Photo courtesy of Leaves' Eyes

Photo courtesy of Leaves’ Eyes

Liv Kristine is widely recognized throughout the symphonic metal community as having pioneered the beauty and the beast vocals approach, which has become a signature technique for many prominent female singers in the genre.

This same identity is presented throughout Kristine’s performance on the upcoming album from Leaves’ Eyes, ‘King of Kings.’ Expected for release on September 11 through Nuclear Blast and AFM Records, ‘King of Kings’ explores mythological concepts around the striking execution from the members of Leaves’ Eyes, which features members from German Gothic metal unit Atrocity.

Music Enthusiast recently sat down with Liv Kristine to discuss the making of ‘King of Kings,’ her experience working with Simone Simons of Epica on the record and her tentative plans for touring in support of the effort.

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Music Enthusiast: Thanks for your time and this album is fantastic! I have said that this is an album that sets the bar higher for the band in a good way.

Liv Kristine: Thank you, thank you so much. I will forward your compliments to my guests who are away from the house at the studio. Where else are they supposed to be? (laughs) I am very grateful to hear it because this is truly the biggest production we are part of and it’s a great challenge for Alex to handle such a big production. There is always a time schedule and you have to deliver on time. Basically, we have taken it step by step. We started three years ago by composing a couple of songs and we just released ‘Symphonies of the Night,’ and what is going to happen now? We were very happy with ‘Symphonies of the Night’ and it’s also a milestone in our career. We have to continue and come up with something new. Alex, my husband, and Thorsten Bauer, my guitar player, are my dream team. We sat down and started composing. Then Alex said, “Wow! These couple of tracks already have such power, we need to come up with a concept.” And I said, “Well, I have a hundred of books about Scandinavian, Middle Ages, about the Vikings, mythology, sagas of the Vikings and Icelandic sagas. It’s all there, I have to dig my nose into them.” I started parallel to the composing process and I started writing the lyrics. From my side, it meant a lot of research work. From my side it is done with passion, especially because Harold Hårfagre became the first King of Norway after he won a very decisive battle at one of Norway’s fjords called Hafrsfjord. This fjord is my birth place, so this album is based on a few facts and a lot of stuff written in the sagas but also a personal album. I can’t wait for this album to be released. It will be a very passionate moment for me.

Your previous albums and songs were also based on your home country?

Oh yeah, definitely but Leaves’ Eyes is more or less based on my home country and the guys have always been open minded about this. First of all, I am one hundred percent responsible for concept and lyrics and the linguistics melting to the writing. That is my thing. They leave it to me, so Leaves’ Eyes has always been my Norwegian baby and this time with ‘King of Kings’ the timing was clear to us straight after composing the album that it going to be titled ‘King of Kings. That is something bigger and also that is my birthplace. Growing up in Norway I have been fed all the Viking sagas on a silver spoon since I was able to talk. (laughs) This is something very important for Norwegians and I can’t wait to present the whole concept on a stage. To me this is more like a soundtrack to a big concept.

That is what it sounds like a soundtrack, maybe bolder. When Stephen Hurst wrote the Vikings for television, the popularity just exploded.

Absolutely, absolutely. I love the series the Vikings and that is why I had the idea of working with Wardruna. They wrote most of the music for this series and that is an amazing soundtrack. I had no clue that Wardruna come from Bergen, Norway. So somehow with common friends I got in touch with the female singer of Wardruna, Lindy- Fay Hella.  I showed her one of our tracks, the biggest and heaviest track on the album “Blazing Waters,” and I asked her if she wanted to join in. She said, ”That is just perfect. I already know Leaves’ Eyes and I’d be glad to do it.” The Vikings brought a lot inspiration and I know it’s here and there and been done before for the sake of Hollywood. I know that. But still it is a great series and I love the music and I got all the soundtracks for the series. And somehow it does divulge some information on the middle ages where you are on the planet. I was really happy that nobody written a sound track about the first King of Norway before. I thought there is going to be somebody out there already doing this did before but no, not! (laughs) That was great exercise to do something which is special and has a personal link to my heritage, history and passion for this whole area of Southwest part of Norway.

The opening track has a Celtic song influence. The previous albums, such as ‘Symphonies of the Night’ and ‘Meredead,’ have a bit more Celtic influence which brings out a little extra texture in the modern rock and metal sound.

