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White Willow

Symphonic Prog

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White Willow Ex Tenebris album cover
3.28 | 106 ratings | 16 reviews | 6% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1998

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Leaving the House of Thanatos (8:06)
2. The Book of Love (4:56)
3. Soteriology (5:05)
4. Helen and Simon Magus (9:16)
5. Thirteen Days (2:50)
6. A Strange Procession... (4:07)
7. A Dance of Shadows (13:52)

Total Time 48:12

Bonus tracks on 2014 remaster:
8. Clothes of Sand (demo *) (3:27)
9. The Last Rose of Summer (demo *) (3:19)
10. Coniunctio (demo *) (3:50)
11. Leaving the House of Thanatos (live 2001) (9:42)

* 4-track demos recorded in Holm-Lupo's living room

Line-up / Musicians

- Sylvia Erichsen / vocals
- Jacob Holm-Lupo / acoustic & electric guitars, organ (6), keyboards (8-10), arranger & co-producer
- Jan Tariq Rahman / piano, Mellotron, Hammond organ, synthesizers, theremin, vocals
- Frode Lia / bass
- Mattias Olsson / drums & percussion

- Teresa Aslanian / spoken word (4)
- Åsa Eklund / vocals (5)
- Audun Kjus / flute (2,4)
- Kristian Hultgren / keyboards (8-10)
- Ketil Vestrum Einarsen / flute (8-11)
- Brynjar Dambo / keyboards (11)
- Johannes Sæbøe / bass (11)
- Aage Moltke Schou / drums (11)

Releases information

Artwork: Michael Bennett

CD The Laser's Edge - LE1029 (1998, US)
CD Termo Records - TERMOCD016 (2014, Norway) Remastered by Jens Petter Nilsen with 4 bonus tracks and new cover art

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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Buy WHITE WILLOW Ex Tenebris Music

WHITE WILLOW Ex Tenebris ratings distribution

(106 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(6%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(38%)
Good, but non-essential (45%)
Collectors/fans only (11%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

WHITE WILLOW Ex Tenebris reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
2 stars I don't see the big hoopla about this second album as I find this tedious, monotonous and pointless, although this appears to be of some quality, in some sort of artistic way. This second effort is clearly a down step from their promising debut album, but their folk-tinged prog never really gets nervous, inspired or even engaged. I must say, I got rid of this album after having tried around ten times, and it still was not getting my attention; how hard should a listener try? If he does not after so many try, than the problem is with the record, would you not say?

Even in concert with two good looking girls, I was not captivated to say the least. Maybe best avoided as an introduction to Whit Willow, you might want to start with the debut or Sacrament.

Review by loserboy
4 stars Excellent modern neoprog classic rock with loads of organ/ mellotron, bass pedals and excellent vocal harmonies. "Ex Tenebris" explores a dark yet positive progressive rock with some excellent song writing and musicianship. "Ex Tenebris" is very a difficult album to peg down but carries with it strong Folk leanings and is very symphonic all the way round. WHITE WILLOW do not deliver a very synthetic or synthesized sound instead focus on a very true sound with few overdubs. Their music sounds very original and not simply stolen or fabricated from others. Songs are highly thought out and carry a very original musical charm taking in the grandeur of PINK FLOYD with the power of KING CRIMSON. The Lasers Edge have a great release here and I am sure most prog heads would love this album.
Review by lor68
4 stars It's a very dark work, similar to some music episodes composed by another Scandinavian band "ANEKDOTEN" but - unlike these latter - they are more in an "experimental folk-prog" vein. Their debut album was more personal and also more structured too, nevertheless you find here some very interesting music features from Scandinavia and its "dark" northern folklore.

Recommended if you love this particular genre.

Review by hdfisch
3 stars 3,5 stars really!

WW's second album is their most quiet and mellow one and at least in parts with fewer elements of medieval folk. Instrumentation is less extensive than on their debut and mainly acoustic with many vocal parts, fortunately mainly by the female vocalists who sound much better than Jan Tariq Rahman on the first two songs.

