About Me

Interview with Leaves Eyes

In October of last year Leaves Eyes released their eighth album “The Last Viking”. This is an impressive album, full of history and rich in rhythm in which each song has something new to tell. This is probably why some entitle it as the band’s best album so far! Alex and Elina talked to Metal Imperium about it.

M.I. -  How did you choose the name for this album?

Alex: First of all, thank you very much! Glad that you like the new album so much! “The Last Viking” is based on the adventures of the Viking king Harald III who was also called “Hardrada” which means hard-ruler. Hardrada is said to be “The Last Viking”, as historians often mention that, after his death in 1066 the Viking age was over. 1066, was definitely an important turning point in England, where he died on the battle field, and also for Europe and its further development. More and more the influence of Christianity got bigger everywhere and also many of the Viking warriors that used to go on profitable raids settled down. The Vikings definitely helped to connect and bring Europe together and left many footprints in our history. To write such an epic album is a big pleasure for us, the musicians of Leaves' Eyes, it fits the band perfectly! And our fans can fully enjoy the adventures, life and death of “The Last Viking”.

M.I. -  Can you tell us how did you create the concept for the album?

Alex: The lyrical concept was done by myself. I always try to work out ideas which fit the musical idea and vision of the band. The saga of Harald III is very exciting, I guess you could easily make a big TV show like Game of Thrones out of it. We start the album at the moment when Hardrada dies and getting hit by an arrow in his neck at Stamford Bridge in the battle for the crown of England. In the last breath, his whole life comes back in flashes, and we are taking the listeners back into the adventures of the Norse king where he travels through far away countries, had to flee as young man from Norway, fighting for the Russian king Jaroslav after that serving the Varangian guard in Byzantium and becoming a war hero. The saga tells us even the Byzantic empress was falling in love with him, but Harald Hardrada rejected her and was taken to prison. Hardrada managed to flee from Byzantium in a spectacular way and getting married to a Russian Princess and returning to Norway to become a king. After that, he claimed for the crowns of Denmark and England as well with lots of adventurous missions and battles. What a story and what an impact to history.

M.I. -  When did you first start to write the songs for the album? Where did you get inspiration for it?

Alex: We started in between and after the tours for the “Sign of the Dragonhead” album. I think with Leaves' Eyes we will always be connected to Norse mythology, medieval topics, powers of nature, legendary landscapes and mystical themes. So, all our albums can be seen in a continuation and evolving process. For each new album we talk about the new lyrical concept and ideas, and how the music could be composed around such an epic saga like “The Last Viking” e.g.. In my mind there's always a vision of music, lyrics and even visuals for artwork and videos going hand in hand. For “The Last Viking” I did a lot of research. I was reading the saga both in English and German and also studied the historical background of Hardrada. It was very exciting to bring this fantastic saga to life with our music, artwork and videos.

M.I. -  What kind of feedback are you getting from your fans?

Elina: The feedback overall has been just amazing and we couldn't be happier about that! We were of course already so grateful to be able to make this album during such a hard time and a lot of work and passion went into it. So then having the incredible feedback from fans has just been the icing on the cake! 

M.I. -  On the track “Black Butterfly,” why have you chose Clémentine Delauney (Visions of Atlantis, Exit Eden) to guest sing on it? When writing the song, what made you decide to have a guest on it?

Elina: It wasn't something that was decided during the writing process of the song. We actually considered between a few songs which would be the one with a guest singer and finally decided on Black Butterfly. We wanted to have a singer that would have a different voice to mine, to bring another character to the song and Clementine was a perfect match in every way. We had a great time working together since luckily she was able to still travel to the studio for recordings. The result gives the song another dimention and our voices compliment each other very nicely while still having their own individual space to shine.

M.I. -  What was the biggest inspiration for the song “The Last Viking”?

Alex: It's not just the longest and most epic song of our album but also the very decisive turning point in the saga for our hero Norse king Hardarda and the Viking warriors who invaded England. The song discribes the last battle leading from glorious fights to final defeat and tragic death of the Norse king. His men were still fighting around the Norse king's body in a circle to defend him until the very end. It can't go more epic than this! Musically this song brings everything together: A wide range of diversity with different instruments, great melodies and the dynamic of the song itself. I like how the epic vibe and mystic atmopshere goes along with all these different elements including choirs and bombastic metal parts!

