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Symphonic metallers at core with sporadic folk flavours, Leaves' Eyes last studio album, 'Meredead', saw them bring that folk element to the forefront of their aural aesthetic. So much so that songs left little space or necessity for Alexander Krull's growls; rather Liv Kristine's sublime voice was supplemented by a small gathering of guest singers. Despite its folked-up sound, Leaves' Eyes simultaneously managed to preserve the essence of their established musical identity. That is, they admirably managed to progress their sound while maintaining its expected idioms. With 'Symphonies of the Night', their fifth full-length release, they've succeeded in not only progressing, but also diversifying their sonic platter, while preserving its foundations. The folk twang remains on particular songs, notably 'Galswintha', but they've thrown so much more into the mix. And Alex fans will be pleased to know that his growls are back, big-time.

It's immediately identifiable as Leaves' Eyes but 'Symphonies of the Night' twists and turns throughout - not in any drastic sense of wild experimentation; rather, each song is its own unique entity, which is apposite for the album's thematic significance. Lyrics are generally female character based, drawn from both fiction and history. Thus fictional tales adapted from Le Fanu's 'Carmilla' and Shakespeare's 'Hamlet' sit alongside verse concerning historical figures like Saint Cecelia (the patroness of musicians) and Eleanor of Provence (King Henry III's missus). The storytelling nature Liv's skilfully penned poetic verse comes to life in some rather fantastic instrumentations. Music and lyrics are married as one within each of the compositions. Supplementing the usual guitars, bass, drums and vocals are a small number of other random instruments, as well as Victor Smolski's Lingua Mortis Orchestra. And it's the efficacy of the orchestra, and how it's blended within the instrumentations, that both creates and enhances the storytelling qualities of the material; adding a layer of sonic grandeur and drama to reflect lyrical themes. This really is symphonic metal exemplified to perfection.

Vocally, this is, indubitably, Liv's most powerful (and most powerfully affective) performance to date. Some singers continue to improve and mature with age; others falter. Liv most definitely fits into the former. Her soprano range and warm tones are sublime throughout, and are perhaps most impressive on the melodically audacious 'Hymn to the Lone Sands'. And there are also moments where she uses her lower register to great effect such as on the verses to 'Angel and the Ghost', as well as a sporadicity of spoken-word passages. She even fits in an aria of sorts with 'Saint Cecelia'. The return of Alex's growled vocals are in no small way for the sake of. They're posited strategically within the songs to intensify certain moments, moods or themes of the stories that unfold.

'Symphonies of the Night' is, overall, a near-flawless record and certainly a career best for Leaves' Eyes. Production, songwriting and execution are of the highest order on an album that manages to balance out progression and diversity within the context of the band's established aesthetic. Symphonic metal par excellence.
Napalm Records
Review by Mark Holmes
18th Nov 2013
1) Hell to the Heavens
2) Fading Earth
3) Maid of Lorraine
4) Galswintha
5) Symphony of the Night
6) Saint Cecelia
7) Hymn to the Lone Sands
8) Angel and the Ghost
9) Eleonore de Provence
10) Nightshade
11) Ophelia
Deu & Nor
"Production, songwriting and execution are of the highest order on an album that manages to balance out progression and diversity within the context of the band's established aesthetic. Symphonic metal par excellence."