Valor is the latest release from White Willow's Jacob Holm-Lupo, his art-rock/pop side project that now has quite a sizable discography to their credit. Providing the bulk of the lead vocals on the album is Silje Huleboer, and her angelic, ethereal style works well within the confines of Holm-Lupo's lush, bright arrangements, like the melodic pop of opener "In the Streets" and the gorgeous, dreamy "Slow Run". "A Question of Re-entry" is one of two instrumentals on the album, along with "A Maelstrom of Stars", each featuring a wealth of synths and stinging guitar solos, perfect for the progressive rock crowd that surely follows Holm-Lupo over from his main act White Willow. "Nightwings" features vocals from the leader's daughter Ina, a lovely, bouncy pop number that falls somewhere between Japan and Blondie, and one of a few tracks here that, in a perfect world, has 'hit single' written all over it. In fact, it's The Opium Cartel's '80s electro-pop/New Wave/club tendencies that really are their strong point, with tunes such as "Under Thunder" and "The Curfew Bell" tailor made for that era, and, had Holm-Lupo offered these songs to a very young Madonna in 1985, we'd probably be seeing these songs on a Greatest Hits set of her material from that era. Also here as a bonus track is an almost unrecognizable version of Ratt's "What's It Gonna Be", gone are the raunchy '80s metal tones and instead replaced with lush synths and soaring Tears For Fears styled vocals. Very interesting. Of course, a blazing guitar solo had to be included though!
All said, Valor is a really fun listen, and another in a fine line of releases from The Opium Cartel. '80s synth-pop fans should certainly check this one out.
In the Streets 04:55
A Question of Re-entry
The Curfew Bell
A Maelstrom of Stars 06:40
What's It Gonna Be (Ratt cover, bonus track)