Frost in a churchyard, silent falls the snow
Silent on gravestones cold, on stories old
So softly spoken, whispers from below
Heard by a searching ear
A mocking voice calls, calls from Limblo’s gloom
“In time the living die, the dead remain”
The snow will cover living men and dead
All in its pure white cloak.

The opening lines from ‘Snowfall’ paints this massive picture, coming to life from its folky-like introduction to its fantasy-side mellotron, swirling synths, and hyper-speed drum patterns to make you want to read those books you read as a child. There’s no denying that White Willow’s 1995 debut album Ignis Fatuus is a cornerstone in the progressive rock movement. Now reissued from Karisma Records, it is time to head back into the haunting forest once more.

Originally released on Ken Golden’s record label The Laser’s Edge, followed by the 2013 reissue from Termo Records which I still have, and now with Karisma handling their catalog, you know something wonderful is about to happen. With Jacob Holm-Lupo’s remastering sound on Ignis Fatuus, he brings in these vibrant textures to make it sound crisp, up to date, and respectable to the original.

You have to understand that 1995 was a great year in music. You have Radiohead’s The Bends, Porcupine Tree’s The Sky Moves Sideways, King Crimson’s THRAK, Marillion’s Afraid of Sunlight, and Lenny Kravitz’s darker album Circus. For White Willow, they fit the bill quite well to be a part of that timeline in the ‘90s.

There’s the sound of medieval music, Celtic folk, classical music, and the usage of keyboards, bringing in these stories to life. It feels like sessions from the BBC Radio drama of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, as Holm-Lupo took admiration from David Munrow and the Early Music of Consort for the Ignis Fatuus album.

 

Why do you think the 2-minute composition ‘Song’ will make you think you’re inside Bilbo’s cottage in The Shire, sitting with the Dwarfs, knowing that they have an uphill battle with Smaug before segueing into the gentle, haunting lullaby waltz of mellotron flutes with ‘Ingenting?’ You see, White Willow know their history of the renaissance genre, very well.

Speaking of waltz’s, the ‘Lines on an Autumnal Evening’ features these beautiful acoustic guitars, walking across the hills, and witnessing the landscape in all of its glory while ‘Piletreet’ will make you think of unsung Swedish folk singer, Turid Lundqvist during her run with the Silence label.

Eldrid Johansen’s vocals shine like a massive diamond that glows very bright throughout the intensive dance with clavinet, moog, Traffic-sque bass parts, and sliding down into the unknown for ‘Till He Arrive’. Jacob’s remastering on this track gives Eldrid a lot of front-and-centre momentum to make sure she gets a lot of recognition before sliding down the rabbit hole with dooming nightmares, brutal guitar forces, sinister Canterbury twists, and elements of Egg, MAGMA, VDGG, Comus, Camel, and Black Sabbath rolled into one on the closing track ‘John Dee’s Lament’.

It makes it all worth the round trip by returning to the forests once more and revisit White Willow’s debut album.

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