Trees Of Eternity
A musical marriage that transcends tragedy
“From the first note it sank into me and went straight to my soul and through my heart. I had never, ever heard a more beautiful voice than hers.”
Juha Raivio is recalling the first time he heard Aleah Starbridge sing. In 2009, Swallow The Sun’s founding guitarist/songwriter needed a ghostly female voice for a song on the Finnish doom heroes’ fourth album. By chance he heard an acoustic solo demo of Aleah’s and was so enraptured he immediately contacted the Sweden-based, South African-born singer. “She was actually a huge Swallow The Sun fan,” Juha recalls. “She told a friend a month before that she wanted to contact us about a collaboration. Things were very mystical and meant to be.”
Meeting up in Sweden to work on the STS song, the pair discovered a rare mutual chemistry; Trees Of Eternity took root, and with it a deep personal relationship. “For some reason it worked perfectly between me and her,” reflects Juha. “We had such a similar vision. It was just meant to be, that we’d end up together and make all this music.”
After a few years’ songwriting, Juha and Aleah looked to “gather perfect people” to fill the lineup, choosing ex- Katatonia scene veterans Frederik and Mattias Norrman and ex-STS drummer Kai Hahto. Hour Of The Nightingale was finished in 2014 and a major label lined up to sign the band. Then suddenly, in April 2016, Aleah died of cancer. “First the label sent a message saying how shocked they were, then a week later they said they weren’t going to release the album.” Juha’s deep, measured voice cracks with emotion. “So, ‘Welcome to the music business, fucker…’”
Svart Records have since provided a home, and with Aleah’s tragic death, the haunting intimacy, angelic grace and profound emotive force of her voice and lyrics stretch the heartstrings to breaking point. This was already a modern doom classic of rare beauty and power, now its full significance is poignantly apparent; both the arrival and the valediction of a major talent. “Even before all these things happened, I’d already told Aleah that this is the most important album I’ve done in my life,” Juha reveals.
Since Aleah’s passing, Juha has thrown himself into her music. Aleah recorded half an hour of demos for the second TOE album, as well as many acoustic solo recordings and unreleased lyrics, which Juha will bring to fruition as soon as possible.
“I promised her it’s my life’s task to release as much Aleah music as I can, because the world needs her voice and lyrics more now than ever. The world is so fucked,” he adds quaveringly, “but the most important thing is the heart and soul of the music. That’s all I am, that’s all she was. I’m so proud of this album that the pride overcomes the sadness.
Who are they?
LINEUP: Aleah Starbridge (vocals); Juha Raivio (guitars); Frederik Norrman (guitar); Mattias Norrman (bass); Kai Hahto (drums)
SOUNDS LIKE: Solemn, atmospheric gothic doom metal with nakedly emotional, angelic vocals
FOR FANS OF: My Dying Bride, Tori Amos, The Gathering, Mazzy Star
CURRENT RELEASE: Hour Of The Nightingale (Svart, 2016)
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Putting the ‘Inca’ into ‘incantation’
In the mid-90s, albeit for a brief period, the gothic route was regarded as the saviour of an extreme metal scene that at the time was in total disarray. While Berlin’s Albez Duz have labelled their music ‘occult doom rock’, you can’t help but think of Type O Negative and especially Peter Steele’s baritone voice upon discovering their third full-length, and first for Listenable. And you can tell that their drummer, Eugen, who’s played with black metallers Dies Ater for two decades, has heard that one before: “If that word means the first Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride or Tiamat albums, I can live with it. But if you mean that modern kitsch thing with Valkyries in wedding dresses, thanks but no thanks!”Guitarist Julia Norman pitches in, stating that they’re “a heavy metal band with a lot of doom influences but also some rock’n’roll and even black metal thrown in. There’s quite a vast range of styles presented on the new album where you can find, for instance, the unsettling sound of an Aztec death whistle preceded by a Hawkwind-like instrumental. I’m not aware of any other bands doing that.”
While the three core members have differing passports (German, American, Mexican), they all met in Berlin. Although he moved to Germany over eight years ago, Alfonso never severed the ties with his Mexican culture and brought to the table his opera-trained voice and Aztec/pre-Columbian concept, with the Tzinacan or ‘bat god’ evoked in their new album’s title representing “the eternal duality of the universe.
“He can give you back your life, or cut the silver cord that links your astral to your physical body,” he says. “That’s exactly the kind of duality that inspires us to make music: like life and death, order and chaos, joy and melancholy…”
Who are they?
LINEUP: Alfonso Brito Lopez (vocals, guitar), Julia Neuman (guitar), Eugen H (drums, bass).
SOUNDS LIKE: Type O on a Sabbath binge while tripping in a pagan peyote ritual
FOR FANS OF: Type O, Candlemass, Anathema
CURRENT RELEASE: Wings Of Tzinacan (Listenable, 2016)
Fiery Finns forge a route to Satan
With the release of their debut album, Beyond Flesh – Beyond Matter – Beyond Death, Kyy (‘Viper’ in Finnish), have evoked a blazing black metal malevolence. Filled with cryptic Satanic and Left Hand Path mysticism, the band’s passion and fury exemplify a Finnish scene that, in recent years, has set a high standard of barbaric quality control.
“I’m against mixing genres,” says vocalist G.K. “There can be influences of death metal, thrash and so on, but mixing things is something I don’t stand for. Moreover, every time I witnessed a great band starting to experiment, I also saw that they began to lose the main essence of their music and changed to be something totally different.”
Finns are often regarded as being tight-lipped and bluntly direct in conversation, and this quality is very much evident in the band’s music and ruthless dedication to their craft.
“When starting Kyy we agreed on the foundation of the band: to play Satanic black metal. If this seems to change in future, either members who are against the main foundation of Kyy will not be in the band anymore or there will not be Kyy. We follow a gnosis and do the necessities of our beliefs in our everyday life. Our music is a result of our Satanic path.”
Beyond Flesh… accomplishes the same icy atmospheres and crude characteristics that make up this recognisable ‘Finnish sound’ but also adopts a rock’n’roll and punk tempo for an unpredictable and chaotic approach that must surely enhance the dynamics for a live performance.
“Our shows are always intense,” says G.K. “They involve lots of passion and fury. When you witness it, you will remember it for many years. We are always ready to tour, play shows and spread the word of The Formless One.”
Who are they?
LINEUP: G.K. (vocals), E.V. (guitars), M.P. (guitars), J.S. (bass), M.J. (drums)
SOUNDS LIKE: Scabrous and feral black metal with a gravel-grazed edge
FOR FANS OF: Behexen, Black Breath, One Tail One Head
CURRENT RELEASE: Beyond Flesh – Beyond Matter – Beyond Death (Saturnal, 2016)