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Willowglass - Book Of Hours CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

3.86 | 94 ratings

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4 stars I have chosen this excellent disc for my first review on Prog Archives. Book of Hours is the most moving and addictive Prog album i've heard made in modern times.

I believe that if this album had been released in 1973 it would now be unanimously hailed as a 5-star masterpiece of Symphonic Prog. Maybe this album is 35 years too late, but it should not be ignored or written off simply because it doesn't sound of-it's-time. Obviously influenced by classic bands like Genesis and Camel but not completely derivative, Willowglass manage to cast a unique spell. Book of Hours sounds very inspired and is a perfectly-flowing collection of symphonic themes and beautiful delicate passages.

Argamasilla begins with a summery, breezy theme that reminds me of Hatfield and the North and then the song moves seamlessly through a progression of lovely themes that remind me of the best passages from Camel's classic albums. Three minutes in it takes on a darker, more somber mood with an excellent use of string-mellotron. Mellotron is one of the dominant instruments throughout the entire disc and definitely adds to the nostalgic feeling Willowglass conjures... and I believe it's used best here on the opening track. Eventually the song flows back into more sunshiny passages with long and excellent analog-synthesizer solos. The synthesizers have a thick classic moogy-type sound but i'm actually not sure what he is playing. This is an epic length track that doesn't drag on at all and actually feels too short.

The second track, Willowglass, sounds like it came right off a Steve Hackett album circa 1978. It's a beautiful mellow song featuring flute, mellotron and acoustic guitar. A lot of the tracks have a Hackett-like feel to me.

The Maythorne Cross sounds just like Van Der Graaf Generator's Undercover Man when it starts, but it doesn't last long. Soon the mellotrons return to sweep you away to a far-off magical mythological forest. This song is another epic-length track that doesn't feel over-long at all thanks to the wide variety of different moods and themes explored. The first half of the song is a slower, more English-renaissance or folk-prog-like sound with excellent flute playing from Andrew Marshall. The second half is more uptempo Symphonic Prog like the first track, led by wonderfully restrained guitar solos that again remind me of Steve Hackett.

Book of Hours is another beautiful composition... very English, very 70's feeling. This one reminds me more of Genesis at the start, sounding somewhat like the acoustic passages of Supper's Ready or The Musical Box. After this mellow floating intro the song takes flight with another airy section of Camel-ish moog-lead bliss. The song ends with a nice solo classical guitar piece that leads perfectly into the final track.

The Labyrinth is the longest, most diverse and constantly-changing song on the disc. It features the softest, most gentle sections of the album as well as the most aggressive moments. It's an amazing journey through shifting moods, images, and sounds. It is a mesmerizing experience and once you're 15 minutes into the song you are totally hypnotized by it's beauty and you never want the feeling to end! Pure Prog Heaven.

I usually don't enjoy all-instrumental music, but Andrew Marshall has a rare talent for composing very engrossing, immersive music. The songs are so well written that I never even think about there not being vocals present.

The only real weakness in my mind is that the drums can be dull. The drummer sounds like he's somewhat bored at times compared to the inspired playing of Andrew Marshall. This doesn't hurt the disc too much though, and it's only a minor gripe. I would love to see Andrew form a full band to record with for future releases.

In my opinion this is the best album of it's kind recorded so far this century. I would love to give it a perfect five-star rating but i hesitate to do so simply because it's such a new recording and only time can tell if it will maintain the magic that I felt on the initial dozen or so listens. So, for now i'll give it 4.5/5 rating.

Don't let the fact that this is a home-made release bother you either. The sound quality is excellent and has a wonderful 70's feeling to it. I would strongly recommend this album to any lover of 70's Symphonic Prog!

AdamHearst | 4/5 |


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