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Trees of Eternity - "Hour of the Nightingale" (CD)

Trees of Eternity - "Hour of the Nightingale" CD cover image

"Hour of the Nightingale" track listing:

1. My Requiem
2. Eye of Night
3. Condemned to Silence (feat. Mick Moss of Antimatter)
4. A Million Tears
5. Hour of the Nightingale
6. The Passage
7. Broken Mirror
8. Black Ocean
9. Sinking Ships
10. Gallows Bird (feat. Nick Holmes of Paradise Lost)

Reviewed by on October 5, 2016

"This is the most legitimately “beautiful” sounding album I've heard in a long while, and its no small feat that it also happens to be a metal album, with story behind the release making it even more haunting."

There are times when real life situations sadly interfere with art, and while those are usually because some musician did something foolish or objectionable, other times tragedy is at the heart of the problem. That's the case here with the debut (and likely also final) album from international project Trees Of Eternity, featuring members of Swallow The Sun, Wintersun, and October Tide.

If that sort of lineup pedigree gets you excited, it should, because “Hour Of The Nightingale” is an absolutely amazing album, full of all the gloom and atmosphere you'd expect from these sort of musicians. The most haunting element, however, is easily the vocal delivery from Aleah Standbridge, who passed away just as the album was being completed.

Hearing someone who is actually dead sing lines like “raise me up out of my grave” and starting the album off with a song called “My Requiem” creates legitimate chills as this woman is speaking to us about her death from beyond the grave through the power of music. Each song features Aleah offering up a subdued, breathless vocal style very outside the norm for a metal album. In fact, the disc as a whole is very low key from beginning to end, instead of energetic or over the top, but it really works well as there's a mysterious and alluring quality to the music.

While “Hour Of The Nightingle” is a subdued sonic experience, its no less devastating for the change of pace, and the album absolutely has strong metal elements. There's a fantastic sort of old school quality to the guitar work in particular, which very much brings to mind some of the classic Scandinavian sounds from the '90s, but with a more modern production. From the twangy acoustic sounds kicking off opening track “My Requiem” to the epic metal marching beat of closing song “Gallows Bird,” this is one apocalyptically bleak album. The final song in particular is just perfect for the subject matter, and it really makes a listener feel like they are taking a final walk to the hangman's noose.

Paradoxically, that strength in the restrained delivery is also the album's only weakness: with seven to nine minute tracks of supremely low key music, obviously it's not going to work for anyone primarily interested in high octane thrash, skull bludgeoning death metal, etc. If you can look past that aspect, then there's some top 10 of the year material to be found here.

Think of the somber and understated desperation from Lera Lynn's soundtrack to season two of True Detective, but add in some clear Scandinavian metal elements, and what you've got is “Hour Of The Nightingale.” This is the most legitimately “beautiful” sounding album I've heard in a long while, and its no small feat that it also happens to be a metal album, with story behind the release making it even more haunting. While it's sad to see a band so full of promise have its career cut short immediately, at the same time that tragedy makes the album all the more precious for its rarity – there will likely never be another.

Highs: Absolutely stunning vocals from the now-deceased Aleah

Lows: The very subdued nature of the album isn't going to work for metal fans wanting something more extreme

Bottom line: Trees Of Eternity offers up an absolutely phenomenal first (and likely last) album that is both utterly bleak and hauntingly beatiful

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)