Leaves Eyes - Symphonies of the NightIn 2009 I received a promo for Liv Kristine’s ‘new’ band Leaves’ Eyes and I was curious1. The record was called Njord and as a fan of Liv’s voice and epic symphonic metal I figured for sure that I would be in for a treat. I was wrong. I was so very, very wrong. My complaints about the album were many—but a lot of it had to do with the fact that it was so compressed that it never felt heavy and the song-writing was just plain mediocre. Meredead, which followed two years later on schedule, was also a miserable record. The folky stuff was of the “let’s throw in a flute, hooray folk metal!” genre and I simply didn’t even have the patience to finish reviewing it. But because I am a masochist (and I’ve always liked Liv’s voice ffs!), I broke out Symphony of the Night when it arrived in my box.

And I was taken aback: the stuff I was hearing was goodUnlike the two previous records, it sounded aggressive and energetic. The record starts out with a melody I wanted to hear more of and a Nightwish riff worthy of the Finnish symphonic metal superstars. From there, it winds into a huge chorus that reigns metal down upon the listener in the most bombastic of fashions. Impressed with this introduction, I kept listening and kept listening and the hits kept on acomin’.

Leaves’ Eyes has a sound that is pretty easy to place in the modern context. They’re a female-fronted symphonic metal band—a thing that plops them right into a context filled with names like EpicaNightwishDiabolus in Musica, and After Forever—with the caveat that both Njord and Meredead had a bit of a folk influence that pushed the band into Eluveitie territory. And while Symphonies of the Night doesn’t change the formula a lot, there are two things that stand out. The first is that the album is heavier. Liv’s husband and Atrocity vocalist Alexander Krull is a far more consistent presence with his raspy growls, and the music is energetic. Tracks like “Hell to Heaven,” “Galswintha,” and “Hymn to the Lone Sands,” all feature genuinely inspired and heavy moments; and these aren’t the only ones (they’re just the best).

The other thing major difference between Symphonies of the Night and the previous two records is that the folk-influenced material has been dialed back. This, too, is a welcome change. While the folk influences aren’t entirely gone, they don’t feel forced in with the kind of ham handed klutziness of the previous attempts. Instead, the folk moments reinforce good writing and make for a unique twist on the symphonic metal genre.

Leaves Eyes 2013

But maybe the biggest difference is that while Njord was a DR4 monster2Symphonies of the Night also backed off the brickwalling a bit, giving a more dynamic sound. While it’s still a DR6—that is, still compressed to shit, but improved!—even the little dynamic sound quality improvement makes a big difference in terms of presentation. The softs feel softer and that makes the heavy material actually feel… heavy. I also like the guitar tone here, which at times is reminscent of the Theatre of Tragedy and Tristania guitar sounds of the ’90s. And the writing—which actually borders on doomy at times, like on “Angel and the Ghost”—makes the fat tone do some real heavy lifting.

The record isn’t without its misses, though. “Saint Cecelia” drags, and while “Nightshade” has beautiful melodies and shows off Liv’s range, it’s missing the doom of “Angel and the Ghost” and the heaviness of “Hymn to the Lone Sands.” Leaves’ Eyes is at its worst when it’s producing tepid ballads and mid-paced drudgery like “Fading Earth,” and closer “Ophelia,” which is almost entirely what the last two albums were.

Ultimately, though, Symphonies of the Night is a genuinely enjoyable symphonic heavy metal record and the best thing I’ve heard from the band up to now. Next time we’ll hope that they can drop something as inspired that not only shows off their variety of influences, but their growing realization that “beauty and the beast” requires more dynamics to sound powerful.

