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(44:58, Termo Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Hawks Circle the Mountain 7:09 2. Snowswept 4:12 3. Kansas Regrets 4:39 4. Red Leaves 8:39 5. Floor 67 9:52 6. Natasha of the Burning Woods 6:26 7. Searise 13:13 8. A Rumour of Twilight 2:33 LINEUP: Jacob Holm-Lupo – guitars Lars Fredrik Froislie – keyboards Ketil Vestrum Einarsen – woodwinds Sylvia Skjellestad – vocals Ellen Andrea Wang – bass Mattias Olsson – drums With: David Lundberg – orchestration, el. piano (2, 3) Tim Bowness – vocals (3)
Prolusion. Sweden’s WHITE WILLOW has existed since the mid-‘90s, led by guitarist and songwriter Jacob Holm-Lupo. The band has six studio albums to its credit, and “Temporary Twilight” is the latest of those, issued in the fall of 2011. There are eight tracks here, ranging from two-and-a-half to 13 minutes in length.
Compared to the band’s previous two releases, this one is definitely an improvement, although the compositions weave through the emotions that are mainly either romantic or, say, merely moody, but rarely as distinctly dark as before. Anyhow, the music is largely in the same vein as the earlier albums, with a lush symphonic sound that echoes mid-‘90s Swedish Art-Rock, while also harkening back to ‘70s – as well as ‘80s on some occasions – English Symphonic Progressive, most often bringing to mind a crossover between White Willow itself, Anekdoten and Genesis, at least on its instrumental level as regards both of the latter names. There are a lot of vintage colorations to be found here, provided mainly by keyboards (namely organ, Mellotron and analog synthesizers), which are given more prominence ‘this time’ – most notably as a soloing vehicle, by far not only by sculpting textural layers. All of this is most evident on Hawks Circle the Mountain and Searise, the latter the album’s longest track. Both of them perfectly recapture the spirit of vintage Sympho Prog in their compositional style and use of keyboard, woodwind and guitar timbres, albeit when listening to the former piece, which is the richest in heavy-sounding arrangements, I was also reminded of mid-‘90s Tiamat – one time. There is some really nice flute work, which provides a stark contrast to the heavy guitar and bass licks that are dominant in a few of the track’s sections. The epic is in turn rich in passages of acoustic guitar, and also in the organ parts, which are astonishingly diverse and inventive here, at times even evoking those in classic Van Der Graaf Generator. The album’s second longest track, Floor 67 (9:52), is its third best composition, in my view. Here, the band also puts a lot of classic ‘70s sound to good use. However, some of the arrangements have a more modern quality to them and are reminiscent of Steve Hackett’s early ’80 creations, such as “Cured” and “Highly Strung”. The 8+ minute Red Leaves also shows a lot of potential, but deploys some ingenuous devices, at times operating, well, a different mode, with a much stronger emphasis on modern synthesizers and electro-symphonic art rock-like rhythms, which instantly brings to mind “Abacab” by Genesis. Nonetheless, this is a good composition overall, not too strongly inferior to the winners. The remaining four tracks, A Rumour of Twilight, Natasha of the Burning Woods, Snowswept and Kansas Regrets are either totally or largely slow, and even the moments that aren’t slow sound in most cases like they are, although not in a bad way at all. Natasha of the Burning Woods and A Rumour of Twilight, both of which are instrumentals, only evoke mid-‘70s Genesis (circa “Wind & Wuthering”) and Steve Hackett respectively, but are fine compositionally. The first of them alternates arrangements with a full-band sound and those only featuring acoustic instruments, while the latter is a piece for classical guitar with occasional female vocalizations. Finally, the remaining two tracks, Snowswept and Kansas Regrets, are both symphonic art-rock ballads, slow-paced throughout, the latter featuring male vocals along with female ones. Regarding either of these, I wouldn’t rate their creators as great songwriters or arrangers, but they deserve at least some deal of credit for what are obviously honestly crafted things (read: there are few ‘outside factors’). Traditionally, there’s a good balance between vocal and instrumental sections – on each of the album’s six songs, Sylvia Skjellestad once again proving she is a top-notch singer, the best one for this band.
There aren’t many overly lengthy solos by anyone on “Temporary Twilight”, but these musicians have always been more about the arrangements and atmospheres than blistering speed, let alone shredding. This is a very good album and is another excellent example of the power of Scandinavia’s progressive rock movement, which currently appears as the strongest one in Europe (save Italy perhaps).
Conclusion. There aren’t many overly lengthy solos by anyone on “Temporary Twilight”, but these musicians have always been more about the arrangements and atmospheres than blistering speed, let alone shredding. This is a very good album and is another excellent example of the power of Scandinavia’s progressive rock movement, which currently appears as the strongest one in Europe (save Italy perhaps).
VM=Vitaly Menshikov: March 7, 2012
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