Leaves’ Eyes – Meredead

     A band made up of members from Norway and Germany playing music inspired by Celtic/Gaelic sounds and instruments while still remaining true to their own sound?
     For those of you who do not know the band Leaves’ Eyes, the vocalist is ex-Theatre Of Tragedy singer, Liv Kristine Espenæs Krull (get it? Leaves’ Eyes?) and the band itself is made up of members of AtrocityAlexander Krull – keyboards and vocals. He is also Liv‘s husband. Roland Navratil – Drums, Thorsten Bauer – bass and guitar. And not in Atrocity,  Sander van der Meer – guitar). 
     Leaves’ Eyes loves to tell stories from the past and incorporate olden-style instruments so that the music itself is speaking the story too. That could easily place them in the FolkMetal genre, but, they also use a lot of symphony, death metal growls, choirs… You never know what to expect from song to song and album to album. That not many in the U.S. have heard of them is not their fault. Many tours have been planned and then scrapped at the last minute and the cause is never that of Leaves’ Eyes. Had all the planned tours actually happened, I think word of mouth would have brought this band the popularity they deserve.

     I, of course, like to get the version with as many extras on one release as I can. Therefore, I had to wait a bit while the limited edition digipack with a bonus DVD included was ordered and delivered but the wait was worth the product as the DVD is a live recording of Leaves’ Eyes performance at Metal Female Voices Festival 2010 in Oktberhallen Wieze, Belgium.

     Meredead is a great album through and through. The way the songs come across, the instrumentation and the choosing between vocal styles by the singers, is nothing short of performing each song for the sake of the song. There are no hits or fillers here. Meredead is an album of songs that are well thought out in theory and composition. I would be amazed if the band does not get recognition for this album the world over.
     While I mentioned vocal styles, I am not only speaking of the male voice, which cycles between smooth and death growls, but those too of Liv‘s. Her styles flux between classic style, regular delivery, and almost pop sounding at times.
     The voices, along with the music, make the album eclectic but never infringe upon the listening experience as the band pulls off the change with grace and style. Upon first listen I was surprised at what a great album Meredead is because the band talked it up in the press quite a bit and the hype was big which can spell letdown quickly. But no, the band’s talk was not hype.

     This is a great year for EuroMetal. With new releases from Within temptation, Midnattsol, Nightwish, Rhapsody Of Fire, HammerFall, Edguy, DragonForce, Opeth, Lacuna Coil, Virgin Black, Delain, Demons And Wizards, Stratovarius, Sirenia, Battlelore, Power Quest, Visions Of Atlantis, Children Of Bodom, Amon Amarth, Symfonia, Cruachan, Omega Lithium, Alestorm, Arch Enemy… way too many more to get to!
      Leave’s Eyes Meredead is one album you should get. You will not be disappointed.

Track listing for Meredead:
01: Spirits’ Masquerade
02: Étaín
03: Velvet Heart
04: Kråkevisa
05: To France
06: Meredead
07: Sigrlinn
08: Mine Tåror er ei Grimme
09: Empty Horizon
10: Veritas
11: Nystev
12: Tell-Tale Eyes
13: Sorhleod

Track listing for bonus DVD:
01: Njord
02: My Destiny
03: Ragnarock
04: Elegy
05: Froya’s Theme

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Midnattsol – Nordlys

Carmen Elise Espenæs, the younger sibling of Leaves Eyes vocalist Liv Kristine Espenæs Krull,  is the vocalist for Midnattsol, (translation: “Midnight Sun”). I’ve gotta give Carmen props, she sounds nothing like her sister Liv and Midnattsol sounds nothing like Leaves Eyes.

Nordlys or “Northern Lights” is the bands second album and has become one of my favorite albums to listen to because the music is diverse, complex, simple, and honest. On listening to it one could think they have heard the style of playing before yet cannot place where or whom played it, the band certainly wears their influences well, mixing together various players and in doing so creating their own sound.
Carmen has a voice that is both melancholic and haunting, moving from rich, deep tones to higher pitches as she holds onto a note, next reversing the process from higher to lower. She can come across lighthearted and heavyhearted in the same breath whether she is singing in English or in her native tongue of Norway.
It is not only her vocals. The singing works so well because the guitars work well with her octaves and emotional inflections.

The band considers itself kind of Nordic Folk Metal as many of their lyrics are about legends from Norway (many bands from Scandinavia include myths and legends from their country in their lyrics; think Immortal or Dimmu Borgir). Whatever they consider themselves I do hope capable is one of the words they use to describe their musicianship because yes, the music is simple in itself but the arrangement of each song is complex underneath in the same way that Guns N’ Roses Appetite For Destruction had complex underlying rhythms played against simple rock and roll groove.
Midnattsol has well rounded talent and earnestness; they are excellent songwriters and captivating storytellers.

Track listing for Nordlys:
01: Open Your Eyes
02: Skogens Lengsel
03: Northern Light
04: Konkylie
05: Wintertime
06: Race Of Time
07: New Horizon
08: River Of Virgin Soil
09: En Natt I Nord
10: Octobre

There are times when I am listening to the singing and feel like I am hearing a singer from an earlier time or period. The song Wintertime, the intro, gives me the impression strongest.

If you have never heard Midnattsol you are missing out on some damn good ethereal music.