Leaves’ Eyes // Symphonies of the Night
Rating: 3.0/5.0
Format Reviewed: mp3 192 kbps
Label: Napalm Records
Websites: leaveseyes.de | facebook.com/leaveseyesofficial
Release Dates: EU: 2013.11.13-15-18 | NA: 2013.11.26

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Obviously by 2009 the band wasn’t very new, but to be frank I’d not heard the earlier material and was unaware that Liv even had a career post-Theatre of Tragedy at that point.
  2. For fans of production and people interested in dynamics, I will start actively referring to the Dynamic Range ratings of records we get. It should be noted that all DRs are calculated from the files that I am getting from labels. These are not lossless but they are what we review, and therefore it is the sound quality we use to judge records. Click on the link for an excellent explanation of DR ratings from the amazing guys at Metal-Fi.
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  • Realkman666

    So you played Castlevania when you received this, or what? :p
    Oh dear, someone really liked Wishmaster…

    • Pascual Villaseca

      i really liked wishmaster xD

      • OzanCan

        Wishmaster is totally overrated, imo :)

        • Feytalist

          Word. Oceanborn is clearly better :D

        • sathriel

          *dons asbesthos armor* Nightwish is overrated :P

      • Realkman666

        Did you write a Leaves’ Eyes song about it!?

  • Cleavage!

    Seriously, do they expect anyone to think about anything else with that album cover?

    • Realkman666

      Oh wow. Didn’t see that at first. Kinda silly. “The buzzard and the boobs.”

    • OzanCan

      No matter what you say about it (and I am with you on this), she has nice…you know :)

      • Andro ang Christopher

        Actually, and I say this as a longtime serious fan of the band, in real life she looks older than her 37 years, and has for several years. She’s always heavily photoshopped for the promotional stuff, sometimes to the point that she looks like a different woman entirely, to the irritation of many of us in the fanbase.

        • sathriel

          Heh, that is the thing about Liv Kristine, she is not conventionaly beautiful and when she looks got on photo it is usually due to hard work of make-up artists, stylists and photographers. Just compare the photos from ToT’s self-titled debut inlet and “Velvet Darkness… promo shots.

  • Andro ang Christopher

    Interesting. Njord is my second-favorite album in all music, but I don’t like much of what I’ve heard of Symphonies of the Night so far. :D

  • MikkoKukkonen

    Banal. That’s the word that pops into my mind when looking at the album cover. Yeah, every genre in metal has their stereotypes in artwork etc. but I’ve always found this ‘female-fronted symphonic metal’ -genre to be the most generic of them all. “So we are a band with a female vocalist, it’s a no-brainer to slap the lady on the cover of our every album. Preferably with her cleavage on display of course! I’m not interested in the genre anyway, but the unimaginative album covers won’t lure me in either.

    • I agree. Fortunately one doesn’t have to look at the cover in order to enjoy the music. I like what I heard. This isn’t to say that the sound isn’t kind of banal in-and-of-itself, ’cause it really is in need of an update.

    • Andro ang Christopher

      Ironically, the biggest band in the scene is Nightwish, and they’ve never had their singer on the cover of a studio LP. (The woman on Century Child is clearly not Tarja.)

      ‘Course, one could argue that they haven’t been metal since Wishmaster, and I wouldn’t object.

      As for Leaves’ Eyes, the artwork cleavage has gradually increased from nothing, on their first album, to this. The previous album had a model instead of Liv, but still fits in the pattern.

    • genderconfused

      It is banal and retreaded beyond belief. You never would know though unless you were hooked up to the Internet. This shit is huge in Europe and they bands themselves regurgitate their singers like there’s no tomorrow. Nightwish being one every decade but others like every album.

      Some like Within Temptation want to be fucking Madonna now. Guest rappers and guests on every song. They weren’t even metal to begin with. Just pop. But the Netherelandese (?) and Norwegians remain confused. I guess that’s why cannabis is legal there. Been smoking too much.

  • Kalsten

    So, how reliable is to talk about compression and so on, if you show us that it was a 192 kbps mp3 the sound source? I mean, in a 192 kbps you can hear that there is a lot frequencies that have been mutilated. That is even more obvious when you use a good sound card and a nice pair of headphones.

