For me, personally, “The Cycle Never Ends” is one of the most anticipated heavy metal releases of 2016. I love the raw, barbaric sounds of Ravensire, and I thought the songwriting on their previous effort “We March Forward” was rock solid. So good in fact, that I awarded the album with a 85/100 rating here at Metal Squadron, which in turn led to a place on my top five-list for 2013. So, is the new album worth the wait and the anticipation? For sure, “The Cycle Never Ends” is another highlight of pure and crushing heavy metal, at least as good as it’s predecessor. Guitarist and main songwriter Nuno Mordred was happy to answer all our questions.
With your new album just about to be released, I guess these are pretty exciting times for the band?
– Well, things have been a bit hectic, rather than exciting! With the long recording process, Zé leaving the band, etc…But yeah, we’re pretty much looking forward to see the reaction “The Cycle Never Ends” gets from people. So far, the feedback from reviewers has been very positive, even wildly enthusiastic at times! But let’s see what the actual fans and fanatics have to say when they get their hands on the album.
Nuno says he has a different feeling this time, compared to when the first full length was new.
– When “We March Forward” came out, it was a whole new “world” opening up for us. First full album, new vocalist (albeit old band member), new label… Looking back, things were happening at a quick pace for us. You see, we started rehearsing as a full band in 2011 and by 2013 we already were releasing our first full album and second release overall (third, if we count the split-7” with Terminus)! For “The Cycle Never Ends” things took a bit more time to mature and now that the time has come to unleash the beast, we’re a bit more callous about the whole process. We’re basically awaiting patiently to see how things go.
As you mentioned, your guitarist Ze Rockhard just left the band. What happened there? Is this something you have known for a while, or did it come out of the blue? Have you already started looking for his replacement?
– Nothing special happened. There were no big fights, nor swords drawn! Zé simply has been busy with other aspects of his personal life and couldn’t commit as much as he wanted or as much as was needed. Although he only decided to leave a few weeks ago, we had been talking since December about the whole situation. Of course, out of respect for him we waited for his final decision before looking for a replacement. Thankfully, when we announced his departure, we immediately got three or four people interested in auditioning. After a few try outs, Ravensire can now present Mário as the new guitar player! Mário is a very talented guitarist, full of enthusiasm and very eager to march forward with us. Now it’s time to get into the rehearsal room and prepare the future for Ravensire!
While he has written the music for the excellent “Trapped In Dreams” on the new album, I guess you’ll miss Ze Rockhard even more as a guitarist. The work the two of you do on this new album, trading leads back and forth is simply awesome. Seems like there is a special chemistry between the two of you that would be hard to find again…
– Our bond was forged through four years of common learning. Neither of us had ever played lead guitar previously to Ravensire and we both stepped up to this task simultaneously. It was a gruelling, but very rewarding process. This kind of mutual path might have helped to create that chemistry you speak of! But having a new guitarist on board, with a different background and a different way of playing, might also help to keep things fresh and bring new ideas on board. So, instead of looking at this change as a disgrace, we are looking at it in a positive way.
Ravensire already slimmed down from a quintet to a quartet in the past, but Nuno confirms that the thought of slimming down even further to the trio format, was in the back of their heads for a while…
– After Zé left, we kept rehearsing as a trio, to keep the engine rolling and we even considered the idea of going on like this. But it was obvious that this arrangement wouldn’t work in a live environment. Ravensire relies a lot on harmonies, melodies and lead breaks and with only one guitar all these extra dimensions are completely lost. We even thought about putting the bass sound more upfront, but it’s no use: we really need two guitars playing.
The last album was released on Eat Metal. Was this agreement with Greg a deal to release “We March Forward” only?
– Yes, our agreement with Greg was to release “We March Forward” on CD and vinyl. Greg was always very supportive of Ravensire and helped us build our name on the underground scene. But when we’re talking in underground terms, I think it doesn’t make much sense to sign multi-album deals. We’re all so skint and the scene is so volatile that what’s here today can be gone tomorrow. So, let’s take one step at a time. We really enjoyed being on the roster of a label that has so much history, but now it’s time to start another experience on yet another great label!
Back in April or something you sent me a rehearsal containing the songs “Cromlech Revelations”, “White Pillars” (titled “Temple At the End Of The World” on the album) and “Solitary Vagrant”. I guess you don’t send a raw, mostly live in the studio recording to every label there is, so was this sent to a few selected labels only?
