Trees of Eternity - Hour of the Nightingale
Svart Records
Dark Ambient Melodic Doom
10 songs (62'44")
Release year: 2016
Svart Records
Reviewed by Alex

I have been writing reviews for this site for 14 years now and, as a result, have put many of them together. It is probably the hardest to get a writing started, to set the tone for the review flow. So often I spend the most time trying to find the right words for the first few paragraphs. And then there are reviews you simply do not know how to begin writing. Such was the case for Trees of Eternity. When listening to Hour of the Nightingale I simply thought at first that this is a side project of Swallow the Sun Juha Raivio. More research into the band, however, showed that this was the one and only album Juha made together with Aleah Stanbridge, Trees of Eternity vocalist, Swallow the Sun contributor and also Juha’s long time life partner. Reason Hour of the Nightingale will remain the one and only album for Trees of Eternity? Aleah’s tragic and untimely passing from cancer at the unbelievably young age of 38. Once that horrible fact came to light it caused me to stop writing about Hour of the Nightingale last weekend, put the album away for a while, to re-listen to it with this whole new perspective. The saying goes that you speak of the passed away only in good terms or not at all. That was not the reason, however, I needed new perception for the album. I loved Hour of the Nightingale the minute I heard it. What I needed was to grasp the feel whether music on the album was a tragic premonition, or written already by a person who knew about her incurable illness. The album was recorded in 2014, but released only now, so, ultimately, it is impossible for me to know for sure, yet at the end of this review I invite everybody to give this monumental album its due and draw your own conclusions.

Musically speaking Trees of Eternity can be characterized as softer melodic doom, similar to some Swallow the Sun passages minus deathiness or Draconian without its gothic symphonic prim-and-proper stance. Then there are veiled and obvious funeral references, as in the title fitting opener My Requiem, without “funeral” here standing for bottom dragging, churning or slow music. Instead, for Trees of Eternity funeral doom means coming up with incredible dark ambient melodic finds (My Requiem, Eye of Night, Broken Mirror) and to showcase Aleah’s voice. She is a pure epitome of fragility, almost exhaling sadness, bemoaning the tragedy of existence. Her vocal delivery is basically breathing the words out, those breaths recorded on a mirror pressed next to the lips of a motionless body whose soul is about to depart. Very capable of carrying the songs on her own, sometimes Aleah is placed into duets with Mick Moss on Condemned to Silence and Nick Holmes (Paradise Lost) on Gallows Bird. To contrast vocal styles, Gallows Bird brings out finality with its chug, and Nick’s voice fits otherworldly detached sense of inevitability, someone reading the final verdict. Aleah, on the other hand, is one last fading ray of warmth giving hope for those remaining in existence.

Hour of the Nightingale songs are never short ambient intros, they are fully developed compositions, all capable of tugging at heart strings. A Million Tears exerts an enormous weight on the listener, impossible to shoulder burden, giving an impression that Aleah is already gone and the composition is one last goodbye. It might be that without knowing the context some may find 5-6 long Black Ocean or the title track a little tedious. Hour of the Nightingale does not lack heaviness, but in its own way, without the use of distorted chords, supported instead by excellent musicianship. Besides Juha Raivio Trees of Eternity counts Normann brothers (Fredrik and Mattias) in its ranks, and guitars range from full orchestrally arranged weave (My Requiem) to cold ebbing fragility on the title track, similar to Falling on Lacuna Coil eponymous EP. Bass guitar fills in behind of tender, hurt and dejected The Passage, and rhythmically the album often contrasts percussive fragility (courtesy of Kai Hahto of Wintersun, Swallow the Sun and now Nightwish) vs. gothic steadiness (Condemned to Silence).

It is sad that most likely Trees of Eternity will cease to exist as a band, but it is a lot more heartbreaking that a young life was cut short so prematurely. Big kudos to Svart for the Hour of the Nightingale release, and I very much look forward to seeing Swallow the Sun on their upcoming tour of the US alongside Dark Tranquillity in November.

Killing Songs :
My Requiem, Eye of Night, A Million Tears, Broken Mirror
Alex quoted 88 / 100
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