White Willow - 'Future Hopes'

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White Willow - 'Future Hopes'

An excellent album that shows that Prog Rock is still very much in rude health in 2017.

I've crossed paths with White Willow a few times in the distant past and found them to be an intriguing mix of Prog/Folk with touches of early Genesis and King Crimson. WW are, along with Sweden's Ӓnglagård and Anekdoten, probably the most well-known names from the Scandinavian Prog scene.

WW's line-up is, like many Prog acts, a seemingly perpetual revolving door as members come and go, but the nucleus of the group is generally seen as Jacob Holm-Lupo who then employs members to fit in with his fever changing vision of the band. The latest incarnation features the delicate waif-like vocals of Venke Knutson, which gives the whole album a lovely ethereal, spacey quality and also dropping the Folk influences that were prevalent on earlier WW releases.

Housed in a dramatic Roger Dean cover, this album, on occasion, does have some Yes like qualities as befitting the grand artwork. Album opener, which is also the title track, is a stunning piece of Symphonic Prog with a hypnotic blend of guitars and keys, topped off by a vocal delivery that sends shivers down the spine. 'Silver & Gold' brings things down nicely and is dominated by Knutson's vocals, and there's also a hint of Kate Bush going on here too... no bad thing eh?



'In Dim Days' is the first of two epics that dominate the album, this one clocks in at over eleven minutes and gives the band an opportunity to spread their wings, at times big and dramatic, at others somewhat eerie and claustrophobic; it's marvellous! The short and ambient 'Where There Was Sea There Is Abyss' is the precursor to the albums tour-de-force. 'A Scarred View' is an eighteen-minute feast of Symphonic Prog in the grand tradition, it's got the lot; atmospheric keyboards, some lovely languid guitar, inventive arrangements and a production that harks back to the golden age of Prog. There are also two bonus tracks, one rather strangely being a cover of The Scorpions' 'Animal Magnetism', by rights it shouldn't work but it does.

A most welcome re-acquaintance for me with White Willow, 'Future Hopes' is an excellent album that, alongside the likes of recent releases from The Mute Gods and Schooltree, shows that Prog Rock is still very much in rude health in 2017.

Malcolm Smith

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