Trees of Eternity – Ones of SorrowWednesday, 2nd November 2016
“This is the most important music and album I have written and released,” says Trees of Eternity’s Juha Raivio, who in his full-time gig, is the primary songwriter for melodic death/doom beacons Swallow the Sun. A personal project this is for Raivio, who developed a close relationship with its singer, Aleah Liane Stanbridge, who unfortunately passed away in April of this year. Stanbridge leaves behind not only Trees of Eternity’s fantastic Hour of the Nightingale debut, but impressive session work with Amorphis and the aforementioned Swallow the Sun. But in listening to Raivio speak of his fallen singer, Stanbridge’s impact goes far beyond the music.
A veritable all-star band that also includes top-notch drummer Kai Hahto (Nightwish, Wintersun), and Fred and Mattias Norrman of Katatonia/October Tide fame, Trees of Eternity for all and intents and purposes, takes the more delicate aspects of Swallow the Sun and blend it with Stanbridge’s soft, gentle vocals. The end result is an album that holds its weight, further complemented by striking artwork by Fursy Teyysier of Les Discrets fame. With that in mind, we snagged Raivio for a round of questions. Here’s how it went down…
Dead Rhetoric: You have always been so prolific with Swallow the Sun. While the band is your main creative vehicle, why branch out and do something like Trees of Eternity?
Juha Raivio: When I met Aleah to work with her on the Swallow the Sun song “Lights on the Lake,” she had written such great music and lyrics that we decided to take it to whole different path and start our own band. Me and Aleah both know exactly what we want from the music we do, so we are not the easiest persons to write music with other people, but some strange magic happened between us and it was very easy to write lots of music together. We trusted each other’s vision and sound. Overall that led us to write the demo and then later the whole album.
Dead Rhetoric: This may be somewhat of an obvious question, but, are you ever out of ideas? Are you sitting on tons of songs?
Raivio: To be honest, I don’t play guitar or write every day. It might take weeks or months for me not to even touch on the guitar on purpose, just to let all the energy and ideas to pile up in me. And then usually when I pick up the guitar all the material just comes out like a storm.
Dead Rhetoric: To that notion, you’ve been sitting on the Trees of Eternity album since 2014. Can you describe how it will feel to finally have it released?
Raivio: It is very proud feeling, but so full of sorrow and heartache as the love of my life and our singer Aleah is not here to share this day with me and all of us. It is beyond all the pain I ever have felt. But this album is so personal and an important release and not just for me, but for a huge amount of fans of Aleah who has been waiting this album and music for years. This is the most important music and album I have written and released, and I am so proud I could write it with Aleah.
Dead Rhetoric: Swallow the Sun employs a variety of vocals, mainly death metal vocals, but Aleah uses an entirely different style. What drew you to her vocals?
Raivio: When I heard Aleah singing first time back in 2008, it felt like something pierced my soul and heart at the same time. I have never heard a voice like hers that has so much depth and emotion. I fell in love with her almost whispering singing style and even her breathing between the words holds more power than any growling or opera singer I ever heard. There never will be another voice like hers.
Dead Rhetoric: With so many talented musicians involved like Kai and the Norrman bros, was it easy to give up some control and let them do their own thing?
Raivio: When you have people like Kai or Norrman brothers playing with you, you know that every note will be played with big emotion and it can’t go wrong. When me and Aleah started to think about the lineup for the band, all we wanted for was find great personalities who will play with huge emotion. You can be the best player of the world, but if you don’t have emotion in your playing it doesn’t move me at all and you can really hear it right away. You can be the worst player in the world, but if you have emotion you have everything.
Dead Rhetoric: Fursy’s artwork, as usual, is breathtaking. Did you give him any major guidelines for the cover?
Raivio: Yes, I talked with Fursy a lot about Aleah and sent him pictures of her and her horses and animals. Aleah was very magical person and Fursy really captured her essence in the cover. There is lots of personal and also hidden meanings in the artwork.
Dead Rhetoric: Was it ever a consideration for Trees of Eternity to play live?
Raivio: Yes, we talked about it a lot and we were not going to be a band that would have toured every bar in the world. Aleah said to me from beginning that she rather do few good shows now and then than plays in a corners of small bars or anything like that. She wanted the coming shows to be very professionally done with good atmospheric lighting, good sound and with magical stage setup. Everyone who met her on person will understand why as she really was not just another metal band girl singer for sure.
Dead Rhetoric: Along those lines, were you thinking about doing another Trees of Eternity beyond Nightingale?
Raivio: We did record about 30 minutes of new demos for the next album already, and my plan and promise to Aleah and to myself too is to release as much or her and our music to world as I can. So I hope those songs will see the day of light in the future, maybe an EP. I have been doing Aleah’s solo album also that I hope to release next year. Her healing voice, music and words really need to be heard.
Dead Rhetoric: Finally, what will be your lasting impression/best memory of this band?
Raivio: It has to be just all the music writing with Aleah. Those moments were pure magic and I believe you can really hear it in the album.