After founding member Liv Kristine's departure from Leaves Eyes in 2016, Eliina Siirala has had big shoes to fill but does so on The Last Viking deftly, albeit in a different style. Providing operatic soprano vocals with more of a darker timbre sounding more akin to Tarja Turunen of Nightwish fame, than the delicate and fae soprano vocals Liv Kristine is best known for. In fact, in terms of the whole sound it is much more similar to Tarja-era Nightwish than to older Leaves Eyes material, with its blend of operatic soprano vocals and Alexander Krull's low grunting death growls, orchestral elements, folk inspired melodies and heavy guitars and bass.
The Last Viking is full of catchy folk/power metal riffs and it seems on this album there is more of a prominent folk and power metal influence as opposed to the more gothic melodies on the early albums of the Liv Kristine era. It also seems the production is more bombastic and dramatic compared to the subtlety of earlier albums such as Lovelorn. The album opens with atmospheric strings building up, along with bird calls, choral lines and the occasional grunted phrase, setting an atmosphere of Viking metal as is to be expected from the album title.
At 14 tracks, The Last Viking is a long album but has enough variation and memorable moments to maintain interest throughout. 'Dark Love Empress' is a definite highlight, with an infectious chorus vocal hook bound to remain in your head for long after. 'Two Kings One Realm' has some baritone clean vocals and the feel of telling a saga or ballad accompanied by some tribal sounding drumming. Unfortunately the repeated calls of 'ay-o, ay-o', presumably intended to sound like mystical folk chanting, instead sound a little like Bastille's 'Pompeii'.
'Varangians' features bagpipes and folky guitar and bass lines which sound inspired by the likes of Celtic rock bands such as Big Country and Thin Lizzy. The chorus is fun and rousing with its lyrics of camaraderie: 'all band together once and for all', interestingly the melody is very similar to Slade's 'Run Run Away'.
The final track 'The Last Viking' opens with an ominous foghorn sound (which drones on for perhaps a little too long), marking a sudden change in tone from the lighter songs preceding it. Fittingly the death growls take the chorus on this one to match the darker mood.
Overall The Last Viking is a solid album with plenty of memorable tracks to take away. For fans of Leaves Eyes' early material this may not necessarily hit the spot, as it is distinct in style from older releases. However, if said fans also enjoy other symphonic acts such as Nightwish, it is likely to be enjoyed nonetheless.
Recommended for fans of: Nightwish, Diabulus in Musica, Sirenia, Epica, After Forever