Leaves’ Eyes + MaYan + Almanac
@ The Dome, London
28th April 2018
Review by Thomas Jame Henry Saunders
Photography by Oliver M.
Tonight at The Dome, a rarity in the form of a night consisting solely of symphonic metal acts is being played out here, with Leaves’ Eyes leading the fray with new vocalist Elina Siirala & recent album release of Sign Of The Dragonhead. Joining them on their European tour are fellow symphonic metal bands Mayan & Almanac.
As I enter tonight’s venue, the Dome, openers Almanac have already taken to the stage and are in full flow of opening track “Hands Are Tied”, putting on a surprisingly strong show.
All dressed in matching militaristic gothic coats whilst posing in what seems to me as a much-rehearsed stage presence. They make for a striking, clean, & energetic band, with dual vocalists David Readman & Jeannette Marchewka soaring together in clear, harmonized tones whilst they clearly enjoy performing together.
Visually they are a coherent, highly professional and strong act which came across as surprising as the band’s conception was only three years ago in 2015.
The dual vocals work well, with both David & Jeannette making great use of their vocal scales here. However, the soundstage here at the Dome muddles the voices together, resulting in a slight droning sound that detracts somewhat from the otherwise powerful effect.
Their sound, despite this venue being hell-bent on throwing it all into the mids with too high a volume without enough treble, still makes for rather enjoyable and upbeat experience.
The crowd, for the first 15 minutes at least, find themselves mostly huddled toward the stage although few felt deign to participate more than simple attendance alone.
By the end of the set, however, the onslaught of charm by David & Jeannette wins them over eventually, with the crowd raising their fists and enjoyably taking part of the pantomime of Almanac’s performance.
Founding member Victor Smolski, famed ex-guitarist & composer for Rage, is a genuine pleasure to behold tonight. Leading musically with each track with his strong rhythmic chords and deft forays into solo territory without ever breaking away from the songs themselves.
Ending of the epic chords & melodious chorus of “Self-blinded eyes” Almanac have proven themselves worthy of attention to the crowd, whom are now suitably enthralled and grant them a warm farewell for tonight as the band take their bows, full of sweaty smiles and raised fists, and take leave of the stage.
1.Hands are tied
2.Guilty as charged
4.Hail to the king
5.Children of the sacred path
As the audience refill themselves and the stage is stripped & reset of instruments, MaYan takes to the stage in an operatic manner to the prologue opening track “Devil in Disguise” in a meaningful, almost stern sense.
Then, as soon as they crash into the song proper, their hardened exterior is stripped away immediately as their wicked smiles and willfully energetic selves shine through.
Having not heard of this band before seeing them up on stage tonight, it was rather a shock, that after Adam Denlinger, seemingly the main vocalist, took his position as a suitably capable front-man, only moments later he became flanked by four additional vocalists in the form of founding member Mark Jansen, George Oosthoek, Laura Macrì, & Marcela Bovio. Numbering ten in total, they flood the stage with their collective energetic presence and playful attitude as they all headband along to “Devil In Disguise” from their 2014 release Antagonize.
Second track “Drown The Demon” really allows Mayan to open up the use of their five vocalists to full effect here, with Frank Schiphorst bringing a suitably heavy set of crunching melodic death metal riffs.
Visually they are a kind of sensory overload, with their number of musicians reaching ten, they barely squeeze themselves on to the Dome’s small stage, yet they still give themselves enough room somehow to strut about and jump on each other at every chance given.
Mark Jensen, the founding member of both MaYan & Epica, takes centre stage to call out to the crowd “hello London, are you ready for a fast and heavy song?” As he dives into the track “Bloodline Forfeit” which starts out strong with byways of Jansen’s harsh deathened growls whilst being backed up skillfully by the precise drilling supplied by Ariën van Weesenbeek on drums.
Vocalists Laura Macrì & Marcela Bovio shine wonderfully during the haunting ballad “Insano” with having Mark, George & Adam disappear briefly & Frank Schiphorst switching out for an acoustic, the atmosphere shifts to a place of great soaring vocal led melodies and haunting piano-work. This track alone. certainly earns Mayan of their credentials of being an operatic band.
Following up from the previous track Marcela Bovio takes a moment to introduce next song “The Power Process” form the as yet unfinished album Dhyana, which she goes on to energetically announce they have just today successfully crowd-funded for recording the album with live orchestra! To which the crowd cheer back at the beaming band.
Her pristine vocals are backed up here by George Oosthoek with his harsh growls that contrast well with the soaring operatic tones of Marcela. The song itself certainly has that extra layer of symphonic complexity, which is unsurprising given Mark Jansen’s intimate involvement with symphonic legends Epica. Yet here the classic symphonic metal sound is enjoyably shaken up by the inclusion of full force death metal vocals and guitar work.
