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White Willow

Symphonic Prog

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5 stars For those of you that frequent the forums here, you may remember a thread about bands that "Can do no Wrong" and for me only one name came to mind, White Willow. Then, a couple of months ago when Jacob Holm-Lupo announced the forthcoming release of this album, Terminal Twilight, he also posted a 10 minute Youtube sample which got me very excited and also prompted me to re-visit the bands discography and refresh my mind on just how good they are. What I'm trying to get at here is that a new White Willow album comes with very high expectations on my part, to the point that they are one of only two bands that I place such heavy demands on the quality of the music they release. So I'm part elated and part relieved to say that White Willow have very much matched those expectations.

Anyone familiar with White Willow will know that each of their previous five albums is unique in its sound, but they each shared in a common atmosphere, that of dark melancholia but with absolute beauty, and that has held true on Terminal Twilight as well. In terms of its overall sound its probably best described as a loose blend of Sacrament and Storm Season in that it has the classic 70's symphonic sound of the former but can be very heavy like the latter. That heaviness, though, should not be confused with Metal under any circumstance. Storm Season may have been characterised by heavy guitar riffs but Terminal Twilight creates its heaviness through a blend of Lars Fredrick Frĝislie's expansive keyboard sounds, Jacob Holm-Lupo's guitars and Ellen Andrea Wang's growling 5-string bass. Its a massive wall of sound with a great deal of depth and detail used to stunning effect, particularly on the dark opening track, Hawks Circle the Mountain.

And that leads me on to a great point in this albums favour, its use of dynamic range. Holm-Lupo and Frĝislie have clearly spent a lot of time and effort on the production here so that you get caught up in the close, intimate feeling, quiet sections before being blown away by the full band as they storm in through the speakers. Yet it all feels so natural, the quiet sections are never too quiet and the loud parts are never too loud, striking a comfortable balance whilst still having a clearly determined difference in volume level. And that spreads over into all aspects of the albums production, all instruments are clearly audible and only the keyboards seem to dominate the mix, but then this is definitely a more keyboard oriented album than the last couple of White Willow albums have been.

Now, I doubt I'm the only one to have noticed but much of the modern Symphonic Prog produced seems to be very much "retro prog" in that it clearly harks back to the classics of the 70's without changing things too much, and that's not always a bad thing as Swedish legends Anglagard have proved (and who's drummer, Mattias Olsson, offers a superb turn on percussion here) as have sister band Wobbler (for me most notably on the medieval tinged Afterglow), but there's definitely too many soundalikes out there. Thankfully, White Willow have never been one of those, from their heavily folk influenced early albums to the Neo Prog of Signal to Noise that have always had an identity all their own, displaying their influences without getting trapped by them. On top of that they've been changing their sound constantly, and they've changed it again for Terminal Twilight. Ironically, this album is the one, of their six, that is most likely to be considered a throw-back to the 70's, largely from the way that the sound is dominated by Frĝislies unashamed armada of vintage keyboards and the way that the guitars only really come to the fore for solos and acoustic passages in a manner reminiscent of many classic prog bands. It has to be said, though, that there is no mistaking Frĝislies playing on this album. The style of play and sound use that he has developed, and almost exclusively uses in White Willow (and to a lesser extent in his Black Metal band In Lingua Mortua whilst almost never in Wobbler), is unique to him and he displays this talent excellently.

Of the songs themselves, its easiest to consider them as the longs and the shorts. Of the long tracks, the opener Hawks Circle the Mountain is by far the darkest track on the album, whilst the main epic, Searise, is one of the most menacing tracks the band has ever produced, helped along by a vocal melody very similar to that of Sally Left from Storm Season. The other three cover much more varied territory emphasising the beauty of White Willows music at least as much as the rock side of things and their ability to weave compositions of many twists and turns. The shorter tracks consist of a slow, atmospheric closer A Rumour of Twilight, reminiscent of Signal to Noises closer Ararat, and another slow building atmospheric song Kansas Regrets, which features the vocal talents of No-Mans Tim Bowness. The other short track, Snowswept, is probably best described as a love song and has a more commercial bent to it than the rest of the album. Holm-Lupo has tried this before on previous albums with only limited success (Joyride is definitely my least favourite White Willow track) but this time the track works really well with strong melodies and good development and most importantly, completely fits in with the feel of the album.

