely a hobby. I like to think that more than a hobby, metal is something that completes me as a person. It’s part of who I am. Of course, this doesn’t mean that we live in a fantasy world where Satan roams around sacrificing virgins, while Sigurd (check the lyrics to “Blood and Gold” from our album) continues his journey to the promised land, conquering and pillaging all the infidels from here to eternity. We all have jobs, families, I have a 13 yo kid. I do have some hobbies, too. I like to travel a lot, not only in Portugal, but also wherever I can go. My latest trip was to Poland, where I spent a week in Krakow. Amazing town! I also enjoy a lot being by the sea (except when it’s 40ºC), and eating Portuguese seafood as it’s one of the greatest things you can do, if you come around! Just beware of diarrhea haha! But with all the things someone can do with his free time, nothing beats the kick of playing live in front of a live audience that’s into the band!
Do you have some plans that you would like to tell us about?
Right now we’re basically playing some live shows to promote the album. When things settle down around October, we’ll begin working on new songs as the new ideas are starting to mature and it’s time for everyone to start working on the arrangements. If all goes well, in 2017 there will be a new album, although that’s not mandatory because we’ll only commit to release something when we feel the songs are up to our standard of “quality” (however low it may be). As we say on this album: the cycle never ends!

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