Leaves Eyes King of Kings 01Once a writer has reviewed a band, it’s standard practice for them to review any subsequent records that band releases. Unless, of course, AMG wrote the original review and is too busy masturbating over old Iron Maiden records to critique new music. As you will have noticed, this scenario arose just the other week, and that’s why it’s fallen to me to review Leaves’ Eyes‘ latest platter. In the interest of transparency I’ll admit up front that I had never listened to them prior to receiving the promo. Were I a professional writer in this situation, I would copy down some random band factoids from Wikipedia (formed 2003, features Liv “Theatre of Tragedy” Kristine plus Atrocity, sixth full-length) and pretend I already had a strong opinion of the group; however, rank amateur that I am, I went back through their discography and had a bit of a listen. So, judge the rest of my words with this is mind: I quite enjoyed the debut when they were like a more sultry Paradise Lost, but am less enamored by their more recent symphonic-styled output. As this seems to be the style they’ve settled into now, I didn’t have particularly high hopes for King of Kings.

Sure enough, after unnecessary intro “Sweven,” the title track confirms Leaves’ Eyes are staying firmly in Nightwish territory. One of the slower tracks on the album, it’s an odd choice for an opener and hardly gets the blood pumping with its clichéd chord progressions. Putting third track “Halvdan the Black” first makes more sense to me: it still sounds like a leftover from Once, but is much more energetic and has a great verse melody. These songs, along with “The Waking Eye” and “Sacred Vow,” are missing the folk influences that help distinguish Leaves Eyes from the myriad other symphonic metal bands, and while Liv and co. do a decent enough Nightwish impression (and even venture back towards their gothic roots in “The Waking Eye”), they’re totally formulaic.

Leaves Eyes King of Kings 02The remainder of the album is very folky in comparison and the contrast is welcome. The influences for these tracks are more diverse: “Vengeance Venom” and “Edge of Steel” (featuring Simone Simons) demonstrate what Eluveite or Turisas might sound like with Liv on vocals, the calmer “Haraldskvæði” belongs somewhere on the Hobbit soundtrack, and album closer “Swords in Rock” is a rousing three-minute romp that will go down a treat live. While these tracks are more diverse, the riffs and melodies are just as tired; I’ve heard most of the riffs and melodies on this album before.

This is the main problem with Leaves’ Eyes and, let’s face it, symphonic metal in general: they’ve been stuck in a creative rut for years and either don’t know how to get out or don’t want to as long as they keep selling. Even when they stray from the template with their folk leanings, they choose to play it safe by aping other successful folk-metal bands. It’s very slick and on first listen all good fun, but ultimately completely superficial and uncreative. Even the production – all warm synths, big choirs, dense guitars and a bucketload of compression – is generic.

I decided during my brief time with Leaves’ Eyes that they are the quintessential German festival band: I would have a great time watching them if I were drunk, sunburnt, and surrounded by thousands of sweaty Krauts, but I’d have no idea why their music would draw such a large and enthusiastic crowd in the first place. King of Kings is hardly a bad album and has a few fine moments, but overall it feels like a small step backwards from Symphonies of the Night, and while committed fans may be happy, it’s too tepid to win them any new listeners.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
LabelAFM Records
Websitesleaveseyes.com | facebook.com/leaveseyes
Release Dates: EU: September 11th, 2015 | NA: September 18th, 2015

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  • I wasn’t masturbating, I was self-flagellating. You write a lukewarm review of favorite band’s newest album and see how it feels.

    • You crazy Svedes….

      • sssgadget

        AMG is Swedish? :O

        • He can explain all that.

        • sickbroski

          No one has ever seen the birth certificate.

        • Kronos

          He’s actually a Kenyan Muslim.

    • Snookums :(

  • Dr. A.N. Grier

    I told you not to look into her eyes, Jean-Luc…

  • André Snyde Lopes

    Pussymphonic metal sucks. All of it. Epica, recent Nightwish, Within Temptation, Xandria.. All this shit with a pretty voice and no substance must die.

