en: Njord (album) [info]
The third album from this German/Norwegian gothic metal group explores virtually no new territory, but their symphonic bombast is as finely crafted as that of any of their contemporaries. Which is just as well, really, as the years since the release of their last album, 2005's Vinland Saga, have seen the emergence of many similar bands.
Fronted by the siren-voiced Liv Kristine, Leaves' Eyes specialise in highly melodic metal, bordering on pop at times, padded out with thick layers of vocal harmonies and syrupy synthesisers. Think the Gladiator soundtrack meets Europe's The Final Countdown and you'll be getting there.
The song titles strike an epic tone: Northbound, Frøya's Theme, Ragnarok. It's stirring stuff, tempered briefly by a straight-faced version of the traditional English ballad Scarborough Fair, as recorded in the past by Simon & Garfunkel, Sarah Brightman and dozens of others.
Norse folklore and Viking legends have been popular currency in heavy rock since Led Zeppelin first gave us Immigrant Song back in 1970. Almost 40 years on, the myths of the Northmen are a staple of metal lyrics, their tales of adventure and heroism a rich seam of inspiration yet to be exhausted. Without it, Leaves' Eyes and the genre now officially known as Viking metal simply couldn't exist.
Softened by Kristine's pseudo-operatic vocals and an extremely slick production job, Njord is less po-faced than one might expect. It is, however, available as a limited edition box set complete with model Viking long-ship with the band's logo emblazoned on the sail. This may be underground metal at its most accessible, but the band clearly takes it all very seriously.
Despite heavy metal's inherent sexism, a cursory delve into www.rocksirens.com reveals that there have never been more female-led metal bands than there are today. Leaves' Eyes paved the way for many such acts who've made hay in their absence, but they're back to reclaim their crown. Competition for the hearts of young male metal fans is fierce, but Njord shows that this sextet can still cast their spell.