Sometimes changing a vocalist works and sometimes it doesn’t. While that isn’t the only reason for the almost six years between White Willow albums, the vocalist change certainly played a part in it. Sylvia Skjellestad was back in the fold for the band’s last album “Terminal Twilight” and I really liked that album a lot. Not the least of which was because of her voice.
Skjellestad reminds me a bit of Anneke van Giersbergen in both tone and range. Sadly, Skjellestad left the band for a second time. For the new album “Future Hopes,” the band recruited Venke Knutson, who apparently has had pop singles in Norway. The problem for me is right there. She does sound like a pop singer. Her style is thin and breathy, almost frail. I am not a fan of that style at all.
The album starts off with the title track and then “Silver and Gold.” Each are more on the mellow, folky side of the band’s sound. While these songs fit Knutson’s style, neither of them grab me. Things get vastly more interesting with the expansive “In Dim Days” which has plenty of instrumental passages in it and much more power. Knutson has to muster up more power in her voice and almost manages to pull it off. Sadly, it really points out her limitations. Still, it’s a great song.
Along the same lines is the 18 minute epic “A Scarred View” which is the other track I really like on “Future Hopes.” The album as a whole is more synth based and thus sounds more futuristic. The only issue with the music I have is that the drumming sounds almost mechanical at times. While this might fit the overall vibe that White Willow are going for, it sounds a bit stale and sterile to me.
I was really looking forward to this album because for one, it had been years since the last White Willow album. The band still have that King Crimson meets Tangerine Dream meets Renaissance thing going on but as I said to start out, sometimes a vocalist change works and sometimes it doesn’t. For me, this is just not a good match. I can only imagine the depth that Skjellestad’s voice would have added to these really good songs. We’ll never know. But hey, Roger Dean’s artwork is awesome!
1. Future Hopes
2. Silver And Gold
3. In Dim Days
4. Where There Was Sea There Is Abyss
5. A Scarred View
6. Animal Magnetism
7. Damnation Valley
Label: Laser’s Edge