– That demo was actually something that a couple of people in labels had asked us to do. They liked our first album, but wanted to hear what the future material would be like. We basically selected three songs that were more or less representative of the whole batch of new songs and went into the studio to record them as live takes. We ended up sending this demo to those who had asked in the first place, but also to a few additional labels we thought could be good for us. Interestingly enough, around this time we were also contacted by three or four additional labels wanting to know if we were planning a new album, so those also got the demo. All in all, this demo was sent to nine or ten labels plus a few friends…
I guess, even if you could choose among all labels, there aren’t many better suited for Ravensire than Enrico and his Cruz Del Sur?
– Yeah, out of the labels I mentioned, basically all were interested and made an offer. When we analysed all the offers, we had to think not only in terms of compensation, but also what would be the best match for us. I have known and talked to Enrico since the beginning of Ravensire. He was always very supportive, even when we were not on his label. So, when one day we got to sit down face to face and talk about what could be a cooperation between Ravensire and Cruz del Sur, we had in mind that we were talking with an established label, highly respected in the scene and that had released so many excellent contemporary bands. What’s more, everyone I know that has worked with Cruz del Sur, only have positive words to say about the label. When I saw Enrico’s enthusiasm for our new stuff and his genuine will to sign us, it was all a matter of coming into an agreement that would satisfy everyone. Now, with the album about to hit the stores, there’s no doubt in my mind we made the right choice.
I remember you telling me once that you regretted not working at a faster rate during the early days of Ravensire. Was it important to have “The Cycle Never Ends” out not to long after the last one? A longer break could surely have destroyed the momentum you gathered with the last release?
– Yeah, from 2005 until 2011 nothing really happened apart from some songwriting on my part and a couple of jams with Rick. That’s when we really should have kicked off! It would’ve been much easier to get noticed without a flood of releases coming out each month, as it’s happening for the past few years! Too bad F wasn’t around at the time… But at the same time, it’s also rewarding to see how we are managing to get our message across in such a competitive scene. As for “The Cycle Never Ends”, it actually took longer to finish than we had anticipated… By the time we started working on the new songs around early 2014, we wanted to have it out by mid 2015. But not only things didn’t quite work out as we planned (health issues, time spent preparing for gigs and not working on new songs, professional changes… you name it!) but also the recording took way longer than it should’ve!
Your first full length “We March Forward” was released on vinyl just prior to the release of the new albums, in fact I got a copy of it in the mail today. I don’t know about you, but it certainly made myself reflect on how it compares to the new one. Right now I am not sure I can say the new one is better, but it’s at least of the same quality. As all musicians, I guess you will say the new one is a step up compared to “We March Forward”?
– Well… We’re different from all musicians! Probably because we’re not musicians hahaha! To be completely honest with you, I don’t feel this album is a step up, or is our “best effort to date”, or anything you normally see bands saying when they’re releasing a new album. It’s basically a follow up to “We March Forward” and establishes firmly our identity as Ravensire. Everyone who listened to our first album and mini-CD and enjoyed them, will welcome “The Cycle Never Ends” as a new collection of songs, forged in the same eternal fires of raw and passionate Heavy Metal. If anything, I’d say this album is a tiny bit more varied in terms of tempos when compared to our previous output.
The drums for the new album were recorded already in May last year, while you were putting the last touches on the album during September or so? How much time did you actually spend in the studio to get this album done and dusted?
– The recording sessions themselves weren’t that different from the other albums. What took considerably longer was adjusting everybody’s agendas. It was a very busy time for Paulo Vieira and also the holidays season kicked in mid way through the sessions. Still, having all this extra time in between sessions also helped polish some aspects and add some extra layers to the songs. When you already have the skeleton of the songs recorded and you spend some time digesting it, you end up having new ideas for some details that could make an interesting difference. I’ll give you an example: “Procession of the Dead” initially had a guitar/bass intro that appeared before the beginning of the song. When I listened to the first recordings I was a bit skeptic of that intro, as I started noticing how it sounded like an intro to another intro! So, we ended up deleting that part and the song flows much better now. It’s the kind of thing that having extra time to digest things really helps. Sometimes you’re so involved in the songwriting process that it’s difficult to listen to a song as a whole.
So what did you do about the studio situation? I remember you said during our last interview that you might had to go for a proper studio this time as you couldn’t use your rehearsal space anymore? I guess the album is produced by Paulo Vieira again?
– Until 2014 we had our own rehearsal space that was also used to record both the mini-CD and the first album. It was the ideal arrangement, since we could use it as much as we wanted, not worrying about studio rental costs. Unfortunately, all good things come to an end and this time we really had to rent studios to record the drums and the vocals (the guitars and bass were recorded on a private space, not subject to any fees). After checking with Paulo (yes, it was him again) for the best options, we proceeded to do a first three day session to record the drums. Things went very well and all the drum parts were recorded. And that’s when the scheduling chaos began… We only recorded the first guitars probably one month or more later. Then another month passed before we could finish the guitars.. and so on and so forth… Only by late September everything was ready! As I told before, we made good use of this time by carefully listening to the stuff that was being recorded and adding some tweaks where needed.
