On Tuesday night I went to see symphonic/folk metal band, Leaves’ Eyes play the O2 Academy in Islington. Liv, Alex et al were accompanied by Diabulus In Musica from Spain and supported by London-based EnkeliNation. The venue was not exactly the most packed out I’ve ever seen it, but the eclectic crowd was full of energy and all three bands fed it back three-fold.
Being a rather lonely gothic metalhead amongst my friends, and with my usual gig buddy Beth unable to attend due to teaching obligations in Birmingham, I decided to strike out on my own. I arrived at the venue within plenty of time and took my place in the queue to eat my dinner (a rather sad salmon and cucumber sandwich). Whilst waiting, I got chatting with a man who has made a hobby out of attending rock and metal gigs. He told me that since the beginning of this year, he has been to at least 120, and that Leaves’ Eyes was his fifth show in seven days. He also works full-time as a criminal investigator and functions on about three hours of sleep a night. What a dude. Sir, I salute you!
Having come straight from work I wasn’t exactly dressed for the occasion, so the first thing I did when I got inside was buy myself a girlie-fit T-shirt with the album artwork from King of Kings printed on it. I took my time eyeing up the rest of the merch on offer – mostly T-shirts featuring various artwork from the album with tour dates on the back – and tried to secure myself a copy of King of Kings on limited edition red vinyl. The lady on the stall said she couldn’t look after it for me while the gig was on, so I resolved to try and nab one on the way out if there were any left. I parked myself two rows from the front and stayed there, making friends and trying to stubbornly ignore an incredibly bolshy, drunk blonde woman with no sense of personal space, who kept shoving in front of me and would later spend the entirety of Leaves’ Eyes’ performance of ‘The Waking Eye’ screaming into my left ear (she wandered off eventually to molest a couple of bald gentlemen in the front row instead, thank goodness).
First up was the local support, EnkeliNation – a melodic rock/metal band founded by classically trained opera singer and Finnish expatriate Elina Siirlana. The band also includes guitarist Shadow Venger, drummer Benjamin Tarten and bassist Julia Cadau. To see a woman on this scene in any position other than the lead singer was incredibly refreshing and it certainly made them stand out in all the right ways. I am not familiar with their stuff, nor indeed have I ever even heard of them before, but they had a passionate fanbase dispersed throughout the audience. Although I could not help but feel that Elina’s vocals seemed to suffer a little bit live, as though she were running out of breath, EnkeliNation certainly put on a solid performance and I will check out their debut album, Tears of Lust, in my own time.
Next up were a band I was really looking forward to see: Spanish symphonic metal act, Diabulus in Musica, fronted by an impressively pregnant Zuberoa Aznàrez. Zuberoa’s gorgeous operatic vocals were accompanied by grunts and growls from keyboardist Gorka Elso who also seemed to be controlling the bass through the use of a computer. Odei Ochoa – usually the band’s bassist – handled the guitar work in place of a regrettably absent Alexy Kolygin. Drummer David Carrica was also in attendance. Beautifully lit by a moody red and gold light reminiscent of the colour scheme used in all their album artwork, Diabulus In Musica dominated the stage, let down only by poor sound configuration that swamped Zuberoa’s powerful vocals in the lower octaves. Whilst I own a copy of their latest album, Argia, I am still not overly familiar with Diabulus In Musica’s work and therefore wasn’t able to pick out individual songs, but it didn’t matter. Every song got the crowd cheering, head-banging and throwing up their horns. The band looked positively overwhelmed by the enthusiastic response and they promised to return to England in the future.
After a bit of a wait, the band we all came to see, Leaves’ Eyes, emerged onto the stage amidst a roar of applause. Accompanied by a Viking re-enactment group, Jomsborg Ulflag (a collaboration unique to the London leg of the UK tour), they opened with a storming rendition of ‘Halvdan the Black’. Whilst the Viking re-enactors loomed in the background banging their shields like war-drums, lead vocalist Liv Kristine subtly sauntered her way onto the stage with her soft, distinctive voice, shortly followed by growling husband Alex. He positively exploded into view, grabbing the crowd by their proverbial horns and whipping everyone up into a frenzy in no time. The O2 Islington Academy stage is not the biggest, and given the Viking presence in the background, the crowd were all very close indeed to the band during the opener. It felt very intimate and helped crank up the atmosphere, doing an excellent job of filling up the room.
The setlist, packed with a suitable blend of old and new, well-known and obscure, was as follows:
1. Halvdan The Black
2. Sacred Vow
3. Farewell Proud Men
4. The Waking Eye
5. Symphony of the Night
7. Edge of Steel
8. Into Your Light
10. My Destiny
11. Swords in Rock
12. Hell To The Heavens
13. King of Kings
15. Blazing Waters
Outro: Mot Fjerne Land
Highlights for me included: Liv hitting notes during ‘Symphony of the Night’ so staggeringly loud and so unbelievably high that it could have shattered glass and certainly made every hair on my body stand on end; heavy rocker ‘Melusine’ that I’d never actually heard before; the inclusion of one of their earliest songs ‘Into Your Light’ on the setlist; the gallivanting revelry of drinking song ‘Swords In Rock’ which got everybody jumping, dancing and singing along; and a soaring, haunting rendition of my favourite track from the latest album, ‘King of Kings’. For the final song of the night the band performed the epic naval battle song ‘Blazing Waters’ (which incidentally has grown on me immensely since my initial review of the album). The Vikings came back on stage, led by a sword-swinging Alex dressed in his King of Kings album-cover getup as Harold “Fairhair” Hårfagre, first King of Norway. It was a truly spectacular end to the night and everyone left feeling pumped and ready for battle!
As the lady on the merchandise stall had promised earlier, Liv Kristine came out afterwards to meet with fans and hand out signed leaflets promoting her solo show at the Camden Underworld on 20 December later this year. Having dashed from the main room quickly before chaos could descend, I picked up that copy of King of Kings on vinyl I had promised myself and took my place in the queue/scrum to meet Liv. I didn’t have to wait very long, despite the madness. She was so very nice and sweet and immediately signed my record without me even having to ask, handing me a leaflet to go with it. I said thank you to her for putting ‘Into Your Light’ on the setlist because it was my absolute favourite song of theirs, and she told me that yes, she could see that because I knew all the lyrics! Cue mortified embarrassment that Liv apparently noticed me losing my proverbial shit during this song (she did point, grin, nod and clap at me halfway through but I thought she was gesturing to the crowd in general… nope). I then asked if she would kindly let me take a picture, to which she said, “Of course!”, thus making me insanely happy and grateful, as evidenced by the crazed look in my eyes:
I had such a good time and would definitely see these guys play again. Thank you, Leaves’ Eyes! Until next time!
My next gig will be Nightwish at their sold-out Wembley Arena show on 19 December. Perhaps I’ll see some of you there?
Be sure to check out all the bands mentioned above’s official websites:
Jomsborg Ulfag’s website:
To read my review of Leaves’ Eyes latest album, King of Kings, click here.
All photos included in this blog taken by me, except the photo from the stage which was taken from Leaves’ Eyes Facebook page. I am actually in that photo! Can you see me?