White Willow

<Picture of White Willow

Ignis Fatuus

White Willow - Ignis Fatuus ©1995 The Laser's Edge
1. Snowfall
2. Lord Of Night
3. Song
4. Ingenting
5. The Withering Of The Boughs
6. Lines On An Autumnal Evening
7. Now In These Fairy Lands
8. Piletreet
9. Till He Arrives
10. Cryptomenysis
11. Signs
12. John Deeís Lament

White Willow are a progressive rock band from Norway that defy typification. I donít quite know what to call the style of this album. It is progressive. It is gothic. It is also folksy and very, very mellow and laid back.

There are not many progressive rock bands that have a dark and gothic bent to their music. There are certainly none who create such an enchanting and mystical atmosphere as White Willow. The band uses acoustic guitar, violin, flute, haunting female vocals and a great backdrop of keys, drums, bass and rhythm to create a very original sound. The music created has a tremendous gothic feel to it. It is somber and melancholy without depressing you. There are festive undertones at times and medieval tones to draw the listener deeper into the folds of a very warm and comforting embrace.

The liner notes state that this disc is a collection of recordings made by the various musicians involved in White Willow from as early as 1992. There are some sixteen or so contributing artists listed in the credits.

The songs themselves are very quiet and laid back. This disc serves as wonderful background music for those quite moments when something tranquil will server better than something heavy. It is progressive ambient music without equal and succeeds in making its own niche and genre. This disc will thrill the gothic metal enthusiast who yearns for something quieter once in a while. It will please any progressive rock fan who looks for something new and unique in the genre. It will please any fan of bands like Yes or Jethro Tull who remember the heavy use of keys and acoustics in the 1970's. This disc has a lot to offer to a wide spectrum of music enthusiasts.

Review by Matthew Braymiller

Review date: 04/2001

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Ex Tenebris

White Willow - Ex Tenebris ©1998 The Laser's Edge
1. Leaving The House Of Thanatos
2. The Book Of Love
3. Soteriology
4. Helen And Simon Magus
5. Thirteen Days
6. A Strange Procession...
7. ...A Dance Of Shadows

Roughly translated "from out of darkness" if my Latin is correct, Ex Tenebris, the second disc from White Willow, offers up another serving of dark, ambient progressive rock. It is hauntingly beautiful music that focuses on mood and atmosphere more than anything else I have ever heard.

The music on this album waffles between the quiet, delicate and subtle music similar to what you'll find on the first album, Ignis Fatuus and much heavier, busier pieces. It's not metal by any stretch, but it does have some teeth from time to time. You get the feeling that if this band ever cut loose and let fly, they'd really rock the house. But, the approach is tentative and subtle, slow and mellow from start to finish.

This disc has the feel of being almost experimental in nature. It feels like the band was torn between going one way or the other with the music. It is quieter and more spacious than the first disc, but it is also busier and more gritty than the first disc in places. In my book, it works well, but I know it will put some listeners off, wanting the disc to settle on one side or the other of the fence. Perhaps growing up listening to 70's and 80's progressive rock has given me an ear to appreciate stuff like this. It is certainly on the edge for progressive ambient music.

Review by Matthew Braymiller

Review date: 05/2001

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Sacrament

White Willow - Sacrament ©2000 The Laser's Edge
1. Anamnesis
2. Paper Moon
3. The Crucible
4. The Last Rose Of Summer
5. Gnostalgia
6. The Reach

This disc finally realizes the potential of White Willow. Building on the hauntingly beautiful ambient sound of the previous two albums, the band decides to flesh out the sound with a bit more punch. The result is some of the best gothic influenced ambient progressive rock you'll ever hear.

Everything is pushed further than on the previous albums. The range of musical expressiveness is broadened. The vocals run from beautiful to aggressive. The folk and medieval influences are brought more sharply into focus. The skill of the musicians really comes out in the variety and intricacy of the songs. This is White Willow at their collective best, moving with unity and purpose toward a common musical and picturesque goal. outstanding on this disc are the instrumental track, "The Crucible", and two hauntingly beautiful tracks, "Paper Moon" and "Gnostalgia".

The production on this disc is the finest I've ever heard. The bass guitar can be heard at ranges well below those you'd normally pick up on a CD. The disc comes with a warning printed on the back: "WARNING: The extreme dynamic range of White Willow's music will test the limits of your sound system. Please listen with extreme caution." Much of this warning stems from the brilliant production job done on the disc. Some of it comes from the sudden and unexpected explosions from the quiet and delicate into the much heavier and more aggressive style that is scattered throughout the songs, giving the disc some really intense moments. The clarity of the sound is stellar. Ken Golden of The Laser's Edge is to be congratulated for what may be his best work yet.

The musical ambience on this disc is wonderful. The songs move and flow one into the next with such a seamless fit that it may take more than one listen to find the actual moments of division between tracks. The changes of tempo and direction that are the meat and potatoes of any progressive album are richly embedded into each track. The influences of Jethro Tull and Emerson, Lake, and Palmer and Focus can be seen in some of the instrumental moments. If you liked either of White Willow's previous albums, you will really like this one. This is symphonic, ambient progressive rock in top form. If you are looking for a wonderfully produced, well balanced album of truly different music, I highly recommend you look this one up for yourself.

Review by Matthew Braymiller

Review date: 05/2001

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