The Tarot Of The Bohemians-Part I
Released: 2016, Massacre Records
When you say ‘Portugal’ and ‘Metal’ I would guess most Metal people think automatically think, ‘Moonspell’ and the cool kids would say ‘Heavenwood’.
Heavenwood seems to be on a bit of an upswing. This under-rated band is celebrating their 20th anniversary and have not only re-signed to Massacre Records, they have re-issued their 3rd album (REDEMPTION, which was ably reviewed by Aaron back in 2009) and a re-issue of the newer, (2016) full-length studio album. THE TAROT OF THE BOHEMIANS-Part I is the bands fifth album in 20 years, so they are not exactly prolific. With a title like that, maybe it is a hint and a promise of a Part 2 in the near future. In reality this album came out in early 2016 on a small label and unfortunately there was a disappointing decision to change the cover art for this new version. Don’t misunderstand the new cover art is very cool but now fans are obliged to make a decision between the original pressing and the reissue. In other housekeeping news, the band has expanded to a quartet with two new members following the exit of original member, Bruno Silva.
I bought the debut Heavenwood album and thought it was top-notch and I’m glad to see they are still world-class, high caliber, Euro, gothic Metal. I like the overall concept of the tarot cards…each song representing a tarot card…it has been done before by a few bands but there is ample room to explore this mysterious and engaging lyrical topic as people have been fascinated by tarot cards and tarot readers for ages. It is a monster album running well over an hour, but never feels long at all. Back-tracking, supposing you have not heard Heavenwood they ply a very decent brand of dark, gothic Metal with many little sonic deviations in style…sometimes industrial, sometimes Death Metal, sometimes orchestral….it is a superb blend that work well. Following a nice introductory segment with Gregorian monk style chanting the six + minute opener of ‘The Juggler’ sets the tone for a very impressive album. The somber deeper voice of Ernesto is still in top form and on occasion he is accompanied by female vocals as well. The songs are well constructed, not too elaborate but certainly more advanced in their compositional techniques. The overall mood is dark with an underlying current of menace, certainly not forgetting their tendency to lean towards more extreme Metal. Tracks like 'The Empress' are really punchy driving metal with hints of keyboards underneath for texture and atmosphere and catch choruses, but not painfully hooky and sweet. I can see fans of Atrocity, Tiamat, Samuel, Crematory and all those cool early to mid-90’s bands really enjoying this album. The albums ends with a strong bonus track called ‘Frithiof’s Saga’ which is arguably heavier than the rest of the album, but no less welcome. It is in fact, a re-make (I think!) of the song from the debut album .
I firmly believe the only reason this band is not bigger is because of the long stretches of inactivity, more specifically the decade long gap between SWALLOW (1998) and REDEMPTION (2008) which slowed so much of the early momentum they had generated. Even now with a new album every three to five years, is too long. Bands like Metallica can pull it off, people will wait that long… Heavenwood cannot, it is almost like starting from scratch again. However, THE TAROT OF THE BOHEMIANS-PART 1 is as good, or better than anything they have done in the past. I’m glad Massacre resigned these guys to give them the support they deserve.