Interview by Erwin van Dijk
An interview with Liv Kristine from Leaves’ Eyes. This interview is all dedicated to the forthcoming album “Njord”.
“Njord” is the third full length Leaves’ Eyes album. (the other two were “Lovelorn” and “Vinland Saga”).
I am absolutely happy and satisfied with the album. We’ve never worked this hard before with a production, but we’ve reached our goal. I would even say, we even went further than we thought was possible, technically seen. It has always been important to me that our sound and art is authentic, i.e. that you can hear from the very first tunes that this is Leaves’ Eyes! We also want that our audience really get the feeling of being on a wonderful journey. I feel that our music needs a special well-written and interesting concept which is just as important as the sound, and “Njord” gives you all this.
“Vinland Saga” introduced the Viking elements in Leaves’Eyes. But “Njord” also seems to have some Irish themes, like the songs “Emerald Island” and “Irish Rain” . With “Njord” comes the EP “My Destiny”, which contains besides the song “My Destiny” in two versons also an acoustic version of “Scarborough Fair” and two non album tracks.
“My Destiny” is a song you can easily “tune into”. It’s a good way to introduce the album (out 28.08.), although you will of course have less commercial songs on the record, too. On “My Destiny” is actually an EP, for the price of a single, with four non-album tracks, and one extra album song.
“Vinland Saga” was a concept album. Is “Njord” written with the idea to tell a story or are it twelve individual songs?
The lyrics mainly deal with characters from northern mythology (e.g. “Njord”, “Fröya’s Theme”, “Nine Wave Maidens”, “Ragnarok”), or with places and historical happenings (e.g. “Scarborough Fair”, “The Battle of Maldon”, “Emerald Island“,“Irish Rain”, “Les Champs de Lavande”). This is why I found it necessary to deal with all these different languages. “Vinland Saga” is based on Leif Eirikssons discovery of America, even the EP, “Legend Land”, which followed soon thereafter. “Njord” has a much broader concept, travelling through history, and into Nordic mythology. It has always been important to me that our sound and art is authentic, and that our audience really get the feeling of being on a wonderful journey.The lyrics are written in 8 languages (english, middle-high german, old-english, gaelic, norwegian, icelandic, french and one “self-made” linguistic fictional phonetic sequence)… I even sat down to study a bit French to be able to write one French lyric. I did study Old-English and Middle-high German, so it was really nice to be able to use this knowledge. Gaelic is completely new to me, though, but fortunately I found a wonderful person who helped me. “Njord” is an album that demands an expansion in linguistic terms.
This is your third album. What are the differences between “Njord” and “Lovelorn” and “Vinland Saga”?
Our debut “Lovelorn” was very refreshing and a wonderful start for the band, also the press and the audience were surprised. However, you shouldn’t forget that we all have a huge experience and knowledge as musicians of Atrocity and former ToT (Theatre of Tragedy) to rely on. This brings Leaves’ Eyes a wide step forward, so we were really no newcomers in our genre. Moreover, I really have to say that Atrocity + Liv Kristine is a magic formula! I took my experience from my favourite ToT releases “Velvet Darkness They Fear” and “Aegis” as a basis for Leaves’ Eyes music. Our second album “Vinland Saga” was a manifistation of the music of Leaves’ Eyes – we had “settled” in the genre gothic metal with female vocals. “Njord” is the perfection of both our 2 former albums. Since the first demo recordings for “Njord” we have been able to achieve goals that we thought back in 2007 after the “Vinland Saga” release would be quite impossible. I am so proud of my band members – “Njord” is a dream coming true, and all the hundreds of sleepless nights were worth it. We all have developed as musicians and technicians and this is experience that is unpayable. “Njord” (producer: my husband Alexander Krull) has a power to it that even is more intense than any previous production I’ve been part of. Technically, we constantly have new ideas and aims. We have our own studio and therefore we have the opurtunity to specialize in technical tasks concerning album and DVD productions. “Njord” has even a more bombastic but delicate sound that “Vinland Saga”, because techniques allows it. We recorded the classical parts in Minsk (Lingua Mortis, supervised by Victor Smolski), we had a complete local choir (Al Dente) singing the choir parts, moreover, a special artist playing solos on special instruments like the uillian pipe and the whistle. All this makes this album a multilayered and highly interesting experience for our listeners, for your ears, hearts and minds. If I should describe “Njord” in four words I would say bombastic, emotional, contrastive, and pure.
Where do you get the inspiration for the songs. Some sources are clear, like Ireland and the Norse mythology but what really inspires you to write a song?
