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Saturday, July 18, 2009

CD Review: Leaves' Eyes - My Destiny EP

Leaves' Eyes - My Destiny EP
2009 Napalm Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.



EPs can be fun or they can be trivial tideovers in anticipation of groups' next full-lengths. Then again, some are mere standalone projects bearing either strong material or filler a band wouldn't see fit to include on a regular release.

In the case of Leaves' Eyes, this wouldn't be the first time the Nordic symphonic metal unit has issued an EP circled around a larger project. My Destiny preludes Leaves' Eyes forthcoming LP Njord, scheduled for worldwide release in August. That being said, expect "My Destiny" to be the flagship tune for Njord, given the two versions appearing on this EP, similar to the way Leaves' Eyes' utilized Elegy and Legend Land EPs to bookend their Vinland Saga full-length from 2005 as an extended collective project.

"My Destiny," as one would expect from this group, is a hooky pop metal endeavor with temporal synths and samples floating beneath the primary groove and swooning vocals from Liv Kristine Espanaes Krull. If this is a preview of what's to come on Njord, it should be said their fans won't go home disappointed while Leaves' Eyes has essentially played to both their strengths and affinities.

However, the other track represented from Njord, "Northbound," is far more extravagant in composition and it yields just enough of the pop orientation Leaves' Eyes has aligned themselves with to give it a hum. In fact, despite the straightfoward harmony driving this song, it becomes danged near Viking prog in excitable bursts the longer it carries on.

While Leaves' Eyes are obviously in the business to carry out a mission to convey the history of their region with a more entertaining and ear-friendly cadence than their peers, "Northbound" is an exciting, slightly out-of-the-loop prospect. For their future, this expansion of sound is much to their benefit, lest Leaves' Eyes pigeonhole themselves quickly into a formula of no escape which "My Destiny" triggers alarms in this respect.

This EP nicely throws on three non-album tracks to give their fans some buying power. Whereas this writer considers Simon and Garfunkel's "Scarborough Fair" an untouchable simply for their eloquent vocal layering, much less a primeval texture bearing the ambivalent (and desperately hopeful) wear and tear of the world four decades ago, Leaves' Eyes has a go with it and at least does a respectable job. Where Leaves' Eyes succeeds in their cover is by making the second stanza their own with reed instrumentation and a Scandinavian overture expanding the Renaissance spirit of the original source into a larger Euro base.

Albeit brief, "Nine Wave Maidens" might be the second most detailed song on this EP behind "Northbound," while "The Battle of Maldon" is reverential and daydreamish even when the latter drops hammers atop the swooning piano melody. Here is where Alexander Krull makes his gravelly presence known (only yelling "It's my destiny!" in increments on the title track), personifying the voices of combat while his wife serves as operatic narrator (and an exuberant one, at that) atop. These two EP-only tracks are worth the purchase if you're a fan of the group, while "Northbound" raises questions (in a good manner) what we're going to hear from Njord.

Rating: ***1/2

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