Fans of European symphonic metallers Leaves’ Eyes (a group fronted by Norwegian singer Liv Kristine alongside the members of Atrocity, a German metal band fronted by her husband Alexander Krull) awoke to a surprise on April 16th to an announcement on social media that there was now a new lead singer in place of Kristine. They had even published a group photo featuring the new vocalist, a classically-trained Finnish singer called Elina Siirala. The accompanying statement told the fans that Kristine had parted company with the band ‘for personal reasons’ and attempted to assure them that this was all amicable. Siirala was known to some of the fans already as her own band EnkElination (also known as Angel Nation) had supported Leaves’ Eyes on a recent tour of the UK; still this news came completely out of the blue to almost everybody who followed the group.
Complicating matters further was that this change has come about midway through a touring cycle to promote the band’s current album ‘King of Kings’, with European dates coming up and a US tour planned for later in the year. There were promotional trailers for the upcoming tour dates posted on YouTube which featured Kristine, and of course all the merchandise would have been already prepared with her photo printed on T-shirts. In addition, the group was very much seen as her vehicle; the band name itself ‘Leaves’ Eyes’ is a corruption of ‘Liv’s Eyes’. Straight away fans suspected this wasn’t quite how the group statement painted it; why would the singer walk from a band built around her and formed specifically to showcase her voice and her lyrics? The group’s material drew heavily on Norse mythology and on almost every album cover, Kristine is prominently featured (a notable exception being most recent album ‘King of Kings’).
Within a day the singer herself responded to the ‘official’ band statement, contradicting the band’s position that it was a mutual decision (despite a quote attributed to Kristine herself in the band’s press release) and commenting on her own Facebook page that the band must have had her replacement lined up and ready to step in long before the statement was released. Certainly the day after the news broke, the band did indeed perform live with Siirala fronting them at a festival in Indonesia. Needless to say, fans reacted angrily once it became clear that this was far from a mutually-agreed split, with some of the more unreasonable posts even taking it out on Siirala herself, which then prompted a furious response from the EnkElination camp. This was quickly overtaken by events as both Kristine and her former band posted further details, with the band claiming there was a meeting with a mediator and Kristine insisting she had been ‘fired from my own band’. Given that she and co-vocalist Krull were married, that only served to fuel further speculation, although all parties were keen to keep the members’ personal lives out of it.
The whole thing unfurled very quickly and became the most acrimonious split since Tarja Turunen was fired from Nightwish a decade ago. Certainly, from the viewpoint of an outsider, this whole thing was handled with astonishing ineptitude. Kristine is one of the symphonic Metal genre’s best-loved vocalists and a leading light of the entire scene; the band was her vehicle and it beggars belief for the rest of the group to think they could switch her for another singer just like that and expect their fans to simply accept it. Elina Siirala must be wondering what she has let herself in for, presumably the gig was sold to her as a major opportunity to tour the world and record with a name band. While she is an undeniably talented singer in her own right, it is a big ask to bring in a relatively unknown singer to deliver lyrics written from Kristine’s perspective and to do it with absolutely no warning to fans that this change was imminent.
Before I knew of the full facts behind this change I wondered why it could not have been handled in a similar way to Arch Enemy; when their vocalist Angela Gossow left the band it was she who announced that she was to step down, explained why (to focus on the business side of the act) before announcing Alissa White-Gluz as her successor and asking the fans to continue to support the band. That was the correct way to deal with a change of frontwoman, and it was only when Kristine revealed her side of the story did I understand why it wasn’t dealt with like that by Leaves’ Eyes.
Looking at the posts on the respective Facebook pages it isn’t difficult to choose who to side with; Leaves’ Eyes are a band I saw live on only one occasion and following this switch as well as their spiky responses to posts questioning their side of events, it’s unlikely I’ll be going to see them again any time soon (with all due respect to their new singer, who was not party to what went down). As for Liv Kristine, she has announced that she will be working on new material with Raymond Rohonyi (her former colleague from Theatre of Tragedy), which has already had her fans speculating on a reunion of that band (played down by Kristine). It is to be hoped that she will return to the live circuit soon where she will likely find many former fans of her old band waiting for her.