    Anyhow, I never heard of this group, but the review has make me curious about this album, even when I’m not a female-big boobs-symphonic singers, but I can give a try at least.

    • I am given tools with which to review records. I use those tools as best I can. The 192 kbps mp3 is what I get from labels to do reviews. If that sounds bad and I criticize the sound, that’s the label’s problem, not mine.

      I realize that there are issues with dynamic ratings and already compressed mp3s, but as 1) we work on release dates and with label access and 2) dynamic range is a problem even with lossless versions of records, it’s hard for me not to criticize it. 3) I have actually used lower quality mp3s to do dynamic range ratings on other mp3s, and they rank higher than a 6, for example, and sound good (comparatively) for what they are.

      • Kalsten

        Oh, sorry if it sounded like a criticism against you as a reviewer. It was more about what you said: if you send crappy quality material to be reviewed, do not complain if the people then complain about the sound quality.

  • Feytalist

    Hrm. I’m always of the opinion that Liv Kristine has one of the best voices in metal, and I’m willing to sit through a lot of bollocks to hear her sing. Thing is, I actually liked Vinland Saga, and Njord was pretty okay too. If this is better than Njord, then yeah I’m giving it a go. But, well… can’t we just have another Theatre of Tragedy like in the good old days? Damn.
    Oh, by the way; anyone who likes this can check out Midnattsol, Liv’s sister’s band. It’s nothing spectacular, but she’s got a decent voice as well and their most recent album has some great moments. Bit heavier on the folk (like, real folk).

  • Ernesto Aimar

    I think that if Leaves Eyes would be bereft of their huge production, they would sound like a complete amateur band treading on gothic cliches. I also love Liv’s voice, but I’d love to listen to her singing something else. Even her poppy solo albums sound more original than Leaves Eyes.
    Oh, and Alexander Krull is to me one of the worst grunters of all time.
    I’ve given up on Leaves Eyes since Vinland Saga, and from what I’ve heard, “Symphonies of Night” doesn’t seem to be able to change my mind

  • Oh no! She’s a grown woman who is aging!

    Anyway, I find the fact that the discussion here is more about her looks than the music is a tad disappointing.

    • Andro ang Christopher

      Most LE fans I’ve met don’t seem to care much about Liv’s looks (or they’re like me and will still think she’s beautiful when she’s 90), so it bothers me when outsiders see the Photoshop fake version of her and assume that her image defines the band. Granted that is a reasonable assumption, given the ridiculous album covers….

      • I’m bothered that they photoshop her at all! Leave her alone! She’s growing older, it’s normal.. but no, photoshop, photoshop! :/

        • Andro ang Christopher

          Amen. I wonder what she thinks about it – that it’s necessary for publicity? And some people enjoy being Photoshopped to look younger. My job involves doing photography at a retirement community, but I don’t offer anyone that. :P

    • sathriel

      Well, AMG, it’s nothing new that the cover takes central part of the discussion and Liv is the central part of the cover.

      As for the music, I will say something once I get a listen.

  • I agree that the album is surely their best. Hell to the Heavens and Maid of Lorraine were pretty much instant loves.

  • clutteredwebpage

    Its okay compared to their last 2 albums. Her husband looks like a complete idiot prancing around on stage. Really ruins the vibe. His project, Atrocity is simply Atrocious and doing a triple bill with Moonspell in the States. I guess when you’re a husband-wife combo nepotism is at its highest degree.

  • Joel Plamondon

    I bought this cd at the show in Montréal ( feb 20 2014) 10$ at the merch table, a bargain ! man i am glad i pick it up. half this album is really good the other half is ok, so all in all it’s a good album. The headliner was Moonspell but Liv Kristine had us all under a spell, most ppl in the crowd suddenly became instant Leaves Eyes fan and a lot of us decided to miss Moonspell first songs to go meet Liv Kristine at the merch table for a picture, she was so nice with everyone. I’m so glad i saw them live that night. Good band with a great frontwoman.