For those who want metal, metal, and nothing but metal, move along now; like the droids in Star Wars, these are not the songs you are looking for. Yes, I know some folks have tried to chisel in references to ambient black metal into their interpretation of White Willow’s offerings, but honestly, this is a Prog album pure and simple, from the Roger Dean cover to the complex layered musicianship, that is what it is. As a person who has spent a fair old amount of time and money following the various incarnations of Yes, and at first glance of the CD sleeve thinking I was being treated to their new album, I’m was more than happy to give this a spin. Okay, rant over, it’s review time.
Title track ‘Future Hopes’ opened with the massive symphonic keyboards that made the score of Bladerunner so stunning, and I instantly sat up straight, anticipating an album that I could already imagine shooting straight into my best of year list. Sadly, things then suddenly got a bit messy and busy. Venke Knutson’s voice, lilting and ethereal is mixed in with just too many elements; drums sound machine like, or maybe even played on those bizarre hexagonal drums that were a short lived Eighties fad; the many keyboard players sounded like they were fighting for attention with each other, and the guitar was just so desperately Proggish that it almost stepped into the realms of parody. As the title track designed to set the tone for the whole album, it was not a good thing.
Fortunately the band quickly redeem themselves with ‘Silver & Gold’ where they rein in their need to show off, and the vocals are allowed to shine through, accompanied by a pastoral acoustic guitar and a restrained arrangement, a clear case of when less can be more. ‘In Dim Days’ follows, and in contrast to the preceding track is a massive number, running at over eleven minutes with huge instrumental breaks redolent of the sounds of Genesis before the days that Mr Collins took over vocals. However, unlike the opening number, the various elements worked with each other rather than battling out for a messy supremacy, each in turn allowing to others shine whilst being properly supported, something that is what good Prog should be. Sadly that coherence again seems to get lost a bit in the eighteen minutes plus of ‘A Scarred View’; as I said, I love Yes, and will happily go for a swim in a ‘Topographic Ocean’ where the individual tracks are even longer, but those epics seemed to have an organic flow, whilst on this number the different sections just seem to be a bit jarring, and again smack of a bit of over self-indulgence. This same problem played through into ‘Animal Magnetism’, a track that has fantastic elements such as a brilliantly played clarinet, but at times just seemed to be trying too hard. I guess if I had even one tenth of the musical ability of any member of the band I’d want to show off too.
‘Future Hopes’ ended up being a bit frustrating and annoying for me, making the final score a hard one to come by. Some tracks are soaringly magnificent, and played in isolation deserve high praise, whilst others were a bit messy and distracted from the quality of the rest of the album. Hell, trim this down to an EP and I’d be a very happy chap. Yes, this album will get played again in the Spenny household, but a few tracks are going to see the skip button judiciously used.