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White Willow - Storm Season CD (album) cover

STORM SEASON

White Willow

 

Symphonic Prog

3.96 | 173 ratings

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tszirmay
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Progress (a much ballyhooed word), the buzzing propeller for those audiophiles "whose forty year mission to seek new frontiers and to boldly go where no one has gone before" is sometimes guilty of flying off the universal map (Einstein and others are wrong, the universe is not infinite, only human stupidity can go on forever!). I mean it's nice to constantly stir the pot but ultimately when you put too many spices and toss in all kinds of kitchen plumbing, it doesn't taste anywhere near what you were hoping for. This is where White Willow has "progressed" with a fourth album that has nothing in common with their first but is a further exalted step from their last, with an even more powerful Gothic element that frankly resembles now a stew with too much pepper and its making me sneeze. I deeply enjoy renaissance, medieval, baroque and even gothic flavored rock music especially when the mood matches the melody. Unfortunately, the tendency can freeze these two important components and one is left with a frigid, loud and visceral blizzard that leaves this reviewer, er..cold. Not that this is a bad album, au contraire! Everything about "Storm Season" exudes that creepiness that permeates a typical blood & guts horror movie, from the "Wizard of Oz meets Saw2" artwork with only Toto as a spike-collared Doberman missing from the layout, to the highly problematic and deranged Linda Blair -teenage devil in the Exorcist- vocal work of Silvia Erichsen. Her vocals were somehow acceptable on the previous album "Sacrament" but are totally out of place here, as the music gets darker. "Chemical Sunset" starts out cleverly with the solemn Mellotron, lush orchestration, flute cascades toying with a mourning cello, all lacerated by some chain saw electric guitar played by Freddy, sorry . Jacob Holm-Lupo, the White Willow leader. "Sally Left" has again lots of doom and gloom, eerie atmospherics dizzy with promise but no magic black or otherwise and even though the axe solo is supreme, there is a feeling of dull anesthesia, a decent track that could have been a scorcher. I realize that it's the vocals that are the real culprit, being a tad too lame to be really believable. "Endless Science" is the exact opposite, where the frail voice evokes way more passion than style and it works! The acoustic aspect certainly reveals their true talent (which is why their debut recording was so appealing, to these ears anyway), way more believable and original than when they try to steam roller their musical message. "Soulburn" is a plodder, unsure whether to swoon or swagger, the cello being the main messenger, piano colorations and an insistent guitar solo that all conspire to elevate the arrangement nicely but both the female and male whispered vocals lack conviction, verging almost on ridicule. "Insomnia" is the thunderous track that exemplifies my reaction, with fabulous playing sabotaged by a frantic singing voice that just cannot marry well with the haunting mellotron, the coarse drumming, rotund bass rumbling and the sharp guits. The title track and the final piece both proffer this exact same impression, a kindergarten voice blurring the lush orchestrations and muting the brilliant playing. A disturbing disc that will please some , scare away others but will leave most with the feeling of what could have been. I truly believe that a more conventional lead vocalist (like Rob Sowden of Arena or even Stu Nicholson of Galahad) would have been a much better fit with the splendid music. Ditch the witch and hire a howler but all is moot as I heard the band has ceased operating, at least as White Willow. Finally, I get to diverge from sinkadotentree, it was about time . 3 frozen leaves.
tszirmay | 3/5 |

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