White Moth Black Butterfly - ‘The Cost of Dreaming’ White Moth Black Butterfly
Label: Kscope
  • 4.5/5
Reviewed by Jordan Blum

The Cost of Dreaming is a wonderful voyage ripe with stunning instrumentation, captivating singing, and most importantly, lasting resonance.

Over the last decade, vocalist/songwriter Daniel Tompkins has continuously proven himself as an extremely distinctive and dependable artist. This is true not only in relation to his work with English progressive metal quintet TesseracT but also regarding his recent solo efforts (2019’s Castles and 2020’s significantly revised reimagining, Ruins). Of course, there’s also White Moth Black Butterfly, a progressive/alternative pop project Tompkins started during his temporary absence from TesseracT. 2013’s One Thousand Wings was quite a promising and enjoyable starting point, and unsurprisingly,  2017’s Atone—which welcomed an expanded line-up—surpassed it in every way. Undoubtedly, WMBB bore Tompkins’ characteristic aesthetic while doing enough to excite as a fresh endeavor.  

Now the group returns with The Cost of Dreaming, an expectedly luscious, adventurous, and moving third LP that likely equals, if not surpasses, Atone. Once again, Tompkins is joined by singer/lyricist Jordan Bethany, Skyharbor guitarist Keshav Dhar, drummer Mac Christensen, and keyboardist/orchestrator Randy Slaugh (Devin Townsend, Periphery, Architects), all of whom continue to play an invaluable and transparent part in making WMBB such an outstanding collaboration. In addition, the record features guest appearances from Contortionist keyboardist Eric Guenther and saxophonist Kenny Fong.

The official press release describes the LP as “representing the dichotomy between peace and conflict within a life full of chaos.” Justifiably, Tompkins sees it as  “an outpouring of love and a cry for help,” as well as “something . . . just about every human being on the planet that's been affected by life-changing disruption will relate strongly to.” He continues:

Our nature is to always be planning, dreaming about an ideal future in which we will have ticked various boxes that define our ideal lives, often at the cost of the present. And when control over that future is seized away from us and all we are left with is the present, we realise just how much we took for granted. Life is surely a gift to us all throughout which we experience moments of soaring bliss and happiness, and then in a heartbeat sink into states of great trouble and suffering. Often our struggles can serve as momentous opportunities for growth, but the balance of life can often hold us back from seizing the day.

Tompkins immediately introduces his hallmark divine dejection with prologue “Ether,” a symphonic yet sparse introduction that matches his exemplary bellows and introspections with elegant piano notes, bulging strings, and touching sounds of nature. It brilliantly sets the stage for the rest of the journey (particularly, follow-up “Prayer for Rain,” which—while not quite as infectiously catchy as Atone’s “Rising Sun”—is still a thrilling and sleek slice of glorious electropop). Elsewhere, “Heavy Heart” strikes a similar chord while emphasizing Tompkins’ lovely falsetto; “Use You” aims for a darker and more industrial vibe; “Sands of Despair” effectively prioritizes powerful ambiance, and closer “Spirits” is easily among the most gorgeously impactful pieces any of these artists have ever made. It builds magnificently from dazzling doubtfulness to boisterous empowerment, all the while allowing Tompkins and Bethany to shine as individual vocal forces.

Speaking of Bethany, she sounds as angelically dominant as ever on the irresistible (and debatably trip-hop) “The Dreamer,” not to mention the luminously fetching “Portals” and the gleaming ballad “Under the Stars” (among many other tracks). As both a counterpart to Tompkins and a leading presence, she remains a distinguished and vital part of the WMBB formula throughout the sequence. As for Fong and Guenther, they add equally enjoyable and beneficial flamboyance and playfulness to “Darker Days” and “Bloom,” respectively. In fact, their contributions demonstrate how much room remains for wider textural palettes on WMBB’s fourth outing.

The Cost of Dreaming is a wonderful voyage ripe with stunning instrumentation, captivating singing, and most importantly, lasting resonance. Naturally, Tompkins’ typical sonic richness and thematic profundity are on full display, and every other member—especially Bethany—stands out significantly, too, ensuring that the record establishes WMBB’s singular identity even further. In that way, it’s another superb testament to how seamlessly the fivesome can unite their individual gifts to yield something special. It’s truly remarkable.


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daniel tompkins jordan bethany keshav dhar mac christensen progressive pop randy slaugh tesseract white moth black butterfly