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White Willow - Ignis Fatuus CD (album) cover


White Willow


Symphonic Prog

3.76 | 152 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Although I bought the reissue with the bonus disc, I am going to review only the original album as that first disc has captivated my ear and the second disc has yet to really sink in enough to demand playing time from my brain.

It was quite likely that I was not ever going to get a White Willow album. Coming from a heavy metal background, I prefer bands with a fair bit of electric guitar in the mix and tend to have less interest in folk-based bands, especially those who get a little too traditional, meaning renaissance or medieval. I mean, having that kind of music in your ear buds is okay but you can't be blaring medieval folk music from the car windows while stopped at a light next to, well, nearly anybody except the season one version of Black Adder. However, I read about this album in a book of prog rock history and good starting point albums, and after buying and liking Anekdoten and Anglagard, I decided to give this album a chance even though the sample listening I had done had me worried.

Surprise, surprise, I quickly discovered that this album really appealed to me. The acoustic guitar, flute, and piano parts are very clearly recorded and lovely to listen to. But there is a good mix of electric sounds too and especially delightful are the heavier parts with distorted electric guitar and classic heavy prog organ. I think it is exactly because the album has so much traditional music (folk, renaissance, medieval) that the heavy electric parts really stand out. But more than that, White willow seem to know what they are doing. They change their singing style to suite the age and style which they are trying to capture. Both the male and female vocals do a very fine job at adapting to the styles too.

Some of the longer songs give the band more room to move around and it's common to find the style and atmosphere changing once or twice. "The Withering of the Boughs" is for the first four minutes a sombre folk ditty of sorts but it changes into a wonderful jig (or is it a reel?) on flute with a simple bass playing alongside. Then some simple percussion joins and then, oh beautiful idea, a moog solo plays overtop the jig. I love flute jigs (or are they reels?) and am a fan of the Scottish/Irish/Celtic folk/rock band Spirit of the West, but here with a moog played over for the last minute, I loved it!

"Now in these Fairy Lands" is not so long but after a slow folksy beginning it turns into an upbeat seventies acoustic guitar bit with organ which also has enchanted my ear.

As for the heavier parts, "Cryptomenysis" and "John Dee's Lament" stand out for me in how they incorporate the heavier guitar into the band's more acoustic style. One point I particularly enjoyed is how the drumming changes in "Cryptomenysis" as the same music is played in different styles. When it's heaviest, the drumming follows a 70's proto-metal style, but as the style lightens up the drumming changes accordingly. It seems to me that this incarnation of White Willow really paid close attention to detail which makes this creation a great joy to listen to.

Though I wouldn't say the entire album appeals to me through and through, I do find it to be excellently executed. In the end, this album has left a bigger impression with me than Anglagard and Anekdoten who were mentioned together with White Willow in the book I read. Though the folk element presides over much of the album, there are plenty of nice surprises elegantly interwoven throughout. A very solid four stars from me.

FragileKings | 4/5 |


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