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White Willow - Terminal Twilight CD (album) cover


White Willow


Symphonic Prog

3.92 | 253 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars It is autumn and winter is closing in. It's time for things to wither, for things to die. It's time for the twilight of the living year. Terminal twilight. Death to come with the dark.

White Willow's sixth album sees the return of Sylvia Skjellestad (formerly Erichsen) on vocals. The theme of the album is the end of things as we know them. Almost every song is about the world coming to an end somehow. From "Hawks Circle the Mountain" we have "Walked through the rubble, the smog and decay / Up where the sky is not auburn but blue".

In "Red Leaves" we hear "No-one saw it coming / Like a shadow across the land / Will you stand here with me / Hold my hand and you will see / Brace for heavy landing / And the sky will come crashing down".

"Searise" is as you can imagine about a global scale inundation: "Tuesday the last folks left / embarked from the roof of the downtown mall / Everything's sinking, or is the tide on the rise? / She has been thinking / Of rowing her boat to the western hills".

The world experiences a major deep freeze in "Snowswept": "They are calling it a white-out / All the experts on TV / Snow is general from Waikiki to Qatar / But they do not know what scarecrow / Whispered in my frozen ear / Here's a winter that the spring will not relieve".

My favourite of the lot and the song that drew me back to this album again and again until I had properly absorbed it all is "Floor 67". Exactly what ending has come here, I am not sure but it seems to be about watching that ending come from the 67th floor of what seems to be a skyscraper no longer used for the purpose it was built. The lyrics speak of "Dark October" and "Winds that howl and holler / Like a lost and lonely beast". The building was "Once a proud endeavour" but "Now there's nothing here that lingers / But the cold, hollow cries of a market that died". In the end, the first person in the story dances on floor 67 "While you watched the curtain fall".

The only song that doesn't seem to directly deal with doom is "Kansas Regrets", a beautiful, melancholy song sung by Tim Bowness. The song does conclude with the line "You'll never hear your baby's cry". The other two tracks are instrumentals. The re-issue has the bonus track "The Howling Wind".

This is obviously not an album to fill you with cheer and put colour in your cheeks, but it is quite a beautiful piece of work. The folk-based days of the debut are long gone, but I recently purchased "Sacrament", "Storm Season" and "Terminal Twilight" all in the same week, and it seems to me that "Sacrament" mixed some of the folk sound and the heavier styles that cropped up on the debut with more pop and synthesizer-based sounds. "Storm Season" was the heavier album with some songs coming very close to being metal, which was ultimately the reason for Sylvia leaving in the first place.

"Terminal Twilight" has managed to find an excellent balance of all sounds, using some gentle acoustic guitar, adding some pop-like melodies and synthesizer, and melding in some heavier moments. As usual, we also get some very Norwegian prog moments. The longer songs, in fact, are mostly stages for the performances of progressive rock compositions with the actual songs being lyrically rather short. I will admit that there are times where the song lyrics capture my imagination but the music seems to go off on another journey, and at first I try to imagine how the music is continuing or telling the story but later I get lost and my attention wanes. I have to think that a lot of the instrumental sections are actually not trying to tell the story but meant to be a prog feature. My favourite track "Floor 67" has this very pretty melody and sweet, melancholic music but suddenly goes into a kind of weird prog zone before becoming an great moment of progressive rock instrumental music. It almost doesn't work at first but the song comes back round to the lyrics and actually wraps up very suitably for the story.

As I listen more, I find myself sinking deeper under the spell of the album. Listening to this one with "Sacrament" and "Storm Season" on one playlist, it took me some time to distinguish this album as my favourite. But now "Termimal Twilight" has become a preferred purchase of the latter half of this year. I can't quite give it five stars, at least not yet, because some of the "prog jam log jams" (a phrase used by one critic for the latest Iron Maiden album) do set my mind free to wander elsewhere. I expect, however, that this might just be the best White Willow album. At least for my taste.

FragileKings | 4/5 |


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