Review Summary: The band has returned with a tasteful, epic and melodic gothic rock album that cements their place near the top of the genre.
When Liv Kristine left Theatre of Tragedy
it seemed that both her and the band she had abandoned were destined to fail. On the band’s side, they were on a sustained downward slide as they continued to forsake their doom foundation in favor of a new electro industrial approach and Liv’s second solo album was a complete pop rock disaster. Fortunately, both her and her ex-band have since rebounded from their missteps – Theatre of Tragedy returning to doomier pastures, and Liv Kristine with Leaves’ Eyes. Liv’s new band worked because it marked a return to the atmospheric metal that had made her famous in the first place. Backed by the entire Atrocity
line-up she was able to create a band that moved beyond anything she had done before. A band that utilized symphonic and folk elements but that was also much more musicianship-oriented.
Granted, the band’s first album really didn’t bring anything new to the genre but since then steps have been taken to give them the slightest bit of an identity. The main way this has been accomplished is through their increasingly epic songs (despite average song lengths), and a continued push into a more melodic setting – both of which have been perfected on Njord
. Unlike a lot of bands, Leaves’ Eyes have managed to integrate the symphonic elements into the songs in a way that compliments the rest of the instruments instead of simply overwhelming them. These symphonic elements have also become progressively fuller, which is where a large part of the epic feel comes from. In order to better augment the improvements on the symphonic side, the riffs have also become more melodic with a large portion of the guitar parts flowing from one melody to the next. These melodies (both guitar-based and symphonic) take a subtle influence from romanticized Norwegian folk lending them the final element that completes the epic feel of the songs. Thankfully, the band is able to use the folk elements in a restrained and tasteful way that doesn’t end up turning the music into cheese-filled, craptastic exercises in fruitiness.
The most effective aspect of all these different musical influences is that they have been tweaked to completely compliment Liv’s vocals. As anyone that has heard her sophomore solo album can attest to, while Liv’s vocals are very capably done they do require a full and competent backing band to fully carry them. This is because her soprano vocals are delivered in a very delicate manner, which could be considered beautiful but definitely not powerful. This delivery turns out to be a double-edged sword because they unquestionably contribute to the atmosphere of the songs, but they’re not very effective when it comes to creating memorable choruses. As is often the case with these types of bands, Liv’s vocals are occasionally contrasted with a death growl at key moments in certain songs. The growls on this album aren’t nearly as deep or guttural as might be expected, instead they’re delivered in a higher mid-range rasp that lacks power, but gets the job done.
Despite the fact that Leaves’ Eyes are basically doing the same thing as bands such as Epica
and Within Temptation
, they’re doing it in a way that is much more competent and much more tasteful. The band’s riffs are more than variations of the same basic power chords and are stylishly enhanced by plenty of melodic leads. They also know how to use orchestral elements without overwhelming every other aspect of the songs. This combined with subtle folk elements and Liv Kristine’s delicate vocal delivery has lead to one of the better gothic rock albums to be released in awhile. Njord
is an album that cements the band’s place near the top of the genre and proves that this type of music can be capably and tastefully done if the musicians are willing to take the time… and actually have the ability.