One constant of White Willow that I didn't mention previously is that there has been a revolving door policy for just about every instrument in the band. This time round we see the return of two former band members, most notably vocalist Sylvia Skjellestad (nee Erichsen). Her vocal delivery is as strong here as it was last time out on Storm Season and will no doubt please many of the bands long time fans. As previously mentioned, Anglagards Mattias Olson has returned to the band for the first time since 98's Ex Tenebris and performs some brilliant work on the kit, expertly holding the rhythm section whilst supplying some excellent fills. The only all new member to join is bassist Ellen Andrea Wang of little known Norwegian band SynKoke, replacing Martha Berger Walthinsen. She fills the shoes left behind expertly, offering powerful and creative bass lines that work well with Frĝislies keyboards and Olssons drums.

Hawks Circle the Mountain, Floor 67 and Searise will undoubtedly stay with me for a long time whilst instrumental Natasha of the Burning Woods and Red Leaves will grip my attention every time I hear them. Its safe to say that there are no bad songs on this album and there are several extremely good ones, but if I have one complaint its the track list. I cant help feel that A Rumour of Twilight would have served better as a lead in to main epic Searise, which in itself would have been a brilliant closer, in the same way that the atmospheric A Strange Procession.... leads in to the epic ? A Dance of Shadows on the Ex Tenebris album. I should also note that, while I enjoy the vocals of Sylvia Skjellestad, I miss the vocals of Signal to Noises lead vocalist Trude Eidtang. Though its the only album she appears on she stands out as one of the best female singers in prog with her assertive and emotional delivery. Maybe we can get two lead singers on future albums.....

2011 has been a year of consistently strong releases so far but White Willows Terminal Twilight jumps straight to the head of the class, joining Fen's Epoch and UnExpects Fables of the Sleepless Empire as the stand out albums of the year, overshadowing more well known acts like Dream Theater, King Crimson ProjeKcts, Yes and even alter egos Wobbler. Anyone that wants to hear powerful and unique Symphonic Prog that doesn't automatically sound like any one of the 70's greats should give this a very close look, and the same goes for those that likes their music melancholic and dark, but with a touch of beauty to it.

Report this review (#524735)
Posted Friday, September 16, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars I have been a collector of their albums for a while, but never bothered to listen to them. Getting this album spurred me to review it.

The music was a bit of a shock first time I listened to this album. Or to be more precise; the female vocals. I did not expect to be treated to a Melora Creager like female vocal. This on the first minutes of this album, a song called Hawks Circle the Mountain. This is by no means criticism of White Willow's vocalist Sylvia Skjellestad. Her vocals is superb and also varied.

Overcoming the initial surprises........... The album stretches it's legs well into the Scandinavian symph prog tradition. Kaipa is a band that springs to mind. But White Willow have their own style within the Scandinavian scene. I style I have a bit difficult to grasp because this is the tenth time I am listening to this album in dept while I am taking notes. I feel like a newspaper journalist taking notes during a football match he/she has to write 155 words about before deadline.

The songs are long and pretty filled with details. Both guitars and keyboards drives the music forward. That and the vocals. The sound is pretty melancholic and heavy as in an Ingmar Bergman movie. In short, a bit difficult to describe.

The quality of the music is great throughout. The best song, with a very narrow margin, is the heavy melancholic laden Searise. The rest of the album is an aural treat too.

This album maybe a bit too heavy to be enjoyed every day (think a heavy Burgundy red wine). But it is a great album which will win the band some new fans. For example; myself.

