Leaves' Eyes and Octavia Sperati
It is encouraging to know that Leaves' Eyes (review | interview), a band with such an epic sweep to their music, should be willing to pay their dues as an unknown act in the UK, playing third on the bill to Octavia Sperati (review | interview) and veteran British doom merchants Paradise Lost.
Leaves' Eyes are certainly one of the best of the female-fronted, operatic metal bands, surpassing even Within Temptation and Nightwish for song writing, musicianship and subtlety. In Norwegian Liv Kristine Espenaes Krull--formerly of The Gathering--they have a vocalist who avoids the operatic excesses of some of their contemporaries, while still deploying a fine soprano during the more dramatic moments, and her German husband Alexander Krull is surely the most affable and least threatening grunter in metal--that is meant as a compliment. Indeed, their onstage work together has a kind of Beauty-and-the-Beast chemistry to it, and their voices--used together on two out of the six songs played tonight--blending inventively.
Upon arrival at this small, provincial club venue in Leicester, we found the band still struggling with a difficult sound check, but dealing with the situation with good humour. Liv, especially, chatted amiably to fans. After such a public introduction, the bands "official" entrance was always going to be difficult, but they pulled it off, and Liv looked stunning, having changed from jeans into the distinctive red dress seen on the cover of Vinland Saga.
The band rocked their way through a six-song set culled evenly from both their albums. Critical in the past of bands that use taped keyboards in a live setting, like Edenbridge or Evanescence, Leaves' Eyes use of the same was much more successful here. Since the sounds were largely atmospherically orchestral or operatic, there was less feeling that an actual keyboardist should have been present playing them. The band, though using standard metal poses and crowd-rallying techniques, gave their performance a huge amount of energy, and got an excellent response back from a happy audience. Their set included: "Norwegian Lovesong," "Farewell Proud Men," "Ocean's Way," "Into Your Light," "Solemn Sea," "Elegy."
Newcomers Octavia Spearati, from Norway, though no longer an all-female band since they now have a male drummer, were a total contrast from the slick theatricality of Leaves' Eyes. They played their grinding, gloom metal – heavily influenced by Scandinavian melancholia and its understandable obsession with Winter--with a refreshingly introspective "take us as you find us" attitude.
While the band are lacking in the virtuoso musicianship we have become used to in some metal bands, that is not the point--their performances are all about atmosphere, and I found myself warming to them, even transported into their melancholic, snow-bound world. Though vocalist Silje lacked the technique always to rise above the limitations of a barely-adequate sound system, their riff-based, gothic songs and distinctive image demonstrated that the band may be original enough to build a strong following amongst gothic metal fans. Their set included: "Lifelines of Depths," "Wasted on the Living," "Hunting Eye," "Without Air," "Icebound," "Soundless."
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