While I may have said there would be no likening the two Espenæs sisters’ projects, (see Midnattsol) it is difficult to completely turn a blind-side to some of the corresponding parallels between the two acts.
There’s a number of genres that do admittedly intertwine, so I’ll deal with this now – the common ground is their huge orchestral symphonic sounds, but there’s a massive difference here – Leaves’ Eyes has a far stronger Celtic and folkloric influence, especially with this new release.
With that said, it’s important to say that Leaves’ Eyes not only suit their newly embraced style, but in addition, Meredead is far better than their previous record.
On 2009′s Njord, the five-piece recorded a unique version of Simon and Garfunkel’s Scarborough Fair. This time, Leaves’ Eyes make a great choice in deciding to cover Michael Oldfield’s To France because the song quite frankly suits their musical style to a tee and is executed with convincing conviction. Personally my (perhaps unfair) favouritism would dictate that a certain Hansi Kursch and co. made a solid claim for outing the most impressive cover of the 80s single, but that still takes nothing away from the fact that this is a fantastic, folk interpretation.
Moving back to their own material, title-track Meredead builds on Leaves’ Eyes’ inclusion of more folk to instigate an epic mid-album track, readily embracing a more Celtic sound in places with violin beautifully weaved into a construction of operatic harmonies and slow but thunderous riffs.
In their last full-length attempt, Leaves’ Eyes featured some feisty growls from Liv Kristine Espenæs Krull’s husband – Alexander Krull, known for his work with German metallers Atrocity. His melodies on keyboard may be prevalent throughout and he is producer of the record, but getting half-way through the album, I thought the band had dropped the guttural element altogether. However it takes six-tracks before his brazened, primitive style of shouting makes itself aware to the ear – and what a way to christen his involvement in the vocal department.
Thorsten Bauer and Sander van der Meer’s guitar work set up the pedestal in which Krull can let his gruff cannon of a voice impress on Sigrlinn. It does however prove to be Krull’s only contribution other than his clean vocals on Tell-Tale Eyes, ending the record and fundamentally marking a change in direction to a resonating bloom of mellifluous, icy, magical, folk. Don’t be fooled by it’s title – Meredead is no mere, middle of the road record.