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CD Reviews

White Willow - 'Terminal Twilight' Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     April 07, 2012    
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Try before you buy.

White Willow had completely gone off my radar and I must admit to having assumed the band had ceased to exist. Not at all! Just because it has taken six years since their previous album - the wonderful ‘Signal To Noise’ - for the present release to materialize, there was really no need for pessimism!

This is the Norwegian sextet’s sixth album (try saying that when you’ve had too many falling down waters!) since their 1995 debut ‘Ignis Fatuus’ and another for the Progressive Rock fraternity to potentially embrace. Indeed, I have noted that it was voted album of the year by Holland's longest-running prog show, Radio Xymphonia (no, I’ve not previously heard of it either!) Special guest musicians Tim Bowness (No-Man) co-wrote the music and lyrics to as well as sings on the song ‘Kansas Regrets’, David Lundberg provides keyboards on the songs ‘Snowswept’ and ‘Kansas Regrets’ while Michael S. Judge plays guitar leads on ‘Hawks Circle The Mountain’. They join White Willow founder, guitarist and main writer Jacob Holm-Lupo plus returning members vocalist Sylvia Skjellestad (nee Erichsen), drummer Mattias Olsson (also Anglagard, and who was last with the band on their ‘Ex Tenebris’ album) and Ketil Einarsen (flute). New to the band are bassist Ellen Andrea Wang and keyboardist extraordinaire, Lars Fredrik Frøislie (who also plays in Wobbler) who has brought his collection of vintage keyboards to use on this album.

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‘Terminal Twilight’ is a very different proposition when compared with its illustrious predecessor. For much of its 56 minutes it is darkly atmospheric, melancholic and sparsely ambient and I found myself becoming quite ecstatic whenever a passage with more oomph or dynamism appeared. Like its predecessor it has a mixture of vocal and instrumental tracks, and both albums conclude with one of these. I’d like to say that this is an album with lots of contrasting light and shade but the reality is that the light is limited and it is more a case of a contrast between shade and gloom. “Apocalyptic Scenery” is apparently what Holm-Lupo calls it! Now don’t be lulled into thinking that I think it’s a poor album, because it certainly isn’t. It’s just that it is not at all what I was expecting, and once I had absorbed the album for what it is rather than what I expected, then I was able to develop a keen appreciation of what is in essence progressive mood music with fine female vocals and great, but constrained playing.

‘Hawks Circle The Mountain’ immediately introduces the melancholic textures, while the shorter ‘Snowswept’ is a plaintive song with a fragile beauty. ‘Kansas Regrets’ is really strange and is followed by two lengthy tracks: ‘Red Leaves’ and ‘Floor 67’ and it’s the latter that really permeates the consciousness after repeated listens. At over 13 minutes, ‘Searise’ is an epic: episodic, very languid and pervasively sad. ‘Natasha Of The Burning Woods’ and ‘A Rumour Of Twilight’ are the two atmospheric instrumentals.

This will not be to everyone’s taste, and clearly reflects Bowness’s involvement; so try before you buy!

Paul Jerome Smith

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