It’s first of all my love for my homecountry, the Norwegian Nature, history, my family, the culture – everything I grew up with! I feel that our music needs a special well-written and interesting concept, and I want to travel through time and space. For me history has always been extremely interesting, and even when I left my homecountry Norway and moved to Germany 12 years ago, I had more books about the Vikings with me than clothes and shoes. I have travelled a lot and been able to see a lot of the world. History, languages, and geography has always interested me. Thorsten is the main composer of Leaves’ Eyes, he works out his ideas on his guitar. “Irish Rain”, however, was an idea I had one early morning. I hurried to the studio and worked out the tunes with him. Sometimes, ideas just appear to my mind, like a complete “song”.
And can you tell us something about the songs on “Njord” and “My Destiny”?
We recorded 18 (eighteen!) songs, and all of them are placed on the single “My Destiny” (out now) or the album “Njord” (out late August). Our listeners will get a lot for the money. That’s a way for us saying “thankyou” to our fans and friends all over the world. To mention a few examples, “Fröya’s Theme” is one of my favourites on the album, too, next to “Irish Rain”. “Fröya’s Theme” is about eight minutes long, it includes five languages, inclusive two “speaking” parts done by Alex and myself respectively. It tells the story about Fröya, the Goddess of sex with her extreme power of beauty. However, her lover Od leaves her as he has “wandering eyes” for other beautiful women. Fröya travels around and through the worlds in Northern Mythology to find him. Her tears are made of gold and they heavily strike the earth. This song is an epic masterpiece composed by Tosso, our guitarist.
Is “Scarborough Fair” a Simon and Garfunkel cover and if it is, why did you choose this song?
I was an exchange student in the English town Scarborough, and I got very interested in their culture. This song is a folk song sung in the middle ages, also by the Vikings, on a trading market, in Scarborough. I wanted to rewrite the tune into a more heavy version and I am very happy with the result!
“Les Champs de Lavande” is a French title. Lavande means Lavender and the South of France (the Provance) is famous for its wide fields (champs) of lavender.
Can you tell us something about this song and why is it a bonus track?
As we had composed the instruments for this song, I thought about France immediately! I immediately sensed the smell of my favourite flower and scent, lavender! The Provance Lavender was famous already in the Middle Ages. I sat down and tried to put together a Franch lyric, and a friend of mine in France corrected it. This song just had to be about Lavender, and it sounds more authentic and special when it is sung in French.
While recording “Njord” you were supported by The Lingua Mortis Orchestra under the aegis of Victor Smolski and a classical choir. Most people will know Victor Smolski from his work with Rage. And this band does not exactly belongs to the same genre as Leaves’Eyes.
How did you find him and what was his influence on “Njord”?
We met Victor during a Rage/Leaves’ Eyes’ show in Greece in 2007. We are so happy that he liked the idea of working with us. It adds the important depth and bombastic character in our music.
The Special Edition will have a Drakkar (viking ship). What can we expect?
This is a way for us saying thank you to our fans and friends. Remember, many of them are collectors. I used to collect Madonna and Black Sabbath/Ozzy special merchendise objects.
One of the things that would make a lot of fans happy is a duet between the Espenæs sisters. (think of Beyonce and Solange Knowless doing a duet). Have you ever considered this for “Njord”?
It’s not that easy since my sister moved back to Norway a couple of years ago, however, I am planning a duet on our fourth album, which will be a folk-oriented album, planned to be released in summer/fall 2010.
Do you already have some details about an upcoming tour?
Europe in November 2009, USA/Canada December 2009, then Europe and Russia in the beginning of 2010, and another long tour in the Autumn of 2010. Moreover, we have planned an acoustic tour between 28.08.-02.09 (please check the news!). We will play a capella in some of the Media Markets, for free for our fans, and we will have a lot of time to make photos with everybody, have a chat with our fans and friends and write some autographs. I enjoy acoustic tours. It’s a nice way to keep up our close relationship with our audience, moreover, we are able to show that we are good musicians and can play live without a huge stage with a huge technical plan behind everything.
And which songs can we expect live?
A set-list still has to be decided on.
Although I think you will be very busy with the promotion of “Njord” this year and 2010 I would like to ask when we can expect a new Atrocity album and a new Liv Kristine solo album?
It’s been 3 years since “Enter My Religion”, and it’s always good to gain a different aspect of your own art after some time has passed by. Right now, I am just about to finish the final recordings of my third solo album, and I see things in a new perspective now. “Enter My Religion” was an expensive production on a major label, however I made the decision in 2008 to release my third solo album on a another label, with a smaller budget, but having more freedom about the whole process, from the very first demo track, until the final master. I am very proud of “Enter My Religion”, however I have developed as an artist and technician and my third album will be a huge step forward. I have put my focus on sounding just like myself, recording songs in one take, so you “get” me with everything I am, my character, my emotional level, my breathing, sometimes perhaps perfect, sometimes maybe not. I just want the audience to hear ME, not some singing lady with a pretty nice voice. I want to creep up inside your hearts and senses. I wrote all the songs together with Torsten (guit. Leaves’ Eyes), all the lyrics myself, and my husband Alex is the producer of the album. Atrocity are already finishing their next Atrocity feat. Yasmin “Calling the Rain”, which will be out end of 2009/beginning of 2010.
