As we’re rapidly approaching the end of 2016 there’s one more album that I want to talk about before I get around to counting down my personal top ten albums of the year – which is going to be pretty hard to narrow down having listened to nearly six hundred albums this year!
The last one to get the individual treatment has to be “Hour Of The Nightingale”, the debut album from a melodic doom / gothic metal band called Trees Of Eternity. The genesis of the group was the getting together of singer Aleah Stanbridge and Swallow The Sun guitarist / composer Juha Raivio to work on material for the latter band’s 2009 record “New Moon”.
Stanbridge contributed vocals to “New Moon” and both subsequent Swallow The Sun albums, including last year’s phenomenal “Songs From The North” triple album. Away from his band Raivio continued to work on separate material with Stanbridge and the pair became partners in life as well as partners within music.
Album sessions began, I believe, in 2013, although videos for some of the tracks have been floating around the internet for several years already, presumably in demo form. The resulting record features the couple with guitarist Fredrik Norrman and his bassist brother Mattias Norrman (both of October Tide) as well as current Nightwish drummer Kai Hahto. There are clear similarities with Raivio’s day job but the finished product is, to my ears, a much gentler and soothing piece of work.
Opening track “My Requiem” is closest to Swallow The Sun’s material, I think. This is the track that grew out of Raivio and Stanbridge’s initial session for “New Moon” and immediately it’s the vocals that really make an impression, such is the beautiful and ethereal quality to Stanbridge’s voice.
Not that the backing is lacking, mind you. There is a heaviness to the musical performances that accompany the voice, that somehow even makes itself felt on the gentler passages.
The whole record is dense with melancholy and the mournful aspect of the music becomes so much more pertinent when you realise that Stanbridge tragically passed away from cancer six months before the album’s eventual release, aged just 39.
As a result listening to the album is both sad (at the loss of a very talented and a beautiful woman) and yet uplifting at the same time (thanks to the effect of her beautiful voice).
In a statement shortly after her death, Raivio said “…our Trees Of Eternity album will be released as it has been ready to be released for a while… we both loved it from the first note til the end and I’m so proud we had a chance to share a life and write this album together… been working on Aleah’s solo album for some time and will continue on that (at) some point…”
There are guest performances from Antimatter vocalist Mick Moss on “Condemned To Silence” and Paradise Lost frontman Nick Holmes on the epic closer “Gallows Bird”, but for the majority of the record it is that haunting voice of the late Stanbridge that grabs the listener’s attention.
My personal highlights on the record would be “A Million Tears”, “Broken Mirror”, the relatively brief “Sinking Ships” and the aforementioned tracks “Gallows Bird” and “My Requiem”. It’s a great shame that there will presumably be no further Trees Of Eternity records. One can only imagine the pain that Stanbridge’s passing has caused Raivio. This is a fabulous album and highly recommended listening.
I’ll leave the last words to Raivio – “…this cruel world needs this angel now more than ever. There will never be another voice like hers… She was pure magic, light and dark…” I hope that this record, and therefore the voice, will get the exposure and recognition that both deserve…
“Hour Of The Nightingale” tracklist:
1. My Requiem / 2. Eye Of Night / 3. Condemned To Silence / 4. A Million Tears / 5. Hour Of The Nightingale / 6. The Passage / 7. Broken Mirror / 8. Black Ocean / 9. Sinking Ships / 10. Gallows Bird