Cramming more ideas into one song than many bands manage over the course of an entire career, Norwegian six-piece White Willow's sixth studio album, Terminal Twilight, is a tour de force in inventive art rock, which for the most part manages to straddle the fine line between experimentation and self-indulgence. Having reunited with original vocalist Sylvia Erichsen (who was replaced by Trude Eidtáng for 2006's Signal to Noise), the album features several melodic offerings that allow her gorgeously ethereal tones to come to the forefront, such as the jangly acoustics of "Floor 67," a post-apocalyptic tale, which if it weren't for the discordant jazz-rock breakdown could have come from the first Cranberries album; the dreamy prog rock of "Snowswept"; and the grandiose "Red Leaves," which starts out as a theatrical show tune before its new age harmonies make way for a frenetic fusion of swirling Hammond organs and winding guitar solos. But while the lo-fi shimmering Americana-tinged "Kansas Regrets," a collaboration with No-Man's Tim Bowness, and the eerie choral instrumental closer, "A Rumour of Twilight," continue to pursue a less avant-garde direction, there are still the time signature-shifting epics that the band has become renowned for. Opener "Hawks Circle the Mountain" opens with some operatic chanting before its horror movie score feel segues into an ambitious blend of industrial trip-hop, medieval-inspired grunge, and spacy psychedelica, while the intense "Searise" is a slightly deranged 13-minute epic that takes in haunting gothic folk, sprawling post-rock, and a cavalcade of eerie sounds that evoke a particularly demented ghost train ride. These two grandiose numbers, which fully explore their proggy tendencies, do begin to overstay their welcome before their lengthy running times draw to a close. But while their wildly creative streak sometimes needs reining in a little, the majority of Terminal Twilight is an engaging and compelling affair that further establishes Scandinavia's status as the heartland of the prog rock revival.
Terminal Twilight Review
by Jon O'Brien