Released: 2015, AFM Records
The prolific Alexander Krill and Liv Kristine return to their primary project two years after their last album, SYMPHONIES OF THE NIGHT. KING OF KINGS is the band’s sixth studio album and another ambitious concept release, this one concerning Norway’s first king, Harald Fairhair. KING OF KINGS is a cinematic metal opera, complete with choirs on the title track from London Voices ensemble, whose work in The Lord of The Rings films among others, gives you some idea as to the direction of the album. Adding orchestral and symphonic elements to further the film score feel is the White Russian Symphony Orchestra. Yes, this is a project on the type of grand scale that would make Tobias Sammet and Arjen Lucassen proud.
As I dig into the albums there are a couple of immediate positives. Lead track “Sweven” is a brief intro that sets the stage for the title track, which features some of Kristine’s highest vocals ever. Appropriately, “King Of Kings” manages to incorporate all of the diverse elements of the album into one song. Given the bombast and epic nature of the album, the band wisely limits the length of the songs, with 10 of the 11 being five minutes or less, and the entire album clocking in at around 45 minutes. This helps maximize the impact and assimilation of the many catchy parts.
As on past albums, the band slightly lowers some of the epic qualities to insert a few more direct songs that usually are reserved for their singles or hits. Most obvious of these is “The Waking Eye” and “The Edge Of Steel”, the latter featuring contributions from Epica vocalist Simone Simons. “Blazing Waters” features Lindy Hay Fella, singer from Nordic folk band Wardruna. Adding to the overall diversity of the album are plenty of folk elements mixed in with the symphonic and gothic, all wrapped in a pristine production package.
Krill continues to add death metal vocals to almost every track, unable after all of this time to leave his Atrocity roots behind. Apologists will claim that this adds heaviness and dynamics to the music, but the reality is who is the intended audience here? Are death metal fans suddenly listening to Leaves’ Eyes in innumerable droves? It is the one continuing annoyance from the band and such a predictable trope of female-fronted music that it is beyond cliché status at this point. I find it fairly telling that Liv Kristine does not have these type of vocals on her solo albums. Nevertheless, this minor complaint aside, the band has again delivered a worthy album to the symphonic metal sub-genre, with Kristine once more proving she is one of the elite singers in female-fronted metal. For fans of the band and this style of music in general, KING OF KINGS is a worthy investment of your time.