Monday 27 November 2017

ALBUM REVIEW: Hallatar - "No Stars Upon The Bridge"

By: Ernesto Aguilar

Album Type: Full length
Date Released: 20/10/2017
Label: Svart Records

"No Stars Upon The Bridge" CD//DD//LP track listing

1. Mirrors
2. Raven's Song 
3. Melt
4. My Mistake (with Heike Langhans)          
5. Pieces
6. Severed Eyes
7. The Maze
8. Spiral Gate
9. Dreams Burn Down (with Aleah Starbridge)

The Review:

Stunning art can at many turns be informed by loss. Perhaps it is the vulnerability or universality of such experiences that brings us in as an audience. Maybe it is because the artist's stories mirror our own. Their memories help us grieve. Sometimes they aid us in coming to grips with our own recollections and histories. Hurt is something each one of us experiences. It is thus no secret that music, a unifier in its own right, can encourage us to heal.

Death has informed a number of musical releases in 2017. Bell Witch is most prominent among those bands that have lost members. For acts like Mount Eerie, core performers have seen the departures of loved ones shape the direction of their music. Finland's Hallatar join these tragic ranks. Swallow the Sun and Trees of Eternity principal Juha Raivio launched Hallatar following the death of partner and Swallow the Sun vocalist Aleah Starbridge from cancer last April. "No Stars Upon the Bridge" is the resultant album, which sees Raivio joined by HIM's Gas Lipstick and Tomi Joutsen of Amorphis in a cathartic and revealing nine songs.

However, do not expect ballads out of "No Stars Upon the Bridge.

The death/doom experiment in Hallatar is instead a tightly wound emotional trek. Raivio has stated in interviews that the albums lyrics were written shortly after Starbridge's death, with a further commitment not to edit or alter the feelings expressed on the days the songs were composed. "Mirrors" opens as a pained flare of energy. The mix of spoken and growled vocals continues on "Melt," as Raivio lays bare his feelings and searching for meaning amidst the anguish. Colored against the real-life backdrop, it is impossible for the music not to have a weight that goes beyond what we usually expect from the music.

Hallatar offers a few particularly important parts of the performance. Heike Langhans of Draconian provides a feature on "My Mistake" that will surprise you. The haunting atmosphere in "The Maze" makes this one of the album's best songs. At once menacing and dejected, Hallatar conveys distress and heartache in a despairing struggle. "Raven's Gate" and "Spiral Gate" offer poetry that connects the music. And finally, "Dreams Burn Down," the climax, weaves Raivio's inconsolable lyrics with the posthumous singing of Starbridge in what is a heavyhearted song lifted up by the soaring tones. In all, "No Stars Upon The Bridge" is a fitting goodbye that is not wholly a goodbye.

"No Stars Upon The Bridge" is available here

Band info: bandcamp || facebook