Termo Records really know their stuff very well and continuing the reissuing catalog of White Willow’s music. I’ve always admired of what the band have done and with the reissue of the band’s debut, Ignis Fatuus, originally released in 1995 from the Laser’s Edge, in which I’ve played about 12 times, they never disappoint me. The continuation of the band’s work moves on with their follow up, Ex Tenebris released in 1998.
After the disbandment of the Ignis Fatuus line-up, the album was originally going to be a solo album, but Jacob Holm-Lupo decided to go more into the Progressive direction than he was expecting at the time they were making the album. And bringing Jan Tariq Rahman on keyboards and Anglagard drummer Mattias Olsson, who recorded a 2-day session for the follow up, it shows that you can have some friends to lend a helping hand.
Ex Tenebris showed a murky and darker sound from their previous debut. They departed their melodic sounds into that area and at times it feels as if they had done a score for a Gothic film in the ‘80s and brings it up a notch to frighten the audience with the arranging and composition. From the booming and thunderous percussion, vocals, dooming synths, and church organ sounds with an homage to the 1984 cult classic sci-fi film, The Terminator and touches of Jacula’s Tardo Pede in Magiam Versus-era on A Strange Procession to the 8-minute epic psychedelic folk turned early reminiscent of Camel meets King Crimson with Leaving the House of Thanatos featuring swirling mellotron chords, drums, bass lines, and Jacob Holm-Lupo and Sylvia Erichsen’s vocals, it almost made me cry at times because it is a perfect way to start the album off and he can sing very well.
There is a moody midsection between Mattias Olsson, Frode Lia, and Rahman’s spooky organ sounds and the mellotron chorals in, sets the tempo in the atmosphere. They also have a touch of the Acid Folk inspirations in which they haven’t lost in their roots on The Book of Love and struggling with how long their loved one has been gone for Thirteen Days while the emotional piano featuring the classical guitar along with the gothic organ sound, it’s almost as if there is someone mourning for a loss loved one with Soteriology as Sylvia leads in the service of her angelic vocals and it just hits you of her singing because you can imagine inside the church not a dry eye in the house and being touched with her vocals.
The ascending lyrical beauty on Helen and Simon Magus, shows their Symphonic and harder edgier rock sound thanks to Lupo’s homage to David Gilmour and Tony Iommi along with Rahman giving the elements of early Floyd that is almost like something straight out of the sessions of Atom Heart Mother. And then back into the gentle turned melancholy piano and spoken-word speech on dealing with the frightening side of their personal lives with sympathy and departing from their loved ones.
The synths come in for a closing and lingering finale that has this ‘80s score for the ending credits for a Horror film with Jacob shows his touch of a Fripp-sque beat for the two minutes and twenty-one seconds as it turns into a pleasant climbing beat on A Dance of Shadows that shows them back into the symphonic rock sound that gives the curtains a chance to close and not to mention the Mellotron going into a dystopian carousel and back into the darker sounds that makes it a spooky outro.
The four bonus tracks are worth exploring as the demos were recorded in Jacob’s living room after the second album was released. You could see the seeds of their next album, Sacrament that would be the next incarnation of the band’s work. Their take of Nick Drake’s Clothes of Sand feels like it was left off the sessions of Genesis’ Trespass while the ambient percussion and synths with Sylvia’s vocals on the folk melody, Coniunctio is gentle and the earlier take of The Last Rose of Summer feels it was recorded in the early ‘70s and while it was a work-in-progress it shows how much preparation before they bring it into the studio.
But the live version recorded in 2001 of Leaving the House of Thanatos will send shivers down your spine for Sylvia to shine through her vocals from the middle-eastern sounds and into the song that will remind you of Christina Booth of Magenta. White Willow reissues are soon going to become on everyone’s Christmas and Hanukkah’s wish list. And even though there are some mixed opinions on their second album, I happen to enjoy it after listening about three times and it’s an album that may not be everyone’s cup of coffee, but it shows that it can be tough going through a departure of their previous work and see what they can do into that area.