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I've followed the career of Leaves' Eyes on and off since their 2003 inception, and always found their albums to be growers, never being immediately grabbed by the music they produce. Latest release 'Njord' is no exception although, for me, fails to reach the sonic majesty of 2005's 'Vinland Saga'. That said, fans of Liv Kristine & co will undoubtedly lap this up in their masses as it contains all the trademark elements of their distinct symphonic metal sound, complete once again with Kristine's husband, Alexander Krull, providing sporadic death growls, although I guess less sporadic here than on previous releases which perhaps lends 'Njord' a slightly heavier edge. Although 'Njord' sees Leaves' Eyes progress their sound, I feel the album is let down by some slightly bland songwriting (or perhaps it's even more of a grower than I suspect and will improve further still on future listens?). A metalled-up haunting rendition of traditional English folk song 'Scarborough Fair' is a nice addition at track five and fits in with the album's overall historical themes. With lyrics pertaining to Nordic mythology and multi-lingual passages, engaging orchestrations and choir parts, as well as occasional use of whistles and uilleann pipes (although one could argue Nightwish were the first to combine symphonic metal with uilleann pipes on 'Dark Passion Play' when they recruited the talents of Troy Donockley), 'Njord' is perhaps a better album on paper than through the actual listening experience. In a currently oversaturated market of female fronted symphonic metal bands, Leaves' Eyes have succeeded in holding onto their own identity, although I believe 'Njord' will do little to convert anyone who has previously dismissed the band. Solid production and impressive musical performances from all involved are to be admired, although they have written much better songs than these. Closing 8+ minute track 'Froyas Theme' is pretty damn impressive though. Oh, and is it worth mentioning that there is also a special edition limited to only 500 copies available to buy that comes with a small model Viking ship? I guess if that floats your boat (pun intended).
Napalm Records
Review by Mark Holmes
31st Aug 2009
1) Njord
2) My Destiny
3) Emerald Island
4) Take the Devil In Me
5) Scarborough Fair
6) Through Our Veins
7) Irish Rain
8) Northbound
9) Ragnarok
10) Morgenland
11) The Holy Bond
12) Froya's Theme
Deu & Nor
"Solid production and impressive musical performances from all involved are to be admired, although they have written much better songs than these."