White Willow - Ex Tenebris

Year of Release: 1998
Label: Laser's Edge
Catalog Number: LE1029
Format: CD
Total Time: 48:12:00

Over this past Christmas holiday, I took some time to go through a box of stuff that needed to be filed (bills, receipts, etc) that had been collecting since at least the start of 2000. In there I came across the scribbed notes I had made a year earlier (1999) whilst listening to White Willow's sophomore release Ex Tenebris. This album still delights me and I'm glad for the chance to listen to it again. This is what I wrote then:

The album begins in a rather slow paced mode, much like their previous release, Ignus Fatuus and not unlike Landberk, say. "The Book Of Love" is gentle, lilting and quite beautiful. While Jan Tarig Rahman doesn't have a perfect voice, it is much better than many out there, regardless of genre. He does harmonize well with the delicate voice of Sylvia Erichsen - her voice is beautiful, perhaps one of the best I've heard in this genre. She could give folks like Sarah Brightman a run for her money. There are moments - certain notes - that make me think of Natalie Merchant, in a higher octave. Her voice [not to go on about it] is sonorous, full of shadings. If I had to pick a favourite track on this disk, this is it.

While Willow are progressive in the same way as Renaissance. This is for the music fan with more eclectic tastes - incorporating classical and folk. The instrumental arrangements here are spectacular. "Helen And Simon Magus" gets "down and dirty" with a booming minor key passage - though I might not have thought of King Crimson without suggestion, I did think of Pink Floyd. This will appeal to fans of Clannad, Enya, et al., as well.

"A Strange Procession" is moody, dark...strange - a dirge like synth wash plays behind booming drums - a processional rhythm, obviously, and yet, it is vivid. This might be a procession for a funeral.

Even still, 3 years later, this track stays with me. Listening to the album again after quite a while, I realize why this is on my list of all-time favourites. There are lovely moments through out, the organs that are featured in "Leaving The House Of Thanatos" for example, played by Rahman. Drummer and percussionist Mattias C. Olsson has a deft touch, his playing solid and perfectly measured. Of course the other star of the band is Jacob Holm Lupo, the main composer and driving force behind the band. It is he that plays the lovingly warm and expressive guitar solos I hear a little bit of Camel in this track, too, mainly in the vocals of Rahman. "The Book Of Love" has a lullaby quality to it.

"Soteriology" is an acoustic piece - which given the acoustic feel of the whole album, isn't telling much except that it opens with Holm-Lupo on acoustic guitar and his joined by Rahman on piano. These fade to leave just Erichsen's voice and a string-synth backing. This is another beautiful and soothing piece. This dynamic continues in "Helen..." for the first portion, before keys, drums and percussion are added. After a few measures guitar comes in, the song slowly building towards a climax. It gets there after a brief piano respite, but churning bass and overdriven keys take point, guiding the track through the same kind of dark corners Waters explored with Pink Floyd on The Wall. It closes with a spoken word segment, the voice here from Teresa K Aslanian (who sounds to me like Martha Stewart... but brush that thought aside). This is really terrific stuff, even if "A Strange Procession..." and its companion piece "...A Dance Of Shadows" are extremely gloomy.

Why I didn't publish this review earlier, I don't know. But now that I've corrected that oversight, if you haven't got this album in your collection, then you have an oversight to correct. Highly recommended.

Leaving The House of Thanatos (8:06) / The Book Of Love (4:56) / Soteriology (5:05) / Helen And Simon Magus (9:16) / Thirteen Days (2:50) / A Strange Procession ... (4:07) / ... A Dance Of Shadows (13:52)

Jacob Holm-Lupo - acoustic and electric guitars; organ (6)
Jan Tarig Rahman - piano, mellotron, organ, synthesizers, theremin, and vocals
Sylvia Erichsen - vocals
Frode Lia - bass
Mattias C Olsson - drums, percussion


Teresa K Aslanian - spoken words (4)
Asa Eklund - vocals (5)
Audun Kjus - flute (2, 4)

Ignus Fatuus (1995)
Ex Tenebris (1998)
Sacrament (2000)
Storm Season (2004)
Signal To Noise (2006)

Genre: Progresive Rock

Origin NO

Added: March 30th 2002
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: www.whitewillow.info
Hits: 613
Language: english


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