|Interview:||TREES OF ETERNITY|
With the Melodic Death Doom Metal formation Swallow The Sun, founded in 2000, guitarist Juha Raivio gained an admiration beyond the genre.
When the South African Aleah Liane Stanbridge gave her guest singing in the studio for the song „Lights On The Lake“ of the 2009 album „New Moon“, Juha was highly fascinated by the voice skills of the lady who was then living in Sweden. So much, that he picked up with Aleah a completely new band project: Trees Of Eternity.
In the following, maincomposer Juha wrote the songs for the debut album „Hour Of The Nightingale“, which simultaneously marks the departure of Trees Of Eternity. Because Aleah died tragically in spring 2016.
The style of Trees Of Eternity, as expected, is not unlike that of Swallow The Sun. The ghostly beautiful, deeply melancholic vocals of Aleah can create lasting gratitude.
Juha is still deeply affected by the painful loss, as he shows with a discreet voice.
How do you feel, having these collection of songs at the start?
„Over all the sorrow and sadness of losing Aleah I feel very very proud of this album. For me these songs and lyrics stand out as 100 % honest and true music and emotion. Each song is really piece of perfection to me. I could not be more proud of this music and writing this album with Aleah.“
Destiny was cruel to the band - what drove/drives you to carry on with Trees Of Eternity?
„There will be no other singer in Trees Of Eternity, so this album will be the first and last full length Trees Of Eternity album. I have never heard a voice like Aleah’s and there will never be another voice like hers and she was the true soul and heart of this band. But we wrote about 30 minutes of material for the next album and I hope I will release those remaining new Trees Of Eternity demo songs in the future as an EP maybe.“
What still counts most for you in making music with Trees Of Eternity?
„I have always been all about honesty when I write music and all the music I have wrote to Swallow The Sun is truly honest music and lyrics from the heart. But when I started to work with Aleah and writing music with her she took me even to another higher level of understanding and respecting the importance of each note and word. She really teached me even more of the heart of making music and lyrics and that has to be the thing that counts the most after everything.“
How long has songwriting lasted for all compositions?
„Me and Aleah were and are not the easiest people to work with when it comes to writing music with other people, we are real lone wolf composers both. We both have so powerful and clear vision what we want from the music that it is almost impossible to let other people touch the music or lyrics we write. But for some strange reason from the fist note we wrote together it was all very easy and full of unexplained magic really. We had total trust on each other and it was so easy to write a lot of music with her. All the songs on the album came very easy, but we also took long time to make every note and word perfect on them, nothing less would do. So we went easy and slow with shaping all the songs to be like perfect diamonds.“
Please tell a bit about the songwriting process itself; some highs beside the lows to mention?!
„Many times I just took a song Aleah had written with her acoustic guitar and shaped it to the metal form for the album, then as many times I wrote song and Aleah wrote lyrics and vocals on them. We also wrote many songs starting with Aleah’s acoustic song and me finishing the song with what I had in mind and mixing all things up. So writing music worked on all the level between us and we had total trust on each other with it.“
„Hour Of The Nightingale“ is suitable for many ears, I think … for what special musical ideals stands the new album release mainly?
„We didn't want to add any growls into the music of Trees Of Eternity as me or she had not ever heard another band doing this kind of a doomish music with such a ghostly female vocals and voice that Aleah had. We really didn't feel like doing another female fronted metal band with someone growling in the songs. We knew that when this music is this slow and Aleah has such a unique whispering voice of singing it will be too much for many people, but we felt that that also will be exactly our power and stand out point from all the other bands around.“
„Hour Of The Nightingale“ as a title for an album sounds inspiring - what lyrical concept/vision is behind?
„For me the bird Nightingale is a very good word to describe Aleah’s beautiful voice. And the album is also one hour long, so album name is also kind of a “Hour of Aleah” actually. For Aleah the beauty always could destroy and overtake the darkness and that is what her lyrics were and this album is about. This music and her voice is a perfect match of this battle between light and darkness. You cant have one without understanding the other.“
Be so kind and tell about the history of the recruitment of Aleah.
„Back in 2009 I was looking for a voice for a Swallow The Sun song called ‚Lights On The Lake‘. Then I found Aleah’s solo songs from the internet and from the first note I heard her singing it felt like a knife would have gone through my soul. But it also felt like coming home, there was something very magical and healing about her voice. So I contacted her right away the same night and asked if she would be interested to do guest vocals on the Swallow The Sun song and thats how I found her. When I went to Sweden to record Aleah’s part for the Swallow The Sun song we started to write other songs together right away and we did ‚My Requiem‘ song on that trip. After that it was clear we need to do more music together and put up a band as we both loved what came out of that song.“
What were the main vocal and mental powers of Aleah in your opinion?
