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White Willow - "Terminal Twilight" (CD)

White Willow - "Terminal Twilight" CD cover image

"Terminal Twilight" track listing:

1. Hawks Circle
2. Snowswept
3. Kansas Regrets
4. Red Leaves
5. Floor 67
6. Natasha
7. Searise
8. A Rumor of Twilight
9. The Howling Wind

Reviewed by on December 2, 2011

"It's easy to see why this release took the band five years to put together, because it's simply so damn huge and brave..."

At the risk of over-generalizing, let me paint one picture of what this album sounds like: Vintersorg's folk-synth stylings, infused with Bjork's female vocal styles, tempered by electronic programming that listeners of The Postal Service would find familiar, with mellotrons and the occasional “Damnation”-era Opeth style guitar passage or Enslaved style chords. However, it really is more than this. It's similar to the falling of light snowflakes under a gray sky while traipsing across a bridge at night, pausing to look out over the water below.

The Norwegian-based "art rock" outfit's fifth album since 1995's "Ignis Fatuus" (and sixth, overall) sees the band members taking the helm and recording it themselves. This is a fine move, and they've embraced the production as if it were an instrument to play with. "Hawks Circling" will challenge the preconceived notions you have of female-fronted prog rock outfits. Vocalist Sylvia Erichsen richly stirs the murky waters created by the initial descending vintage synthesizer part with her light and enchanting voice. You can hear how wide she smiles when she sings, not unlike Kate Bush.

"Snowswept" builds out of the ether of synth and vibraphone to become a carousel of insistent rock. "Kansas Regrets" sees the addition of guest vocalist Tim Bowness (of Steven Wilson's "No-Man" fame) for a meditation-like piece of delicate keys, instrumentation, flutes, and bleak atmosphere. "Red Leaves" starts out with dramatic piano plinking, but soon opens up to a multi-layered choir of Sylvia's voices, much like Eberhard Weber tried on his 1978 prog-jazz release, "Fluid Rustle." It soon explodes with synthesizer, levels off, and then brings back the choir for a last push.

Some of the instrumental bits can seem to meander, but they do so in a way that is hard to dislike. Art rock listeners aren't usually attention deficit listeners who need everything to be purposeful, anyway. "Floor 67" is a treat for the images its lyrics conjures, as well as the variety of synthesizers used. Pelican and Agalloch fans will also find quite a bit to love as the band weaves in atmospheric guitars in an assortment of styles. "Natasha" recalls Cocteau Twins at times as it approaches its soundscapes. There's even a dance-worthy tambourine bit thrown in. "Searise" is the longest piece at thirteen minutes, flirting with major-to-minor shifts and tends to run into The Provenance/Opeth territory.

It's easy to see why this release took the band five years to put together, because it's simply so damn huge and brave enough to be considered a sister-album to Leprous' own 2011 release, "Bilateral." Nevermind the last song, "The Howling Wind," which seems tangential in light of the other tracks.

Highs: Excellent synthesizers, soundscapes, and enchanting female vocals

Lows: Can do without "The Howling Wind" completely.

Bottom line: Art rock that's like "the snow that falls tomorrow, like a blanket, pure and white," as the lyrics go.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)