About Leaves' Eyes
Leaves' Eyes are a globe-trotting European metal band whose sound is anchored in gothic, progressive, and symphonic metal. Originally a supergroup, their members were culled from Norway's Theatre of Tragedy and Germany's Atrocity. They write and record elaborately arranged songs whose subjects and themes derive from nature, love, European history, and pagan and Norse mythology. Intensely melodic, they meld classical tropes (supplemented by string, reed, and woodwind players), European folk musics, and riff-driven power metal. Their acclaimed 2004 Napalm debut, Lovelorn, helped establish their signature "Beauty and the Beast" group vocal approach (clean and dirty) utilized by so many bands in their wake. Lineup changes have been frequent and are far-reaching, but haven't altered their core sound. Thanks to relentless touring, 2005's Vinland Saga made critics' lists as one of the year's best metal outings and established them as a headline act. 2011's Meredead was selected by European, Australian, and South American critics as a year-end title across the entire rock genre.
In 2016, Leaves' Eyes underwent their most significant lineup change when lead vocalist Liv Kristine left the band. She was replaced by Finnish soprano and vocal coach Elina Siirala, who made her full-length debut with Leaves' Eyes on 2018's Sign of the Dragonhead.
Leaves' Eyes were born from the romantic relationship between former singer Liv Kristine Espenæs and death metal guitarist Alexander Krull. They met while she was fronting Norway's Theater of Tragedy and he, Germany's death metal kings Atrocity. They married in 2002 and announced their musical union in 2003, after Liv Kristine was dismissed from Theatre of Tragedy. Krull enlisted the rest of Atrocity's lineup (guitarists Thorsten Bauer and Mathias Röderer, bassist Christian Lukhaup, and drummer Moritz Neuner) to found Leaves' Eyes and record their 2004 debut full-length effort, Lovelorn. The album's 2005 successor, Vinland Saga, was inspired by the adventures of Viking explorer Leif Erikson; its single "Elegy" spent four weeks in the upper rungs of the pop charts and became the theme song for the television series NUMB3RS. The sophomore record also confirmed the group's affinity for wide-ranging, theatrical, symphonic goth-metal, and possessing a singular stage presence as the founding couple pioneered the "Beauty and the Beast" vocal roles that made them so influential.
Over their first four years, Leaves' Eyes were road warriors; they played hundreds of concerts in 34 countries and across four continents. In 2008, drummer Nick Barker replaced Neuner behind the drum kit, and bassist Lukhaup was replaced by Alla Fedynitch. These marked the first of what would become a revolving door of changes to the band's rhythm section.
In 2009, Leaves' Eyes issued the concert audio/video package We Came with the Northern Winds: En Saga i Belgia. It entered the German charts at number 11. This DVD package documented the history of the band and their sold-out concert at the Metal Female Voices Festival two years earlier. The show revealed the band in possession of a mature sound and elaborate stage show: Their props included a replica of a Viking longship. The album was followed only months later by the studio effort Njord, their first to appear in the U.S. Arguably, the album that most completely embodied Kristine's aesthetic vision, it won laudatory reviews from fans for a surprising and inventive cover of Simon & Garfunkel's "Scarborough Fair." The tour saw the band play across the U.S. for the first time to rapturous reviews. Guitarist Mathias Röderer left the group after returning to Europe and was replaced by former Atrocity guitarist Sander van der Meer.
2011's Meredead was produced by Krull, who sought to combine the varied folk elements threaded through previous albums into unified whole. He employed Baroque guitars, uilleann pipes, penny and tin whistles, mandolins, nyckelharpa, and symphonic backing by the Lingua Mortis Orchestra under the direction of Victor Smolski. In keeping with their choice of iconic covers, they picked Mike Oldfield's "To France." Though a few critics lamented the band's shift in direction, it resonated with fans on both sides of the Atlantic. By the time they finished touring it in 2013, they'd won over the skeptics.
In 2013, Leaves' Eyes released Symphonies of the Night. Featuring new drummer Felix Born, Krull's production employed a similar strategy to its two predecessors. He re-engaged Lingua Mortis Orchestra, and hired on the Full Moon Choir in addition to using a plethora of folk instrumentation. The band's cover choice, didn't come from folk origins. They chose Depeche Mode's "One Cares," and drew a legion of new listeners in the process -- the album actually made the Heatseekers chart in the U.S. It marked the band's final outing for Napalm.
After a whirlwind tour, Leaves' Eyes took a short break, and signed with AFM. They reconvened in the studio to cut their most ambitious and fateful outing to date. The conceptual King of Kings was recorded under difficult circumstances, as the marriage between Krull and Kristine had grown tense. In writing the album's lyrics, Kristine focused on the legends and sagas of Norway's first king, Harald Fairhair. Krull illustrated them grandly: He employed the London Voices Choir, session singers, and Simone Simons of Epica to sing lead on the track "Edge of Steel." He also and hired the White Russian Symphony Orchestra as well as a group of traditional folk instrumentalists who performed on everything from pipes and whistles to harp and hurdy-gurdy. The set's video single "The Waking Eye" was shot in Norway and Germany and featured the 40-plus-member Værjaborg, a Viking battle reenactment group, to act out its narrative. Some European critics found the album too folksy and accessible, but fans made the band's best-selling outing.
In the aftermath of its release and tour, big changes were on the horizon. In April 2016, after Kristine and Krull had separated, Leaves' Eyes announced that she and the band had mutually parted company -- she disputed this account and claimed she was dismissed without warning. Kristine was replaced by classically trained Finnish singer Elina Siirala. The new vocalist debuted on an international tour, to warm reception, even as a tour edition of King of Kings with Kristine was released. Their debut EP with Siirala, Fires in the North, was dismissed as inferior by critics and fans.
2018's Sign of the Dragonhead fared better. With only Krull and Thorsten Bauer remaining from the original lineup, deciding aesthetic direction proved to be easier. Once more using the London Voices Choir and traditional folk instrumentation, the band dialed back on both organic classical instrumentation (but still sampled them) while Krull's dirty vocals were almost totally absent. It was a deliberate and focused way to showcase Siirala's smoother, more disciplined vocal approach. Krull's hunch worked: both fans and critics embraced the new direction. The album was released as a double with an all-instrumental version included. It peaked well inside the Top 40 album charts in Germany and Switzerland, just as they undertook another world tour. The band issued the pre-release Black Butterfly EP in December 2019, and included a version of "Stille Nacht" (Silent Night) as a bonus track.
In March 2020, touring shut down across the globe in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The band hunkered down in quarantine to write the conceptual The Last Viking. Based on the life and sagas of King Harald III (aka "The Hard Ruler") it was penned from the subject's viewpoint; he is reliving past glories and defeats in flashback as he lies upon his deathbed. The band showcased new guitarist and backing vocalist Micki Richter on the set. Further, Visions of Atlantis lead vocalist Clémentine Delauney guested on a subsequent studio version of "Black Butterfly." While Krull used far fewer musicians and singers, his production was more expansive than ever before thanks to modern multi-tracking technology. Upon release in October, The Last Viking was greeted with universally positive reviews, and drew critical comparisons to the best albums from kindred symphonic metallers Nightwish and Epica. ~ Thom Jurek