In April 2016, the music scene lost a beautiful soul, Aleah Starbridge, who we knew from Trees of Eternity. She has also collaborated as session musician with bands like Amorphis and Swallow the Sun. Her death was devastating but an inspiration for Juha Raivio, the mastermind behind Trees of Eternity. After the successful release of “The Hour of the Nightingale”, Juha already gave hints that he will continue giving us pieces of Aleah’s music and so Hallatar was born.
“Hour of the Nightingale” was one of my favorites of 2016 and so I was beyond curious about Hallatar and their debut album. Furthermore, the line-up for Hallatar has been beyond interesting. Gas Lipstick (ex-HIM) and Tomi Joutsen (Amorphis) have joined Juha for this album.
There are certain albums that go perfectly when we remember the deceased ones; our family, friends or our partners. This album is exactly that….and much more. It is doom metal to the bone and will make you shiver and wonder what the story behind the album is. For some of us, the story is quite clear. This is funeral doom, the overall atmosphere is very dark and saddening. This was my first impression of the album when I span it a few times. I didn’t expect anything less from this project; what I didn’t expect was something much darker than the atmosphere in “Hour of the Nightingale”.
When we dig deep into the record, we see many surprises and contrasts. The first single as well as the first song “Mirrors” summarizes the album quite well; Tomi’s vocals are even harsher and it shows us how diverse he can get. Accompanied with the riffs and the ‘doom’-y drums, the album’s atmosphere rotates around these three beautiful elements; harsh vocals, melancholic melodies and slow drums. They are gloomy and dark and forms the essence of the album. However, the biggest surprises for me were the texts in between songs… I assume these are Aleah’s poems or her words. Passages like “Raven’s Song” or “Pieces” introduce us to her beauty, her voice again. She may not be the highlight of the album like with Trees of Eternity but her soul is there with us and we can hear and feel her in these songs… so beautiful but so saddening for us fans. Every time I hear those passages, I feel the album’s crush and power again. Furthermore, the last song “Dreams Burn Down” features Aleah in the vocals… perfect end to an album like this.
Another highlight is definitely the collaboration with Heike Langhans (Draconian, ISON) in “My Mistake”. I have always adored Heike’s talent ever since she joined Draconian and she has been indeed the perfect companion for an album like this. As someone who knew Aleah, Heike reflected Aleah’s power and her magic so well. I gotta even admit their voices sound so similar and Heike definitely gave her heart and soul. On the other hand, my personal highlight is the ‘acoustic’ song “Severed Eyes” in which we hear Tomi’s beautiful clean vocals. This song has made me cry so many times and it definitely reflects the other side of the album; soft but crushing again. As a matter of fact, more songs like “Severed Eyes” would have fit into the album very well.
“No Stars Upon The Bridge” is not only a doom record but much more… It’s quite different from last year’s “Hour of the Nightingale” for sure. It’s much more diverse, much darker and it pays tribute to Aleah once again. One more proof that she will never be forgotten but will live on through songs, texts and melodies.
Thank you Juha for giving us these pieces, for your projects and for your energy. I hope we get to hear more beautiful music from you and from Aleah.
Juha Raivio – guitars
Tomi Joutsen – vocals
Gas Lipstick – drums