Thank you very much. I have always been a big fan of Celtic music, history and culture. “Sweven” is one piece that I composed for ‘King of Kings’ and it is an introduction to the album. Actually, “Sweven” means like “Flying Words,” so a dream or a vision with a great happening to come as Harald as he was born. So yeah, it is a god whisper. “For that a King is born, one to play vital role in Norway’s medieval history.” So yes, it has a Celtic touch and you are very right. When we are working, Thorsten Alexander and I, I would never put any restrictions when it comes to influence and know that Thorsten is also a big fan of Celtic music, so I let him add any Celtic music into the production and see where it takes us.

On the album you duet with Simone Simons of Epica. Did you want her to join you on the album, and did she record with you at the studio or did she email the track over?

Actually, I had few attempts myself for the vocal recordings for “Edge of Steel.” For this song I wasn’t one hundred percent satisfied with my manner of singing at the very beginning. I had few attempts at this manner of singing and found out that this type of singing is very clear. It’s a heavy metal way of singing, a female way of singing and the angelic way of singing and it’s not the soft way of singing. In the end I satisfied with what I wanted and got exactly what I wanted using these kinds of techniques. I never took any vocal lessons, so everything I’ve learned so far is based on my own experience and learning by doing. So, it’s funny because somehow my singing reminded of me of the same techniques that Simone Simmons is using and that is when the idea came up to contact her and I did. She is a busy mother like myself and since she moved to Germany and left Holland she is only an hour away. She came between kindergarten and touring and recorded her vocals at our own Mastersound Studios. It was such a pleasure working with her. We had to smile because our manners of singing do really cross each other and fulfill each other. So “Edge of Steel’’ turned to be a more powerful song that I imagined initially.

What is being planned for the tour production for this tour?

That is the question. What can you do? With a bigger production you need a bigger financial support, bigger stage and bigger venue. We will see. I would love to have the whole package with me with the burning swords and the pyro and the full instruments and the Vikings. That would be amazing, but that fits into the European budget right now. I think we will have to look into the future for the festivals coming up and we had few good offers from festival promoters. If you bring a lot of gear like the swords and the ship, you can’t put that on plane. It is a logistic problem sometimes. I would love to do a North American tour with the whole package, it would be a dream come true. First we will rehearse for the European shows and I will do some solo shows. Hopefully I will have some good news very soon for a US and North American tour for next year and that is my goal. I am working on it right now.

On the song you duet with Simone, are you going to sing that song on your own or bring a guest singer with you?

I will probably have to do it on my own if Simone is on the road. It is doable and it’s okay. In the beginning it wasn’t planned as a duet and is not a problem, but it would be pleasure to have Simone onstage next to me.

An option is to take Simone’s voice track and use it while you are singing live?

Yeah, at least for the second voices that is probably what I am going to do defiantly. At least she will be there anyways. The choir and the White Russian Orchestra were not able to take them with us obviously that is too big and to organize with hundred people traveling with you.  So who is going to pay that? They will be with us anyway.

Some bands take the tracks that were recorded in the studio and have them transferred to a synthesizer.

That is a good way of solving that, absolutely!

Last before we go, I was told you are going to be doing some shows with The Sirens at Europe opening for Nightwish?

Yeah, that is going to be at the end of August. Basically I am on holidays in Norway at that point of time and I will be able to jump on the flights to Trondheim, Norway and meet my ladies Anneke van Gierbergen and Kari Ruelsåtten to support Nightwish and the final show for The Sirens for this year. So what a great finale and it couldn’t be better. It is beneficial for Annika, Kari and myself because we were the first ones out there with our bands in the beginning of the‘90s and Nightwish happened afterwards. And Tuomas of Nightwish told us, “Without you girls there wouldn’t be Nightwish.” So it is going to be a very special night.

I personally hope you record another album as The Sirens.

That would be cool and it is not out of the question. It is a matter of time. Anneke van Gierbergen just released her ‘A Gentle Storm’ album and Kari Ruelsåtten has hers [‘To The North’] coming out and I have the ‘King of Kings’ coming out in September. So it’s matter of time and we really have time to sit down and we to have a record label. I don’t think that will be a problem to actually find a record label. All three of us are very passionate about what we are doing and it is not like we would hire somebody to write the music and sing along to it and the album release and hurray, get the money for it. It is not how we work, we are three very passionate artists that when we do something it has to be for real, it has to come from the heart and we want to do it by ourselves.