I have to admit to very mixed feelings about reviewing this EP with new vocalist Elina Siirala in the ranks after the shock exit of Liv Kristine late last year. Rumours, whispers and various stories have done the rounds on the internet which I am not going into to as the next phase of Leaves’ Eyes begins with this taster EP of what is to come that contains a new song done as a metal version but also acoustically, plus three new versions of songs from the bands tremendous “King Of Kings” album.
It is clear from listening to this that Elina (EnkeliNation vocalist also) is a good choice of vocalist as her style marries exceptionally well to the new song versions plus she has already done some gigs with the band and with that in mind I will be catching the band later this month at Metal Female Voices Festival as my first live experience of them in the post Liv years. The new tune “Fires In The North” is a safe song continuing the foundations laid down on the “King Of Kings” album using Elina’s voice to capture varying tonal gradations but engraving the song with the trademark Leaves’ Eyes song writing hallmarks. The song is sure to be a favourite with its catchy vocal line and pagan like vocal chanting. Elina’s voice is bullish but also delicately framed within the vocal arrangements that have plenty of range and mixed with a certain degree of opulence that Leaves’ Eyes has always done on all their albums. Alex’s deeper tones are less noticeable in the mix but provide the density within the song that is required of Leaves’ Eyes material.
I wasn’t too taken by the acoustic version of “Fires In The North” but it has steadily grown on me with repeated plays. The songs main vocal framework is intact but there is ghostly phantom like vocal additions which work extremely well and I would like them to play both versions live if possible on following tours. The song is uplifting but possesses a caressing atmosphere of solemnity as the vocal chants blend well with Elina’s range and flawless pitch. The deeper vocal additions by Alex don’t work for me here and seem to have been added for the sake of it but is a minor point overall.
The new versions of songs taken from the “King Of Kings” album are also safe choices being “Edge Of Steel”, “Sacred Vow” and “Swords In Rock”. The only thing that has changed on these new versions is that Elina has added her vocals to the songs with Liv’s being removed, the music is the same as I listened to both versions. All the songs were played live when Leaves’ Eyes toured before Liv left and the new versions probably hint that the songs will be still be included in the set and maybe an attempt to smooth the path for the Liv fanatics still reeling from her departure. Elina does a fine job in supplanting her exceptional vocal abilities into the songs but I am sure detractors will attempt to muddy the waters but times change and the next phase of Leave’s Eyes has begun in 2016 and this EP is a solid release that should calm those fires whether in the north, south, west or east on planet earth.
(8.5/10 Martin Harris)