Leaves’ Eyes: Symphonies of the Night

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Leaves’ Eyes: Symphonies of the Night
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Leaves' Eyes: Symphonies of the Night
Power Metal, Symphonic Gothic Metal
Napalm Records
November 15th, 2013
Release length: 52:47
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Since forming back in 2003, Leaves’ Eyes has taken the listener through beautiful, sweeping Nordic landscapes with each album, though their debut Lovelorn was a little less conceptual. Since 2005’s Vinland Saga, the band has established themselves as one of the most dominant voices in the female fronted Metal niche, throwing plenty of memorable, emotional recordings out there for fans to be moved by. On their ten year anniversary, they change things up for their fifth album, Symphonies of the Night. Is this new subtle approach a dynamic shift in direction for this five piece, or is it something far less unique or memorable?

Symphonies of the Night takes on more of a traditional Symphonic Power Metal role. What cooler touch the songs once had, the strong emotional bonds that could make the most seasoned Metal fan fight back tears, even the incredibly beautiful and angelic singing vocals of Liv Kristine are fairly limited, giving way to more operatic vocals and enthusiasm, the latter comparable to to recent Nightwish. This more than likely has to do with the Norsemen making their way to the Orient, something that can be felt on certain songs thanks to the instruments and chords performed. You can sense much of this pretty quick with “Hell to the Heavens.” The vocals retain that operatic approach the band is known for, but at times get a little more higher pitched, treading into more of a childlike innocence than the softer approach of the past. The atmosphere is a little warmer as well, but not shy of infectious hooks in the chorus, and a nice amount of guttural backing vocals. The additional symphonics do feed many passages some additional whimsy, which helps to enrich the less complex chords and drumming.

“Saint Cecelia” is a symphonic piece that takes on a Folk Metal vibe with moving vocals and a strong, though a bit generic blockbuster film style score that does come off a overplayed. Some of the staples that has defined Leaves’ Eyes over the years do still exist here. While a bit bland in that regard, it helps to kind of merge the performance with “Hymn to the Lone Sands” and its slower first minute. As it progresses, the pace shifts into two-step drums and an upbeat, fun performance that has a hint of aggression in the chorus, where the more technical notes are found. The bridge leading to, and the guitar solo itself carries a bit of a Korpiklaani vibe, slapping a smile on your stupid face while still being down-to-earth with the more serious nature of the lyrics.

Then there’s “Eleanore de Provence,” another fun and upbeat offering worth taking note of. This story-heavy cut is one of the few to include narration, and its handled very well. The singing is like traditional Leaves’ Eyes against subtle symphonic elements that beef up the strictly Power Metal approach most of the song has. The passages with faster pacing leads to tighter technical chords and a truly rich performance that allows the bass to stick out, as well as putting the enthusiasm and joy the band clearly had recording the song on display for all the see, as well as feel. “Fading Earth” carries that chilled environment, as well as some additional emotion. Sadly, the latter at the cost of being fed some standard Gothic Rock effects that creep up during the introduction and chorus, as well as a sizeable chunk of H.I.M. style riffs just past the two-and-a-half minute mark. While not the most unique from Leaves’ Eyes, it’s still infectious enough to be one of the most memorable songs off the release.

Symphonies of the Night isn’t your typical Leaves’ Eyes album. Sadly, this one steps back from a lot of the staple elements that makes the band so recognizable, beautiful, and emotional, replacing them with more traditional ideas for both the Gothic and Power Metal genres. Yes this changes the colder, emotionally driven Nordic sound greatly, but it also ends up being a well executed change of pace for the band after ten years, as well as represents a different environment to match the oriental setting of this album’s conceptual characters. At first this seems more like Liv Kristine’s audition to be the replacement vocalist of Nightwish, or songs originally composed for the solo band Liv Kristine. Die hard fans may not willingly accept this recording right away, but after a few spins the majesty does start to shine through in various ways, offering a decent amount of variety, some memorable songs, and a few that don’t quite hit the mark the way one would expect. All in all, Symphonies of the Night is a grower, not a shower, and, while it’s good to hear something different, hopefully this more traditional brand of Metal is only a temporary change of pace.

01. Hell to the Heavens – 4:41
02. Fading Earth – 4:42
03. Maid of Lorraine – 5:22
04. Galswintha – 4:23
05. Symphony of the Night – 5:08
06. Saint Cecelia – 4:19
07. Hymn to the Lone Sands – 5:32
08. Angel and the Ghost – 3:43
09. Eleonore de Provence – 6:36
10. Nightshade – 3:49
11. Ophelia – 4:32
Initial Pressing Score: 7.5/10

Leaves' Eyes
Leaves' Eyes

Digital review copy of this release provided by Napalm Records via Freeman Promotions.