Label : Artoffact Records
Review by Tony Cannella
Xandria released their debut full-length “Kill the Sun” in 2003, now that it has been re-issued by Artoffact Records it gives those of us who missed it the first time around the chance to catch up on the catalog of this underrated German band. “Kill the Sun” features 10-songs and only 40-minutes worth of Gothic metal with many symphonic elements. That style can be heard on such great tracks as the opening titled track “Kill the Sun”, which serves as a fine introduction to the band. Of course lead vocalist Lisa Schaphaus-Middlehauve played an important role in the band with her expressive vocal style, but the contributions of the other band members – particularly guitarist Marco Heubaum can not be underestimated, but in fact all of the members are given the chance to shine and show exactly what they can do. “Mermaids”, “Ginger”, “She’s Nirvana” and the fantastic duo of the closing songs “Isis/Osiris” and “Calyx Virago” are some more songs that highlight the great talent of Xandria. Xandria still exists, although they have replaced lead vocalist Lisa Schaphaus Middlehauve (she left the band in 2008) with Kerstin Bischoff. Who knows if this will be a positive or negative step for the band to take, but the fact remains that “Kill the Sun” is a solid first addition to the bands increasingly strong catalog of Gothic influenced symphonic metal and a CD that I am sure will resonate with their loyal fan base for a long time to come. Kudos to Artoffact for putting this excellent CD out there again for all to enjoy.
Rating – 85/100
- Kill the Sun
- She’s Nirvana
- Forever Yours
- So You Disappear
- Calyx Virago
- Lisa Schaphaus Middelhauve – Vocals
- Marco Heubaum – Vocals, Guitar & Keys
- Philip Restermeier – Guitars
- Roland Krueger – Bass
- Gerit Lamm – Drums
Label : Artoffact Records
Review by Tony Cannella
The German band Haggard recently had two of their CDs re-issued by Artoffact Records. Good thing too, because otherwise I would never have gotten the chance to check out this seminal band. “Eppur Si Muove” originally was released in 2004 and it was the bands third release. It is a concept album based around the life of Italian Astronomer Galileo. Of course, one thing you’ll notice is that Haggard is a huge band, maybe not in terms of success but the band/orchestra features about 20-members. The impressive thing is that frontman and band visionary Asis Nasseri really makes it all come together to create a sterling piece of art. The total playing is 50-minutes and 10-songs. The opening “All’Inizio è La Morte” is a strong orchestral/symphonic opener that features male extreme vocals along with female operatic vocals. The band utilize many different instruments that are often associated with with a symphony or orchestra and different vocal styles (male and female) are present throughout this recording as well. There are plenty of complex songs featured including “Minuetto In Fa-Minore”, “Of a Might Divine” and one of the many highlights “Herr Mannelig” which is also included as ‘shorter version’. The songs on “Eppur Si Muove” are all quite beautifully arranged and performed, but this CD is also not without it’s metal moments (a perfect example of this is “Per Aspera Ad Astra”, which is just brilliant) that help to make it a truly unique piece of art from Asis Nasseri and the gang. Kudos to Artoffact for re-issuing these great albums and hopefully getting them out to a new fan base. Haggard are a band that require attention while listening – in other words, you can’t just put these CDs on as background music (well okay, maybe you can) but it is fun to see what is coming around the next corner, musically. I would love to see how Haggard pulls all of this off live and on stage. “Eppur Si Muove” is a great album that is difficult to put into words – suffice it to say, “Eppur Si Muove” features some of the highest caliber of Symphonic Metal and so much more. A true musical journey.
