What really sucks about this album is that for South African born vocalist Aleah Starbridge, its release is posthumous. She and Swallow The Sun guitarist Juha Raivio created Trees of Eternity as an acoustic collaboration, but it pretty soon morphed into more with the inclusion of Katatonia/October Tide brothers Mattias and Fredrik Norrman with Nightwish/Wintersun’s Kai Hahto taking care of the drums. In some ways the melancholy and forlorn soundscape that is this album suits the quiet beauty and mood perfectly.
Opening track “My Requiem” quickly sets the tone with its picked guitars and gentle but heavy strumming with light tapping on the cymbals and solid pounding on the drums, all to complement and make certain you know that the vocals are going to be the main attraction on this album.
“Eye of Night” has a rather tranquil but heavy guitar sound that dominates everything but the vocals as they sweetly crush everything in their glorious path.
Antimatter’s Mick Moss manages an amazing vibrato in his contribution to “Condemned to Silence” as he and Aleah sing in harmony on one of the heavier tracks on this extremely laid back album.
The simple timing signature on “A Million Tears” carries it slowly to its conclusion while passing through some light then heavy riffs that accentuate the ethereal quality of Aleah’s vocals during this lovely lament.
Hitting true minimalism on “Hour of the Nightingale”, but in such an exquisite way that single notes ring out on the guitars as Aleah’s near whispered singing finally forces one of the guitars to get a little louder for added melody. While on “The Passage” steady drumming accompanies the heavier guitar strumming which maintains the melody effortlessly.
There are moments on “Broken Mirror” where it feels like the guitars after going to increase in intensity and death vocals may creep in, but this isn’t the case as once it nears this crescendo it wanes slightly, just to keep from cresting thereby adding to the subtle intensity.
The alternating of guitar picking and strumming gives “Black Ocean” a wonderful undulating effect as the tempo rises and falls back down, the emotive lead towards the end is rather haunting in its beauty.
The gentle but slightly brisk picking takes “Sinking Ships” to a new level by making it feel much faster than it is as Aleah’s vocal melody never strays from its mellow pace.
The final track, “Gallows Bird” features Nick Holmes of Paradise Lost and while he doesn’t growl at all, he does give us his deepest clean vocals to complement Aleah’s dulcet alto as the nearly 10 minute song meanders through its many movements.
I must admit that I was dragging out reviewing this album a little more than I should have, just so that I could keep listening to it. Yeah, I suppose I do think it’s that good. Really simple, but very good, possibly even because of its simplicity as nothing is hidden or obscured making the music & vocals truly stand up to scrutiny.
(9/10 Marco Gaminara)