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Ignite Interview~ Alex Krull of Leaves’ Eyes talks about the new album The Last King

The new album is about Norway’s king Harald III, called Hardrada (“the hard ruler“) and the Vikings’ last battle near Stamford Bridge, at England in the year 1066.

Alex discusses some of the songs, a little history and an original film documentary “Viking Spirit”.  Produced by Alex Krull and Thorsten Bauer.  Is available on two CDs (CD 2 is instrumental), DVD and on varied color vinyl.        

The band is: Elina Siirala (Vocals), Alexander Krull (Vocals), Thorsten Bauer (Guitar, Bass), Micki Richter (Guitar), Joris Nijenhuis (Drums).

IMM:  This album is focused on King Harald III called Hardrada (“the hard ruler“)?

AK: The saga of Hardrada is the most epic there is because is happening in so many places which suits very well to Leaves’ Eyes. His story is very outstanding because he leaves as a young Viking to flee from his own country like a refugee going to Sweden, to the land of the Rus which is now Russia and Ukraine. And fell in love with the daughter of the Rus King.  Actually he made a career in the Varangian guard. He went down to Constantinople (modern Istanbul, formerly Byzantium) to make a career at the Byzantium empire. The Varangian guard was like a mercenary troop or like a king’s guard. He was victorious against the Saracens, the Muslims at Serkland, conquering 80 castles at the Mediterranean Sea which were occupied by the Saracens and a mission to Jerusalem and made plenty of gold.

The saga tells us the Byzantic Empress Zoë herself survived three Emperors (Laughing) you know what I am talking about? She was after him as well as legend tells us. He rejected her because he was in love with the Princess of Russia. The Empress put him in prison for not being loyal to the Byzantium court. He escaped according to the saga in spectacular way. On his way out to revenge himself he blinded the emperor, he rode with his ship over the Chain of the Golden Horn, which was a big Iron Chain across the sound, so ships of enemies can’t go in and out and burst in two pieces but he made out with all the gold. And went back to the land of Rus and got the kings daughter and went back to Norway to be king there. Fighting for the throne of Denmark and England is where the Vikings age ends. Harald III was dying on the battlefield and the Viking age was over in 1066.

IMM: The music for the album…

AK: For the band it is a great source of inspiration to write the music for a colorful saga.  We used a wide array of musical ideas to bring this saga to live.

IMM: The first single “The Black Butterfly” was released this past June. Elina sings with Clémentine Delauney (Visions of Atlantis, Exit Eden). Why that song was released first and no video for it?

AK: We were on tour and wanted bring some songs before the album. We had “Night Of The Ravens” then “Serkland” and “Black Butterfly” we made an EP. Also the thing is we wanted these songs on The Last Viking which is part of the concept and have them in a different version on the album. We were asking Clémentine… long before we are friends and tour together and would be good idea to do something in the future. So the right moment came and absolutely to have another vocal approach and sing with Eliana and makes sense and is a really, really good version with Clémentine and everybody loves it.

IMM: What will be the next video?

AK: “War Of Kings”. We will be filming on the weekends now (Laughing). I will tell why because of the pandemic situation. It will be a fantastic castle at Germany and is one thousand years old and same period of time and makes it very special to do it there. Also to make it look like England surroundings.

IMM: Talk about this song “Night Of The Ravens”

AK: This is the song we released as an appetizer for this album. I know a lot of people like it that is very melodic and a little bit of Gothic feel. When we were composing the song it was dark and beautiful especially with Elina’s voice. It’s a raven’s banner (flag) for Hardrada the Norse king. They would always carry upfront that had mystic powers which is what the song is about. The ravens were considered Vikings in away because the banner was the raven banner. Vikings had different banners but this one was for Hardrada. The banners was up front for battle.

IMM: The other song is “Serpent And Dragons”

AK: Is very powerful. Is Melodic, a speedy song, punchy metal song at the same time it has a great choirs. Serpents and the Dragons is how they called their long ships. Hardrada is from Norway and his ships were the serpents and the Danish King, his ships were the dragons.

Hardrada’s main ship was big and called Ormen which means serpent. The song is about a sea battle near Denmark and there was about 600 war ships fighting each other.

IMM: Talk about these songs:  “Varangians”, “Breaking Into the Sky Of Aeon”, “For Victory”, “War Of Kings” and “ Flames In The Sky”?