At an early stage, a song titled “Tyrant’s Dictum” was mentioned. Nuno has the story on why this one didn’t end up on the album.
– The idea this time was to have around 40 minutes of music as, for us, this is just about the right length for an album. More than that and it can get tedious, less than that and it’s over too soon. So, with that in mind, we looked at all the finished songs we had and we were already heading for the 50 minute mark! After some discussions it was more or less consensual that “Tyrant’s Dictum” would be the song to be left out, not because it was “bad” or something like that (it probably has the best solo Zé ever did!) but simply because it didn’t fit in so well within the flow of the album. Now that Zé left the band, and since this song was written by him, we want to release it as a single as a fitting tribute to the time he spent with us. Let’s see when this can be done and by whom.
Like the last album this new one is also very, very consistent. Either you have a strong quality control, denying sub par material to slip through, or you simply can’t write a bad song…
– Speaking as the major contributor to Ravensire’s music, I can tell you that I always start writing the songs from the strong, memorable riffs… That’s the first thing I need: a strong riff! After that, things happen naturally and the song gets a life of its own. There are songs that evolve into more direct affairs, whereas others build into more intricate pieces. But I always spend some time, even weeks, if needed, maturing the ideas for a given song. Most of the time, when I present material to the band, it’s more or less in its final form. But even then, when the other layers are added on the rehearsal room (drums, bass, vocals, solos) and everyone starts working on their parts, other ideas may creep in, either from me or from someone else’s suggestion. So far, seems like this method of developing songs from the strong riffs is working just fine!
It works, because almost all of the songs grab you immediately with a really strong riff. Is this something you have in mind when you write, to capture the attention of the listener right from the “go”?
– Yes.. As I said previously, I always start writing songs from a strong riff. If a riff is strong and memorable enough, it’ll help you build the song without too much problems. I remember a few years ago someone saying that he never recorded any riffs he came up with. He said something like: “If I end up forgetting a riff it’s because it wasn’t good enough”. Although this can be a very risky thing to do (sometimes you do forget great riffs!), and I always record good ideas to avoid unpleasant surprises, the truth is I normally work on riffs and songs from my memory and not from recorded files.
The first two Ravensire-releases contained a few pretty old ideas/riffs, harking back to 2006 or 2007, as far as I can remember. Is everything on the new album from the period after the release of “We March Forward”, or are there some old stuff here as well?
– I’d say 95 percent of the material on “The Cycle Never Ends” was written after the release of “We March Forward”. The exception that immediately comes to mind is the middle part of “Cromlech Revelations”. This one is actually quite old, as I must have written it somewhere in the mid-nineties! Following what I was saying before, I never recorded this riff in my life. Hehe! When I was working on “Cromlech Revelations” and was thinking what to do with the lead break, for some reason this old idea came to mind and so it was removed from the vault of yore and put to good use.
In the last interview we did, you stressed that a Ravensire song has to be interesting, even without vocals. In my opinion, it’s quite easy to hear that this is something that you wanted for the new one as well…
– And I dare say we’ll continue working like this in the future! And yet, talking about this comes to my mind that we never did an instrumental song, apart from that small intro of “We March Forward”. Maybe we should write one to give some breathing space to Rick. And maybe a ballad, too… Then again, maybe not!
You have used the services of Pedro “Horasafio” Rebelo for the cover art once again. Do you think it’s important to have album covers in a certain style, something the people can recognize?
– I’m not sure if the standard metalhead really looks into the covers beyond the “it’s cool” or “it’s not cool” approach. For me, it’s always a plus when you find a certain identity, or a certain logic within the work of a band. Think about Iron Maiden and you get Eddie and those Derek Riggs covers, for example . That’s another dimension that we want to include as a part of Ravensire’s identity. All the covers so far are coherent and I’d dare say a bit different from the norm and that also helps us distinguish ourselves. If you look closely, you’ll find some details present from cover to cover. And there are also some “nods” to the lyrical content of the album.
There seem to be a reference to the album title in one of the songs this time as well, as in “Eternal Sun” you can find this excerpt: “Our lives go on in the endless cycle”. Other than that, how does the title of the album connect with the lyrics and the themes of the album?