4 stars

Report this review (#528815)
Posted Wednesday, September 21, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars It's the first week of autumn here in Canada as I write this review. A week prior to, I received this album in the mail to feature on my radio programme. Admittedly, I hadn't heard anything by White Willow since "Ignus Fatuus" so I can't gauge how this holds up to its predecessors. What I can say is that it's a great companion piece to "Ignus Fatuus" with slightly better production and more polished. This is prime symphonic progressive rock. Although, "Ignus Fattus" had a tendency to meander (that was actually one of its strengths if you're into that sort of atmospheric thing), this one is is very structured. Lots of dynamics and a limited use of mellotron throughout in all the right places. Track #3 was a surprise sounding like something off of a Talk Talk or Bark Psychosis album with Tim Bowness on guest vocals (of No-Man/Henry Fool) and back-up female vocals. Track #4 "Red Leaves" is possibly THE best symphonic prog.rock track I've heard in 2011. There also seems to be an Anglagard influence here, along with Steve Hackett (the classic mid to late '70s period). "Floor 67" is a dark symphonic prog. masterpiece. A one/two punch as it follows "Red Leaves". Recommended highly with 4.5 stars and a classic for the season of autumn.
Report this review (#532024)
Posted Sunday, September 25, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Now this is what prog is supposed to sound like! Great ambience, great representation on all instruments, great shifting textures and mixes, great production. I am amazed by the clarity of each instrument's recording in the mixes. Beautiful. One of the best aural headphones experiences I've had this year. Reminds me of a Peter Gabriel or Kate Bush recording with its clarity and definition. I love the sound of this bass player's playing. I love the sneak in appearance by one-of-a-kind vocalist Tim Bowness (he always adds so much to anyone's song, IMO) on the gorgeous (love flute, piano and STEVE JANSEN-like drums) "Kansas Regrets." I love the female vocalist's tonal quality--and the BJORK-like enunciation. I love the understated individual performances which yield wonderful ensemble performances (not-unlike PINK FLOYD). I love the dreamy, eerie, almost surreal, lazy sounds and flow to "Red Leaves" (kind of PÄATOS-like). The 13-minute "Searise" reminds me of a RENAISSANCE epic--with a little of the heavier side of PÄATOS mixed in. And, try as I might, I'm unable to pick out any direct influences! They sound familiar, symphonic, yet kind of original--though at times I hear MAGENTA and Hogarth-era MARILLION. I just love this album! It's my new top album of the year--ahead of Sean Filkins, Wobbler, Introitus, Fen, and Opeth. My only complaints: a bit monotonous with the album's over-all tempo; wish (as I always do) for some vocal harmonies. Still, a great listen start to finish--one that I will come back to again and again.

Five star songs: "Natasha of the Burning Woods," Hawks Circle the Mountain," "Kansas Regrets," "Red Leaves, "Searise.""

Four star songs: "Snowswept," "A Rumour of Twilight," "Floor 67."

Report this review (#537542)
Posted Thursday, September 29, 2011 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
4 stars 'Terminal Twilight' - White Willow (8/10)

Being from the musical background that I am, when I first think of Norwegian music, images of frostbitten, harsh black metal come to mind. Ironically for me, this latest output from Norwegian act White Willow is about as far from that as one can get, although I've recently been enlightened to the fact that the keyboardist from this band is in black metal act In Lingua Mortua. In any case, White Willow come from a legacy of Scandinavian bands that have been upholding the symphonic prog rock tradition since it fell out of favour in the UK during the 1980s. With the band Anglagard coming first to find, Scandinavian prog has become a fairly well-established scene, and home to some great bands. This is the first album I have heard from White Willow, although from my understanding, this band has received some real acclaim in the past. Unlike many bands that call themselves prog, White Willow continuously reinvent their sound, and on this sixth album 'Terminal Twilight', I would imagine they have done it again. For my experience, this is a beautifully delicate record, a symphonic prog album that for once sounds truly fresh to me. I have found myself very intrigued and touched by what the band has done here.

Although it is my knowledge that earlier albums by this band made dominant use of acoustic guitars, 'Terminal Twilight' is a keyboard-driven work, if anything. There are guitars and drums here, but the instrument most prevalent here are the synths, played here quite tastefully by Lars Fredrik Froislie. The music sounds like the band's name rolls off of one's tongue; it is soft, beautiful, and gentle to the touch. Wonderfully complimenting the lush keyboard arrangements are the vocals of Sylvia Skjellestad, a singer with a gorgeous voice that often reminds me of Bjork in a way. The way Froislie's keyboards and Skjellestad's smooth delivery wrap around each other renders a very warm, romantic tone to the music, and all of this is conveyed with a very professional sounding sense of production. Although the other musicians in this band have certainly had their moments to shine in earlier records from my understanding, the two musicians I have mentioned are the ones that fuel 'Terminal Twilight', and the combination is a very good one.

