20 April 2011
by Tom Dare
The problem with advocating the world of gleefully camp and over-the-top metal that many in the UK struggle to take seriously is that, in truth, much of it is borderline-unlistenable crap. It’s exceptionally difficult to do well, and the number of genuine stand-out records is rather low as a result. And while Leaves’ Eyes haven’t quite managed to deliver one of the latter, fourth album Meredead is still refreshingly enjoyable.
After most of the band spent 2010 recording and releasing the latest Atrocity album (which was, ironically enough, moderately atrocious), Alexander Krull swaps the band with his sister on vocals for the decidedly better one with his wife singing. If you’ve immediately assumed that, because they’re European and have a lady singing, they sound gothic, symphonic and generally less than happy, you’re spot on.
What’s new this time is the blessed reduction of harsh vocals, which in the past have always felt more than slightly incongruous and distracting from Liv Kristine’s lovely lilt. There is also a slightly increased quota of slightly folky passages, which at the end of opening track ‘Spirit’s Masquerade‘ sounds a little like that bit of the Battlestar Galactica soundtrack when Apollo comes back from the raid on the Cylon tyllium mine (and yes, this is the geekiest sentence that has appeared on Thrash Hits to date).
It all may sound a touch derivative and generic, and in truth it largely is. That said, Meredead has plenty to like if the Nightwish-led oeuvre is something you enjoy. And given how easily this kind of music goes arse-over-tip down the the side of Shit Mountain, Leaves’ Eyes deserve credit for creating an album that does contain memorable vocal lines and surrounding instrumentation that enhances the melodic aspects and strengthens the desired atmosphere. That they do so with just the right amount of excess without wandering into a giant vat of pungent cheese is doubly pleasing.
Watch the video to ‘To France’ by Leaves’ Eyes here:
If four years seems like a long time to wait for a new record from Holopainen and co. and aren’t quite so enamoured with Within Temptation’s shift into more mainstream sounds, you could do far worse than Meredead. It doesn’t break the mould, but it’s a thoroughly enjoyable listen. Liv’s vocals are at their enchanting best, there are some nice flashes of genuine skill about the symphonics and the mood is surprisingly cheering despite its overtly mournful outset.
Sounds like: Nightwish or Edenbridge with touches of Eluveitie
Top tracks: Spirit’s Masquerade, Kråkevisa, Nystev
Leaves’ Eyes – Meredead tracklisting:
Mine Tåror er ei Grimme