Leaves' Eyes

Meredead

Written by: TL on 13/06/2011 14:43:32

To the unwary listener, Norwegian/German quintet Leaves' Eyes appear like yet another drop in the sea of female fronted gothic/symphonic metal bands. One that either due to lack of ability or ambition, has yet to reach for the same reknown as genre giants Nightwish and Within Temptation. Just as it was the case with their last album "Njord" however, it is with the band's fourth LP "Meredead", that once you scratch the surface of the music, it quickly becomes apparent that Leaves' Eyes is in fact a somewhat different beast. Mainly so because of the band stubbornly and continuously refusing to water down their style with more easily accessible mainstream elements, opting instead to remain loyal especially to their fascination with the fusion of metal and folk.

Hence "Meredead" is another opus integrating passages of dramatic heavy metal, with various traditional folk-instruments, symphonic support, medieval atmospheres and the operatic singing of former Theatre Of Tragedy-singer, now Leaves' Eyes front figure Liv Kristine. In more straight-forward numbers such as "Velvet Heart", it may indeed sound akin to Within Temptation and Nightwish, but contrary to those bands, for the most part Leaves' Eyes go very audibly for a sense of authenticity that exceeds that of the average Pirates Of The Carribean movie. This choice of aesthetic is likely the foremost reason why the band remains a niche-act, and in turn probably also something that earns them more credibility among genre appreciators.

From what I've previously heard from Leaves' Eyes, Liv Kristine's operatic vocals are usually supported regularly by the growls of keyboardist Alexander Krull, but while he makes an appearance on "Sigrlinn", there are actually more occasions this time around, in which Kristine's singing is complimented by other female vocalists who are supposedly guesting on the record. For better and worse then, the frontwoman holds the centre of the soundscape for much of the time. And by worse I mean that while very soulful and atmospheric, the delicateness of Kristine's delivery also means it lacks power compared to contemporaries, and often makes it hard to make out the lyrics, whether they're being sung in English or Norwegian (or Elvish, honestly, sometimes I can't tell).

As for instrumentals and production, all elements from both the metal and folk departments come together well to set the desired mood, but none provide many stand out moments above and beyond that. Rather they stay in line and help craft the songs, a few of which have some relatively immediate staying power. Here I'm thinking mainly of "Étain", "Meredead" and the Mike Oldfield cover "To France". All three are songs from the early half of the album, which strikes me as the strongest, while the latter part has had less success with impressing me so far.

Overall it's hard to say anything of "Meredead" other than to call it another solid record within Leaves' Eyes desired niche. Dedicated fans of metal coated with elements gothic, symphonic and/or folk will likely appreciate it for it's rich texture and take-no-chances sense of integrity. In the wider scheme of things though, as an appreciator of many styles and of innovation in general, it's hard to really get behind Leaves' Eyes, when they so faithfully play by the genre's rules, rather than try to push the stylistic envelope, as well as perhaps the boundaries of their fanbase.

7

Download: Etain, To France, Meredead
For The Fans Of: Theatre Of Tragedy, Tristania, Amberian Dawn, old Nightwish
Listen: myspace.com/leaveseyespage

Release Date 20.04.2011
Napalm Records

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