As final track “Bite The Bullet” plays out, Mayan are certainly well received here tonight, with a long, heartfelt applause as all ten of them bow together, shaking hands with the outreaching audience and waving goodbye whilst Hans Zimmer’s Inception theme “Time” plays out in a, to me at least, slightly unsettling & foreboding fashion.
1. Devil in Disguise
2. Drown the Demon
3. Bloodline Forfeit
4. Burn Your Witches
6. The Power Process (New song from upcoming album)
7. Human Sacrifice
8. Faceless Spies – National Security Extremism Part 2
9. Tornado of Thoughts (New song from upcoming album)
10. Bite the Bullet
After MaYan has cleared the stage, a definite hum of excitable chatter about them can be heard, discussing through their pints the many moments of which to discuss them.
A short while later, as Viking shields and banners are brought to the stage, the lights dim for the final time tonight as the light dim to an icy shade of blue as Leaves’ Eyes walk out proudly onto the stage to the foreboding war drums of “Sign Of The Dragonhead”.
Taking an authoritative stance and delving straight into the track proper, Alexander Krull spearheads the action with his distinctive deathened roar and passionate charisma before Elina Siirala springs out from the wings and supplements her spectacular soprano vocal range to really maximize the soaring soundscape they produce.
“Are you ready to enter the world of leaves eyes?” outcries Elina Siirala as the epic operatic opening of “Across The Sea” fills the room before the song kicks in, with Elina fronting this song entirely with it’s catchy, sing-along chorus and bombastic, ‘jump along’ rhythm.
It’s a shame to have such strong a crowd-pleasing song this early on as the crowd, although are enthusiastic, are a little slow to move this early on in the set. Alexander Krull senses this as he continually invites the crowd “move” as he shouts out. Which by the third track “Take The Devil In Me” has the desired effect as the audience begin to jump, headbang and move to the rhythm of it’s thumping ensemble.
Having been producing their brand of Viking inspired symphonic metal since 2004, they certainly Are veterans of the scene and it certainly shows tonight, as founding member Alexander Krull is a powerhouse of a vocalist, fully enjoying every interaction with the crowd & is grinning gleefully throughout the whole set between songs.
As the upbeat tempo of “Swords In Rock” ring out powerfully, the whole band shine well here really shine here, as the sound shifts more toward a folk metal vibe reminiscent of Korpiklanni. The operatic backing track is what provides a good deal of this extra depth yet it is worked well into the musicianship from guitarists Thorsten Bauer & Pete Streit whom both deftly entwine the folk sound into their catchy hooks and rhythmic melodies.
Elina Siirala takes a moment to speak out to the audience, “tonight is very special for me, as I’ve played in London many times before in previous bands but never in Leaves’ Eyes so this is a first for me, so to celebrate that, here is an iconic song for Leaves’ Eyes, “Hell to the Heavens“.
Having only joined Leave’s Eyes in 2015, Elina has a lot of work to do, catching up with and meeting the expectations set so well by Liv Kristine but for me, Elina Siirala already makes up for any chasm in precense or familiarity with the music with her own strong soprano vocals and cammadning precense.
Alexander Krull summons the crowd to act as one Viking Hoard, calling on them to shout “louder, deeper London” as the small hall here at the Dome vibrates as everyone booms their voice back as “Fires in the North” begins to heavily play out. Next out are the heavy, galloping riffs of “Edge Of Steel” which has the crowd singing along to enthusiastically before the band take leave of the stage before being coerced back on by the war chants being shouted out in their name.
For this encore, only Elina Siirala takes to the stage as vocalist for “Spirit’s Masquerade”, complete with black lace Venetian style mask. As this song comes to a close, Leave’s Eyes vacate the stage once again but instead of the house lights raising, the opening backing track to “Blazing Waters” call out as the band come back for a second encore tonight!
As the song starts it’s crunching riffs and Viking atmosphere in powerful fashion Alexander Krull invades the stage resplendent in fully donned full Viking helm and armour, complete with a broadsword as he impressively roars out across the energetic crowd through his iron helm. The crowd go wild for the last song, calling out the lyrics back at both Alexander & Elina and enthusiastically headbang along to this final song.
As they finally end their near on 90-minute set, they are visibly exhausted yet seem all the happier for it as the entire band are beaming brightly as they take thier bows. There was talk, before tonight as to whether they’d still put on a decent show without founding vocalist Liv Kristine. But tonight’s performance here at the Dome has surely persuaded even the purists of Leaves’ Eyes early works.
Leaves’ Eyes Setlist:
1. Sign of the Dragonhead
2. Across the Sea
3. Take the Devil in Me
4. My Destiny
5. Swords in Rock
7. Shadows in the Night
8. Farewell Proud Men
9. Like a Mountain
10. Hell to the Heavens
11. Riders on the Wind
12. Fires in the North
13. Edge of Steel
14. Spirits’ Masquerade
15. Blazing Waters