„For me Aleah’s almost whispering voice is much more powerful than any growling or opera singing I have ever heard. Even her breathing sounds between the words holds so much emotion and power that they could break down any wall in this world. She could spend moths to write lyrics for a song so she would know that each and every word is perfect and honest. She could also wait for weeks or sometimes months before recording the vocals for a song as she wanted to be totally in the emotion what she had wrote. It sometimes would drive me crazy to wait for her to record vocals, but that is a sign of a real artist and songwriter that nothing but 100 % honesty of music would do as what you record will be eternal.“
How was the work with her as a singer?
„It was wonderful and easy. She really had so much magic in her essence and in her voice that I could just listen her speaking for hours as the tone of her voice was already so beautiful. To be able to work with a person and talent like this is such a gift that it will stay with me forever and it she really teached me a lot about music.“
Were the songs for „Hour Of The Nightingale“ built especially around her fine voice? Or did you start with the songs basically and Aleah brought herself inside on a suitable way?
„Yes I did write much more simple way than what I write on Swallow The Sun as when you have such a voice and vocal melodies you don't want to go and mess them up with complicated riffs or other useless stuff too much. I kind of knew what kind of chord changes she liked, but I really didn't need to think that much how to write with her as all fell in place from beginning naturally.“
Please describe the main musical character of „Hour Of The Nightingale“ with your own words!
„This album for me is really like the first rays of the dawn reflecting on the horizon after the darkest of night. Aleah’s voice is like a bright lighthouse on horizon on the raging black ocean showing you the way to home. So, its all about the beauty, light and the total darkness and how we need them both in us as humans to really understand the the core of our self and finally come out as a better person also. That is truly the main character and the soul of this album and music.“
The direction on the new release „Hour Of The Nightingale“ is pretty sombre, deep melancholic and dark longing.
Please bring the main reasons a bit closer!
„We didn't want to mess the atmosphere with growling or add any symphonic elements or anything like that to our music. We wanted the music to be very atmospheric and hypnotic and almost like a long slow church mass or something like that. We could have easily add some growls or put some faster songs on the album but it was clear from beginning that we didn't want to go that way with Trees Of Eternity. We wanted the music to be very dark but very beautiful as we both have always love music like that and done music like that before, too.“
How important are dark sounding melodies for Trees Of Eternity?
„All the melodies we wrote just came out this way naturally. So you really don’t think that I need to write a dark sounding melody or a song as it just happens naturally like that. It would be very hard or even impossible to write a happy song for me, it is just not in me or were in us. But dark music and melodies can sure make you happy and make you feel good, so its all how you look into it and that is also the healing aspect of a true music.“
How relevant is authenticity and depth in the arrangements for you?
„It is all that matters and the most important thing. If music doesn't have a real depth it really it is not worth writing for. We born and die alone, but music is always within and with you until the end, it will never leave you and walks with you through the life.“
The new album seems to reveal a musical adventure of many sombre contrasts. Curious listeners get rewarded by „Hour Of The Nightingale“ surely with a very high degree of intensity.
Please tell about such levels of the new material!
„You really can feel and hear the weight of this music and the lyrics. If you are open to take in this message and this music it will be very rewarding at the end. For many people this will be too much darkness to face or let in, but for those who will open the gates to their hearts the journey will take you to the places where you can find many answers within yourself. Music is a journey of soul and this album really takes you to very important journey for so many reasons.“
In what kind of moods are you able to create the music at best?
„Usually when I just pick up guitar I am in the mood and music just comes out. If I don’t feel the mood and creativity from the first minute I just put the guitar away and do something else. I never force out any music or lyrics and rather wait for weeks or months for the real gates open up. But for sure winter is a good time to write music and lyrics and the dark seasons really inspire you to create different way than spring or summer does.“
Song titles as „My Requiem“, „A Million Tears“, „Broken Mirror“, „Sinking Ships“ and „Gallows Bird“ speaking pretty lots about the base of the lyrics. Please bring the main lyrical direction of the new release closer!
„It is very hard to talk about the lyrics as they are all written by Aleah and she would be the one to answer. But it is always best for everyone to make their own personal truth of the lyrics, something that makes sense to you through your own life. But as I said before, for Aleah everything was about to face your own very darkness without fear facing your demons eye to eye. To really dive into the darkness and face the shadows you have inside and understand and overcome them and move closer to your inner light through that.“
Any additional words?
„I want to thank everyone who have supported the music of Aleah and Trees Of Eternity through all these years. I hope you all find happiness to your life and that this music can help on the way. And please share the music of Aleah as this dark and shallow world really needs this healing voice of an angel more than ever before. Thank you all.“
© Markus Eck, 23.10.2016
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