Thursday, January 11, 2018

Album Review: Leaves Eyes - Sign Of The Dragonhead

Symphonic metal van be called many things; bombastic, overblown, cheesy. They would all be correct, and it's the very use of those words that makes it difficult to understand how I don't like more of it. As someone who grew up worshiping Meat Loaf & Jim Steinman, that should be right up my alley. But there is one thing that has always held me back from embracing the genre; the vocals. While I am a fan of many things in the styles of the pompous, classically trained vocalists are something I have always struggled to adjust to. For whatever reason, that timbre of voice does not land well on my ears. That is why, as I sit down to review this new Leaves Eyes album, I do so with trepidation.

We got a taste of what new singer Elina Siirala was going to sound like with the band when the first single, "Across The Sea", was released. Like you would expect from Leaves Eyes, it's a chugging metal track that bounces along until a catchy melody gives us a solid chorus. It's a solid track, but the opening title track would have been a better teaser, since it's both a stronger composition, and a better showcase for Elina's voice. At this point, practically everyone who follows the scene already knows Leaves Eyes, so that choice isn't paramount.

This is a veteran band with plenty of music under the belts, so there isn't much to be surprised at with the album. They know who they are, how they sound, and how to write a good song. This batch is another fine collection of epic Viking-themed metal that delivers hints of folk, plenty of beautiful colors, and strong melodies. Songs such as "Like A Mountain" and "Jomsborg" are fantastic at delivering on the promise of Leaves Eyes, finding just the right balance between heaviness and beauty, capped off with rousing choruses.

In fact, "Sign Of The Dragonhead" is nearly flawless at what it tries to do. The songwriting is sharp, the sound is excellent, and there isn't any fat on these bones. The album hits the mark again and again.

So why am I not totally sold on it? That would be because of my earlier concern. While Elina is a talented singer for what she does, that sound is one I simply don't enjoy. There are some moments when she is singing more restrained and sound great, but her full-throated approach is simply not for me. If her vocals were more in the traditional vain of a rock/metal singer, I would be effusive in my praise for this album. However, vocals are such a big part of a band's sound (and what I usually focus on), that I can't ignore them.

That means I have two things to say about "Sign Of The Dragonhead". First, it's a beautifully executed album that fans of this genre will eat up. It's as good as anything of this style I've heard in the last couple of years. Second, it's an album I will feel a tinge of regret over, because I already know I'm not going to return to it as often as I should. But if you enjoy this style, and singers in this mold, Leaves Eyes has hit a definite home run with this one.

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