For the past decade the husband and wife team of Alexander Krull and Liv Kristine have been at the forefront of the gothic/symphonic metal genre. With the release of their fifth studio album Symphonies of the Night, Leaves’ Eyes continues to grow and lead the way.
The new album is a slight shift in style for the band. As the name suggests, it feels more ‘symphonic’, more epic, in the arrangements and overall sound. Previous Leaves’ Eyes releases have had a leaning towards folk metal and although this is still present, it seems to have moved into the background a little. Both Kristine and Krull can see a clear progression leading to the new album. “Symphonies of the Night has its roots in both the Meredead and the Njord productions,” says Kristine, “however, it is another impressive and innovative step in the history of Leaves’ Eyes. It sounds heavier and more powerful than our post productions. ‘Hell to the Heavens’ for example, is a strong, rough song and has symphonic elements at the same time. It really kicks.” Krull is even more direct, “Nomen est Omen,” he states, breaking into Latin to make his point. “For me Symphonies of the Night combines all the trademarks of the band since we started,” he continues. “Meredead had a more folk/celtic vibe, we did also Norwegian Folk songs too. Symphonies of the Night contains our folk elements too, but it has also our more symphonic elements in there.”
Kristine’s vocals have always been a crucial factor in the Leave’s Eyes sound, and for Symphonies she has delivered yet again. “I found so much pleasure in recording the vocals for Symphonies of the Night,“ she says. “I needed some time to reach my personal goal when it comes to my vocal chords and techniques.” Husband Krull also seems to have a bigger role to play on the album, although he’s more than happy to let Kristine remain the focus. “Liv is an amazing singer, she makes this band very special and unique. We are very happy to have such a varied female singer in the band so we can be also very diverse in the whole music of Leaves’ Eyes,” he states. “On the Meredead album we had some guest singers, so now we wanted to go back to the original idea of having the contrast in between the shining female and deep male vocals. There are songs without the male part and songs with the female and male counterpart. I like it that way personally, I wouldn’t like to be on every Leaves’ Eyes song at all – just to be in there!” he laughs.
The new album also clearly shows the continuing strength and development of the main songwriting team of Krull, Kristine and guitarist Thorsten Bauer. “For every Leaves’ Eyes production we’ve just ‘started somewhere’, going with the creative flow,” explains Kristine, “Our teamwork is based on honesty and trust. This is of such a vital importance in a band.” Krull agrees, adding “The main songwriting team has a great team working spirit, which is very good for the band. It seems we have the same feeling where the band has to go next.” That instinctive sense of direction also gives them the confidence to write what they want to write. “To be honest, we’ve let any influence into our music as we felt like it; no external pressure, no ‘musts’,” offers Kristine. “I’ve always been quite immune towards external pressure. I listen to my artistic heart and focus on my own skills.”
The process generally begins with a lyrical concept that sets the background for a track, and once music is in place Kristine goes to work. “Phonetics and phonology were my favourite themes at the University. It is the music itself which inspires me to write in certain languages,” she explains. “Mostly I start with a ‘nonsense’ lyrical lay-out consisting of simple syllables or phonetic patterns. Then I re-write everything into real words expressing the emotional state I am heading for, the ‘expressional goal’ of the song.” For Kristine it is equally important to perfect both melody and lyric. “I am always aiming to achieve the optimal sound of the words being sung,” she says. “I want the lyrics to smoothly assimilate with and melt into the music. Sometimes English is the best language to express my story, setting and emotional peak, whereas for some songs I would prefer a different linguistic approach i.e. phonetic variations. ‘Saint Cecelia’ is a great example of this, I am very happy about how it turned out.”
With the writing sessions underway, a direction for the lyrics quickly emerged and took shape. “The lyrical themes involve female heroes from history books and sagas,” explains Kristine. “This wasn’t really planned, however after having written the lyrics for the demo tracks for ‘Ophelia’ and ‘Saint Cecelia’ I realized this is the path to follow. I have always been inspired by women and female characters in history and literature, especially when it comes to witches, female warriors and women who suffered because of male power and religiously based views that lead to historical tragedies, murder and mistreatment.” This theme is perhaps most evident in the song ‘Ophelia’, based on the character from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. It’s a track with special significance for Kristine. “One of the ‘ladies’ who has inspired me artistically since I was a teenager studying is Ophelia,” she explains. ”She is Polonius’s daughter, a beautiful young woman with whom Hamlet has been in love. Ophelia is a sweet and innocent young girl, who obeys her father and her brother, Laertes. Dependent on men to tell her how to behave, she gives in to Polonius’s schemes to spy on Hamlet. Even in her lapse into madness and death, she remains maidenly, singing songs about flowers and finally drowning in the river.”
For a style of music that is both powerful and emotional it would seem to be an advantage to have two of the key song writers in a relationship. Kristine has no doubt that their marriage brings a unique intensity to the band. “It truly does, and it is even stronger on stage! Alex knows what I am capable of, and the other way around,” she says. “I know that my husband is able to push me a little further towards my limits, which is what I need sometimes when standing in front of the studio microphone. Alex is the best producer I have ever worked with, and I have worked with many. He has an enormous studio and recording knowledge, moreover, he is a perfectionist like nobody else. He never finishes a production before it is 110%! Moreover, he is the best husband and father I could imagine!”
The commitment to each other and to the band is obvious, and even after a decade of writing, recording and performing together there is still one simple thing that drives them on. “Those special moments on stage, when the audience is really, really happy about our performance…those are the moments when I know why I am an artist, why I am singing (because it is certainly not the ‘business’ itself),” says Kristine, while also adding one vital extra comment, “there is only one thing more important to me: my family.”
With a career dating back almost 20 years there is little doubt that Kristine has been a key figure and inspiration for many bands and singers. ”When founding Theatre of Tragedy and the ‘beauty and the beast concept’ in the early-mid nineties, none of us, neither my band members back then nor myself, had any idea how revolutionary we actually were,” she admits. She also acknowledges the diverse musical background she draws on, “Leaves’ Eyes is one of its kind, rooted in the gothic metal genre. Black Sabbath/Ozzy and Edvard Grieg’s classical compositions are my biggest musical influences.”
It’s very easy to be positive about Kristine and Krull, both as musicians and as people. For anyone lucky enough to catch them live, there is normally plenty of opportunity to spend some time chatting with one or both afterwards. “Creativity and love towards music is the force behind my artistic work, as well as thankfulness towards my audience and fans all over the world, “ says Kristine, while adding a final comment for the future, “the adventure will go on for many years, I can promise you that! All of this is my life! I am very happy to meet and greet my fans and friends after every show, you give me the energy and inspiration to go on for a long, long time!”