Leaves’ Eyes - ‘King of Kings’ (AFM Records) Print E-mail
CD Reviews
Written by Michael Anthony   
Monday, 02 November 2015 03:40

Leaves EyesI don’t know what’s happening to me. After years of denial, the run of albums from Epica’s ‘The Quantum Enigma’, Opus Dei’s ‘A Day On Earth’, Jorn Lande and Trond Holter’s ‘Dracula: Swing Of Death’ and Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody’s ‘Prometheus’, seem to have turned me into a somewhat reluctant symphonic metal fan. I say reluctant because although I’ve long been a fan of grand, powerful, majestic metal, overt attempts to blend classical, metal, gothic and folk forms often seem a bit contrived. The apparent surfeit of female fronted bands who all look the same and plough roughly the same musical furrow has sometimes added to a sense of symphonic rock by numbers. But you can’t deny quality, and with ‘King Of Kings’ Leaves’ Eyes have produced an absolute belter of an album that rivals anything I’ve ever heard in the genre.

 

‘King Of Kings’ is the band’s sixth studio album since their formation in 2003, and to be fair it’s surprisingly compelling and rather addictive. Musically, it’s a superb blend of heavy rock classical and folk, offering variety that incorporates strong metal riffing, upbeat jigs, operatic grandeur, gentle folk sections, death growls, pretty Mediaeval Babes type passages, and the impressive lead vocals of Liv Kristine. The music here never sounds anything other than first rate and authentic. There is a real energy throughout and the album doesn’t stand still for a moment.

 

Lyrically, it continues the band’s apparent mission to “set world history to music”, indulging a long standing interest in Norse mythology and Vikings. Specifically, it re-awakens the thousand-year legend of Norway’s first king Harald Fairhair, as he set about uniting Norway as one kingdom. You may or may not have an interest in such things. But when the music is this good, it hardly matters.

 

From start to finish ‘King Of Kings’ is both epic and cinematic. Operatic and choral elements come courtesy of the London Voices Ensemble, who have also contributed to Star Wars, Lord Of The Rings and Harry Potter movies. Orchestration is provided by the White Russian Symphony Orchestra. It’s powerful stuff that has a real ‘blockbuster’ feel (full credit to the production skills of keys man and death growl vocalist Alexander Krull). Check out the stunning title track, which frankly has everything. Ditto ‘Blazing Waters’, which additionally benefits from riffing that will appeal to Iron Maiden fans and solo work from the Blackmore school of rock. These are massive tracks, though I could equally well have singled out the more edgy ‘Halvdan The Black’, rousing closer ‘Swords In Rock’ or ‘Edge Of Steel’, the latter of which features a guest appearance from Epica’s Simone Simons.

 

It’s almost a truism that however much effort goes into the production of an album, you won’t get that far without good songs. Perhaps the most striking feature of ‘King Of Kings’ (orchestration and choral brilliance aside) is the consistent quality of the songs themselves, and, in particular, the strength and appeal of the melodies. They just keep on coming. As hinted above, Kristine’s performance is superb, and she’s very much in the shop window on the beautifully sung ‘The Waking Eye’ and the atmospheric ‘Haraldskvæði’.

 

The virtues of Nightwish and Within Temptation are well known to most of those with only a passing interest in the genre. ‘King Of Kings’ is conclusive proof that symphonic metal has much to offer beyond these bands. Once again, an album and band of which I expected relatively little has left me not just surprised but inspired and a touch overwhelmed. I’m off to get some pillaging in before tea.

 

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To pick up your copy of 'King Of Kings' - CLICK HERE