HELIOSAGA is another band that I feel needs to be exposed to a bigger audience. Damien Villarreal answered my questions. ©2015 Anders Ekdahl

What is this band really all about?
-This might be a simplistic answer, but I feel like Heliosaga is about a group of individuals that want to bring joy to other people’s lives with music. It’s also about satisfying that need within ourselves to create, perform and hopefully inspire or move others in some way.

Is there a difference in people’s attitude towards you if you don’t come from a cool place like LA or NY or London?
-Yes, I believe there is. It is most evident when people ask things like, “Why are you trying to do music in San Antonio? Why aren’t you in Austin or Tennessee?”. I try to be gracious about it and not give people the honest answer, because it’s a bit harsh. My opinion is that Austin is a great place if you like hipster music, but it’s mostly worthless for metal, at least metal of this type.

When you release an album that get pretty good reviews how do you follow up on that?
-Well, I think the main thing is to ask, “What, if anything, went wrong last time and how do I avoid those pitfalls in the future?” This can apply to the songwriting as well as the actual recorded sound. We definitely have a lot to learn, and I think we can make drastic improvements in every area.

What is the biggest challenge in the creation of an album, to write the songs or to come up with really good songs?
-The biggest challenge for me is definitely to write lyrics that don’t seem hackneyed. How ‘good’ a song happens to be is subjective. Another challenge is to be part of the symphonic metal world, but not really have the training for it. I suppose you could say that listening to other artists is a form of training, which I would agree with to an extent, but real training in composition and arrangement would be invaluable.

Do you prefer working digitally or is physical still cooler?
-I will always have a preference for physical products. I was very happy when the album was finished, but it didn’t quite hit me until I was actually holding a physical copy of our album. It made it more real to me. To this day I have only ever purchased one album digitally. I just like looking at the artwork, reading the lyrics and seeing the pictures in the album booklet. I suppose I am old-school like that!

With a sound that is being described as both this and that by fans how do you view your sound?
-I think the overarching style is definitely power metal, but there are symphonic, progressive, Gothic and even thrash influences throughout the album. I think our particular combination is, if not unique, at least rare. I’ve always said it this way, I think you can find hundreds of bands that we sound like, but you can’t find just one. That’s probably untrue, but I don’t think I am far off.

How important are the lyrics and what message do you want to purvey?
-The lyrics are paramount. I probably spend twice as much time on the lyrics as I do the actual music. They almost never come to me easily. Normally they take weeks, months or even years. I wouldn’t say that there is a specific message we want to hammer into people’s heads. I don’t know how many albums Heliosaga will release over the course of its existence, but I do hope that there will be a great deal of lyrical, as well as musical, diversity.

What part does art work for album covers play in the world of the band?
-The album cover is very important. I wanted the cover for Towers in the Distance to reflect the themes in the lyrics, and I think it did a remarkable job of that. The artist, Carlos Fides, put in a few of his own touches, which I think really enhanced the overall atmosphere.

When you play live do you notice a degree of greater recognition from the fans with each new time you pass through town?
-We have been stuck in a ‘project’ phase for years now due to our incomplete lineup. We played some shows in 2011, and those were in San Antonio. Unfortunately, that is the extent of our live experience. We’re working on changing that.

What do you see in the future?
-Our main goals are to complete our lineup and play some local gigs. Our second album is well underway, so hopefully there will be a new one in 2016.

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