Reviewed: December, 2021
Released: 2020, AFM
Rating: 3.5 /5
In late 2020 Leaves Eyes released a great record called THE LAST VIKING. The special edition came with a bonus DVD called VIKING SPIRIT. I did not get the special edition but I wanted to see the documentary. I finally checked it out and on-line and while interesting it was not what I expected.
Founder and main-man Alexander Krull is a huge viking lifestyle enthusiast. He is heavily involved with the community so he used his powers and connections to film this 90+ minute documentary.
I thought the film was going to be about Leaves Eyes, but that was not totally the case. Only about 20% of the documentary is about the band. What it is about, is that over a five year period Krull and krew attended various Viking re-enactments and events and filmed them.
The film consists largely of interviews with key participants in the viking community. To clarify, this is far more than your traditional ‘cos-play’, but in its essence, it is the same thing; average people from everyday life, dress up, talk and act like vikings. They attend events all over the world (but primarily Europe) and they camp, drink, cook, eat, fight like vikings. There are displays, exhibits, museums, tutorials, parties and battles.
These are slightly different than, for example civil War re-enactments. In those events, the history is recent, relatively well-documented and people follow a script. In VIKING SPIRT the battles are much more based on fighting styles, training, battles and exhibitions. Because we don’t have too much history preserved the battles are ‘Group A’ (Eastern Storm for example) vs. ‘Group B’ (Northern Storm for example) and there is no prescribed or pre-determined victor. These guys dress up in full armour and beat the heck out of each other with little more than bragging rights and pride at the end of the day. Unlike so many modern, professional multi-millionaire (so-called) ‘warriors’ in pro-sports, vikings didn’t have corporate sponsors, product placements, lawyers or managers. The battles are all very under-stated but intense at the same time.
It is quite serious and elaborate with several different styles and techniques from technical exhibitions to full on armoured contact with head shots allowed which can result in any number of minor injuries. Some of the battle scenes are quite intense with hundreds of participants packed onto the fields of war. The camera follows it all and interviews many people, from first timers to established veterans and groups who travel the whole world to attend these annual events that number in the thousands. People from as far away as Texas to Tokyo travel to Poland, Sweden, Germany and more to participate. Some take the viking spirit to the maximum even deriving a living doing it, making and selling crafts, writing books and so on.
The film is fun and easy to watch with good transactions and sub-titles in English with ‘rune’ style font adding to the authenticity. Krull is often in the center of these scene and well-regarded not only as fierce fighter but an organizer and champion. It is none of my business but I can’t help wonder of his dedication to his band and the viking scene contributed to the dissolution of his marriage to Liv Kristine shortly after filing started. Leaves Eyes incorporates many of their friends and colleagues into their epic videos and stage show. We don’t get to see much of the band until the third part and even then it is minimal.
What I thought was most interesting is that by it’s very nature the community shuns technology so you never see cell-phones, portable propane stove-tops, generators, or campers or any of that nonsense; just people camping in crude tents and cooking over open fires in a field talking, singing, playing simple instruments and drinking under the stars. There is something very appealing about that and I think that is also part of the appeal for the participants. There seems to be a simple purity to it, where taxes, mortgages and employers are left behind, at least for a while.
For the die-hards there is also the soundtrack to the film, with songs and original score by Leaves’ Eyes. VIKING SPIRT was an interesting look into a microcosm of a unique sub-culture. It should appeal to most viking Metal fans who want to learn more about this scene.