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It's actually been a while since I listened to anything symphonic, and Njord by Leaves' Eyes makes me glad to be back. It's a different beast altogether from Liv Kristine's first project Theatre of Tragedy, but I actually think that I like this better. Something about it just appeals to me more.
The thing that I notice more than anything else here is that the growls are sparsely used. I'd expected it to be a fifty-fifty split like with Theatre of Tragedy, but actually Liv does most of the vocals here. Alexander Krull only very occasionally growls, a number of tracks not even featuring him at all. And actually I'm glad, because Liv seems to have developed a lot as a singer and she has a lovely voice with a far larger range than I thought. Alexander doesn't need to balance out the vocal approach, it's absolutely fine as it is. Plus,he kind of sucks as a vocalist.
The guitars in the background have a surprising force to them, which I wasn't expecting. I thought that I'd get a very synth-orientated album (and I guess I was right in some respects) with minimalist guitar work, but when they come into the action they provide a very strong backing for the rest of the band. Admittedly there are plenty of long gaps with no guitar or bass and it's mostly a few simple chords, but I'm still impressed with the power. The drumming though sounds very distant and doesn't really add to the music. It's hardly noticeable, but if you listen closely you can hear the basic plodding that is a feature of so many symphonic and gothic metal bands. I'm glad that they're buried behind everything else really.
Going back to the synths, they're always present here. They do different things, from gentle tinkering that reminds me of 'Floods' by Abigail Williams (deathcore, I know, but those synths were epic) to stuff that's more reminiscent of what Imperia did on their last album. It's very varied and really adds something to the album, giving the album the Nordic feel that the title suggests it will have while also adding some folk to the symphonic metal. Alex's work here more than makes up for his awful growls.
It's damn near impossible to decide which track is best, because everything on this album is of an incredibly high standard. You have the intense epic that is the title-track, the more folk orientated 'Scarborough Fair', a couple of softer tracks like 'The Holy Bond' and 'Take the Devil in Me' and just about everything in-between. And none of it dips in standard at all. Choosing a favourite depends as much on what mood you're in as it does with the actual quality of the song.
All in all this is one of the best symphonic releases I've ever had the pleasure of listening to, and it's a safe bet that I will be back to review more of Leaves' Eyes' releases. If they're anywhere near the quality of this album, it'll be time well spent.
2009, a year that was promising for German/Norweigian symphonic folk metal band "Leaves' Eyes", that year they released their only full-length album in four years. The sound is nice and beautiful but some parts of the music are smothered by others. Liv's vocals are a highlight of the sound but are often covered up by the other instruments or take the roll of a backing instruments, which is very different than many bands where the instruments are put far behind the vocals. But with time I've learned to make out the vocal lines to make a perfect balance. The guitars are heavy and are very audible and the riffs are good, these guitars are perfectly balanced out with beautiful orchestral parts.
The reason I titled this "a Little Weak", was because at first I thought that so many parts the music fall flat. The chorus for the title track is very epic, but that was about it. But again with time I came to appreciate what this band was doing. There are many epic parts, but not the same kind of epicness. "Leaves' Eyes" rarely has what I call "Within Temptation Moments", where the symphonic parts have this giant epic bridge that sounds amazing. The second track "My Destiny" has a different epic approach. The guitars are catchy and the chorus is also very beautiful, just like a lot of the parts through out the album.
Other flaws other than thoes already brought up, the only thing I can think of are the male growls. The only sounded good in the opening track during the chorus, Alexander's occasional "njord" gave a little attitude, but this form of song writing quickly became over-used. This album is not the best album, but if you liked this band's earlier work, you'll probably still fall in love with it. But, if you're like me and didn't actually get into "Leaves' Eyes" until later, who knows.
Highlights: Njord, Our Destiny, Scarbarough Fair, and Through Our Veins
After two really powerful albums, Leaves' Eyes return to the spotlight once more with their third full length studio release, Njord, which took it's sweet ass time to make it over here to the States (September 29th). The interesting thing about this group was that it was essentially the band Atrocity with Liv Kristine as the vocalist due to the events in Theatre Of Tragedy and her marriage to Alexander Krull. Well, the thing is that the band had a bit of a line-up change in 2008. Knowing this, was it really worth being the last country on the long list of release dates to finally obtain this release?
Njord is easily a release that will have you cursing up a storm, but not because it's an awful CD. It seriously has the potential to be a masterpiece, but unfortunately it just doesn't quite make it there. Put simply, the band is really at their best on this release most of the time. Liv's vocals are perhaps the strongest they have ever been, which is spectacular because the music on this release reaches moments where you'll think you are listening to some sort of metal infused opera. While the album doesn't quite hit the ground running with the openning track "Njord", it starts to pick up around "Emerald Island", which is just a powerhouse of a song that destroys anything that this band has done in the past with it's beautiful operatic sounds.
Now, this is where the album starts to make you want to pull your hair out, and you'll notice it earlier one. Njord seems to really be missing some of the Nordic sound and appeal that the previous album had, with the exception of "The Holy Bond", and also is missing some of the nice, powerful guitar riffs that come in during the chorus to really tug at your emotions. That's not to say the music is bad, it just comes across as a slightly different route the band is taking, while trying to keep the same lyrical content as Vinland Saga. While this isn't enough to make you wanna pull the hair from your skull, the male vocals through the album definitely will. Instead of doing some decent gutteral in random spots, Alexander tries to vary his voice a bit, even does a failed gutteral shout during "My Destiny" and "Ragnarok, which winds up ruining them. Unfortunately this really does make and break some of the songs on the release, especially since they are absolutely pointless for this release in the first place.
The band's cover of the Simon And Garfunkel track "Scarborough Fair" is a pretty nice cover, but it just doesn't quite seem to fit in with the rest of the album. "Through Our Veins" is a great song, but about the time you hit "Irish Rain", pretty much the rest of the album sounds like your typical Leaves' Eyes, which is good considering some of the more epic-sounding tracks include some random gutteral in the background that doesn't really do much to aid the songs. If the band had made more epic operatic opuses like "Emerald Island", or focused on slower paced ballad-esque tracks like "Morgenland", or even tracks like "Scarborough Fair" for that matter, this release would definitely be one of 2009's most noted releases. Given how the band keeps growing with every release, perhaps we'll see more powerhouse material such as those tracks, but for now, Njord may have some flaws here and there, some tracks having more an impact then others, but either way is a release you can take comfort in knowing that you are going to enjoy.
Originally posted on October 5th, 2009 at Apoch's Metal Review