Thursday 2 May 2024

Leaves' Eyes - Myths of Fate (2024)

Country: Germany
Style: Symphonic Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 22 Mar 2024
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram | Metal Archives | Official Website | Twitter | Wikipedia | YouTube

It's becoming increasingly difficult to list a country for Leaves' Eyes, who return here with a ninth studio album to follow 2020's The Last Viking. They were formed by Norwegian vocalist Liv Kristine and the line-up of Germany's Atrocity, but there are no longer any Norwegians in the band and, of six members, only three hail from Germany. The lead vocals are handled this time, as last, by Elina Siirala, a Finn; Joris Nijenhuis is a Dutch drummer; and the two replacements for Thorsten Bauer are an Italian, Andre Nasso on bass, and a German, Luc Gebhardt on guitars.

Wherever they're from, they sound excellent on this album. The songs feel a little heavier than on its predecessor but that's not because of any change in songwriting, more because the back end is beefed up a little in the production. It all sounds like it has a little more oomph to it, but what we hear on top of that is the same heavy symphonic metal. Well, mostly, because I'm hearing a little change in the approach too, not least all the folky touches on The Last Viking being restricted to a single track, Einherjar.

For one, even though the production makes this feel a little heavier than last time out, there are fewer harsh vocals from Alexander Krull, now the sole remaining founding member, after Bauer's departure in 2021. There are some on the opener, Forged by Fire, but he focuses on keyboards for Realm of Dark Waves and Who Wants to Live Forever, which become the baseline for this album. I was almost shocked when he leads out Hammer of the Gods, on which he has a lot more to do with his vocals. The same happens with Sons of Triglav, easily his most dominant vocal performance on this album. He's still there, of course, decorating other songs like Fear the Serpent, just less often.

For another, there's less of a choral sound in play this time. Again it's there and indeed it's there on the opener, which features some of the most memorable choral vocals here. There's more still to come in Fear the Serpent, Einherjar and especially Sail with the Dead, but the latter two close out the album and so it's missing far more often than I expected. In Eternity, which boasts a highly prominent woah woah chorus isn't bolstered by other voices the way it could easily have been. It was clearly a deliberate decision to relegate choral vocals deep below Siirala's clean but powerful lead, as well as Krull's occasional harsh vocal.

Now, that doesn't mean that Leaves' Eyes are moving away from symphonic metal. This is clearly symphonic metal through and through. Siirala may not soar all the time but she soars plenty and I'm very happy about how she breaks down when she wants to set a mood and when she wants to show off a little. She's a wonderful lead singer for this band and it's hardly surprising that she's even more of a focus than she was last time. Goddess of the Night is a showcase for her, covering both nuance and power, but my favourite moment is the very first word in Fear the Serpent which she delivers with impeccable relish.

It's probably not coincidental that Goddess of the Night is also the most orchestrated track, with delicate violins to match Siirala's delicate sections and more powerful ones to match her powerful ones. While I'd call out Hammer of the Gods and Forged by Fire as my favourite songs, along with the Viking metal infused Sons of Triglav, Goddess of the Night can't be ignored as a real highlight of the album. It's the softest, subtlist and quietest song here, however much it builds, but it's also perhaps the one we can least ignore. We can fall into the grooves of many of these songs and let them carry us along, most obviously Sons of Triglav and In Eternity, but Goddess of the Night has real demands on our attention. We are commanded to listen.

All that said, it shouldn't surprise that I like this album rather a lot. It's more immediate than its predecessor and it's more consistent, in addition to having that extra boost from the production. However, it's also not taking any risks. Decreasing those harsh vocals and choral backdrops feels like a backward step. Symphonic metal is a genre that's particularly easy to identify because the bands who forged it are so similar that they can sound interchangeable. Leaves' Eyes have always been a little different, obviously compatible and similar but never the same, perhaps inevitably given their origins in a gothic singer and a grindcore band. However, these changes feel like they may be moving them closer to the norm and that may be a mistake.

No comments:

Post a Comment