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Leaves' Eyes - Vinland Saga
CD Reviews
Written by Doctor T.   
Wednesday, 30 April 2008
Leaves' Eyes - CD Review
Vinland Saga

CD Info

2005

Napalm Records

12 Tracks + Video

Mostly English lyrics

Leaves' Eyes CD cover

 

 

Music of the genre found on this site tends to be of a particular style, assuming you are somewhat broad in your interpretation of that style. It typically follows a gothic perspective, one that looks at life from a philosophy psychologists might describe as "Existential". In fact, Trail of Tears recently released an album with that exact title. This 2005 release, however, goes in a somewhat different direction.

Vinland Saga is, according to the band, "World history set to music, seasoned with legends, love and passion". It recounts the voyage of Leif Erikson from Northern Europe to the "New World" or, more specifically Greenland around 1000 AD. According to lead singer, Liv Kristine Espenaes Krull, "I found my inspiration for many of the pieces in the Norwegian art and folk music, as well as in Celtic melodies." The CD carries this theme throughout a 12 song set that can be described as atmospheric metal and sensual ballads.

Leaves Eyes is a bit of a compilation band. The male members: Thorsten Bauer and Mathias Röderer on guitars, Alla Fedynitch on bass, Nick Barker on drums and Alexander Krull vocals, programming, come from the German band Atrocity. Liv Kristine Espenæs Krull, the lead singer, has fronted several bands and worked with a variety of groups as a singer. She is often mentioned in connection with her work with the band Theatre of Tragedy. However, her musical resume includes stops with a diverse range of performers including the famous, or infamous video with Cradle of Filth, Nymphetamine. She is also associated; to some extent; with the Martijn Westerholt project Delain on the Lucidity album. If you’re noticing that there are two Krulls in the band that is probably a result of the recent marriage of Liv Kristine and Alexander.

Regarding the album itself, it can best be summed up as a thematic effort brought off with a variety of musical technologies. As with much of the music in this genre, there is the typical atmospheric quality brought on through the use of a variety of instruments and electronic augmentations. Leaves Eyes uses a variety of instruments beyond the typical metal components ranging from violins and chellos to kettledrums and strings of various types. According to Ms. Krull, "I absolutely wanted to work with actual classical instruments for Vinland Saga to do this great story justice." To that end, the music ranges from soft lyrical pieces to more traditional heavy metal forms where the soaring soprano of Ms Krull is contrasted with the grunting of husband Alexander.

The story deserves some attention, being a somewhat different approach from typical music in this genre. According to Ms. Krull, a certain amount of research went into the development of the music. It recounts the voyage of Leif Erickson, the great Norse explorer, and his journey to the discovery of lands beyond the European coast. The focus is on the human part of the journey, the fear and wonder of the voyagers, their longings for those they left behind and their hope that they might some day be reunited with them. To represent this distance between the voyagers and those left behind, the authors create a "Tree of Life", a mystical vehicle serving to link the two in magical ways. An accompanying video on the CD depicts this tree as Ms. Krull sings the hauntingly beautiful Elegy.

The music on the album can best be described as "eclectic". There are softer moments, which may be especially appealing to Liv Kristine fans. For instance, Mourning Tree, is one of these. It is more traditional Kiv Kristine but with a strong musical arrangement in the background. However, with a background group like the former Atrocity, that softness can’t last forever. And it doesn’t. Farewell Proud Men is pure Gothic Metal, with all the components we have come to love and expect. Liv Kristine can rock when the occasion calls for it. The song begins with kettle drums and moves towards a chorus background before Liv begins. From there, the song grows stronger and stronger. This pattern is used on other offerings as well. The Thorn begins slowly and builds with a juxtaposition of Liv’s silky smooth vocals meshed against the "Grunting" provided by husband Alex. This has always been, for many of us, a strength of this musical form, the Beauty and the Beast format, and Leaves Eyes is amongst the best at implementing it.

Lyrics are as important as the music for many of us and this production doesn’t fall down in that category. In this case, the story may mix the past with the present. Liv Kristine sings:

The long way home

Is never too far

Unless you've reached the end of life

My deepest wish

Comes true when I'm with you

For in me there's a miracle growing

Interesting that at the time of this production, she was, herself, becoming a mother so the lines take on a new significance.

It’s not hard to categorize this particular musical offering. There aren’t a lot around like it. The music, while it is pure Gothic Metal, is of extremely high quality. It is the story, however, that sets it apart. Although there is a part of the story that is framed in the more traditional Gothic perspective, it is the historical component that comes through most strongly. It is a story that is equal parts courageous, frightening, hopeful and full of dread, probably matching the actual voyage in many respects. And, in that respect, it provides a different window into life than most offerings in this category, one that delivers through a window of wonderful music.

8.5 / 10

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