Hallatar - No Stars Upon The Bridge - (8/10)
Published on December 10, 2017
The story of Hallatar is one founded on tragedy with the death of Trees Of Eternity vocalist Aleah Stanbridge at the age of only 39. The band was formed by Stanbridge’s partner and Trees Of Eternity bandmate Juha Raivio as a tribute to her, basing the songs on Aleah’s lyrics and poems. Raivio has brought in Amorphis vocalist Tomi Joutsen, and former HIM drummer Gas Lipstick to make up Hallatar for their debut album, No Stars Upon The Bridge, which one assumes may well be their only release. The cover picture alone is a beautiful, touching piece of art, perfectly complementing the music and indeed the occasion.
Great tragedy does often produce great art and that is certainly true right from the start of No Stars Upon The Bridge, with the huge Doom/Death masterpiece “Mirrors” getting the album started in emphatic fashion. Mammoth riffs, melodic My Dying Bride-like leads, melancholic acoustic guitars, agonising growls and mournful lead vocals – everything you could possibly want from the genre, expertly combined to produce a wonderful piece of music that perfectly blends power and emotion.
Not all of the music on No Stars Upon The Bridge quite reaches the same high standard as the opening track, but there is much to be admired here. Draconian singer Heike Langhans contributes gentle female vocals to “My Mistake”, which again carries out the ‘light and heavy’ trick with aplomb; powerful, uplifting guitars and formidable growls contrast effectively with Langhans’ softer tones and catchy supporting synths.
Some of the tracks here consist of recordings of Stanbridge reciting her own poetry. These will be poignant for some and skipped by others, it wouldn’t be fair to say too much about them other than that they must be so important and meaningful, yet heart-breaking for Raivio.
Elsewhere, “Severed Eyes” isn’t a metal song at all, but is no worse for it. It’s quite minimalist compared to the heavier tracks here, with calm, clean singing and mellow backing vocals accompanied by acoustic guitar, but it’s a lovely piece of music and the swaying melody lodges into your head.
No Stars Upon The Bridge is an album bookended by works of genius. “Dreams Burn Down” closes the album in a similar way to that with which “Mirrors” opened it – Doom/Death brilliance. The song starts with faint choral singing, then sparse acoustic guitar and slightly muted screeches before the rhythm section kicks in along with incredibly moving, rousing female singing, which is utterly infectious. That singing is the voice of Aleah herself, on what may end up being her final recorded song and it’s a breath-taking performance.
This album, and particular the final few minutes is such a fitting tribute to a beautiful singer. It’s also fitting that Aleah Stanbridge’s contribution is perhaps the high point of a very strong album. It is Aleah’s voice that closes the whole thing and like all great artists, it leaves us wanting more.