Most of the best moments on this album- the ones that gave me chills- are largely derived from Sylvia's voice; she has a haunting vibrato in her delivery that shivers like wind through leaves, and this is best exemplified in two of my favourite songs here; 'Snowswept' and 'Floor 67', the latter of which being the track that inspired my Bjork comparison. The tense 'Hawks Circle The Mountain' and epic 'Searise' are also very strong; the writing to this album sounds fresh, and I am impressed that the band could use vintage sounding instruments and create music that is so modern. The highlights here are among the best things I have heard this year, although I would not say I am quite as stirred by everything on the album. Sometimes, the melodies feel a little stirring than they could have been ideally, but it's the moments of beauty here where the light shines through, and gives me such a strong impression in regards to the album; an excellent outing for distinctly modern symphonic prog.

Report this review (#539803)
Posted Saturday, October 1, 2011 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars I really believe that WHITE WILLOW have possibly created their best work yet with "Terminal Twilight" just over "Sacrament". Sylvia is back on vocals and sounding better than ever and we get Mattias Olsson (ANGLAGARD) on drums which certainly doesn't hurt (haha). Lots of mellotron as per usual. The most important thing for me though is how moving I find some of these pieces. Hard to explain why they do that to me but they do.

"Hawks Circle The Mountain" reminded me of PAATOS when that programmed rhythm came in with the vocals just before a minute. The real drums and guitar follow. Mellotron 3 minutes in followed by a calm a minute later then the vocals and drums return. Mike Judge from THE NERVE INSTITUE adds a guitar solo on this opening track. "Snowswept" is a song us Northerners can relate to. Ironic that this morning we got our first snowfall, in fact it was snowing as I drove to work which was kind of surreal as I listened to ETRON FOU LELOUBLAN.This track is mellow with reserved vocals then it turns fuller as contrasts continue. Big finish too.

"Kansas Regrets" really took me by surprise the first time I heard it with Tim Bowness singing. What an emotional number including the lyrics. A flute led instrumental section ends it. This is a top three tune for me. "Red Leaves" opens with piano as the vocals join in. It kicks in with guitar before 3 minutes. Nice. It's fuller a minute later. Love the guitar solo 7 1/2 minutes in.

"Floor 67" is another top three tune for me. Mellow guitar and sound to start as the vocals join in. It sounds so good when it turns fuller then it settles back after 4 1/2 minutes as the guitar comes in and solos.Vocals are back 6 minutes in as it settles again. Nice bass 8 minutes in as it turns powerful and heavy. "Natasha Of The Burning Woods" is an instrumental that builds until a calm takes over around 1 1/2 minutes. Drums after 4 minutes then it settles late to end it.

"Searise" is my other top three. Acoustic guitar and vocal melodies early then vocals take over. It kicks in at 2 1/2 minutes.This is great ! Nice crisp drumming 4 1/2 minutes in then we get a flute led section half way through the song before it kicks in with organ. "A Rumour Of Twilight" is a short acoustic instrumental to end the album.

This is a definite top three album for me when it comes to WHITE WILLOW recordings.

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Posted Friday, November 11, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Apocalyptic Scenery"

Those are the words that Jacob Holm-Lupo, White Willow's main man, uses to describe the themes present in the songs on Terminal Twilight, the band's new album. As Jacob notes, the songs on the new album, were written some years back and continue the dark concept and atmospheres of Storm Season, the band's fourth album. The end of the world is nigh on that album; a rather gloomy and bleak sense stems out of it. While the new album's lyrics mostly follow the footsteps of that album (listen to Red Leaves and Floor 67), there is a sense of hope prevailing in the music itself, intensified by the lushness of the various keyboards used and Sylvia's vocals. The melodies, while melancholic, offer a ray of hope, a glimpse of a better future; that at least is what I perceive when listening to the album.