    • Stefunal

      I do disagree with you. Some of them are quite well-written for my money, albeit cheesy. The newest Xandria, for example.

      • André Snyde Lopes

        My comment is a gross overgeneralization of my actual opinion, but, needless to say, I do believe most Nightwish-esque symphonic metal sucks the big one.

        • Were you misquoted in your autobiography again?

          • André Snyde Lopes

            I couldn’t help it!

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            It’s not my fault my autobiography sucks… I blame it all on the idiot who wrote it!

    • Neb Bojer

      I’m not sure if you are serious but I never understood this mentality. If you don’t like a genre, don’t listen to it. No need to bash the bands or the fans of it.

      • André Snyde Lopes

        I was somewhat hyperbolic but not sarcastic. But, yeah, y’know, it’s just, like, my opinion, man.

    • [not a Dr]

      I just learned a new word.

      • sickbroski

        Xandria is the name of a band, dude. -__-

  • You wot m8?

    Whenever I see Liv, it always reminds me of Cradle’s excellent Nymphetamine (youtu.be/6dW6aNAZGTM). Pity this is so superficial, since all the people involved seem to be fairly talented.

    • Grymm

      One of the best parts of one of my favorite CoF songs.

  • Symphonic metal is an extremely difficult genre to get right. I think the biggest reason for it is that Nightwish is the benchmark for it and everyone just tries to sound like Nightwish, except they don’t have Tuomas Holopainen as their primary songwriter. The early years of Epica and After Forever weren’t bad, but even they succumbed to the same old drivel. Whether you are a fan of Nightwish or not, you have to admit that Holopainen’s approach is what keeps Nightwish a step above all of these other clones, in that he is an accomplished movie score writer. Listen to any of Nightwish’s albums made in the last decade and you have music that stands on its own without any vocals (kinda like The Ocean). Despite what most people think, Nightwish’s vocals are not the driving force in the band’s music. Evidence of this is that it really does’t matter who is singing, Tarja, Floor, or that chick in between. It all pretty much sounds the same…which isn’t a bad thing IMO.

    • Wilhelm

      I think you hit the nail on the head, symphonic metal started out good when there were still traces of the doom genre, when there was focus on heavy guitar melodies and rythms. But now it’s basically all pop music with a pretty female singer and hardly anything below the surface of that. The status quo is to not have complex songwriting, challenging melodies, etc.. but to make quick, catchy, forgettable albums.

      • Which brings me to another question, why are they always pretty? Where is the overweight butch chick singer with a shaved head and warts all over her face, but has a great voice? :)

        • [not a Dr]

          Would providing an answer be considered rude?

          • sickbroski

            Do you maintain a special dungeon somewhere, sicko?

          • [not a Dr]

            I refuse to answer on the grounds of I don’t remember.

        • Wilhelm

          When it started out it was sort of innocent, you had young girls who dressed up sexy, and could sing. The market was on image, but not that alone (metal wasn’t that popular) Nowadays it’s all about image, just like with pop music. For what it is worth, I would rather have an obese woman that could really belt out the tunes than some super skinny hot topic chick that falls flat.

        • HeavyMetalSusan

          There are many overweight women singing symphonic metal, though their bands aren’t quite as popular. I could send you a list of the big girls if needed, though I don’t know any with shaved heads or warts :D If you find any, please send my way!! I’m sure they’ll have fab voices.

          The chick from Epica has always had a shitty voice but she’s “fuckable” so the records sell and the shows sell out.

    • Noobhammer

      I feel like many bands take the easy route when they have a female vocalist and shoehorn themselves into clean female fronted singing symphonic band.

      That being said though, the last Rhapsody albums, which I feel are also symphonic metal weren’t terrible, maybe not as memorable as their earlier work, but by no means were they terrible IMO. I mean c’mon, they reeked of delicious delicious cheese.

