Leaves’ Eyes - Sign of the Dragonhead

Leaves’ Eyes Sign of the Dragonhead cover
Leaves’ Eyes
Sign of the Dragonhead
AFM Records
Well, what started as an exciting trend with Nightwish’s female vocals over Stratovarius type of melodic power metal, before they went big and pop, has really decayed into a rotten amalgamation of clichés and endless “tasteless” releases with stereotypical themes “ie vikings and what not” that smell more of business/contract obligation and an excuse to tour in those “shame-full” pay to play tours that the scene has now been reduced to, rather than musical expression and true inspiration.
To add insult to injury, Alex Krull, who’s been around for a long time, either as the frontman of Atrocity, or keyboard player/producer etc. of Leave’s Eyes, managed to turn his divorce in personal life into a business/commercial suicide of sorts as he first sacked his former wife from the band that was pretty much a namesake of sorts and speak openly in derogatory terms about her, but also, personally attack fans on Facebook with posts that soon got removed in an effort to do damage control. Bringing in decent Finnish singer Elina Siirala (a second cousin of Nightwish’s TH as it turns out) may have afforded the band the opportunity to keep on touring, but it sort of lost the band momentum by changing such a key member after several albums. Elina does a fair job and is by far not to blame, that her debut with the band is not their most impressive outing, but it feels like the whole chemistry in the band is different. Also the prominence of keyboards, over guitars on this album, doesn’t help much as those albums that seemed to rely a bit more on guitar, seemed to work a bit better for the band in the past and the predecessor of “The Sign of the Dragonhead” is one such.
Eponymous opener, “Sign of the Dragonhead”, has a decent – second rate Nightwish sort of chorus, maybe close to Xandria and the likes, I’d guess, with tons of orchestral hits and melodies that sound nothing sort of fresh or exciting. Krull’s death metal grunting sounds as if it comes from the earliest Atrocity examples and doesn’t quite bode too well with Elina’s ultra-refined sopranisms other than when he’s truly low in the mix.
“Across the Sea” - now how original can a song about “Wikings” be when it borrows heavily from the melody of “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” a civil was march that itself seemed to be a popular folk song of the time and bands like Civil War and a countless army of others second rate cheesy power metal bands have used previously, with varying degrees of success and inspiration. The lyrics would make Manowarrior’s blush and burst with pride and probably enemies “run and cower in fear” as chants of “we-stand we-fight with steel tonight” sung in mezzo are truly a “scary” thing. Pullez. Come to think of it, I’m unsure, why these guys have not been asked to play the epic metal fests yet; you know, swords, shields, sandals, vinyls… the whole lot… maybe if them boys in the band can fit in Spandex, a whole new crowd might find its new heroes.
“Like A Mountain” is a generic mid-tempo, that’s not terribly bad, but it also fails to capture the fancy of the listener with a bit of derivative melodies in the chorus. It’s only some keyboard riff that seems to carry it forward, but… it’s too little to keep a whole song from being boring.
“Jomsborg” is better, folk inspired, Siirala actually singing more than launching into stratospheric choruses that seem to ignore the rest of the song and Krull keeping himself under bay, not actually ruining the song. I mostly like his vocals – it’s just that he sounds both a little forced and out of place in a lot of places on this album – but not here. One of the better songs, I guess.
“Völva”, a song whose title that would have made my high school self-burst with laughter, is a more symphonic/folk melodic proposition and it also seems to work better than most of the rest of material on offer. Think Eluveitie and the like.
“Riders on the Wind” is an easy to listen to “cheerful” sympho-number, in all probability ripping of half a shanty and then sprinkling it with some perfume till it chokes on the aroma.
“Fairer than the Sun” is a sympho-ballad, with predictable melodies and lacking a true highlight as a strong chorus or a more than OK vocal performance. But I don’t think it’s Siirala’s fault that she can’t infuse more passion into the rather stale and banal melodies she has to sing.
“Shadows in the Night” is another example. Simple even catchy, but not too well crafted melodies with an instrumentation and production that seem to be done with minimal excitement, fail to really capitalize on the very reason they were created for. And Krull’s vocal spot, short as it may be – doesn’t help not one little iota.
“Rulers of Wind and Waves” is an RPG/TV series worthy instrumental moment of incidental melodies. Fits the concept without being great. It leads into “Fires in the North”. Siralla sings a decent melody, over a quite industrial inspired “heavier” song that doesn’t feel like it really belongs with the rest. There are some decent things going into the song, but the end result and overall arrangement are not actually much to write home about. Keeping the chorus out of this one I guess, but not much more.
“Waves of Euphoria” closes the album with eight minutes of music that tries to be more bombastic than the ideas that have gone into it allow it to be. Again the parts where Krull sings seem totally forced on and like another band is hijacking the microphone for a few seconds and a ton of ah’s and orchestral hits and such… it’s hardly gonna make an impression after all these years that people have been exposed to similar and often much better arrangements, as parts of these melodies bring to mind latter day Tarja era Nightwish.
Forcing oneself to release an album is never a good idea and Leave’s or rather Elina’s Eyes have hardly had enough time to craft an album that feels solid. A few songs here and there that are passable and a lot of derivative or plainly boring stuff, do little to help create solid foundations for the future.
Their new vocalist does all she can, given the material and doesn’t seem to be the one responsible for this frankly mediocre messy release that frankly seems to lack inspiration and direction. Unless they really manage to re-organize and come up with something impressive up next, the future of Leave’s Eyes might be gloomier than one might have thought.