Terminal Twilight is in my mind, White Willow's most adventurous album; the one that is the most compositionally complex and captivating. I am a big fan of their albums, and in particular Sacrament. In a way, this new album reminds the most of that one compositionally, due to the combination of sublime tunes, song structure and rich sounding arrangements. The album is well balanced between the more somber and intimate tracks (Kansas Regrets) to the more flamboyant and energetic songs (Hawks Circle The Mountain).

Another point that makes Terminal Twilight stand apart is the lineup. Sylvia Skjellestad (nee Erichsen) returns to the fold with her gorgeous voice, the voice that gives White Willow its identity. Another former member making a comeback is the wonderful drummer Mattias Olsson (who was last with the band on their Ex Tenebris album; drummer for Änglagċrd and Pineforest Crunch, as well as appearing on many other albums). Ketil Einarsen returns as well with his flute (he plays for Motorpyscho and Jaga Jazzist). The band welcomes bassist Ellen Andrea Wang from SynKoke (who are also releasing an album this year, called The Ideologist and whose previous album, Hokjĝnn, is highly recommended for avant-rock fans). And finally, keyboardist extraordinaire, Lars Fredrik Frĝislie (who also plays in Wobbler and In Lingua Mortua) who continues to use his museum-like collection of vintage keyboards on this album.

In addition to the lineup, there are wonderful guest musicians on the album. Tim Bowness (No-Man) co-wrote the music and lyrics to as well as sings on the song Kansas Regrets. David Lundberg of Gosta Berlings Saga provides his keyboards skills on the songs Snowswept and Kansas Regrets. Finally, Michael S. Judge (whose praises I sang for his music as Sinthome and The Nerve Institute; I also interviewed him) plays guitar leads on Hawks Circle The Mountain.

Whilte not an easily accessible album, it is fairly easy to fall prey to its charms, particularly for White Willow fans. Terminal Twilight is a beautiful and well balanced modern "symphonic prog" album, one that with further listens, becomes more and more rewarding.

Report this review (#576219)
Posted Sunday, November 27, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars White Willow's "Terminal Twilight" is a Gothic winter album that is more concerned with beautiful and ethereal atmospheres than complex virtuosity. The vocals are delightful by Sylvia Skjellestad and there are some very good tracks on this album.

'Hawks Circle the Mountain' begins it with a bright, upbeat energy and exquisite synths from Lars Fredrik Frĝislie. The vocals are very nice, sweetly sung with passion by Sylvia. The guitars are dynamic played so well by Jacob Holm-Lupo.

'Snowswept' fetures atmospheric sounds and ethereal vocals. The synth pads create ambient, dreamy, Icelandic glacial scapes. The beautiful vocals are so mesmirising; "they are calling in a white out all the experts on tv" and later she sings "but they do not know what scarecrow whispered in my frozen ear" and my favourite phrase "I will stay with him in the snow swept in". The music builds to a louder multi tracked vocals

'Kansas Regrets' features the vocals of Tim Bowness who sings softly with an acoustic. Later there is a duet with Sylvia, and very sweet harmonies. The flute of Ketil Vestrum Einarsen is lovely and the odd percussion works well. This is a a ghostly soundscape, evoling the solitude of a lonely white beach during a winter storm.

'Red Leaves' begins with eerie piano joined by Sylvia's vocals that are a little like Bjork here in the first section. There is a very lush interlude in the middle with 70s keys and majestic vocal intonations. I like how after a lengthy ambience Sylvia comes in and augments the soundscape beautifully. Nice percussion accents from Anglagard's Mattias Olson and good to hear him still drumming progressively. Very strong lead break like Andy Latimer, melodic and soaring.

'Floor 67' has gorgeous flute in intro and reverb guitar, as Sylvia sings phrases such as "like a lost and lonely beast", and "floor 67 where you and I sleep". I can hear the Swedish accent strong again, separating her from other female vocalists fronting prog bands that have been coming out in droves lately. The keyboard is very good, with 70s retro sounds, fizzing and burbling. A duel keyboard is heard over a twin guitar harmony. The music takes a detour and becomes quite jazzy for a moment, there is even a feel of dissonance but then it is drawn back in with a synth solo. Finally the wall is broken with a minimalist piano and floating flute lines. It builds to a loud sound with choral nuances and searing lead guitar, tinkling cymbals and then it builds again with heavier guitars. Sylvia comes in quietly over acoustic vibrations and a warbling keyboard. It takes a few twists and turns into some symphonic landscapes and has a superb finale. Wonderful, and best track here for me.

