Leaves’ Eyes was formed in 2003 by Norwegian vocalist Liv Kristine and German singer Alexander Krull. I would describe the band as symphonic metal with a taste of Viking/Pagan/Celtic and folk. In 2018 they will release their seventh studio album, Sign Of The Dragonhead, their first with new singer Elina Siirala who joined in early 2016 after the departure of founding member Kristine. I have been lucky enough to get my hands on an early copy for the purposes of this review.
Their 2015 album, King Of Kings, was my number one CD for the year. In October of 2016, they released an EP with a new song, “Fires In The North”. Also contains three re-recorded tracks from the King Of Kings CD featuring Elina on vocals. Fans lucky enough to have seen the new lineup live were well aware that she was more than capable of performing their classic material. This EP proved without question that the in-studio chemistry between the members was without question. The EP proved that the in studio chemistry between the band members was without question.
When I first caught wind of details of the 2018 release it had all the makings of another great album. Once again, the legendary London Voices Choir, best known for their work on blockbuster movie productions such as Lord Of The Rings, Star Wars and The Hobbit, were employed to add their incredible talents. Additionally, the amazing Victor Smolski’s Almanac Symphony Orchestra were hired to contribute Medieval nyckelharpas, fiddles, uilleann pipes and whistles.
The new CD kicks off with the first single and title track “Sign Of The Dragonhead”. Upon first listen, I quickly get the impression that Leaves’ Eyes is continuing right where they left off with King of Kings. The composition is full of everything you want in a symphonic metal song. The beautiful voice of Elina combines with the breathtaking voices of The London Voices Choir, and Alex‘s growls are tastefully thrown into the mix. I can just imagine the fans in full force, jumping to the Viking inspired rhythms during a live performance.
The album continues with the second single, “Across The Sea”. Two tracks in and I’m convinced that Elina is a perfect fit for the direction of this symphonic outfit. This is an up-tempo anthem that is fitting for a Viking king.
The next tune, “Like A Mountain”, slows the stride down a bit, with Elina showing off her well-trained soprano vocals. Next, “Jomsborg”, is a tale of a legendary fortress and its Baltic Viking army. It’s a remarkable piece that brings out the theme of the band with the choir and orchestra adding full symphonic ambiance.
The fifth song, “Volva”, draws you into a mythical world of the Northern countries with the medieval nyckelharpas, fiddles, uilleann pipes and whistles. The tune is a perfect example of how Leaves’ Eyes can maintain a heaviness in their music while adding many different and unconventional instruments to their sound.
Next up is “Riders On The Wind”. The intro reminds me of Britny Fox’s “Long Way To Love”, but quickly turns into a Celtic folk track with a classic heavy metal familiarity.
The seventh song, “Fairer Than The Sun“, is a slow piece which highlights the angelic vocals of Elina.
“Shadows In The Night” features everything that fans of symphonic metal are looking for and more. Alex‘s growls are a perfect complement to the choir and Elina‘s operatic vocals. The band in whole shows why Leaves’ Eyes are one of the best symphonic metal groups in the world.
The instrumental track, “Rulers Of Wind And Waves“, is an elaborate song that carries a folk and Celtic touch. This goes well with the traditionally “Viking-esque” sound of the band. This is followed by “Fires In The North” which was featured on the aforementioned 2016 EP.
The final track, “Waves of Euphoria“, is the longest tune on the CD and clocks in at just over 8 minutes. It’s an orchestral filled symphonic track with the band mustering up everything they have to offer. Though every piece on the album is excellent, this song stands out and tops them all. It’s an unbelievable symphonic dream. Let’s hope they include this one in future live performances.
Though Sign Of The Dragonhead is the first new album that I have listened to in 2018. I am of the mind that this could very well be in my Top 10 for 2018, with a distinct possibility of taking the number one spot. At this point, it is hard for me to say if it rivals King of Kings, but it is certainly a continuation of something spectacular.
The album releases on January 12th of this year. I look forward to getting the deluxe version as it features two bonus tracks as well as a bonus instrumental CD.
I said this on their last release but will say it again for Sign Of The Dragonhead: a truly epic masterpiece of this style of music.
Shawn “Animalize” Irwin