Since parting ways with original vocalist (and founding member) Liv Kristine in 2016 Leaves’ Eyes have polarised fans with the addition of new singer Elina Siirala. The band have been slowly winning over the doubters and their eighth album The Last Viking is sure to garner them many more admirers.
“Death Of A King” is an opener that’s cinematic in scope. Evoking images of a Viking funeral on a misty morn it’s a track that’s best listened to on headphones to fully immerse yourself into the bands emotive soundscape. It weaves a dreamlike spell that’s abruptly broken by the explosive nature of “Chain Of The Golden Horn”. Employing elements of folk metal renders “Chain Of The Golden Horn” a lively affair as wispy guitar lines dance atop a chugging riff as Elina’s angelic vocals are tempered by Alexander Krull’s guttural growls. In fact with each band member providing harmonies “Chain Of The Golden Horn” is furnished with a huge sound that ululates like a longboat on a stormy sea while Elina’s vocal inflection that ends the song is sure to give you an ear-gasm.
Creating a huge wall of sound “War Of Kings” explodes like fireworks illuminating a bruise coloured sky. There’s that constant tension of opposites that pits clean vocals against the gruff and it makes The Last Viking an intriguing listen. “Black Butterfly” follows and features a guest spot from Vision Of Atlantis singer Clémentine Delauney who adds a rustic, earthy texture to proceedings. Choral and Wagnerian in proportions “Serpents And Dragons” employs otherworldly sound effects to lull us into a dreamlike dimension before thunderous drums rudely awaken the unwary.
Often labelled as symphonic metal in truth Leaves’ Eyes are greater in scope and draw inspiration from a wide variety of sources as lead single “Dark Love Empress” has a definite gothic feel and encases Elina’s vocals within walls of glacial synths. The production on “Two Kings One Realm” is a real boon and provides a real depth and adds an exorbitant weight to the drums. Opening with more folky flourishes “For Victory” soon evolves into a warlike call to arms which features some fine dualling between guitarists Thorsten Bauer and Micki Richter. “Varangians” is sure to transfer well to the live environment with its huge sing along chorus and makes a nice pairing with the equally raucous “Serkland”.
The arcing storyline that runs throughout ensures The Last Viking hangs together as a cohesive whole despite the disparate sounds contained within as “Night Of The Ravens” flies majestically and “Flames In The Sky” is framed by red and burnt yellow hues. It’s not until we reach the thirteenth track, “Break Into The Sky Of Aeon”, that Leaves’ Eyes ease off the pedal to deliver a crushing affair that leaves the listener feeling dwarfed beneath its monolithic enormity. “The Last Viking” closes the album and it’s truly worthy of being called ‘epic’. Clocking in at ten minutes it’s a song that constantly shape shifts and employs varying time signatures to create an intoxicating vignette.
Losing a vocalist as charismatic as Liv Kristine would be a blow for any band but The Last Viking finds Leaves’ Eyes producing a career defining album.
The Last Viking is out now via AFM Records