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Leaves' Eyes - Meredead
CD Reviews
Written by Max Levites   
Wednesday, 20 April 2011
Leaves' Eyes - CD Review
Meredead
Leaves' Eyes - Meredead

CD Info

2011

Napalm Records / Austria

12 Tracks

English, Old English & Norwegian Lyrics

 

 

A fair number of bands and artists these days show some interest in exploring their cultural roots with their music and lyrics. This could hardly apply more to Liv Kristine, whose lyrics often feature her beloved Norway, whether through the language, the mythology, or merely the memories of a homeland dearly missed. Despite this deep tie to a culture and folklore, Leaves’ Eyes could never really be called a "folk metal" band before. Before now, that is.

Vinland Saga featured some nice, somewhat folky ballads, and Njord saw the addition of some interesting Celtic elements, but with Leaves’ Eyes’ 4th full length effort, Meredead, the band makes the full transition over to folk, with nearly every song seamlessly incorporating traditional Celtic and Norwegian sounds into the music from the beginning to the end of the album. This is a very welcome change indeed, as the folk elements blend perfectly with Leaves’ Eyes’ sound and help take the music to a whole new level. The opening track, "Spirit’s Masquerade," and "Étain," which follows, are great examples of this. The Mike Oldfield cover, "To France," also pleasantly showcases this Celtic influence, as does the tempo-changing "Nystev". Just to make it even more interesting, at least half of the album features lyrics in either Norwegian or Old English, adding a layer of magic and mystery to the whole album. Just listen to the title track, "Meredead" and tell me it doesn’t send chills down your spine!

Despite all these new elements, the core Leaves’ Eyes’ sound we’ve come to know and love is still here, as heard in the catchy rocker "Velvet Heart," and the wonderful "Empty Horizon," where we hear Liv’s heartfelt duet with husband Alex. We can also find the familiar epic orchestration on songs like "Sigrlinn" that reminds me a little bit of "Froya’s Theme" from Njord in its grand scale. "Sigrlinn" is interestingly enough the only song on which we hear Alex’s grunting, an element that used to be at the core of the Leaves’ Eyes sound. This is also a welcome change, since on Njord it almost seemed as if some of the harsh vocals were thrown in just to give Alex a part and often didn’t even tie in with the sound. Here, however, there’s just the right amount of growling where it’s needed and thankfully absent where it’s not. We do get to hear Alex’s clean vocals, however, on the aforementioned "Empty Horizon," which is not an unpleasant experience at all. The symphonics and choirs are still here too, and the latter is utilized heavily to great success.

As on the last few albums, there are a number of ballads on Meredead. Honestly, if Leaves’ Eyes decided to abandon metal completely and only write folk ballads from now on, you won’t see me complaining. They’re all incredibly good, from the traditional Norwegian folk song "Kråkevisa" (which still has some metal elements) to the medieval sounding closer "Tell-Tale Eyes" featuring John Kelly of Elfenthal. "Mine Tåror Er Ei Grimme" is also rather enchanting. Yet, the band doesn’t abandon their metal roots either. "Sigrlinn" and "Nystev" are some of the heaviest tracks Leaves’ Eyes have done to date, and despite the diversity on the album, everything fits together perfectly.

Meredead also benefits greatly from a number of guest musicians. Maite Itoiz, also of Elfenthal, is featured on a number of songs, adding a powerful, yet versatile vocal to both complement and contrast Liv’s delicate operatic voice. Liv’s own sister, Carmen Elise Espenaes of Midnattsol, appears on "Sigrlinn." Everything on this album works together wonderfully. The band continues to mature in their sound and explore new territory with their music.

Standout tracks include "Spirit’s Masquerade," "Kråkevisa," "To France," "Meredead" "Nystev," and "Tell-Tale Eyes."

I can find little wrong with this album, and thus, I award it a perfect score.

10/10

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