Heavenly "On Angel's Wings"

Interview with Ben Sotto by Colonel Angus

I always like to get to interview bands from other countries. There seems to be more of a metal community in Europe but I was surprised that heavy metal was still a going concern in France . Heavenly have been around since 2000 and have been keeping the power metal flag flying in their native France . There have been a couple of line-up changes but the one constant has been Ben Sotto. With their new release Virus finally making its US release, Ben was kind enough to submit to an email interview. I have to give him credit, his English is quite good (my French is non-existent) and he did not shy away from any questions.

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: Previously, you were with Noise Records but Virus is released on Locomotive Records. How did the label change come about?

Ben Sotto: At the end of 2005, Noise Record activities were declining and the label broke their deals with a lot of bands, and Heavenly was one of these. So we had to find another record company. At this moment, we recorded a demo of three new songs and sent it to a lot of labels. We got several positive returns from labels but AFM records, for Europe and Locomotive for USA did the best proposal. So this is something very new for us, it is our first album with those labels. We are glad to deal with them and we totally trust in them and we're not disappointed and I hope we'll never be (lol). We'll work together as long as both we'll be satisfied of our works...

WC: Your sound changed a little on the new record with less fast paced drumming on the whole CD. Was there a concerted effort to change or is this just a natural evolution for your music?

BS: With this new album, we tried to make a "good mix" between power and melody. On one hand, all the rhythm guitars and bass guitar give a powerful dimension to the music and on the other hand, all vocals and lead guitars bring the melody. In that way, we tried to keep these two aspects in our music. And this is probably the main difference with Dust to Dust album which sounds a bit symphonic with too many orchestrations while Virus is more direct. So it wasn’t a concerted effort but a natural evolution.

WC: Your lyrics cover a lot of different subject matters. What do you use for inspiration to write either the lyrics or music?

BS: Heavenly’s songs deal with different themes of every day life. And lyrics and music come from nowhere. You know ,there isn’t a sole way of inspiration or, if there is, please tell me the solution. Concerning Virus, the album is not a concept album like Dust to Dust, it is a compilation of nine individual tracks which deal with different themes.

The first song "The Dark Memories" tells the story of a man who try to get out from under a nervous breakdown. "Spill Blood On Fire" talks about all wounds that human beings have accumulated through the ages, on and on …war, poverty, terrorism, racism, pollution…and the strange thing is that we didn’t learn from our past lessons. "Virus" is the story of a spy as I've said just before. "The Power & Fury” is just a crisis of conscience that time is running out day after day …so don’t forget to “cling to your dream as long as you have time …”. "Wasted Time" is a story of a prisoner which reflects a lot on his own past life, just alone with himself in the dark. He feels that the time goes by so fast but without knowing the happiness of the moment. "Bravery In The Field" deals with civil war and those warriors very proud and full of courage in the battle field. This is something that you see a lot in movies actually. " Liberty ”... this song is talking about war and all people died to live in liberty since the beginning of the human era. This is the story of many countries. And the last one, "Prince Of The World" is a very beautiful song, the theme is a guy which has to say goodbye to his little life, all his childhood friends and family to go to a new destination …and reach the glory and dethrone the king of the kings ….

WC: On Virus, many of the songs contain different parts to give it a bit of a progressive feel. What influences helped shape the sound of the new record?

BS: Of course, "Virus" is a bit different from "Dust to Dust". For Heavenly, the best album is a mix of big rhythm guitar, very loud and strong and also a lot of melody to show different ways of emotion. So we tried to do this with Dust to Dust but it was really hard because of the concept story and also because it sounded too much symphonic. This new album is simply heavy metal. We try to go directly to the essential and forget the unnecessary parts! We are all very proud of our work this time around.

About inspiration, I still like heavy metal music like Manowar, Iron Maiden, Gamma Ray, Angra, Helloween, Running Wild, Metallica, Megadeth, Judas Priest, Nightwish, Spinal Tap, Iced Earth, Dio and much else... But other styles with bands like Queen, The Doors, Muse, Dire Straits, Jerry Lee Lewis, Springsteen, Murray Head, John Miles, Bon Jovi, Alice Cooper, Jermaine & Michael Jackson, and many others….

WC: The new CD has such a “dark” cover compared to Dust To Dust and Coming From The Sky. How do you go about deciding on the theme of the artwork?

BS: It was necessary for the cover to be in relation with the concept of the song "Virus" which is the story of a spy which only wants to destroy everything and so it was impossible to use a "Heavenly" cover with beautiful angels or something like that.For example, like the first album "Coming from the sky". As you said, the cover is not typical for this kind of music but it represents very well this virus described into the song. And more, the style of Heavenly is more aggressive and powerful than before so the cover also reflects this aspect of the music.

WC: How do you decide which track will be the “bonus” track on the Japanese release?

BS: In Japan, an album has to, for contractual reason, come out before the other countries, and for the same reason, it needs bonus tracks. That's why, on all Heavenly's albums, there are bonus tracks. On this record, we've got two bonus tracks, a song called "The Joker" written and sung by Charley and a second one, the Japanese version of "Spill Blood On Fire". The Joker" os pm there because Charley wrote it and it sounds a bit different from Heavenly’s songs and for “Spill Blood On Fire” Japan version, it was a song specially recorded for a Japanese bonus track.

WC: What was the last CD you purchased?

BS: The last one was "Revolver" from The Beatles.The more I listen to this album, the more I think that those guys created a natural and a timeless music…

WC: Do you feel that the power metal scene is still going strong and growing in Europe ?

BS: The metal scene is very vast and develops everyday. There are different styles like hard rock, heavy metal, black metal, thrash metal and else... there is a real expansion because bands combine all these kinds of music with other styles like classical music, jazz, Celtic or traditional music. Well, this is very rich for the music. Metal progresses step by step. For example, in France, the most popular music styles are Hip-Hop, pop-rock or French traditional music but metal in general is not very broadcasted. Only a few metal bands successfully export their music. But we've got an "underground" metalhead community which supports metal bands. Thanx to these people, metal is still alive in France . I think it is the same in other countries. In Europe , Lordi won the Eurovision contest, this shows that metal enters slowly in our culture... Anyway, all over the world, there are still a lot of loyal metal fans and just for them and thanx to them, metal will survive..."and the light will shine forever..."

WC: What was the last concert you attended as a fan?

BS: The last concert I have seen was Deep Purple in Bordeaux , last March. Very great show, I hope I’ll be on stage like them when I'm older and doing performances as good as theirs.

WC: What are your touring plans for Virus other than the support slot on the Scorpions tour?

BS: Actually, aside from the Scorpions tour, a French tour is scheduled on June 2007 as headliner and we also play a French festival Hellfest with Slayer, Korn, Megadeth and many others... We hope we'll play in Europe soon too for a tour or summer festivals. We're discussing it at this time, so I hope we could visit you soon to play in your country and to be honest, we want to play everywhere we can. So in USA why not, and with pleasure!

WC: What is your favorite “Spinal Tap” moment from your touring career?

BS: Well, I think our favorite “Spinal Tap” moment happened at the first show of the Virus tour in Paris . It was a good moment because the audience was very good, but at the end of the show, it was time for us to go backstage but the door was locked and we needed a code to get in! So we were in front of the audience on the stage… anyway, a true Spinal Tap scene. Everybody laughed!!!

Heavenly's Official Website