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Friday, December 29, 2017

ALBUM REVIEW: The Vikings are coming as Leaves' Eyes unleash Sign of the Dragonhead

THE Longships are coming in 2018 as ‘The Sign of the Dragonhead’ looms over the horizon...

Leave’s Eyes, a fantastic symphonic metal band, return to storm these shores with their seventh album, an uncompromising, combative, epic album and they are ready to loot and pillage your ears without compromise.

Leave’s Eyes have created historically inspired musical masterpiece that chronicles the Vikings like a keen-edged Ulfberht sword perfectly wielded to deliver a flurry of high powered tracks that leave you in awe.
The title track, ‘The Sign of the Dragonhead’, hails a furious warning of the coming of the Viking raiders and starts the chills of anticipation with a choral assault. A rousing track that just hits the right buttons, painting an image of fast moving ships sailing with deadly purpose. And nothing can stop them.

The second track ‘Across The Sea’ is a fantastic marathon that will have you pulling out your dusty copy of Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. It is a hauntingly inspiring track that is flawlessly executed to affect even the most battle hardened warrior.  It’s shanty like beginnings only adds to this heroic headbanging berserker epic.

Continuing the search for treasures comes ‘Like a Mountain’ that evokes, through Elina Siirala’s hauntingly operatic vocals, a tragic Niflheim lament. And, there should be no surprise that it is a tragic Icelandic love saga. It is a beautifully ethereal bass-heavy track full of emotion pulling you through cold and stunningly harsh landscapes painted by the symbiosis of Lina’s elfish tones and Alexander Krull’s Jotonheimr guttural vocals. This along with the swaying metal and delicate folkish interludes just work so well.

Again the warrior rage takes hold with ‘Jomsborg’, recalling the legendary Viking fortress in the Baltic Sea area and the Jomsvikings. Another track that gives you the warrior chills that no matter what the odds all will stand as battle brothers to the end. It conjures once more the common theme of sweeping vistas in a cold tundra or seascape filled with warriors of legend and renown. It is just gorgeously epic in scope and the heavy resounding rhythmic battering your ears will get is an absolute pleasure.

‘Völva’ keeps up the magnificence, once more summoning a grand vision combining metal, opera, choral orchestra, and traditional instruments into a perfect storm that will roll right over you without missing a beat.
 Blasting in is ‘Riders On The Wind’, an almost southern dixie-like shanty inspired performance that is a catchy metal track. This is a fantastic upbeat smile-inducing stadium anthem. If you don’t want to sing along you will have to really put the work in to resist. Utterly elegant in every way.

Next is ‘Fairer Than The Sun’, a beautiful lament imbued ballad done in only the way Leave’s Eyes can do. Even if you’re not a fan of slow ballads, this will still be a pleasure to sit back and listen to intently. Elina’s vocals are beyond compare throughout the album hitting the absolutely right emotional notes.

And, just when you thought you could relax, ‘Shadows In The Night’ gives your complacency a damn good kicking. Another excellent and solidly performed symphonic piece of metal that maintains the flow and theme of the album.

The pure Viking instrumental shanty ‘Rulers Of Wind And Waves’ uses traditional music and instruments backed by a beautifully choreographed orchestral  and choral support to blow your mind.

This is honestly a perfect little interval that only adds to the overall beauty of this album.

Kicking it back up into gear is ‘Fires In The North’, another excellent delivery of symphonic Viking metal that can be enjoyed and loved by a much wider audience than just symphonic metallers.

The close comes with ‘Waves Of Euphoria’, the longest track on the album coming in at just over 8 minutes. This is almost too perfect as the whole track, musically, feels like a highlight summary of all the previous tracks. Slow, haunting, fast, heavy, ethereal, dreamlike and headbanging. This one has it all as it arches through from start to finish, perfectly balanced. This is the Rainbow bridge of the album as images of Heimdallr awaiting you to see that you are worthy to pass to Valhalla will just run through your mind.

This is an end credits track par excellence...

The whole album is a beautifully crafted and perfectly balanced piece of Viking artistry that refuses to let you think about anything else other than heroic Vikings, joined in battle for glory, fighting for their place at Odin’s table in Valhalla.

What is most striking is the confident and independent vocals of Elina as she takes absolute and unquestionable possession of each song, which lends an individual note to her interaction with Alex‘s growls.

The album is filled with complex yet catchy tangible tunes. The instrumentation is perfectly balanced and unconventional with medieval nyckelharpas, fiddles, uilleann pipes and whistles blending seamlessly with the driven heavy metal entourage. It all whisks you away to a fabled world of the harsh cold North.

This album is where Heavy Metal and Celtic Folk music craft an acoustic Viking party of epic proportions.

Now, where is the nearest Longship?

Review by Ivor Whitten

‘Sign of the Dragonhead’ is released on 12th January 2018

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