The Last Viking
Leaves’ Eyes was formed in 2003 by Norwegian vocalist Liv Kristine and German singer Alexander Krull. In 2018 they released their album, Sign Of The Dragonhead, their first full length with new singer Elina Siirala who joined in early 2016 after the departure of founding member Kristine.
Their 2015 album, King Of Kings, was my number one CD for the year. Sign Of The Dragonhead was so close to making the Top 10 of 2018 and for 2020 the new release The Last Viking has all the potential to make Top 10 of 2020. We shall find out at the end of the year.
When I found out they were doing pre-orders for the new release I jumped on the AFM label’s website and put my order in.
Leaves’ Eyes are: Elina Siirala (Vocals), Alexander Krull (Vocals), Thorsten Bauer (Guitar, Bass), Micki Richter (Guitar) and Joris Nijenhuis (Drums)
Monumental. Epic. Powerful. – The Vikings’ last battle
England in the year 1066. The decisive battle near Stamford Bridge. Warriors fighting death, the grounds soaked in blood. Norway’s King Harald III, called Hardrada (“the hard ruler“) lies dying. His whole life flashes before his eyes: cruel wars, fights over power, journeys to exotic worlds guiding to powerful women, emperors and kings falling into ruin. The last Viking King is dead – the Vikings’ age is over. Long live the Vikings.
The Last Viking is the 2020-monumental-piece of LEAVES’ EYES. The setting of the symphonic metal masterpiece couldn’t be more tremendous. With their cult-albums Vinland Saga (2005) and King of Kings (2015) they already turned Leif Eriksson‘s discovery of America and the life of Norway’s first king into music. Now, LEAVES’ EYES bring the Viking Sagas to their bombastic finale.
As always, LEAVES’ EYES attach importance to historical accuracy. History books were devoured, sagas had to be studied. “Some tv dramas or blockbusters make me smirk when I see the Viking Sagas turned upside down. We don’t mess around in mythology!” promises Alexander Krull (vocals), again responsible for conception and lyrics. The Last Viking itself would make a great screenplay. The sagas of Hardrada are full of drama, emotions and the everlasting fights for power. The Last Viking is the epic soundtrack to the mythical world of Viking adventures.
The raging pagan-hymn “Chain Of The Golden Horn” chronicles Hardrada’s dangerous escape from Byzantium, where a heavy iron chain was hidden in the Bosporus waters to wreck hostile ships. The haunting rock opus “Dark Love Empress” tells about the vengeful empress Zoë. When the Viking hero refuses to be one of her many lovers, she has him locked in the Byzantine dungeons.
The thrilling first single showcases what a key strength the Finnish soprano-sensation Elina Siirala has become to the band sound. In the speedy symphonic-smash hit “Serpents And Dragons“ she joins a strong duet battle with shouter Alex, bringing Hardrada‘s naval combat for the Danish crown with hundreds of longships impressively to life. The ten-minute-epic “The Last Viking” is a spectacular ride through the variations of metal music. Being all bombastic, heavy, dark and atmospheric at the same time, it perfectly captures all the drama in Hardrada’s life and death.
No doubt: all the musicians exactly know which buttons to push to play out all the strengths of LEAVES’ EYES. The energetic compositions prove the ingenious skills of the songwriting duo Thorsten Bauer (guitars) and Alexander Krull (vocals). Straightforward and consequently they follow the line that already has garnered a significant worldwide fan base. Their die-hard followers will be more than pleased with “Break Into The Sky”, acting as a best-of track combining all of the bands’ musical qualities: enthralling song structures, touching melodies and a mystic aura.
All the 14 tracks individually impress with their unique build-up, rhythm and atmosphere. Mighty drums, Mediaeval instruments like nyckelharpa and fiddle and Celtic horns add spice to the diversified sound. The mystic elegy “Two Kings One Realm” surprises with yet unheard facets. The dark-pop ethno sound wouldn’t be expected from Germany’s symphonic-metal band no. 1. Mastermind Alexander Krull delivers a thrilling, fresh and razor-sharp audio production adding distinctiveness, dynamic and roughness to the sound of LEAVES’ EYES. The new versions of the immediately sold-out EP “Night Of The Ravens“, “Serkland“ and “Black Butterfly“ make these tracks an all-new adventure. The latter surprises with powerful guest vocals of the French rock sensation Clémentine Delauney (Visions of Atlantis, Exit Eden) that terrifically bring the smash-hit to new life.
LEAVES’ EYES have always played in a league of their own. They have toured all populated continents, frequently reach top positions in the album charts and with every output they deliver a multimedia masterpiece when it comes to video clips and artwork. With The Last Viking, they surpass their own standards with the original film documentary Viking Spirit. Filmed worldwide, the growing Viking re-enactment scene will be visually praised here. Fronter Alex and the band became part of this community, long ago. With this film, historical facts merge with Nordic mythology, Viking-lifestyle and the sounds of LEAVES’ EYES, featuring friends and companions of the Viking scene. A long-awaited complement to their body of work. Of course, The Last Viking won’t be the closure of LEAVES’ EYES – it only fuels expectations what these geniuses will come up next with.
With The Last Viking Leaves’ Eyes set up their own musical monument that is just as captivating and strong as the saga of the last Viking King itself. (Author: Robert Suß)
When I first got my downloaded copy, I kept playing it over and over. The album starts off with the instrumental “Death Of A King” which flows right into “Chain Of The Golden Horn”. What a powerful start to this new album. The beautiful vocals of Elina and the growls of Krull are a forceful combination that encaptivates the listener into this final saga, Leaves’ Eyes. The next track “War of Kings” is another dynamite track, and the feeling is exactly where their 2015 King Of Kings left off.
In 2019 the band released the single “Black Butterfly” which is the next song, and I am familiar with this tune. Fitting perfectly on the new album this was well worth a single release. Song after song with another amazing track “Serpents And Dragons”, the symphonic journey of “Dark Love Empress” along with the captivating “Two Kings One Realm”, which is more of an intro to the next song. “For Victory” gives us some brisk guitar work by guitarist Richter. Krull is a brilliant combination with Siirala on vocals.
“Varangians” is heavier on Krull’s vocals with a strong Viking feel- as if you’re walking the Halls of Valhalla.
The next two tracks were on the “Black Butterfly” single from last year. “Serkland” and “Night Of The Ravens”. Even though I really enjoyed these two songs from last year, it was a nice refresh having them on The Last Viking to add to all the other potential hits on this album.
“Flames In The Sky” maintains the momentum of this new release. “Break Into The Sky Of Aeon” slows things down along with the sombre deep growls, making this an alluring musical adventure. The final number is the title track “The Last Viking” which is just over 10 minutes long. I am not usually a fan of the extra-long songs, but this is the perfect finish to The Viking Saga with many textures making the story that shares with their fans an unforgettable one.
The Last Viking has been well worth the two-year wait. I loved their 2018 release Sign Of The Dragonhead. With so many great CDs of 2018, it did not hit my Top 10 list. But I would be shocked if The Last Viking didn’t go high on the list for 2020.
The new album will be released on October 23rd, 2020. I look forward to getting the hardcover artbook 2CD – DVD.
Someone commented on my 2018 review of Sign Of The Dragonhead that I must be getting paid to say good things about the album. That is the great thing about music, as it’s not for everyone. That CD was amazing, and if you don’t enjoy the new release, that is ok, as I am loving it!
Shawn “Animalize” Irwin