White Willow - Storm Season

Year of Release: 2004
Label: The Laser's Edge
Catalog Number: LE1038
Format: CD
Total Time: 47:23:00

White Willow's fourth CD release, Storm Season, was released right smack in the middle of the storm season (in the US at least) - September; a month that will be remembered as the summer that the storms unleashed their fury ? on both Florida and prog fans, alike. The forecast for this particular "storm" is beautiful yet turbulent music followed by endless listening that you will let drench you time and again. This album is absolutely terrific ? among the best of the year without a doubt. It's certainly one my favorites this year.

I love the highly charged emotions that erupt here, hitting all the right notes like lightning that strikes the highest point. The churning and tumultuous clouds of guitar, bass and percussion just keep your senses roiling, tossing you about like a boat on the stormy sea. Squalls of electrifying guitar solos permeate this release, and you know how love those ? played oh so emotionally, emotively. Moving, to say the least?

The meteorological conditions that bring you this tempest of sound, and fury, are: Jacob Holm-Lupo on guitars and keyboards; Sylvia Erichsen on vocals (a tour-de-force performance, by the way); Johannes Saeb?e on guitars; Marthe Berger Walthinsen basses and tambourine; Lars Fredrik Fr?islie on piano, mellotron, Hammond B3, mini-moog, synths and keyboards, and glockenspiel; Aage Moltke Schou on drums and percussion, Ketil Vestrum Einarsen on flutes, microsynth and tambourine, and Sigrun Eng on cello, with Finn Coren on vocals on "Soulburn" and Teresa K. Aslanian as the ghost voice on "Sally Left." Fr?islie and Walthinsen are new to the band, with Saeb?e moving from bass to guitar.

I don't use the words "tempest" and "fury" lightly; and not just be clever, either. White Willow has added a heavier edge to their sound with this outing, owing in part to the addition of Walthinsen on bass, whose sound is deep, throbbing? vital (e.g., "Insomnia"). Along with their more lyrical moments -- and these moments simply sparkle with flute, piano, violin, and lilting vocals -- they have mixed in darker, churning, rumbling, thundering moments? as befits the turbulence referenced in the lyrics. This storm is mainly metaphorical, describing the inner turmoil of the central character... One can interpret the events in this story - which isn't told as a narrative, but more vignettes - in different ways. Did Sally kill herself or die naturally? Did it send Claire, her friend (and the protagonist), off the edge? Was Claire already there? Is it even Claire whose eyes we're seeing through? Could there be different perspectives? All worth exploring, of course.

Erichsen easily shifts from the lilting, almost ethereal voice we associate with White Willow, to something much darker, deeper ? at times sounding like Sinead O'Connor ("Insomnia"), at times like Natalie Merchant ("Sally Left"), and there was even a moment ("Endless Science") when I thought of Barbra Streisand - though in this case more in the arrangement that recalls? ahem? "Guilty" (um, you know, that duet with Barry Gibb... ). But let's move on from that reference, shall we? Her darkest performances are on the grinding, somewhat acidic "Soulburn" and the intense and threatening "Storm Season." On "Soulburn," she very nearly growls out the choruses; they are much nearer to howls, really. A tormented, tortured howl? But don't fret, White Willow haven't gone extreme... Acidic guitar and chunky percussion batter at you like ? storm driven winds slamming your shutters against the wall. Joining Erichsen on vocals for this track is guest Finn Coren, who lends a harsher edge to things.

And yet, things begin with the comparatively gentle "Chemical Sunset," which begins with a lilting, yet sad and mournful flute. It's a piece that harks back to White Willow of the past and to "A Strange Procession?" in particular. Churning guitars presage the coming storm, the only reprieve a classical ? baroque-like? instrumental passage of keyboards and string arrangements. This heavier, meatier, White Willow is signaled by the thundering closing instrumental passage to "Chemical Sunset" driven by pounding percussion. Violins and flute help to close out the track, underscoring the sense of sadness in the theme. A sadness that is picked up on in the deep throb of "Sally Left." Here the protagonist - Claire - laments Sally's passing (again, suicide or illness?). Of course, this sadness is made manifest not only by Erichsen's vocals, but the deep toned cello that sings sweetly. One of my favorite moments is the guitar solo that launches the explosive bridge section of this piece. It's dramatic, soaring, almost-siren like in style (though not in tone).

"Endless Science" is another mellow, lyrical moment from the band ? a beautiful piece that speaks to the calm before the storm - a remembrance of earlier times (as I interpret it) when Claire, Sally and their friend Trey are enjoying the thrill of life. A brighter song reflecting sunnier, clearer skies? "Insomnia" is another highlight, the tortured, hearbreaking vocals; the darker tones of the bass contrasting to the lighter vocal tones? the unexpected but perfect glockenspiel accents towards the end?

Few albums make every second worth listening to, this one of those that does. No filler, no tracks you'll get bored with later? it's simply terrific ? tremendous? excellent? I'll run out of synonyms before I run out of praise for this album. A must for anyone likes music ? This is what music should do, stir the emotions, excite the senses? Go now! Get totally soaked. You'll thank me later ? and better yet, you'll thank White Willow.

Chemical Sunset (7:58) / Sally Left (6:33) / Endless Science (3:37) / Soulburn (9:21) / Insomnia (5:49) / Storm Season (4:21) / Nightside of Eden (9:44)

Jacob Holm-Lupo - electric, acoustic, and classical guitars and keyboards
Sylvia Erichsen - vocals
Johannes Saeb?e - electric guitars, electric baryton guitar
Marthe Berger Walthinsen - 4 & 5 string basses and tambourine
Lars Fredrik Fr?islie - piano, Mellotron M400, Hammond B3, mini-moog, synths, Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer, and glockenspiel
Aage Moltke Schou - drums and percussion
Ketil Vestrum Einarsen - flutes, microsynth and tambourine
Sigrun Eng - cello
Finn Coren - vocals (4)
Teresa K. Aslanian - ghost voice (2)

Ignus Fatuus (1995)
Ex Tenebris (1998)
Sacrament (2000)
Storm Season (2004)
Signal To Noise (2006)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin NO

Added: October 24th 2004
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: www.whitewillow.info
Hits: 2070
Language: english


[ Back to Reviews Index | Post Comment ]