LEAVES' EYES — Symphonies of the Night (review)

LEAVES' EYES — Symphonies of the Night album cover Album · 2013 · Symphonic Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
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Symphonies of the Night (2013) is the fifth full-length album by German/Norwegian symphonic metal act Leaves' Eyes. I've had a bit of a love/hate relationship with this band since I first heard them, in that I did not find their third album Njord (2009) to be remarkable in the slightest, but later had to do a 180 with my opinion on the band when they released Meredead (2011), an album that saw them increase their Celtic folk elements dramatically. Rarely has there been a change in direction that much for the better in my view. Therefore Symphonies of the Night is a follow-up I've been pretty eager to hear, as here was a band who had suddenly turned from a band I didn't like into one that had potential to become a favourite.

This is where we hit a snag in this story though, because on Symphonies of the Night Leaves' Eyes have regressed back into their old more straight up symphonic metal sound, that had some often strong leanings into gothic metal. Celtic folk music still plays a role in the album but where Meredead could easily be said to equally belong to the folk metal genre as much as the symphonic metal one Symphonies of the Night makes its use of folk distinct by pointedly separating it from the heavy parts in most instances. Doing so has always been an effective practice in symphonic metal music but after Meredead was a near masterpiece this revert back to more familiar territory for the band is disappointing for me to say the least.

All this said, Symphonies of the Night is a more impressive album that Njord was right from the off and ironically it even addresses the one major issue I did have with Meredead, namely Alexander Krull's harsh vocals. His growl sounded rather weak last time around but here he sounds really strong, and while I could easily listen to Leaves' Eyes with just the vocals of frontwoman Liv Kristine, Alexander's improved growl makes all the difference to keeping the album flowing smoothly. If he'd sounded like this on Meredead that album could potentially have broken into the top tier ratings.

But enough about how this isn't Meredead; I thought that album was a step in the right direction, but clearly given the direction of Symphonies of the Night the band had other ideas and you know what all things considered that's fine, because this is a pretty good symphonic metal album. It'll never be better than Meredead in my view and it's certainly not the best release from the symphonic genre I've heard this year, but it does have plenty of its own merits. Not least among them the fact that there's not a bad track on it and they still use enough elements from outside symphonic/gothic metal to stand out from the crowd, including a power metal track, Éléonore de Provence, which is also a standout along with Maid of Lorraine.

Overall Symphonies of the Night isn't exactly jaw-dropping but it's generally of a high quality and if this had been the album to follow Njord, which as I've stated I did not like, I'd be very pleased with how far forward the band had come. But because it follows Meredead I'm disappointed by it. It's not even that for the genre there's anything particularly wrong with it but while Meredead was more adventurous with their influences to result in something very different to Njord, this one just feels like the band were playing it safe and doing something familiar and that's more than the one step backwards in terms of artist evolution to me. Honestly in terms of sound Symphonies of the Night can sit quite comfortably on the same page as Njord. The only difference of course is the writing being of a higher quality, which makes all the difference and the reason why, despite the negative way this review will have read, that I'm still prepared to give Symphonies of the Night a great album tier rating.

83/100

(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven: http://metaltube.freeforums.org/leaves-eyes-symphonies-of-the-night-t3268.html)
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