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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

White Willow

Storm Season

Review by Josh Turner

While this band keeps itself contained within the walls of progressive metal, it wavers every so often. The random stimulus is what keeps the music interesting. Those who like the murkier side of progressive metal will really like this album. For those who don't, the variations that come into play should keep the music smelling fresh. White Willow proves too much refrigeration causes freezer burn while overexposure causes rot. In Storm Season, they set the controls at the optimal temperature and demonstrate the right kind of balance.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2004 Year Book Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Chemical Sunset
For me, the start and finish of an album are vital. It is important to grab the listener's attention from the onset and bring them to a climax that pays off. The interesting aspect of this disc is that it cannot be judged from its first chapter alone. The CD takes a completely different direction after the first couple minutes. This song starts with a weird mix of Jethro Tull and Bjork. Several minutes into the track, it becomes apparent this is not classic progressive rock. The group begins to sway towards progressive metal leanings. Subsequent tracks reside solely in this realm. In the sense that the cut is chemically unbalanced and demonstrates a seasonal change in mood, the title suits it just fine. Due to the variety of melodies and the unpredictable path it undertakes, it is the best number on the album.
Sally Left
This song is slow and strange, borrowing its beat from bands like The Gathering and Paatos. Fans of those bands will certainly like this one. It's marvelously moody and gloriously gloomy.
Endless Science
This ballad is one of the more upbeat pieces on the album. It is a happy meal with a juicy burger, fat greasy fries, and a pack of amusing toys. Sylvia Erichsen's voice is eerily affectionate. Sigrun Eng offers us a cheery cello alongside an uplifting acoustic guitar.
Soulburn
With this track, we turn to a territory that is home to bands like Vanden Plas and Pain of Salvation. Finn Coren takes charge of the singing. His voice is a combination of Bono and David Bowie. Sylvia's vocal contributions in this song are actually closer to Alanis Morisette. A passage found in the middle features a piano. It reminds me of the infamous outro in Faith No More's "Epic". To recall their hit video, think of a fish flip-flopping on dry land. The end is rich with keyboard layers and a meandering guitar. This portion of the song is the most progressive sequence on the album. While some aspects breach the borders of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, others hit upon the hearth of The Flower King's "Vampire's View". This is an interesting song and definitely one of the highlights.
Insomnia
This could be one of Bjork's heavier tracks. It is similar to "Sally Left", but a tad more dynamic. It contains a part that sounds awfully close to Drowning Pool's "Bodies".
Storm Season
The title track prepares us for the end. It works more as a short segue than an actual song. It's similar to the music James Horner composed for the battalion's charge into Fort Wagner in the movie Glory (this theme is now used in many movie trailers).
Nightside In Eden
Keeping with my ideal template, the last track is a real reimbursement for the wait. It is the reverse of the opening track. It starts out heavy with passion and thick with angst. There are several different sequences that each feature a single instrument. We go through solos from a keyboard, an acoustic guitar, and an electric guitar. Each one is a pebble that is sanded down until smooth and shiny. It's apparent they spent much time in the studio refining these parts. Towards the end, the music decelerates and reaches complete peace. While there are many good songs in between, the book ends will compel you to pull this one off the shelf for future listens.
 
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