    • Aguy

      Ehhh… I’d say you’re mostly right, but Nightwish did lose something when Tarja split off. Not because Tarja is an amazing singer (she’s not) but because even her half-baked operatic stylings brought an extra level of overwrought gothic theatricality to the music. (See also: Therion.) Nightwish’s more recent singers have ditched the opera while Tuomas has scaled back the metal to an occasional flourish on his sappy film scores, and I think the last two albums have really suffered for it.

    • TheonetrueLee

      Good point. The biggest evidence of how a great a writer Tuomas is, is also the fact the solo albums by Tarja are so awful because she doesn’t have anyone to write a song for her.

    • HeavyMetalSusan

      I disagree that After Forever’s early years “weren’t bad” and that they later “succumbed to the same old drivel.” QUITE THE OPPOSITE. Their early albums were lovely but highly, highly generic and derivative. They’re one of the FEW bands in the genre who really dared to push the envelope in later albums, shedding the soprano vocals and much of the symphonic elements and instead embracing straight heavy metal, lots of prog, and other more modern sounds in the guitars, vocals, and elsewhere. This lost them a lot of fans as a reward, so other bands learned not to leave the formula. Too bad!

      (I agree that the instrumental compositions are the driving force behind Nightwish, and that The Ocean kicks ass.)

  • madhare

    Nice video about a LARP event happening in someone’s backyard. Note that when the chorus makes its first entrance at around 0:40, the woman seems to be rolling her eyes at the whole thing. Yup, that kind of sums it up perfectly. :D

  • Wilhelm

    This psuedo goth commercial pop easy listening metal really gets on my nerves. If this is what viking metal has evolved into, then we are all fucked.

  • Lord Gronbuske

    Heard the first song, got my hopes up, thought they would try to actually make something folkish. Then King of Kings came and ruined all, the rest of the album didn’t even try to save it. I really loved Theatre of Tragedy and Leaves Eyes did some good stuff on their first album but I have no faith at all in them anymore.

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      Hey Lord Gronbuske! Nice avatar…

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        Is that Orko? I´m colorblind so I can´t be sure.

        • Lord Gronbuske

          Haha, close. It’s black mage from FFI.

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            Still cool avatar. But I like Orko better!

  • Thatguy

    The video clip is a hoot.

    They are all so SERIOUS, but the music is so pretty.


  • You know Jean-Luc, if they are this year’s headlining outfit at Oktoberfest, the blame is squarely on you.

  • ronin1572

    I just can’t get into Liv’s vocals. I find her kinda boring.

    • Wilhelm

      Her vocals were never great. Her breathy singing worked on ToT’s albums because they weren’t written to be vocally challenging. Compare her to Kari Rueslatten, it’s night and day.

  • Ralph Plug

    Generic is exactly the right word for this, and for 99% of the entire symphonic metal genre. Most of these female fronted bands sound completely interchangeable nowadays, with everyone making guest appearances on everyone’s album ad nauseum.

    Pretty/not ugly vocalist? Check. Grunting dude? Check. Songs completely crammed with choirs/keyboards/orchestration? Check. Poppy first single? Check. It’s all the exact same insufferable crap, and it’s been wearing very, very thin for years now.

  • Leaves’ Eyes is the “plain bagel with too much cream cheese” of metal. Yeah, it’s ok and all but too cheesy and maybe try blueberries or something.

    • I literally just ate a blueberry bagel with exactly the correct amount of cream cheese. It was better than this record.

  • sickbroski

    For some reason, I was expecting the DR to hit an all-time low, but I guess 6 is as good as they’ll get.

    • It’s 5 for most of the tracks, but a couple of quieter into pieces and “Haraldskvæði” bring it up to 6 overall.

      • sickbroski

        There you go! Not that I’d enjoy this lite post-ToT disappointment.