LEAVES' EYES — Meredead (review)

LEAVES' EYES — Meredead album cover Album · 2011 · Folk Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
Meredead is the fourth full-length album from German/Norwegian metal band Leaves’ Eyes. I have to be honest here, I came to this release not expecting an awful lot as I found the group’s previous offering Njord to be decidedly generic ‘beauty and the beast’ style symphonic metal, albeit with a much larger focus on the female vocals than the death growls. However I’m pleased to report that with Meredead Leaves’ Eyes have pleasantly surprised me with their brand of symphonic/folk metal and that with the exception of a few weaker moments the release is consistently strong.

Although Leaves’ Eyes is often listed as being a symphonic or gothic metal band (the former of which is the truer one of the two), on Meredead while there is some tracks that lack it entirely, the release in general is very much folk driven, surprisingly a lot more so than many so called folk metal bands. The common use of acoustic guitars and folk instruments such as Uileann Pipes and Fiddle is one of the best factors in Meredead, keeping it from being ‘just another female fronted symphonic metal album’.

Although I am generally impressed by Meredead, there are a few moments in it that spoil the overall experience. Mostly notably there is the pointless interlude track Veritas, which adds literally nothing to the overall experience of listening to the album. At not even a minute long it just flies by without anything noteworthy happening and seems to have no connections to the track that follows it, Nystev. There’s also the matter of the vocals. While lead singer Liv Kristine performs flawlessly there are also some rare inclusions of growls from keyboardist Alexander Krull, which in the lengthy track Sigrlinn come across as decidedly weak (they were actually better on Njord, ironically), spoiling what is essentially one of the album’s gems. Alexander Krull’s vocals are something of a rarity on Meredead however, which is a good thing. It’s not to say his vocals are cringe worthy, they just really stand out for all the wrong reasons. Fortunately Sigrlinn is powerful in other ways, which save it.

Another good thing is that there is more to praise on Meredead than there is to pan. Aside from the fact that the album is generally more folk driven than Njord was which gives it a lot more flavour, compositionally it also dominates the previous album, with songs coming across with structures that I didn’t quite expect and also with a lot of fresh ideas. In general Meredead doesn’t actually come across as being as heavy as Njord was, which was actually pretty heavy for a symphonic metal album, but the quality of the songs makes that little fact inconsequential.

The inclusion of a few covers doesn’t even go amiss either. One cover is Mike Oldfield’s To France, which the band put out a music video far. I personally don’t know the original of it, only the version German power metal band Blind Guardian did. The song is a nice addition as part of the whole package but not an individual highlight. The cover covers are of traditional Norwegian folk songs (Kråkevisa & Nystev). I enjoyed their inclusions a lot actually, and I’d consider Kråkevisa especially as a highlight of the disc, though the album’s real strengths lay in tracks such as opener Spirits' Masquerade, Étaín, and the title track.

The only Leaves’ Eyes album I’m personally familiar with is this one and Njord, so I really can’t say if this is a return to form or the sound of a band finally finding their feet. Either way, Meredead is certainly a major step up from Njord in all aspects accept the aforementioned death growls, which could easily have been left out of the album and been all the better for it. But despite its faults I’m still pretty impressed by Meredead and it pleases me to have been proved wrong about an album that I was ready to write off.

(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven, scoring 8.9/10)
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