– The title of the album is primarly a nod to the White Pillars Trilogy: apart from that excerpt you mentioned, there’s also the line on “Temple At The End of The World” that says “The cycle never ends, of life death and rebirth”. There are actually two meanings for the album title. First, all this band activity and releasing albums is basically a giant cycle that goes on and on: you compose, rehearse, release, play live, compose, etc… And then there’s also the other meaning we wanted to convey that relates to how Heavy Metal music goes in cycles. For a period of time Heavy Metal goes deeply underground, then resurfaces… But it’s never, ever gone. And personally, the times when Heavy Metal is at its purest form is when it’s below radar. Think about the late nineties, when there were so few bands, but so genuine and great they were! Back then, there were no commercial interests, popularity, nothing… People formed Heavy Metal bands simply because that’s what they liked! And that’s the path we follow, thus (hopefully) making our small contribution to the perpetuation of the cycle.
When I got the digital promo of the album, the title of the album showed up as “The Cycle Goes On”. Is this just a mistake, or was it the the title and then you adjusted it? With this mix up you’ll probably have a few reviews popping up where the album is given that title?
– Ahahaha someone fucked up on that one and it wasn’t us! Yes, a couple of reviews popped up with that title, but looking at the cover of the album there’s no doubt about which one is correct.
With his strong historical knowledge and ability to write, I guess it’s natural that Rick is the main lyricist in the band, but this time you have also written the lyrics for one track on your own. I know you have contributed before, but was it satisfying in a different way, when both the music as well as the lyrics were purely your own?
– It was a nightmare writing this lyric!! The idea for it came during a vacation in Ireland, when my good friend Pat Clancy took me for a sightseeing tour around Cork. He showed me a little town callled Crosshaven that was originally a Viking settlement. In the nearby river legend said that Sir Francis Drake hid from the Spanish Armada that was hunting for him. With this bits of information and knowing what eventually destroyed the Spanish Invincible Armada, I built a story on how Drake escaped the persecution and invoked the old norse gods to bring the destruction of the fleet. It came out pretty cool, but it took me forever to finish! Maybe with practice I can do things a bit faster, but I really envy Rick’s capacity to write lyrics in ten minutes without hardly any effort.
The idea to do the “White Pillars”-trilogy, was that something you had from the start, or was it an idea that developed for instance out of “Temple At The End Of The World”?
– When Rick started talking about the site and how it was occupied throughout the ages, he already had in mind writing a couple of lyrics about it. Then we started talking about the concept and the idea of doing a trilogy came out. The first song I wrote for the trilogy was actually “Temple At The End of The World”, then as we progressed on the idea I started working on the other songs and tried to come up with some musical links between them. A small piece of melody here… A riff with a similar feeling there… As the other instruments and vocals were added, the feeling of unity in these three songs grew even more. If you read carefully the lyrics you’ll notice some nods from one part to the next and on the overall concept. We’re very pleased with the end result, because although the songs have a few linking elements and are reminiscent of each other, this doesn’t sound like a gigantic 16 minute boring song and each part can stand on its own merits.
If I understand correctly Rick has worked as an archaeologist around the place you refer to in the lyrics of this trilogy. It kind of gives his storyteller-approach some extra credibility….Very interesting stuff by the way. Did you know the story of Sintra before he came with the lyrics?
– Let me just clarify something first: the trilogy is not about Sintra… It’s about a site near Sintra, located on the cliffs near a river that served as a natural harbour in centuries past. That’s the place where the temple first, the mosque later, and finally the lighthouse were built. The story of the town called Sintra is widely known, given its continuous occupancy since ancient times. But the story of that particular temple/mosque/lighthouse is not! Actually, it’s a work in progress as the site was discovered recently and they are still digging and finding new stuff everyday. I didn’t know anything about that site until Rick started talking about it and even the archaeologists are still collecting data from the pieces being unearthed. Some parts of the lyrics are factual, but lots of parts are fictional or, at least, logical guessing. For example, there’s no proof whatsoever that Sigurd razed that place to the ground but it’s highly probable that he used the river nearby as an harbour and as a way for his boats to get near Sintra (he did attack Sintra inflicting heavy damage, by the way…). With this piece of information, it’s highly probable that he also attacked nearby muslim communities and a mosque conspicuously placed would surely attract invaders looking for some easy loot.
Nuno is a guy following the underground scene pretty closely. In fact, he is a guy with an excellent taste in metal, as his view on what was hot in 2015 is pretty close to mine…
– Last year was a bit better than 2014, but not so good (by far) as 2013… Looking at your year end list, I don’t think I can come up with something that you haven’t covered… Terminus, yes, of course… Sacral Rage are also amazing… Magister Templi surprised me with their newest album, too… Tarot’s “The Warrior Spell” from Australia is technically a very interesting 2015 release, although it consists of material from older releases… And then we have the demo bands: that’s where I think some very interesting discoveries were made, namely Herzel from France and Vultures Vengeance from Italy!