Leaves’ Eyes – The Last Viking (AFM Records)Friday, 16th October 2020
Having weathered quite a storm with line-up changes and then delivering one of their strongest releases in 2018 with Sign of the Dragonhead, the seas have been a bit calmer for Leaves’ Eyes in the past two years. The Last Viking sits as their 8th album, and at this point, it’s all about upping the musical ante and providing an epic, symphonic experience that fans will enjoy. Something that’s easily accomplished by The Last Viking.
The pleasant diversity that was found on Sign of the Dragonhead is fostered well again here. Telling the story of Harard III [Hardrada] and his eventual downfall, there’s quite a bit of ups and downs to tell in this captivating tale. This gives the band plenty of time to pull out the big riffs and soaring orchestrations with epic tracks like the title track itself, a 10-minute monster that brings bombastic energy as it rises and falls accordingly, with some excellent volleys between vocalists Alexander Krull and Elina Siirala. Something that finale “Break into the Sky of Aeon” then capitalizes on following said track with a resonating bang. “Serpents and Dragons” sits as one of the finest offerings with its thrilling riffs and high energy, and is sure to be a bonefide live smash. While other cuts, like “Chain of the Golden Horn” and “Serkland” continue to raise the symphonic flag high, that’s not all the band has to offer. On the lighter side of things is the upbeat and folk-ish “Varvangians,” which is sure to get a smile on your face with it’s jovial vibes, as well as the more gentle yet rousing “Two Kings One Realm.” “Black Butterfly” also features Clementine Delauney (Visions of Atlantis) helping on vocals and the trio of vocals gives the track a fresh air to it. Likewise, so does the more lumbering mid-tempo “Dark Love Empress,” in which Siirala offers one of the finest choruses on the album.
Consistency across the board with Leaves’ Eyes latest, as The Last Viking thunders will appeal from beginning to end. An excellent look at Hardrada’s story, and the band gives it an epic yet intimate flavor that makes it even more special. Leaves’ Eyes continue to stand tall, at the top of their game.