This is my first go ‘round with Leaves’ Eyes. I’m not what you’d call a big symphonic metal fan. I like some of it, but I’m not usually racing to the record store to get the newest releases, mind you. With that said, I was pretty curious about this band, and as it happens, their fifth album Symphonies of the Night due out November 26 via Napalm Records recently fell into my lap, so yay! I have to say, upon pressing the PLAY button, it is very hard not to get swept up in the atmosphere and majesty of this thing. It’s got this otherworldly quality that comes out of the speakers that I can’t quite explain. Liv Kristine’s beautiful and lilting voice will draw you in, and is perfect for the music.
After my first listen my immediate favorites were the folk-laden “Galswintha” and the title track “Symphony of the Night” which is a touch heavier than the former while still retaining some folk elements. Both songs simply beckon you to enter this mystical realm and are very well-done. They also call to mind my childhood memories of spending parts of my summers in Ireland with its lush green countryside. I close my eyes and it’s like I’m there again.
Opener “Hell to the Heavens” goes from a tap on the shoulder to a slap in the face all within the first 30 seconds and was my introduction to Alexander Krull’s growling vocals blended with Liv’s in a style she refers to as “beauty and the beast”. Ok. Great way to start things off and they definitely have my attention. “Fading Earth” is next and is another stellar track. The guitars sound great, the beat is infectious, and the keys set the mood perfectly. Speaking of mood, “Hymn to the Lone Sands” starts out with an acoustic guitar, piano, and fiddle before morphing into what can only be described as the soundtrack to a glorious battle, guitars and drums locked in a death struggle. The solos even sound like swords clashing!
Liv’s impassioned delivery especially highlights slower, more orchestral songs like “Saint Cecelia” and “Nightshade”, the latter having a very Celtic feel to it. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Alexander’s growls are front and center for much of fast-paced rocker “Maid of Lorraine”. This beauty and the beast thing really seems to work, especially on the call and response of “Angel and the Ghost”. Liv’s spoken word section had the hair on my arms standing up right before the simple, elegant solo, too.
“Éléonore de Provence” is very interesting due to its push and pull arrangements as well, and closer “Ophelia” sounds like something you would expect over the closing credits of a movie that had it all: epic fight scenes, beautiful scenery, and the hero and heroine walking off together, side by side. At least that’s what I get when I listen. With this album Symphonies of the Night, Leaves’ Eyes have certainly gained themselves a new fan in this reviewer. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go press PLAY again.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Galswintha”, “Maid of Lorraine”, “Angel and the Ghost”, “Fading Earth”, “Symphony of the Night”, “Hymn to the Lone Sands”