AK: With the melody is a party song. A celebration about the Varangian guards serving under the Byzantium crown as mercenaries though they were from the north. They were Norsemen, they were Vikings. There were also Danish, Rus and Swedish Vikings. They were serving in the Varangians guard.  The song is about their celebration of their leader, war hero and his fantastic war hero stories which was Haralad III. Is a song about all of that celebrating their Commander In Chief and to themselves.

“Breaking Into the Sky of Aeon” is actually the last song on the album and are connected. “The Last Viking” is a ten minute song and leads into a big Opus. We had a feeling after this momentum song it would be nice to lead to Valkyrie  (In Norse mythology, a Valkyrie (from Old Norse Valkyrja “chooser of the slain”) is one of a host of female figures who choose those who may die in battle and those who may live.) and Valhalla and she puts him in the big hall after the battle when he died. So we thought a very nice song to close the album. It has a lot sound from the previous Leaves’ Eyes album with a lot of Gothic metal music influences here. A typical Beauty and the Beast song I would say. But in a refreshing way I think.

“For Victory”, “War Of Kings” and “Flames In The Sky” the thing is they have different backgrounds. They have let’s keep that way like a war hero story. “War Of Kings” is about the conquest and fight for throne of England. “For Victory” is about the Rus king. When Harald had to flee from Norway and went to him to serve at his court when his career starts as a war hero and about the Rus Vikings as well. “Flames In The Sky”, he was a very clever man as well to use different kinds of tricks to defeat his enemies. So when they went to one castle in Sicily against the Saracens they made a special trick to get into the castle which was occupied but couldn’t get into it. They saw birds fleeing from inside the castle so they were setting up bird catchers to set the birds on fire that return to the castle and set whole castle in flames and so they had to give up and surrender. So he became the master of the castle.

IMM: The songs for this album the music were being written and recorded during 2019?

AK: Yeah, the ideas for the album began after we did the last album Sign Of The Dragonhead. The last song on that album was “Waves Of Euphoria” is also a long song and was already having the topic of Harald III, so the hint for the fans is what could come next (Laughter). So most of the music was written last year and we came back from the 70,000 Tons Of Metal cruise we went into the last phase of the production then we had go to studio lock down (Laughter).

IMM: Some people would take Kings Of Kings, Sign Of The Dragonhead and this album as a trilogy.

AK: You might think so but it’s not the case. Some people were asking if Vinland Saga album from 2005 and “Kings Of Kings” from 2015 and now 2020 for this album if this would be a trilogy? Would this be the end for us writing about Vikings no, no, no because the Norse history will always be a part of Leaves’ Eyes. But truly the next album will have another approach and another idea behind the Vikings. For us we were closing the Viking saga and Hardrada was the last Norse king so that chapter for itself was closed.

IMM: Talk about the documentary “The Viking Spirit”. It is on the bands Facebook page.

AK: The movie idea was about 5 years ago that we started to film. Basically what it is to introduce everybody to my Viking friends and to discover something, which is connecting people to the Norse mythology and our music. A lot people, metal fans they read about it and listen to the music and fantasized about the Viking culture. And not know you can live it even in modern times. There are people who all they do is live as a modern Viking and businesses connected to it and all this stuff.  There are a lot of events every year all over Europe with big battles and tournaments. I go there and fighting in tournaments and arena fights and of course big battles. Is basically the foundation why we made this documentary and there are

members from North America (U.S. and Canada) Latin America and Japan and is like the metal scene, you know like a family a metal family.

A lot of people started with the music coming into this and that was the motivation to do this. The movie is 95 minutes long, it has 19 chapters in the movies to experience. I want to invite everyone to join me on this journey on Norse mythology, Viking life style, living the history and the music of Leaves’ Eyes. Also is about shutting down electronic devices, social media, and cell phones and actually talk to each other even at camp fires. Celebrate together and fight together.

IMM: Thanks for talking about the history and the journey. Always enjoy talking to you and listening to the music and see the band live.

AK: Thank you very much and to see you all soon or 2022 is on the schedule.

The track list:

 01 – Death Of A King 

 02 – Chain Of The Golden Horn 

03 – Dark Love Empress 

 04 – Serpents And Dragons 

05 – Black Butterfly (feat. Clémentine Delauney)

 06 – War Of Kings  

07 – For Victory

 08 – Two Kings One Realm  

09 – Flames In The Sky  

10 – Serkland

11 – Varangians  

12 – Night Of The Ravens 

13 – The Last Viking 

14 – Break Into The Sky Of Aeon

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