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No one wants to start a review with the words ‘posthumous release’ – incredibly sadly that is the case with this self-titled farewell album from Aleah. The sheer beauty of this recording – which is blindingly evident from the spine-tingling opener “Vapour” – ensures that Aleah will live on in our hearts for a long time to come.
Aleah Stanbridge won many admirers in her career which saw her deliver haunting guest vocals for both Finnish acts Swallow the Sun and Amorphis. But it was after forming Trees of Eternity with Swallow the Sun guitarist Juha Raivio in 2009 that Aleah was allowed to really come into her own.
Cruelly Aleah died of a heart attack four years ago, aged just 39. The 15 songs that make up this release were painstakingly selected by her partner Juha. What adds to the poignancy in particular is that the nine tracks that make up the first CD of this double album are all acoustic cuts placing Aleah’s shimmering tones centre-stage where they deserve to be.
Just the feintest of chord supplementation is needed to nestle intimately alongside the South African-born singer on songs such as “Sacrifice” and the mournful ‘My Will’.
Compiling this release would undoubtedly have been an emotionally-draining experience for Juha. But we can be grateful that he did it, producing an intimate album that captures the transcendental beauty of Aleah, as such honouring her memory in the most startlingly brilliant fashion, and ensuring generations to come will hopefully get to discover her magical voice.
The final few tracks on the second disc remind us of her role as an artist within the soundscape provided by a group. Four of these Trees of Eternity songs are the full orchestral versions of some of the earlier acoustic numbers, but that should be seen as a plus rather than the opposite.
The album allows a chance to savour and treasure Aleah as a precious and outstanding individual talent, but also still very much an enthusiastic band member. The track “Sacrifice” is also noteworthy for featuring Canadian musician Anilah, whose presence brings a darker hue with added symphonic strokes mixed in.
Trees of Eternity’s debut album Hour of the Nightingale was almost entirely completed before Aleah’s passing, although it was eventually released after her death. If that release passed through your fingers here is your chance to make amends. Aleah the artist deserves to be heard and “Aleah” the album is a record that you will never tire of.
Aleah’s flame dances forever in its ethereal beauty.
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