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Heavenwood - The Tarot Of The Bohemians – Part 1 (2016) - Review

Band: Heavenwood
Album title: The Tarot Of The Bohemians – Part 1
Release date: 22 July 2016
Label: Massacre Records

01. The Juggler
02. The High Priestess
03. The Empress
04. The Emperor
05. The Pope
06. The Lovers
07. The Chariot
08. Justice
09. The Hermit
10. The Wheel Of Fortune
11. Strength
12. The Hanged Man
13. Frithiof's Saga

The second biggest name out of Portuguese dark metal scene, right after the masters Moonspell, must be Heavenwood, or at least it was so in the late 90s when the band released their first two albums, Diva and Swallow, albums that made them play as the first band from their country on one of the most important metal festivals - Wacken Open Air. Plus to that the band had many tours with big names of that time such are Atrocity, Solitude Aeturnus and Saviour Machine to name a few, but then internal problems appear and Heavenwood went on hiatus for almost ten years. In 2008 the band returned with gothic metal masterpiece Redemption and then in 2011 with one of the best metal releases of that year - Abyss Masterpiece. Unfortunately the band faced some kind of disinterestedness and were unduly overlooked by large metal community. Now Heavenwood are back with their fifth full-lenght album and with a new line-up, with only two original members left, the main composer guitarist/vocalist Ricardo Dias and vocalist Ernesto Guerra. The new member is guitarist Vítor Carvalho, known from Demon Dagger. This album also marks a return to their former label, Massacre Records, where Heavenwood already released their first two albums.

On The Tarot Of The Bohemians – Part 1, which judging from the title is the first part of the ambitius concept, the band got help from some very well noted guest and session musicians. Daniel Cardoso, returns behind the drum kit as a session member and performed drums on most of the tracks (Daniel played the drums on Heavenwood's album Redemption (2008) and Abyss Masterpiece (2011), and is since 2012 a member of the mighty Anathema). On two tracks the drums were played by Eduardo Sinatra and on other two by Franky Costanza (Dagoba), then also Sandra Oliveira, a Portuguese female singer from the band Blame Zeus and Fadi Al Shami from the band Aramaic (hailing from Dubai) were contributing with guest vocals. Quite an impressive conscription of musicians participated in the creation of this extremely evocative and strong album.

As you must have already figured it out the main concept of this album is based on 12 cards taken from Major Arcana of Tarot deck. It is inspired and dedicated to the French occultist Papus (Gérard Analect Vincent Encausse) and his studies regarding the Tarot. The band added as a bonus the song no. 13, the re-recording of "Frithiof's Saga", originally taken from the debut album Diva, released 20 years ago. Musically The Tarot Of The Bohemians – Part 1 is a stunning piece of work, absolutely the strongest and most intense album by this band so far, even though it somehow follows the compositional approach set on Abyss Masterpiece. Dense instrumentations intertwined with many layers of huge orchestrations and varied vocals. The sound is very rich, it's difficult to talk about gothic metal here as Heavenwood brings forward many extreme elements, sometimes on the very edge of black metal and melodeath, but also doom, symphonic, progressive and above all dark, while keeping it very melodic and highly atmospheric throughout the whole playing time which clocks in almost 70 minutes.

The special emphasis must be on drums, no matter who is the drummer, the drums are so very intense, ponderous, crushing, but as well technical and powerful that it's almost insane, just listen how blasting it sounds in the opener "The Juggler", in the groovy extremity of "The Emperor" or in the pounding "The Wheel Of Fortune", to expose just three. Heavenwood delivers in my opinion their best ever performance on "The High Priestess", where exquisite captivating guitar melodies blended with soul melting vocals and prolific gothic symphonic orchestrations are nothing but a masterpiece. Also the atmospheric gothic metal creation "The Hanged Man" with lead female vocals by Sandra Oliveira is absolutely a stunning piece of work, not to mention "The Hermit" where backing vocals performed by Fadi Al Shami and the whole oriental ambiance is just so magical, nicely blended with demonic doom/death metal intensity. But there's much more hidding inside this album, for example the solemn "The Empress" offers such a great refrain followed by amazing guitar leads. There are many progressive parts inside those compositions, as well the listener will find typical dark/goth rock elements, especially in the groover "The Lovers". The galloping "The Chariot" is as well an example of one hell of a lush dark extreme metal in its best form. How amazing is the synth work with all those broad symphonic orchestrations can be best heard in the epic "Frithiof's Saga".

Thanks to so many vocal variations between growls, that are in a way similar to early Theatre Of Tragedy, and many different clean vocals the album got its dynamics in a best possible manner. The Tarot Of The Bohemians – Part 1 is also very dramatic, an adventurous one, there are so many mood changes, pace variations, from fast speeding to mournful doom one. The sound is often rich and highly atmospheric, and above all also very original what is rare this days. The Tarot Of The Bohemians – Part 1 shines as well because of great production which adds a lot of depth and aggression, it was produced by André Matos at Raising Legends Studio (Porto, Portugal) and mastered by Wojtek Wieslawski at Hertz Studio (Poland). A surplus is as well the amazing cover artwork done by Gustavo Sazes which nicely depincts the volumptous ambiance and mood of the album. Heavenwood must be proud of this creation, in my opinion it's one of the best dark metal albums released so far in 2016 and a strong contender for best album of the year. The Tarot Of The Bohemians – Part 1 is a proper example of well crafted extreme/dark/gothic metal!

Review written by: T.V.
Rating: 9/10