Review Summary: Whose eyes now?
Replacing one of the most influential and iconic female voices in the history of metal is never an easy task. Add to that the fact that the band’s moniker is practically inspired by the said vocalist’s name, and the task instantly becomes daunting; or so it must have been for the remaining members of Leaves’ Eyes. Essentially the brainchild of ex-couple Liv (hence Leaves’
Eyes) Kristine (ex-Theatre of Tragedy) and Alexander Krull (Atrocity), the German-Norwegian outfit plays an entertaining brand of symphonic metal – Nightwishcore for some – which distinguishes itself by its strong Norse/Viking flavor. Besides differentiation, the Norse elements also provide an epic aspect which is much needed to a style of music that – to my mind at least – is easy to evoke horrible Eurovision memories.
So, did the firing of Liv Kristine have a detrimental effect on the quality of her ex band’s material？ Well yes, even though it’s not the new vocalist’s fault, as the problem with Sign of the Dragonhead
is twofold. On one hand, the songwriting is catchy albeit formulaic and on the other, everything on here sounds so overproduced, harmless and non-heavy that it subtracts much of the fun. Yes, the outcome is bombastic and sometimes energetic but it is also so compressed. In addition, the guitars are inoffensive and Alexander Krull’s harsh vocals are muddy and poor. For example, “Across the Sea” has a beautiful, uplifting folk melody which makes it one of the album’s highlights but Krull’s vocals bring the song down.
The new lead singer Elina Siirala, differs from Liv in that she opts for a more powerful approach but, unfortunately, her delivery is such that makes Leaves’ Eyes even more formulaic. Overall, her performance is good but there are times that her voice sounds forced such as on “Sign of the Dragonhead” which, instrumentally, is a nice opener but not a great way of introducing the new vocalist, not to mention the childish chorus.
One thing that Leaves’ Eyes seems to have nailed is the folk melodies. “Jomsborg”, “Volva” and “Riders on the Wind” are good examples of a successful fusion of folk and symphonic metal and eventually album highlights due to their folk melodies. However instead of building on those melodies, the band constantly dresses them up with simplistic riffs, abysmal male harsh vocals and Eurovision-style choruses.
At the end of the day, Sign of the Dragonhead
is by no means an offensive listen or an awful LP but it’s too poppy and harmless for its own good. Was it Liv Kristine who saved these guys from absolute cheesiness？ I am not sure, as her solo career is hit or miss as well and besides her last studio album Vervain
, quite poppy too. Nevertheless, there is hope provided that Leaves’ Eyes decide to work on their strong points and elevate them instead of bringing them down.