Album review: LEAVES EYES – The Last Viking, Midsummer Version

AFM Records [release date: 17.09.21]

Leaves Eyes’ latest release, The Last Viking, Midsummer Version, is a multi media concept album, a high impact audiovisual story.

The “Last Viking” was Harald III of Norway, known as Harald Hardrada (Harald the Hard Man). In 1066 he took 7000 vikings into battle on mainland England. Few came back alive. From the 300 ships of the Viking invasion force, only 24 returned to Norway.

This is their story. On 3CDs, DVDs and a 90 minute, three part series on YouTube.

The soundtrack to the series is on CDs 2 and 3.
The album’s focal point – the songs (14 of them), are on CD1:

This was a mammoth Symphonic Metal undertaking. The band, primarily Elina Siirala and Alexander Krull on vocals, plus guitarist/writer Thorsten Bauer, had to write a cinematic soundtrack that also doubled as a stand alone metal album. A considerable challenge.

Most of the time it works. Lovers of Symphonic Rock and Metal will love the production’s big movie orchestral feel, the adventurous notes, and the dark, passionate intensity of the songs.

It will be reassuring for fans to learn that many of the tracks are laced with the folk stylings for which the band is known. The most notable are ‘Varangian’, ‘For Victory’ and ‘Serpents And Dragons’. The celts and the vikings were two ethnic groups who had close relationships in the middle ages. Accordingly, many celtic rhythms and instrumentations permeate these songs, carefully and colourfully threaded through the cranked up folk metal that takes centre stage.

As anyone familiar with the band’s previous material would expect, the guts of the album is about mood and melancholy, a band creating its own highly melodic metal landscape… the music is incredibly emotional, but it’s not triumphant, because of the subject matter. ‘Serkland’ and ‘Black Butterfly’ are perhaps the most accessible tracks, with catchy tunes, heroic music and operatic chorale passages. Elina Siirala’s sweet soprano radiates energy, pulsing outwards into every corner. She doesn’t force it. Her voice just goes where she wants it to go.

The album’s climactic conclusion comes with ‘Break Into The Sky of Aeon’. In true operatic tradition, like other significant tracks, ‘Dark Love Empress’ and ‘War Of Kings’, it’s full of repeating orchestral themes and leitmotifs. And a strong sense of sadness (underlined by Krull’s growl) as those last survivors make it home. A sombre yet uplifting finish. ****

Review by Brian McGowan

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From 1 December the Featured Albums and Power Play segments will reflect those artists and tracks featured during 2021.

Featured Albums w/c 15 November 2021 (Mon-Fri)

09:00-12:00 MEMORIA AVENUE Memoria Avenue (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 FANS OF THE DARK Fans Of The Dark (Frontiers)
14:00-16:00 HANNAH JAMES & TOBY KUHN Sleeping Spirals (Jigdoll Records)

Power Plays w/c 15 November 2021 (Mon-Fri)

THE FORGOTTEN Interstellar (FiXT Noir)
QUILL Riding Rainbows (indie)
DEAD REYNOLDS Uninspired (The Fort)
CAVALCADE Dreaming About (Golden Robot)
HANNAH ALDRIDGE Sinking (indie)
GREYHAVEN All Candy (Rude Records)

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