Norwegian prog veterans White Willow are back after a lengthy hiatus with their brand new Lasers Edge release Future Hopes. With that passage of time, the band's line-up has once again changed, multi-instrumentalists Jacob Holm-Lupo and Mattias Olsson one again overseeing the proceedings and returns from flautist Ketil Einarsen (Jaga Jazzist, Motorpsycho), keyboardist Lars Fredrik Frøislie (Wobbler, Tusmørke), and bassist Ellen Andrea Wang (Pixel, Manu Katché Quartet), plus new vocalist Venke Knutson (who appeared on Lupo's The Opium Cartel project) as well as Norwegian guitar slinger Hedvig Mollestad. Those who have loved the bands penchant for lush soundscapes, soaring melodies, and adventurous instrumental passages will find much to sink their teeth into on Future Hopes.
While having a female vocalist has always been a staple for White Willow, Knutson lends a more pop based flavor here, and with Mollestad's superior jazz chops meshing well with the abundance of Mellotron, Moogs, and other assorted vintage keyboards, Future Hopes has somewhat of a different feel that prior albums. The 18+ minute "A Scarred View" is an alluring epic, Mollestadt's sizzling guitar solos slicing through a smoky haze of Mellotrons and floating vocals, while the brilliant synth washes of "In Dim Days" remind of vintage Tangerine Dream, with Olsson's tricky drum fills percolating the rhythm attack and Knutson's angelic crooning soaring over the top. The effective use of hard rock power chords also adds a nice touch on this highly progressive tune. The title track, as well as most songs on the album, features the Blade Runner synth, the Yamaha CS80, which gives a neat futuristic feel that is something new for the band, and a nice touch. Their cover of the Scorpions classic "Animal Magnetism" takes out the heavy metal and puts in space rock & electronica, the menacing synths quite effective in creating unsettling, brooding mood, and features a scorching clarinet solo from guest New York musician David Krakauer. Fans of the bands more folk based material will appreciate the pastoral "Silver and Gold", and the piano & synth drenched number "Damnation Valley" adds a majestic touch to close things out.
The early part of 2017 has seen some strong releases already in the progressive rock genre, and you can add this latest from White Willow near the top of the list. The nearly 6 years was well worth the wait!
Oh yeah, and that's a Roger Dean painting for the cover art!
1. Future Hopes 04:30
2. Silver And Gold 04:04
3. In Dim Days 11:07
4. Where There Was Sea There Is Abyss 01:59
5. A Scarred View 18:16
6. Animal Magnetism 07:15
7. Damnation Valley 03:16