Review: Leaves Eyes – ‘Sign Of The Dragonhead’

Have you heard the old saying “three sides to every story”? It’s sometimes followed by “his side, her side, and the truth”. In the case of Leaves Eyes, it certainly is quite apt. The fallout from co-founder and lead vocalist Liv Kristine splitting from the band was particularly nasty, with comments fired back and forth across the internet. Without a Jeremy Kyle type lie-detector, the truth will remain out there for some time, and as Kristine and Alexander Krull (the other co-founder/co-vocalist of the band) have a child together, it’s best to leave speculation to the courts. As expected, social media is the usual breeding ground for vitriolic comments, therefore at this moment, comments have been disabled on Leaves Eyes YouTube page. The first album with Kristine’s replacement Elina Siirala was always going to split the Leaves Eyes faithful, so with that in mind, it’s an idea to approach ‘Sign Of The Dragonhead’ as a new album from a new band. Along with Tarja, Charlotte Wessels, and Sharon Den Adel, Liv Kristine is part of the vanguard in symphonic metal vocalists, so any comparisons between her and Siirala are a tad unfair. In fact, if you were looking for a point of reference, Tarja might be a better place to start, as they both have that classically trained, operatic voice that blows away any cobwebs left over from the festive season. The title track opens the album, and is a real showcase for her huge voice, a perfect way to introduce Siirala to those perhaps unfamiliar with the Finn. It kicks the album off with a hint of defiance aimed straight at the detractors; here is our new vocalist, deal with it. The mix of soprano Siirala and the harsh vocals from Krull is a strange one to fathom, as Krull features sparsely on the opening few tracks. Live, is obviously a different matter, as the growls from Krull are much more prevalent, but here, he seems to flit in and out of the picture. ‘Across The Sea’ features more of the celtic vibe that featured so heavily on the ‘Meredead’ album, and possesses a Sabaton-like spring to it that, to these ears at least, is the perfect drinking song. Sing, bounce, drink, fight, repeat. The soft piano intro during ‘Like A Mountain’ heralds in more of what you might describe as a classic symphonic metal sound, complete with an ethereal mid section and massive arrangements. Krull has no vocals on this one, but reappears on ‘Jomsborg’, a rousing tale of the legendary Viking stronghold in the Baltic Sea. Krull has a passion for living history, and he belongs to the Jomsborg Vikings, a worldwide band of brothers dedicated to keeping the Viking spirit alive. His stamp is all over this one. Hugely cinematic, with a stunning choral arrangement, it’s one of the stand out moments on the album. As a celt myself, I’m quite partial to a bit of pipes and whistles, although I draw the line at shortbread-tin-porridge-oats-tourist-shtick, but done properly it can be quite expressive. ‘Volva’ is a great example; an intro you might find on the new Netflix movie about Robert The Bruce, mixed with some tasty riffs and a stunning vocal performance from Siirala… and the choir? Magical. ‘Riders On The Wind’ strays a bit close to the bag-rock sound of Big Country for my liking, but I guarantee that after a few drinks, I’m clearing the dancefloor if the DJ takes requests! ‘Rulers Of Wind And Waves’ is an instrumental track that continues the celtic/medieval theme with what sounds like a bodhran getting pounded over and over again. Tribal chants help give it an edge, and the track works really well. ‘Fires In The North’ was released in 2016 as part of a stop-gap EP, and here it sounds even bigger, more bombastic, and taking on new life once it’s cranked up. Closing track ‘Waves Of Euphoria’ is an eight minute epic that includes everything but the kitchen sink: beefy guitar riffs, Thin Lizzy-esque guitar melodies, gorgeous floating vocals, that choir again… Jesus, it is good. Drummer Joris Nijenhuis wins all the plaudits on this gem. Another example of just how important the nutter at the back is to any band. An album that grows on the listener. Not a perfect album (‘Fairer Than The Sun’ has yet to strike a chord), but one that does improve with each listen. Available January 12th on AFM Records Review: Dave Stott]]>

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