'Natasha' has Celtic flavours helped by woodwind synths and lingering multi layered intonations with beautiful harmonies. It is an instrumental that evokes wintery snowy mountains and desolate snow capped hills in a grey sky. The imagery is part of the music and it is haunting.

'Searise' is a 13 minute epic track with labyrinthine structure and emotive mood changes. It tends to crawl along patiently and ominously for a while until we get to the verses and a terrific keyboard solo as Sylvia's voice becomes another instrument. The percussion is tremendous and the keys and guitars ascend higher to a key change. There is a fracture in the rhythms and flute echoes with achingly beautiful phrases over a soft guitar. This is flautist Ketil Vestrum Einarsen's shining moment of the albyum. The quavering Hammond sound is spine tingling adding such a majesty to the sound. There is a section with twin guitar and drum roll percussion that is very effective in building tension and then it is released with a huge wall of sound with voclas, scorching guitars and sustained key pads. The bass is important too in bringing the sound together, played well by Ellen Andrea Wang. The instruments are brought down as a guitar tinjers and a low drone is heard joined by angelic choral keys to end this magnificent track.

Last song on the album is a short piece to bring closure. Steve Howe soundalike guitar harmonics on acoustics in the intro are nice, and then an acoustic flourish with intricate finger picking as a ghostly sound is heard by Sylvia's multi tracked vocals. It is beautiful and really has emotion and power.

Also the front cover is quite a captivating image of two girls in white huddling or cowering in fear by some unseen force coming toward them. Or they may be looking at us in fear as they have been caught in secret. Obviously the music is completely non-analogous to this image as it centres on the end of the world and wintery dreamscapes. It is one of those albums that is open to interpretation but the tracks do indeed seem to follow a theme though it is vague purposely to leave the subject open to conjecture. So I was impressed with White Willow's album. The music is ambient, symphonic and haunting. The musicianship is excellent. The lyrics are compelling and Sylvia is definitely an enchanting vocalist. I think many prog fans will enjoy this album as much as I have.

Report this review (#621790)
Posted Saturday, January 28, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars Difficult to define. I was worried that they'd be some of that 'High Priestess' aura to the band, but thankfully there's not.

There's more music than vocals, which is great, and I did read that the musical style was one of over-stated musical climaxes alternating between the vocal bits. initially, those 'big' moments sounded, well, big, but after continued listening they receded somewhat.

The music has a sound led more by 'background' instruments (bass or chords), rather than those of foreground dexterity (lead guitar or keyboards). It's never speedy, but that isn't a noticeable weakness, it's just their sound.

Don't expect a simple song structure, which makes them a bit forgettable! I heard the track 'Floor 67' on a demo, and thought that it had something. (I COULD remember it, at least!) Infact it probably has EVERYTHING that White willow offer, and it remains the best track on the album. That said, the album is still a worthy purchase. The sound and preformances are first- rate.

The information on the CD creates a first. I can't read ANY of it. No, not one bit! The writing's too small, italic, and coloured. Damn computers! Please remember, words are to COMMUNICATE, not to look pretty. Alas.

So, there we go. i just don't think it gets into the 4 stars, but it's an okay effort, and I might be tempted to try their earlier stuff.

Report this review (#635441)
Posted Saturday, February 18, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars White Willow's Terminal Twilight album kicks off with some downright intriguing keyboard textures from Lars Fredrik Froislie which made me hopeful for the rest of the album and anticipate a refreshed and revitalised sound from the band; unfortunately, once the performances get under way the album feels more like business as usual for White Willow. It's a competent enough collection of songs and fans of the band certainly won't go away disappointed, but to me it felt a little too often that the band were stuck in a rut and kind of phoning it in, failing to emotionally connect with me as a listener. Bland, but passable.
Report this review (#986754)
Posted Thursday, June 27, 2013 | Review Permalink
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.

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Posted Saturday, October 31, 2015 | Review Permalink

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