Leah – Ancient Winter (Ex Cathedra Records)Sunday, 10th November 2019
What happens when the ‘heavy metal Enya’ decides to drop the more metallic portion of her sound and dives into a holiday-themed album? Ancient Winter is the result in this case, though if you are thinking of a Celtic version of “We Wish You A Merry Christmas,” you’ve come to the wrong place. Instead, Leah ups the folk ante and presents a more medieval album (of the 8 tracks, 3 are in fact traditional century medieval songs with a Leah-spin on them) that is meant as a celebration of winter itself.
With Leah’s usual material hitting the more melodic/laid-back end of the symphonic metal spectrum, Ancient Winter takes things one step further. It’s really relaxing stuff, though with the medieval approach and instrumentation, it’s easy for metal fans to enjoy. There’s a real breadth of instrumentation to absorb, and some help from members of Cellar Darling, Nighwish, and Eluveitie (among others) helps enrich things along the way. One can almost feel the falling snow as the tracks wind around, offering a mix of gentle Celtic and middle eastern melodies that feel designed to spark the imagination, whether it’s the building strings of “Upon Your Destiny” or the reflective ethereal voices of “The Messenger.” With most of the lyrics being in Latin, there’s a real feel of authenticity as well, not just in the use of music but the lyrics as well, passionately delivered by Leah herself, of course.
While it is an album best suited for the colder nights surrounded by campfire (or fireplace), Ancient Winter is true to its name and should provide fans with plenty to enjoy. As always, Leah manages to pull the listener into an adventure – this time one that’s a bit frost-ridden but always full of joy and wonder. It also provides evidence that she could easily spread her wings beyond the metal realm while staying true to her unique voice and vision.