Sign Of The Dragonhead, the latest album from symphonic metal veterans Leaves’ Eyes, was recently released. It’s their first full-length with vocalist Elina Siirala. We caught up with Siirala, band founder/vocalist/producer Alexander Krull and guitarist Thorsten “Tosso” Bauer for the details on the album and other topics.
Chad Bowar: How did vocalist Elina Siirala come to join the band?
Elina Siirala: I supported Leaves’ Eyes with my own band Angel Nation back in November 2015 in London, where we briefly met. I got a call a few months later and flew to Germany where I learned that it was about Leaves Eyes and since they needed to find a new singer, I was the one that came to their minds. It was certainly a big surprise and everything moved very quickly from then on with the first show taking place just a few days later in Indonesia!
Thorsten “Tosso” Bauer: When we met for the first time at our headquarters Mastersound Studios here in Germany, there was immediately a great connection and vibe and Elina was brave enough to take the role as our new front lady. A few days later we played together in Indonesia in front of 21,000 people and Elina did a great show.
Alexander Krull: Afterwards we played many more shows and also headlined some festivals in Europe and did two big North American tours together with Sonata Arctica and Sabaton. We just played three German release shows for the new album. The reaction of the fans and press has been really great! In addition, the new album just entered at No. 21 in the official German album charts as best new metal entry in between all these major mainstream acts. Sails are set high for Leaves’ Eyes!
You’ve had several lineup changes in the past, but is switching vocalists more challenging than replacing other members?
Tosso: We are very lucky to have Elina as our front lady and female singer. Elina has both awesome stage presence and a powerful voice, which fits very well to the symphonic and heavy music of Leaves’ Eyes.
Alex: I remember the time when Paul Di Anno left Iron Maiden, then a guy called Bruce Dickinson took over and The Number of the Beast came out and became a heavy metal all time classic. Nevertheless, as a huge Iron Maiden fan and especially as my favorite Iron Maiden album was Killers, it was something I had to get used to in the beginning.
Was there anything unique about the songwriting process for Sign Of The Dragonhead compared to the typical Leaves’ Eyes album?
Alex: Sure. With Elina as the new vocalist we had new possibilities and ideas to write songs, but always keeping the way of Leaves’ Eyes musical and lyrical background. We took all the power and energy from the live shows into the studio, as we finished the album in between touring. So we probably made the best and biggest Leaves’ Eyes album so far with a lot of songs which we will also play live in the future!
Tosso: Exactly. Since Alex and me have always been the creative backbone of the band, the writing process was not very much different from the albums before. Alex and me complement each other very well during all productions. While I take care of the guitars, orchestrations and melodic side of the music, Alex is amazing with drums, overall arrangements, vocal lines and ideas and all technical aspects of an album production.
Since you had already recorded an EP with this lineup, did that make for a smoother recording process for Sign Of The Dragonhead?
Elina: It certainly helped as we already knew how the recording process would be and how smoothly it already went with the EP.
What will be your strongest memory of the recording of the album?
Tosso: One of the most fun parts is always to do the Viking shouts for the albums. We invite friends, do a lot of shouting and have a good time.
Elina: I live in London, so for me it was special to go to the Angel studios in London and record the choir parts with London voices!
Alex: I’m also the producer of the Leaves’ Eyes albums at Mastersound Studio, and there is always a lot of work to do on such a huge production. So after all the challenges of such an epic album production, the moment when the final mastering is done and everything is sounding great, I enjoy this moment the most!
Give us a brief synopsis of the lyrical path of this one.
Alex: The lyrics are connected to Norse mythology and Viking sagas. Sign of the Dragonhead starts with the title track which is directly connected to the album King of Kings. Sign of the Dragonhead is not a full concept album. We have a lot of very interesting different stories on the album. “Jomsborg” for example is about the legendary Viking stronghold and the Jomsvikings. My father and his family are rooted from this area so it’s very special for me to write a song about it.
Nowadays there is the biggest Viking reenactment group called “Jomsborg” and I’m a member of honor in this Viking group, too. So it’s also an homage to the whole Viking reenactment scene worldwide. When I have time and we are not on tour I also do training for battles and go to Viking and medieval events to join my Viking brothers and sisters out there!
How has the band’s sound evolved/progressed from King Of Kings?
Tosso: King Of Kings gave us a lot of knowledge and a vision how to handle a huge production. The stars of the new album are for me personally the songs which are really strong and straight to the point. So we have amazing songs and anthems in a huge production with a unique blend of metal music and symphonic and folk elements!
What are your goals and expectations for the album?
Tosso: We are looking forward very much to playing the new songs live and will be touring the next two years with it.
How was the video shoot for “Across The Sea”?
Elina: In a way we were unlucky as the weather was very bad, cold and raining. But for the video it actually worked very well! We got some great, epic shots on the beach which goes together nicely with the song.
How important are videos these days?
Elina: Videos still play a big role nowadays and are sometimes becoming more and more ambitious production wise like our own video clips, as “Sign Of The Dragonhead” with a big cast and splendid film set. Videos can really enhance the experience of hearing the song, seeing the visual side at the same time and getting those pictures painted in front of your eyes that are already present in the music.
It has been a while since you’ve released a standalone live album. Any plans for one, or a DVD?
Alex: Probably not a standalone live album, but we plan to release a tour book edition of the new album and also include a DVD with special footage and material.
What are your upcoming tour plans?
Elina: Like Alex mentioned, we just played three release shows in Germany which were a great start for touring with the new album! We’ll be getting on board on the 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise at the start of February and our European tour was just announced. It will be in April/May with Mayan and Almanac. Summer will be festival season. We’ll be playing at Wacken, which I’m looking forward to very much and there are more plans for the autumn but these are still being organized.
As you tour more in North America, are you seeing your fan base here continuing to grow?
Tosso: We really love to play in North America and have a really great fan base there. I’m sure we will return to North America with the new album.
What’s your favorite part of touring in North America?
Tosso: Everything is bigger in North America, also the space in the tour buses. (laughs) Fans seem not to judge music so much into categories, if it kicks ass they love it. Besides I love playing in awesome cities like New York, San Francisco, San Antonio, Chicago, Montreal and many more!
Elina: Touring in the U.S. and Canada means that the distances are huge so you get to see very different places, experience different climates and meet all kinds of people which I love! The audiences are also always very enthusiastic and welcoming.
Give us a preview of the upcoming Atrocity album. When will it be released?
Tosso: Atrocity just released the Masters Of Darkness EP, a first brutal and epic preview for the upcoming Okkult II album. Expect brutal epic killer metal songs!
Alex: Our Okkult trilogy combines our death metal roots with new musical ideas like epic dark choirs and atmospheric elements, a bit like in classic horror movies. I love the whole lyrical background of the Okkult trilogy, too, which is about the obscure mysteries in the world. With our new EP Masters of Darkness, the band returns with a diabolic monster which is the harbringer of Okkult II! The new album will be released in summer 2018. Be prepared!
Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
Alex: We are very happy with the new album, and hope you enjoy Sign Of The Dragonhead. Thank you for your support and the interview! We are looking forward to see you all on tour!
(interview published January 29, 2018)