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Trees of Eternity : Hour of the Nightingale

A fitting swansong for the passing of vocalist Aleah, this album's Gothic beauty is as perfect a memorial as any.

As of April 18th of 2017, it has been a year since the passing of South African singer Aleah Stanbridge. At the young age of 39, it was an untimely and devastating turn of events that has broken the hearts of thousands of Doom and Gothic Metal fans. What brought Aleah into the spotlight was her contributions to popular Finnish band, Swallow the Sun, in which her soothing crooned vocals added a ghostly and dreamy essence to their aggressive, yet melodic, songs.

Aleah and the guitarist of StS, Juha Raivio, were in a relationship and decided to start a side-project of their own; thus, Trees of Eternity was created. The couple wrote and recorded a dreamy demo of Atmospheric Doom Metal with Aleah's haunting singing, which grabbed the attention of fans in the underground Doom scene. The project gained quite a bit of popularity as they quietly prepared an album, before seemingly falling into a mysterious hiatus. Fans knew that an album was in the works; the question was if it would ever be released. It wasn't until November of 2016, about seven months after Aleah's death, that the album saw the light of day; 'Hour of the Nightingale'.

Maybe it is the passing of Aleah that makes the sorrowful music within this album so hard-hitting, or maybe it is the sensation of loss that Raivio must have felt at the time of its release. Regardless, the mood and atmosphere of 'Hour of the Nightingale' is downbeat and melancholic. It's a kind of sadness which, though it's played so gently and subtly, will consume you over the course of the album.

To me, the music on this album represents a perfect example of what Atmospheric Doom Metal is meant to sound like; spacious, dreamy, and gloomy sounding doom with melodic guitar lines and soothing clean singing. This album has the kind of purity that I once heard in The 3rd and the Mortal's early work; a purity that is displayed in the flowing vocal lines and mellow guitars. There are no harsh vocals, aggressive riffs, or super complex, progressive structures. The emotions of the album are subtle, as are the intricacies of the instruments and the vocal lines. Everything is done so tastefully and flows smoothly.

Each song on the album has a ballad-like quality to it. There is a lot of alternation between distorted riffs and clean passages. More often than not, gentle clean melodies are entwined with the distorted waves, which only adds to the ethereal feel that is so omnipresent throughout the duration of the album. The tempo mostly sticks to a moderately slow rhythm. Only on tracks 'Eye of Night' and 'Broken Mirror' does the pace build up to a more mid-tempo chug, showcasing some elements towards Gothic Metal. On the other end of the spectrum, closing track 'Gallows Bird' is considerably slower than the majority of the album; the song keeps a desperate sounding funereal tempo which wouldn't sound out of place on a Shape of Despair release.

All four tracks of the band's demo release have been reworked for the album; improving the recording quality of the songs to a crystal clear production, making use of a drummer as opposed to the synthetic and slightly awkward sound of programmed drums, and adding more layers of bass and keyboard melodies to enhance the intricacies of each track. There are also some faint violin and orchestra lines to hear in a few odd spots throughout the album as well, encouraging you to listen carefully. Alongside Aleah's gentle passages, there are some very tastefully done clean male vocals on a couple of tracks; Mick Moss of Antimatter lends his smooth tenor voice to third track 'Condemned to Silence', while the aforementioned 'Gallows Bird' features deeper Gothic croons from none other than Nick Holmes of Paradise Lost. The addition of these solemn and calm male vocals were a nice touch, as their rich contributions seam all too well with those of Aleah.

In the end, every note and fill of 'Hour of the Nightingale' is filled with the blood, sweat, and tears of those who were touched by this tragic passing. It all sounds so mature, intricate, and dignified, I couldn't possibly imagine a better swansong for an artist. As disheartening as the story behind it is, there is no doubt that Aleah and this album will leave a mark on fans of Doom and Gothic Metal alike indefinitely. This is a swansong, a masterpiece, and it deserves to be heard. This album is Aleah's legacy, and it's a legacy that, while morose, is utterly beautiful.

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Reviewer's rating: 10/10


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

Duration : Approx. 63 minutes

Visit the Trees of Eternity bandpage.

Reviewed on 2017-05-02 by Dante DuVall
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