Bristol seems to be a hotbed of symphonic rock shows at the moment. Two weeks ago I was in town to catch Delain at The Marble Factory, this week Leaves' Eyes rocked the same venue, and next week modern giants Epica will hit the O2 Academy (although I'm going to their London show instead this time as it made more sense with work). It is great that more and more bands are now including gigs in the South West of the UK on their tour schedules, as there clearly is a good fanbase down this way for rock and metal. The opening of The Marble Factory seems to have helped. The O2 Academy is too big for some bands, and the venues other small venues are rather pokey and pub-like. The Marble Factory is a 'proper' smaller rock venue, and I have now seen three gigs there this year, all of a metal persuasion. It had been a while since I had seen Leaves' Eyes live. I missed their UK tour last year due to work, so it had been since 2012's tour with Firewind that I had seen them. They played a blinding set that night in Sheffield, and I had been looking forward to seeing them again since. Two great albums have followed since, and a few line-up changes, but the core of the band remains. The crowd packed into The Marble Factory was not as big as it was for Delain a couple of weeks ago, but there were still enough people present for a good atmosphere. Everyone in attendance was loud and passionate about the band, which pleased the band and made for an enjoyable evening.
Local Bristol-based band Control the Storm opened the show, and they made a strong impression during their 30 minutes on stage. Their mix of power and symphonic metal was melodic and full of strong hooks, and the band were tight and presented themselves well onstage. Frontwoman Kate Norris has a strong voice who carried the band's material, ably assisted by Rich Shillitoe (guitar/vocals) and Raedon Mac (keyboards/vocals) who added plenty of great solos and melodies throughout. Mac also contributed some harsh vocals here and there which worked well to add a bit of grit to the music. A big shout out also goes to the band's stand-in drummer (who's name I did not catch) who had learnt the band's set in a few days upon learning that the band's usual drummer would not be available for the show. He did really well, and fit in seamlessly with the rest of the band. Control the Storm impressed me, and I shall definitely be checking out their debut album Beast Inside out at some point soon.
Main tour support Diabulus in Musica also played for 30 minutes, and they also impressed me with their classy brand of symphonic metal with huge gothic influences. Hailing from Spain, the four piece (they seemed to be a bass player down, I assume he could not make the show!) owned the stage with their beautiful melodies and haunting atmosphere. Frontwoman Zuberoa Aznárez is not the most dynamic or powerful singer in the genre, but her voice has a unique tone to it that just really washes over you perfectly, that adds to the gothic nature of their material. Gorka Elso (keyboards/vocals) also added harsh vocals to the mix, and his keyboard melodies and orchestrations were definitely the focal point of the band's sound, with Alexey Kolygin (guitar) taking more a back seat and beefing up the sound with tight rhythms and crunching riffs. While their music was not as instantly memorable as Control the Storm's, they had a unique atmosphere to their sound that impressed me. Imagine Sirenia and add a little more class, and that pretty much sums up Diabulus in Musica's sound. Another band for me to check out soon!
After two good support bands, Leaves' Eyes hit the stage to a crowd who was well and truly up for a good time. With their new album King of Kings not even two months old yet, the band proceeded to play the vast majority of it live throughout their set, with older tracks sprinkled in for good measure. I am always pleased when bands decide to stand behind their new material and really showcase it live. That is the mark of a confident band, and these shows often go down the best with the hardcore fans. Halvdan the Black and Sacred Vow from the new album got things going, and frontwoman Liv Kristine was in amazing voice all night. Out of the three Leaves' Eyes sets I have now seen, I think that this one contained her best performance - she really owned the stage! Her delicate side was shown on new single The Waking Eye, before her full operatic range was tested on the older number Symphony of the Night. Non-album track Melusine is a real metal anthem, and brings the best out her vocal partner and husband Alexander Krull (vocals) who's harsh vocals really add to the song. Thorsten Bauer (guitar/vocals) and Pete Streit (guitar/vocals) played their hearts out all night too. Leaves' Eyes' music has never been about showboating, and there are few traditional leads and solos, but their atmospheric clean sections and crushing heavy riffs are the backbone of the band's sound, and the orchestrations build around their patterns. Later in the set, the folky Galswintha got everyone dancing, before the old classic My Destiny saw plenty of singing and cheering from the dedicated crowd. The main set came to an end with King of Kings, but the crowd called for more and they were treated with two encores. The big ballad Elegy went down well, but the true highlight was Blazing Waters, the epic song from the band's new album which ended the evening. Krull really demonstrated his vocal power here, and the evening ended with a bang. The setlist was:
Halvdan the Black
Farewell Proud Men
The Waking Eye
Symphony of the Night
Edge of Steel
Into Your Light
Swords in Rock
Hell to the Heavens
King of Kings
Mot Fjerne Land
Overall, Leaves' Eyes really owned the stage in Bristol and the good-sized crowd went away happy. While in my head this show will probably always be shadowed by the excellent Mötley Crüe show in Manchester the night before, this was still an excellent evening of symphonic metal from one of the genre's most distinctive bands.