Vera : With pain and heavy heart I have to write stories of poignant sorrow about guitarist/composer Juha Raivio since more than a year. I spoke to him countless times about Swallow The Sun and he seemed to have found luck in his life in Sweden (a job in nature with horses) and his life partner Aleah Starbridge. Until fate struck the beautiful couple when she died in April 2016. Juha obviously went through hard times and tried to find solace in music and writings. A first release was ‘Hour Of The Nightingale’ from Trees Of Eternity, recorded with Aleah as singer and lyricist, but only released after her death. As posthumous tribute and consequently the swansong of Trees Of Eternity.
Going through this process of mourning continues with the band Hallatar. Now they release their debut ‘No Stars Upon The Bridge’. Juha gathered lyrics and poems of Aleah, took his guitar and tried to put his sadness into music. That happened to be the start of Hallatar. This is the result from one week of ultimate grief and the search for catharsis. The spontaneity of the moment was saved in a raw manifest. Juha asked his friends and fellow musicians Tomi Joutsen (Amorphis – vocals) and Gas Lipstick (ex-HIM – drums) to record everything together and form a band. This is so personal that it is hard to describe. ‘Mirrors’ opens quite familiar with doom riffs and graceful emotive leads, but when Joutsen starts to ‘sing’, a huge surprise is waiting for us. This is no common grunt, this is an eerie broken voice, a cry of distress and ultimate despair. This goes deep, very deep… Even if few clean chants loom up, this happens to be the embodiment of funeral doom metal. And that’s exactly what ‘Melt’ is as well. It gets more melodious in ‘My Mistake’, a duet between Tomi and Heike Langhans (Draconian) that brims with melancholy and howling guitars like the scream of Munch. Several short poems are rendered by Heike as a wide range of brief testimonies. ‘Severed Eyes’ (also quite short) is completely sung clean by Tomi, while ‘The Maze’ turns into another long, extreme track with a piano intermezzo as solace. In the last song ‘Dreams Burn Down’ we hear vocals of Aleah Stanbridge, almost sacral and surrounded by the compelling doom guitars of her big love. Joutsen adds any intense vocal lines to it. Naturally this will mainly appeal to fans of Swallow The Sun and (very) ponderous doom metal, but it is peerless as genuine moment in time.