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AOR Heaven (2014)
Rating: 8.5/10

Featuring brothers Jules (vocals) and Xavier Millis (keyboards), White Widdow is an Australian melodic rock act which formed in 2008 out of Melbourne. The band also consists of guitarist Enzo Almanzi, bassist Ben Webster and drummer Noel Tenny.

The combo released its self-titled debut platter in 2010 to much critical acclaim, and certainly didn’t beat about the bush in releasing a sophomore effort – Serenade – the following year. To continue their prolific nature, White Widdow hoped to release its third opus in 2013, but with the tragic death of drummer George Kristy and retirement of original bassist Trent Wilson this would become a testing time for the band.

However, the posse quickly recovered and recruited two new members in Webster and Tenny, and the result is this new ten-track platter which once again boasts high quality songs all steeped in extravagant melody and awash with opulent hooks.

It’s no wonder that on previous efforts the band had commercial success, because White Widdow is the sort of AOR act that could easy cross into chart territory. Distinctly 80s by design – especially in those sweeping keyboards and gorgeous vocal harmonies – Crossfire is riddled with the sort of upbeat choruses that if released in the 80s we’d still be humming today.

There’s nary a track that goes by which doesn’t dig its hooks in to the ears, with each track drifting by like a summer haze over the city. From slow, simmering segments of nostalgia to well-crafted chugs injected by throbbing synths, Crossfire produces radio-friendly hit after radio-friendly hit, bolstered by Jules Mills’ soulful croons which melt lusciously into those juicy rhythms.

Okay, so there are moments when the anthems would be better suited to the 80s television show Miami Vice, but we’re all suckers for the driving guitar grooves of ‘Angel’, the slow-building chug of ‘Born To Be A Rebel’ and the synth-drenched glory of ‘Dreams Don’t Die’. And naturally, the band also throws in a wondrous ballad or two, the most effective being the trickling ‘Carry The Heartache’ with its nodding drum.

AOR doesn’t get more heavenly than this, even though you know what is coming as each track develops into a nifty, delicate stomp. And while there are the expected clichés which seem to come with the territory of this sort of melodic rock, the guys have crafted enough well-balanced anthems to convert even the most hardened detractors of this sort of soft metal.

While many contemporary acts seem to fall short or lay on too much cheese in regards to creating a nostalgic trip through the annals of AOR lore, White Widdow has emerged like a ray of sunshine through the grey clouds and delivered its best opus yet.

Neil Arnold

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