For more than a decade now, LEAVES’ EYES have been setting world history to music and undeniably, by doing so, have raced to the top of the symphonic metal tree.
With their new monumental epic “King Of Kings”, the band now further justifies their leading position as a compass in the genre and re-awakes the thousand-year legend of Norway’s first king, ‘Harald Fairhair’, in the process. Again this band prove their amazing talent of capturing sagas and legends of the past and truly making them come alive in the here and now. Welcome the Vikings!
LEAVES’ EYES has always been a band of superlatives: the international group has toured on five continents, playing concerts in more than 50 countries. Their live shows are spectacular events with breathtaking stage scenery, including a Viking ship or even the “Swords In Rock” monument from singer Liv Kristine’s home town. On their studio albums, the band has constantly followed the steps of classical composers from the past. Debut “Lovelorn” (2004) lead them first for subject matter, to Norway, home country of vocalist Liv and full of myths and legends. The concept effort made the musicians’ wonderment at Scandinavia’s vast nature graspable and later this found its continuation with 2005’s “Vinland Saga”, whose story told of the Viking’s exploration of America and its result. The success was immediate, as the album (and its hit single “Elegy”) remained in the charts for four weeks. What’s more, from that point on all LEAVES’ EYES releases would follow that same tradition and achieve high chart positions, whether it was the orchestral metal opus “Njord” (2009), impressively remembering the Vikings’ exploration of all parts of the world, or the complex “Meredead”(2011), which delved into tales of Scandinavian legends, connected to life, death and the power of the ocean. LEAVES’ EYES effortlessly combine traditional folk, mystic sounds of the past and a symphonic orchestra with brutal, metal rawness, and this was no truer than when, for their 10th anniversary, the band released the highly-acclaimed“Symphonies of the Night”, an album which features all their traditional trademarks, turned into a sweeping metal opera.
Now LEAVES’ EYES lead us back in time to when Harald I was uniting Norway as one kingdom. With an almost cinematic intensity, the band has you see the battle of Hafrsfjord itself. “King of Kings” sounds as if film score composers Hans Zimmer and Richard Wagner themselves had collaborated on a soundtrack about the life of Norway’s first king with amazing results. The epic title track with its huge choirs (brought to you by the “London Voices” ensemble, who have famously worked on movie productions such as “Star Wars”, “Lord of the Rings” and “Harry Potter” amongst many) gives a perfect start to the saga. It’s a perfect match to the band’s ambitions and to the vision of producer Alexander Krull, who sonically lifts “King of Kings” to the level of these blockbuster productions. Whilst, under the guidance of ex – Rage guitarist Victor Smolski, the powerful White Russian Symphony Orchestra adds even more feel. Despite all this musical variety and epicness though, LEAVES’ EYES never lose their grasp for hits! Songs such as “The Waking Eye” and the massive “Halvdan the Black” (which is about Harald’s fateful father) will definitely become gothic/metal club hits…. And, the rousing hymn “Edge of Steel” sees two of the genre’s biggest stars join forces: Liv Kristine and guest singer Simone Simons (Epica) together leading us right onto the battlefields of Harald I himself……
“King of Kings” offers stylistic diversity everywhere you look; from folk rock and gentle tunes to symphonic, epic, heavy hymns; it’s an impressive display of the artists’ involved multifaceted qualities.
We could tell you more; a further highlight is the gigantic “Blazing Waters” (featuring Lindy-Fay Hella – Wardruna), which comes across as a musical vision of the decisive battle as real as anything you’ll hear on a record, whilst natural Celtic /ethnic elements and also percussion add an authentic feel to rockers such as “Vengeance Venom” and “Swords in Rock”, which will endear them equally to pagan and Viking metal fans alike.
Its Liv Kristine’s unique voice which almost certainly forges LEAVES’ EYES’ path to their own sound the most though finally. Just listen to the incredible “Haraldskvæði”, proof that she can create atmosphere like no other, and tell us this is not something really special. “King of Kings” is without doubt truly music in wide-screen format, the band creating musical pictures which really make the whole era come alive.
by Robert Suß