Hallatar - No Stars upon the Bridge
Svart Records
Melodic Doomdeath
9 songs (40'28")
Release year: 2017
Svart Records
Reviewed by Alex
Album of the month

Juha Raivio has been on a creative spurt as of late. The month of November in the last three years has been marked with a release of a full length album for each of the three outfits this talented guitarist/songwriter performs for. In 2015 it was Swallow the Sun monumental Songs from the North with all its three volumes. In 2016 Trees of Eternity released Hour of the Nightingale, Aleah’s Starbridge swansong, the album coming out after the singer’s untimely passing. And now Juha debuts an album with his most recent incarnation Hallatar. Joining forces with Toni Joutsen (Amorphis) on vocals and Gus Lipstick (HIM) on drums, Hallatar’s No Stars upon the Bridge delivers melodic deathdoom in all its glory, powered on by late Aleah’s poetry and lyrics.

I have to consider myself lucky not to personally experience the magnitude of loss Juha Raivio has experienced. It is only the non-stop unforgiving hurt that can drive a person to compose the music I am hearing on No Stars upon the Bridge. Sure enough I love melodic death doom, and I have mentioned it many times on these pages that I often reach for albums in this genre when I need a moral respite and internal cleansing. Yet, strangely enough, with No Stars upon the Bridge, through its heavy riffs or atmospheric moments I have received no relief of such kind. It isn’t even that the album’s riffs are the heaviest ever, but somehow the feeling of hopelessness and unlight on No Stars upon the Bridge are staggering. Shoulders stoop and hands drop when listening to Mirrors, and I as mentioned above, no atmospheric moments of My Mistake make for light or elation moments. The Maze goes on a total funeral plunge, piano notes (Raivio also plays bass on keyboards on the album) being thoroughly morose.

Tony Joutsen delivers an interesting and somewhat unusual vocal performance on the album. In addition to bottom of the trough doom death vocals (,i>My Mistake) and some weepy clean singing (opening of Severed Eyes, Melt), Tony comes up with higher register, vomitous, near spoken vocals which make feeling of torture and desperation on Mirrors or The Maze even more pronounced. The multitude of vocal styles is definitely a boon on the album, but of course Juha Raivio is a master of melodies, so there are no shortages of breathtaking moments in that regard (dark acoustic opening of Severed Eyes, for example). On the closer Dreams Burn Down there is even a gothic duet with what my understanding is one of Aleah Starbridge’s last recordings. Female vocals also make appearance on My Mistake, but Hallatar should not be confused with something like Draconian. No Stars upon the Bridge is a lot less gothic or symphonic, and a lot more personal, although both bands focus on the grief a lot.

Interspersed with short bursts of female recited poetry (Raven’s Song, Pieces, Spiral Gate) Hallatar’s effort was massive and will resonate with me for a while.

Killing Songs :
Mirrors, My Mistake
Alex quoted 90 / 100
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