Leaves’ Eyes – Vinland Saga
01/06/2005 § Leave a comment
It’s nice of Leaves’ Eyes to feel the need to educate us in some Norse mythology, because I don’t know about you, but I was feeling a little down on my knowledge of Erik the Red and Arctic Norwegian settlements. It seems, since the day that concept albums became popular, that a lot of the metal-devouring public chose to ignore the fact that there’s something ever so slightly naff about them. There’s not much you can do to make a concept album look credible since they’re generally pretentious offerings created by bands who are running out of ideas and end up struggling to make some kind of ontological, social or historic point, though few people can actually work out what it is.
It’s not surprising then, that one year down the road, Napalm’s flagship Gothic Metal lovelies are engaged in a little bit of a struggle about exactly what to do with their songs. These are difficult times, especially when music is your number one cash-earner and you need a constant influx of ideas in order to get bread on the table. However, at the rate that this album deserves to sell, I think that’s all that’s going to be served in Liv Kristine’s house for the foreseeable future. Out the window will go those romantic nights spent with Alex enjoying lobster thermidor and Chianti, and it’s a big hello to baked potatoes, cut-price pasta and UHT orange juice. Or Sunny Delight, which, dare I mention, is actually only 5% fruit juice. So what the hell is the rest of it made of? God only knows, but it’s probably stuffed with as much ballast and bilge as Vinland Saga, which is in itself a heavily diluted Gothic Metal splattering. Such is the danger of releasing another album almost a year to the day after your last one.
And it’s a bit of a shame. I enjoyed Lovelorn for what it was – a nice, pleasing Gothic Metal tea-cup ride with many moments of family-friendly merriment. It didn’t bite in its heaviness, it just kind of nuzzled you into submission, and I’m always open to a bit of that. A band’s second album is an important work since it generally sets the tone for their reputation. Nevertheless, in spite of this, I don’t get the impression that many stops were pulled out at all for Vinland Saga, in fact, many of them remained firmly wedged in the bottles, Sunny Delight or otherwise, since there is hardly any variety in the songs and many of the numbers lack the punch that had been hinted was to come by Elegy and indeed Lovelorn. Maybe it’s a case of expecting too much, but I was a little hung on the hope that this would be a more polished version of its predecessor when what it seems to be is little else but leftover scraps from other Leaves’ Eyes and Atrocity ideas thrown into some kind of musical reject bin and held together by concept album glue. Let’s face it, there’s not a huge amount of work that a band can put towards an album in the space of one year, especially when the rest of your band is, well, an entirely different band.
After the – I hate to say it – ‘intro track’ called Vinland Saga, the album belches it’s first proper song at us, Farewell Proud Men, which boasts an intro so reminiscent of Within Temptation that you could be forgiven for thinking that you’d got this CD mixed up with the Silent Force. Hey, they’re both blue and we’re all prone to those moments of scrabbling for items in the late, bleary-eyed hours of the evening. What will become clear after a very short space of time though, is that this isn’t in fact Within Temptation, but Leaves’ Eyes playing the Gothic Metal conformity card and my, is it tedious. The biggest problem is that the chorus is terribly unarousing due to the very dull vocal melody which farts about drearily and unadventurously, doing nothing much but leaving you hoping the next track will be better, which fortunately it is. Well, it is the single after all. Solemn Sea, which follows this, isn’t too bad a number either, but yet again we have a very monotonous chorus with Alex grunting over the top. These are really not great songs, and I have the impression that Leaves’ Eyes know this and don’t care that much about what they’re creating here. This is not a band who are giving their all to this record and it almost seems as if they’re having a laugh at their gullible public who will hoover up anything that they spit out.
Still, it’s not altogether terrible, since after we’ve trudged through the sludge of songs like The Thorn, the quite terrible Amhrán and New Found Land [We sail the sea – yeah! We fight the storm – yeah!] songs like the unexpectedly tuneful Mourning Tree and Twilight Sun really do something to salvage the reputation of not only Leaves’ Eyes, but that which this CD has set itself up with so far. Unfortunately, the most bewildering moment is yet to come since the final track, Ankhonst, has an intro which is almost identical to that which fronts Norwegian Lovesong – same tune – same guitar effect – same rhythm. You could, if you wanted to be clever, posit that this is a harking back to their previous album in an endearing way, or you could just say that they’re running out of ideas. Either way you want to look at it, both reasons are probably true.
What really needs to be done is for this lot to spend time off writing some seriously good stuff as Leaves’ Eyes, rather than Atrocity members cobbling together a few numbers for the hell of it. I don’t mind admitting that I was really looking forward to this album, and having put these twelve tracks through their paces quite a few times and looking for some kind of elevating factor, I have to say there’s not really too much here to enjoy, or to take seriously. What Vinland Saga has done, more that anything else, is lead me to question the entire point of this ensemble and whether it is realistic or feasible to have a band like Atrocity lead a double-life with a female vocalist. I’m sure that given a little more concentration, the combination could certainly work, but the key lies in being a little bit less flippant about the song-writing. Such an attitude has, I’m sorry to say, culminated in this, which is little more that a 12-track femme-fronted snoozefest. I know that Leaves’ Eyes have the potential to do better, so it’s almost frustrating that they haven’t this time round. My hope is that they’ll spend a little more time working on producing good music rather than just any music which Napalm will put its hallmark on, because at this rate, such a formula won’t wash for too much longer.