Leaves’ Eyes – Symphonies Of The Night
Leaves’ Eyes – Symphonies Of The Night (2013)
Reviewed by Allyson Kenning
Around 10 years after releasing a little folk-inspired Gothic album called Lovelorn, veteran metal singer Liv Kristine and her seemingly ever-changing crew known as Leaves’ Eyes released their fifth studio album a couple of months ago in November. Entitled Symphonies Of The Night, this CD marks another rung on the ladder of the ever-evolving sound, style, and themes that Leaves’ Eyes takes on, and they do it so magnificently that this album made my top three of 2013, and is now my favorite album by the group.
Symphonies Of The Night is a thematic album, and the neat thing about it is that it’s kind of like a history book full of chapters, and each chapter is about one woman from history, folklore, or literature. Some of the women are better known than others – Ophelia for instance – and some are very obscure, like Galswintha. A quick Google search educated me about the women, and what they seem to have in common is their sense of honor and loyalty. Whether that loyalty is misplaced or not really doesn’t matter (they all get screwed around in some way), but each of these women were put through the wringer in one way or another, and some survived and some didn’t.
I do love it when a literary aspect enters the music I listen to because it engages my brain in a way most CDs don’t, and therefore this album was right up my alley. I also appreciate the historical aspect, which helped me appreciate this even more. The first song on the CD is “Hell To The Heavens”, which doesn’t reference a specific woman in history, but rather a nameless one who is accused of being a witch, tried, and then carted off by the local holy men to a dank cell somewhere. Is she innocent or is she not…?
This also song introduces us to the latest manifestation of Leaves’ Eyes sound: one that is heavier, faster, and less doomy than we might be used to. Additionally, Liv Kristine herself has done some incredible work with her voice, adopting a more classical style. We get quite a bit of Alex Krull’s growls, and I have to say this has always been the element of Leaves’ Eyes’ music I’ve always had a bone to pick with. I have never been a big fan of Alex’s growls, finding them a little cheesy and not quite a good fit with the music. His growls here are great however, vastly improved to my ear. This is good, because they appear a lot more on this album compared to previous efforts.
The heavily folk-oriented Meredead, the band’s last album, was quite the tour de force of folky instruments, melodies, and different languages. Symphonies Of The Night takes a more subtle approach to the folk instrumentation, and there are snippets of other languages contained in some songs (like Gaelic, French, and Norwegian), but they are just sprinkled here and there. If anything, there is a more power metal or even progressive approach to this album.
There are plenty of standout songs on this release. “Maid of Lorraine“ is about a prophesy in France that might have turned out to be the telling of the coming of Joan of Arc. I don’t like to throw around the word “epic” too much, but with its many changes in tempo, choirs, catchy chorus, and Liv’s regal voice, this is indeed an epic song. Another that I enjoyed a lot was “Eleonore de Provence“, who was actually a queen of England back in the early 13th century. This is another song I can legitimately classify as epic. The imagery, the lyrics, and the heavy, powerful chorus give it a very grand feeling. Finally, my third favorite on Symphonies Of The Night is “Ophelia”. We all know who Ophelia is…right? Shakespeare’s Hamlet? It’s a sad tale indeed, but Leaves’ Eyes gives it a dignity, grace, sympathy, and beauty, that made it an excellent wrap to an excellent album.
But wait, what about the bonus tracks? The promo copy I got from the record label didn’t include the two bonus tracks, “Eileen’s Ardency” and “One Caress” (which is a Depeche Mode cover), so I listened to them on Rdio instead. “One Caress” was OK (I’m not big on Depeche Mode and am not familiar with the original), but “Eileen’s Ardency” was a pretty good song, and featured Liv Kristine’s sister, Carmen of German/Norwegian Gothic band Midnattsol, on vocals in duet with her. I believe it’s an Irish tale, again not pretty, but no story ends prettily in Symphonies of the Night.
This is another tour de force album from a band that just keeps getting better and better, and seems to be able to pull of something different with every new CD. The fan girl in me is thrilled to bits that I’ll actually be able to see Leaves’ Eyes in person soon because they are on my bucket list. So I am pretty stoked that I’m going to experience some of these songs live and in my own back yard. Symphonies Of The Night was one of my favorites from 2013, and is definitely worth checking out for anyone into the band or this style.
4.5 // 5