By Carl Begai
On April 15th, 2016, fans of Leaves’ Eyes were shocked to learn the band had parted ways with vocalist and namesake Liv Kristine Espenæs. In the same breath, the band announced that Finnish singer Elina Siirala of the band EnkElination would take Liv’s place. Given that Leaves’ Eyes had centered around Liv Kristine and her husband / Atrocity frontman Alexander Krull since the band’s inception in 2003 – in the wake of Liv being fired from Theater of Tragedy – it was clear the issues leading to the split were personal as well as professional. It would take some time for the dust to settle, as both sides shared different accounts of what led to the split, but Leaves’ Eyes forged onward with Siirala up front and a significant wave of fan discontent on their tails. For her part, Liv gradually went quiet, making guest appearances on Cradle Of Filth’s “Vengeful Spirit”, Orden Ogan’s “Come With Me To The Other Side” in 2017, and Midnattsol’s album The Aftermath in 2018, but otherwise stayed away from putting out new music. In December 2019, however, she released a new solo single, “Skylight”, which was reminiscent of her Vervain solo record from 2014 and Theatre of Tragedy’s classic third album, Aegis.
“After a few ups and down – a few roller-coaster rides to put it mildly, since I moved to Germany 20 years ago – I decided to start all anew,” Liv says of her comeback. “I practically left everything, cleared all relationships, situations, or ended them. In 2019, I felt the spirit again to continue working on my own music. It was Tommy Olsson (guitarist / ex-Theatre of Tragedy) who reached out in 2016 with a handful of songs that really blew me away. He’s been very patient and supportive throughout my journey, and I have the best composer by my side. I just want to do the music which I love, which I am fully in alignment with. My upcoming solo album is a collaboration with Tommy. It’s in the veins of Vervain, but not at all like it. It is inspired by Tommy’s masterpiece, Aegis.”
Liv is gearing things up slowly, but she has definite plans for the future. She admits to being somewhat gunshy of getting back into the grind, but the support of family and friends gives her strength to move forward with her music career.
“There is always light after darkness, and for me, and without darkness, there is no light and visa versa,” Liv continues. “I find love, fulfilment, passion and self-confidence in writing new music. Along with moving away in 2016 with my son and dogs, getting myself a job to get back on my feet after being stuck in a terrible financial situation caused by the fact that everything I had – financial income, Leaves’ Eyes, my family home, safety – was taken away from me. Now working with scholars and youngsters who have experienced the worst things you can imagine, I have found love, home and trust again. Today, I know that my whole situation was a testing period in my life and that it was my way to get here where I am with Leon (her son), Mikkel, and my family today. Mikkel and I are getting married in May. We are one frequency, one love. My family and dearest friends mean all the world to me.”
“The music business works like this: the more money you receive, the less you have to say on behalf of your own product, meaning artistic creation. Moreover, the more you have to recoup. I felt like I’d lost myself, lost my heart in music. I had nightmares about people telling me what to do, so I decided to do it myself and to be the only creator of my music. Crowdfunding might be an idea, let’s see. Mikkel, my fiancé, is helping mean supporting me all the way, planning the releases, and it just feels like coming from the heart again. Music comes from my heart and I just can’t live without the magic melodies, those uplifting life-moments, the beautiful and positive energy coming from my audiences. So, there’s a single coming up, we’re planning a live album, a full-length album is half-finished, and there are various projects / duets going on with Coldbound, Valkyre, Ben Blutzukker, which I am really happy about.”
Liv has always been a live performer and she makes it clear she will continue to do so as things get back on track. This begs the question as to whether any Leaves’ Eyes material will make it into her set. It’s a painful subject to be sure, but she left behind a legacy of six studio albums that would not exist without her vision.
“My setlist consists of two thirds solo songs, one third Theatre of Tragedy songs,” Liv reveals. “I could play Leaves’ Eyes songs since the band carries my name, but it feels strange, like a loss, which I feel really sorry about. I was thrown out of my own band, period, and that is just not right, especially because I never received any compensation, nor did anybody ask me about name rights. I wish the remaining two members would change the band’s name and do their own thing. None of them ever created a concept and wrote lyrics based on their personal history and birthplace, passion for Norway, and Norse writings. That part was mine, and it was passion, heritage and so much of me in there. The latest brilliant idea the band’s manager had was sending my family a bill of thousands of euros for Christmas. Well, I wish them good luck. Karma is great, by the way. What you give is what will return to you. But, I can’t tell you how endlessly happy I am with what I have today. Everything was and is meant to be.”