by Joe Mis
– Senior Columnist –
Symphonies of the Night marks the triumphant return of Leaves’ Eyes to the symphonic metal arena. Take everything about Leaves’ Eyes and magnify it – this means bigger vocals, tighter performances, heavier riffs, and of course, more power. This thirteen track epic release is the band’s follow up to the critically acclaimed CD, Meredead, and it doesn’t follow in the footsteps but rather blazes new paths.
Alexander Krull’s production work is nothing short of epic, and there is a richness to the band’s sound that is emphasized by their continued use of non-traditional rock instruments (Uilleann pipes, tin whistles, dulcimers, etc.) and multiple languages to maintain an authentic, medieval sound. Lyrically different from its predecessors, Symphonies of the Night pulls its inspiration from a number of strong female historical and fictional characters rather than the Scandinavian mythology used in the past.
“Hell to the Heavens” opens the album in a very big way and sets the tone for the remainder of the album. Not only does it feature Liv Kristine’s amazing lead vocals, but it showcases a more vigorous vocal contribution from fellow singer Alexander Krull, as the two continue to push the boundaries of their “beauty and the beast” style. Liv covers the gamut from soft to operatic, and Alexander’s deep growls are a wonderful stylistic counterpoint. Of course, the song is ably backed by guitarists Thorsten Bauer (who also plays bass) and Sander van der Meer, along with drummer Felix Born. Delicate keys open “Fading Earth” before the song picks up a good deal of old metal feel. Liv’s voice floats nicely over the massive rhythm line, and the guitar work is masterful. “Maid of Lorraine” (based on the story of Joan of Arc) slows the tempo a bit at first, but does not dull the intensity as Krull’s massive growls play a major role in this folk-tinged track. “Galswintha” has a strong folk feel at the start thanks to a solid acoustic, drum driven passage, and provides a peek into a very old and violent era of European history.
Solid bass starts the epic and booming vampire tale “Symphony of the Night,” based on J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s “Carmilla.” Liv stays operatic thoughout, and the band emphasizes the symphonic sides of their abilities. The powerful and moving ballad “Saint Cecelia” recounts the tale of the martyred Cecelia of Rome, the patron saint of musicians – and provides a break from the power and bombast of the preceding tracks. “Hymn to the Lone Sands” is a track of contrasts, with Liv’s soft and then operatic vocals blending into an almost manic rhythm line, contrasting with Alexander’s growls and double bass drums. This track also highlights the very solid guitar teamwork of Bauer and van der Meer. “Angel and the Ghost” is a bit melodramatic (maybe even approaching “over-the-top”), but it highlights the band’s unity and teamwork no matter the style. The gritty “Éléonore de Provence” is also a bit on the melodramatic side, but is good fun throughout as the music moves from soft to “in your face” and back.
The ballad-like “Nightshade” is Liv’s vocal high point, and leads nicely into the Shakespearean “Ophelia” (yes, Hamlet’s Ophelia) – a very progressive / symphonic closing song that wraps the official portion of the album in style.
Bonus tracks consist of “Eileen’s Ardency” (which features voclas by Liv’s sister, Carmen Elise Espenæs – lead singer of Midnattsol and Savn), and a cover of Depeche Mode’s “One Caress.”
Symphonies of the Night is Leaves’ Eyes’ most “metal” album yet, but they have not forsaken the symphonic, melodic, and folk elements that have made them a standout band and a pioneer in the genre. While some may miss the softer, more folk aspects of the band’s music, the vast majority of fans of the band will be well pleased as the music of Leaves’ Eyes continues to feed the heart and imagination as well as the ears.
Genre: Symphonic Metal
Liv Kristine Espenæs Krull (vocals)
Alexander Krull (vocals)
Thorsten Bauer (guitars, bass)
Sander van der Meer (guitars)
Felix Born (drums)
Guest performer: Carmen Elise Espenæs (Midnattsol, Savn) – vocals on track 12
1. Hell to the Heavens
2. Fading Earth
3. Maid of Lorraine
5. Symphony of the Night
6. Saint Cecelia
7. Hymn to the Lone Sands
8. Angel and the Ghost
9. Éléonore de Provence
12. Eileen’s Ardency (Bonus Track)
13. One Caress (Bonus Track)
Label: Napalm Records
Hardrock Haven rating: 9/10