After the tragic death of Aleah Starbridge on the 18th of April 2016 and the posthumous release of the Trees of Eternity début in November that year, guitarist Juha Raivio was left with the writings, lyrics, and poems of his beloved to keep safe. As a form of catharsis he wrote the music for ‘No Stars Upon The Bridge’ in a week and with the aid of Amorphis vocalist Tomi Joutsen and former HIM drummer Gas Lipstick, he formed Hallatar.
The album opens with “Mirrors” where the slow melancholic guitars are punctuated by the laconic pounding of drums to emphasise the anguish in both the clean and death vocals, using a minimalist approach to maximum effect.
“Raven’s Song” is a softly whispered poem, before the music returns for “Melt” where Juha’s background keyboards gently embrace the single guitar notes and Tomi whispers, speaks, chants and growls the lyrics as the music evolves and rises then falls only to ride again.
Heike Langhans tackles the female vocals on the exquisitely haunting “My Mistake” where they complement Tomi’s whispers as the gentle guitars build to release his roars.
The piano interlude “Pieces” has the beautifully recited poem as accompaniment before the acoustic guitar is meekly strummed while Tomi sings “Severed Eyes” with plenty of emotion in his voice.
As a complete contrast the low guttural roar that opens “The Maze” is matched by the buzzing bass as the heavy strings are stuck and slapped then joined by the slow heavy guitar and morose piano notes.
“Spiral Gate” is another recited poem preceding the final song on the album “Dreams Burn Down”, which features Aleah on vocals as Tomi employs a rather black metal rasp as a complete contrast at first then reverts to his more familiar death growl.
This is a rather beautiful, even if extremely sad piece of music, but I completely understand the catharsis requiring its outlet and am truly grateful to be able to appreciate it.
(9/10 Marco Gaminara)