M.I. -  Which is your favorite music from this album and why?

Elina: It's such a varied album and all the songs are stories and adventures of their own so it's hard to pick just one. I like „Serpents and Dragons“ for the energy and power metal vibe, but also for example, „Dark Love Empress“, which has the epicness and gives me opportunity to use my voice differently. 

M.I. -  Can you tell us about the documentary “The Viking Spirit” which is on the bands Facebook page and on YouTube? 

Alex: The “Viking Spirit” film documentary shows the world of Viking reenactment. The film was made in a period of 5 years to present a colorful background of the Viking scene. I'm a sword fighter myself and a Viking reenactor in the biggest modern Viking army “Jomsborg”.  That means I train every week, go to battles, tournaments, camps and medieval events all over Europe. I'm also doing Viking workshops and show fights. So, I want to invite everyone to join me and meet my Viking friends in this film documentary which contains Viking lifestyle, living history, Norse mythology and the music of Leaves' Eyes. I'm also participating in the biggest Viking battle nowadays in Wolin (Jomsborg), Poland. There are also Slavic, Byzantic and other reenactors from around the world on the battle field. 800 warriors in full contact Eastern Style fighting, also warriors from Russia! By the way, the “Viking Spirit” Soundtrack with 10 more songs which we did together with composer Jonah Weingarten is also included on the limited Art book edition of “The Last Viking“.

M.I. -  What’s the concept behind the album cover and who came up with it?

Alex: The wonderful cover by Stefan Heilemann, shows the moment of fallen king Harald Hardrada being taken away from the battle field to Valhalla by a mystical Valkyrie. This is our tribute to Norse king Hardrada and the Viking culture, and I had this idea in mind from the beginning. Elina also liked the idea and also to take over the part of being the Valkyrie on the cover. Hardrada's saga is part of the Norse mythology and its' backgrounds of the old Norse believes although history-wise Harald Hardrada already installed churches and own bishops in Norway - probably for political reasons because his behavior was not very christian-like. The sagas tell us that Harald was also married to two women at the same time. Besides his first wife Ellisif, the Russian queen, he also married Tora as his second wife.

M.I. -  What has been your biggest challenge as a band, before and during this pandemic?

Elina: As a band and people we've stuck together and made really the best out of the situation. Recordings were done during the first lockdown and the schedule was held almost perfectly until the release. The biggest challenge was, of course, not having any festivals or shows and we weren't able to tour at all. Deliveries of the album were also badly affected which was a big shame after such a good flow up until the release.

M.I. -  When performing on stage, what’s your favorite time and/or moment?

Elina: There isn't any one moment that would be a favourite. It's the beauty of performing, that anything can happen, and it's the interaction with the crowd that brings those great moments every time. Having said that, it's always a special moment when you start hearing the intro music, the adrenaline starts to pump and the anticipation of getting on stage starts to rise.

M.I. -  Which of your songs do you think is the best one? 

Elina: I think there are many great songs and perhaps for different reasons. For example, “The Last Viking” is a monstrous and complex composition, long, epic with lots of different moods and musical atmospheres. Then, for example, there's “Sign of the Dragonhead”, a more straightforward song, catchy and easy for people to sing along to.

M.I. -  Which songs have you performed the most?

Alex: That's an interesting question, (laughts)! I'm pretty sure that since the “King of Kings” album it's “Blazing Waters”, which is a great final of every Leaves' Eyes show!

M.I. - What was the funniest story that ever happened to you on tour?

Elina: There are hundreds of funny memories from the tours, but they're mostly inside jokes unfortunately. I remember one time on our North-American tour, I was on the tour bus getting ready and it was almost time to go on stage. I was in a bit of a hurry and zipped my top up and the zipper ended up splitting in the middle. Panic!!! Our sound guy came to the bus and we were wrestling with the zipper for quite a long time. Luckily, at last he was able to get it open and then close again. More luckily it didn't split on stage again!

M.I. -  Please share a message with Metal Imperium’s readers and your fans.

Elina: Thank you for this nice interview and I'd like to send a big thank you to all of the readers and our fans for supporting us! I hope you're enjoying The Last Viking and I can't wait to see you all at a show as soon as it's possible!
Alex: Thank you for the great support! Hope to see you all on the road again. Enjoy “The Last Viking” and feel the Viking Spirit!

For Portuguese version, click here

Questions by Tatiana Andersen