Rating – 90/100
- All’Inizio è La Morte
- Minuetto in Fa-Minore
- Per Aspera ad Astra
- Of a Might Divine
- Gavotta in Si-Minore
- Herr Mannelig
- The Observer
- Eppur Si Muove
- Larghetto / Epilogo Adagio
- Herr Mannelig (Short Version)
- Asis Nasseri – Vocals, Guitars
- Luz Marsen – Drums, Kettledrums
- Fiffi Fuhrmann – Tenor, Crumhorn, Bassoon
- Hans Wolf – Piano, Harpsichord, Keyboards, Organ
- Steffi Hertz – Viola
- Michael Stapf – Violin, Piccolo
- Claudio Quarta – Guitars
- Veronika Kramheller – Soprano
- Gaby Koss – Soprano
- Johannes Schleiermacher – Cello
- Ivica Kramheller – Contrabass
- Michael Schumm – Timpani, Bells, Classical Percussion
- Giacomo – Bass
- Ingrid – Piano, Harpsichord, Keyboards, Organ
- Nicolo – Bass Baritone
- Manu – Soprano
- Ally Storch-Hukriede – Violin
- Patricia King – Cello
- Andreas Peschke – Flute
- Linda – Oboe
- Andreas Fuchs – French Horn, Percussion
- Andi Hemberger – Vocals
- Mark Pendry – Clarinet
Label : Drakkar Records
Review by Tony Cannella
Croatia is not a country you would normally associate with metal, but it does seem like some good bands are coming from that part of the world these days. Omega Lithium are one such band. The band is fronted by Mya Mortensen on lead vocals. She is joined by Malice Rime (Guitars, Synths and Backing Vocals), Zoltan Harpax (Bass) and Torsten Nihill (Drums). The band play industrial gothic with strong metal overtones. All of that can be heard on their debut CD “Dreams in Formaline”. “Infest” starts things off and it has a definite hard edge to it and as an opener it is pretty successful. All the elements are there that should please metal fans. It’s heavy and has a good pounding rhythm and rock solid vocals from Mya Mortensen. The band also utilizes various computer like sounds that gives it it’s industrial vibe. Male vocals are also provided by Malice Rime on this one. The next track “Stigmata” is about as good as it gets on this CD and would make a great single, in my opinion. It’s got a great mid-tempo beat and it is a song that sticks in your head long have you’ve heard it and has you hitting the replay button. A solid melodic tune, instantly infectious. “My Haunted Self” keeps the momentum moving forward, with it’s rhythmically haunting feel to it. More male vocals are featured here and they are of the brutal variety, but they meld quite well with Mya‘s approach. “Dreams In Formaline” is next and it is a pretty cool change of pace. The first verse’s lyrics are spoken by Mya before launching into a beautifully catchy chorus, actually the whole song is quite catchy. Other highlights include: “Andromeda”, “Nebula”, “Hollow March” and “Point Blank”. On the whole “Dreams in Formaline” is quite an impressive debut from this Croatian upstart band. One of the impressive things about it is the diversity of the songs. They have the ability to go in many different directions and convey different emotions. The 12-songs and 38-minutes worth of music showcased here, show a band that is quite confident and carry themselves like a veteran band.
Rating – 80/100
- My Haunted Self
- Dreams in Formaline
- Snow Red
- Hollow March
- Factor: Misery
- Angel’s Holocaust
- Point Blank
- Mya Mortensen – Lead Vocals
- Malice Rime – Guitars, Synths and Backing Vocals
- Zoltan Harpax – Bass
- Torsten Nihill – Drums and Percussion
Label : Napalm Records
Review By Erwin Van Dijk
“Njord” is the new album from Leaves’Eyes, one of the most successful female fronted bands in Europe. In short, Leaves’ Eyes is the sum of ex Theatre of Tragedy singer Liv Kristine and the German band Atrocity. She also has a sister, Carmen Elise who sings in German based folk metal band Midnattsol. Well, they are family after all. I did an interview with Liv Kristine some time ago, just before the release of “Njord”. “Njord” is the logic next step from “Vinland Saga”, their last album but with more choirs and more bombastic music. If you are a fan then you can buy/download this album without doubt. The limited edition will feature a model of a Viking boat (a Drakkar), follow here the Liv Kristine’s comment about the Drakkar: “This is a way for us saying thank you to our fans and friends. Remember, many of them are collectors. I used to collect Madonna and Black Sabbath/Ozzy special merchendise objects”. A highlight for me is the Simon & Garfunkel cover (I never imaged to feature those two in a metal review!). The song gives room to Liv’s beautiful voice without being masked with all the goth bombast. Overall quality of the songs is high but it lacks the spontaneous feeling “Lovelorn” – the debut album – had. Thorsten Bauer, the guitar player and mastermind behind the music did a good job composing the songs and husband and supplier of the grunt vocals on the album Alex Krull did a solid job recording and mixing “Njord” at the Mastersound Studio – which is Liv and Alex‘ own studio. This album is for a romantic evening with your girlfriend in a log cabin somewhere deep in the forests of Norway. And do not forget to bring some good wine and fire wood.
Rating – 85/100
- My Destiny
- Emerald Island
- Take the Devil in Me
- Scarborough Fair (Simon and Garfunkel cover)
- Through Our Veins
- Irish Rain
- The Holy Bond
- Frøya’s Theme
- Liv Kristine Espenæs Krull – Vocals & Bass
- Alexander Krull – Vocals, Keyboards, Programming
- Thorsten Bauer – Guitars
- Mathias Röderer – Guitars
- Alla Fedynitch – Bass
- Seven Antonopolous – Drums
Style switcher only on this demo version. Theme styles can be changed from Options page.
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