First highlight is the song Soteriology, a very melancholic, almost pastoral one, starting with acoustic guitar and piano followed by organ sound accompanied by Sylvia Erichsen's beautiful voice. Helen and Simon Magus starts very mellow again, then one of the few electric guitar parts of the album and another mellow part with spoken words. Last track A Dance of Shadows is the longest track in mainly very sluggish tempo with powerful mellotron sound, another part with electric guitar, Sylvia Erichsen's wonderful vocals and a quite surprising fading out at the end.

As a SUMMARY I have to say that though Ex Tenebris is their least spectacular album, it's still a very good one. Best songs I think are "Soteriology", "Helen and Simon Magus" and "A Dance of Shadows". If vocals would be provided throughout by the two girls, it would probably be worth of 4 stars. Anyway I'd add half star extra if possible and recommend it to those fellows whoare more into melancholic and sluggish type of music.

Review by sleeper
3 stars Ex-Tenebris is the second album from Norwegian band White Willow, and thankfully this release sidesteps the all to easy path of re-hashing the what was done on the debut album. Ex-Tenebris quite quickly shows its differences to its predecessor, Ignis Fatuus, before the end of the opening song, Leaving The House Of Thanatos.

Whereas the debut had a very lush sound built up from the guitars, bass, mellotron, drums, string and wind instruments all playing together, this follow up has a much more striped down, almost minimalist in places, sound to it. There is quite often long passages were there is only one or two instruments playing at a time, sometimes with the vocals as well. Though the album continues the nicely relaxing feel that marked out Ignis Fatuus so well to me, Ex-tenebrous does it in a completely different manner.

Part of the reason for the change is that the line up of musicians here is almost completely different with Jacob C. Holm-Lupo and Jan Tarig Rahman as the only two musicians to still be involved in White Willow since Ignis Fatuus (at least on this recording), though flutist Audun Kjus still has a couple of token parts on a couple of tracks here. Indeed the line-up seems much more stable on this album, it doesn't have legions of people playing on it giving it more of a feel that it's a band (the drummer seems to have a name this time as well, Anglagard's Mattias Olsson!). I also find that the production work on this album is much sharper here, each instrument is much more clearly defined in the sound of the band something that, though not a problem or a draw back, might have needed a little work on Ignis Fatuus.

Despite the initial perception that we could be in for something quite special, there are parts that really let this album down. With the exception of A Strange Procession. all the short songs give the feeling that they are recordings of church choir Christmas carols to me, though without any religious pretext in the lyrics. These short songs also seem to be trying to do the same as the long ones but without actually going anywhere. I guess they are a sort of minimalist equivalent to noodling and I find them quite annoying.

The longer songs here (Leaving The House Of Thanatos, Helen And Simon Magus and .A Dance Of Shadows) are all really nice songs similar in style to Cryptomenysis and John Dee's Lament, though containing the unique feel of the album. They all seem to build up to varying degrees of intensity and you cant help but get lost in the sheer beauty of the music.

I feel that the level of musicianship has improved here as well, growing much more focused than on the previous album helping with the atmosphere. You wont find any high speed performances or bombastic soloing/riffing, instead its in the subtlety that really puts the focus on certain parts that grabs you. Vocally this band has stepped up as well. Jan Tarig Rahman's voice sounds much smother on this album and I find that to be a big improvement from him, but I doubt I could listen to a whole album of him singing. Thankfully it's the new vocalist, Sylvia Erichsen, that takes the credit for most of the vocals from Soteriology onwards. She has a really nice, smooth voice that really helps the relaxing atmosphere of the album but she never sounds like she is pushing her abilities, though its hard to say whether that would actually be an improvement as Erichsens voice fits in really well. The drumming on this album is really hard to notice as their isn't much of it here, but what there is works well with the mood of the music, there's just not enough of it, though, to say moor. Special mention should go to Teresa Aslanian who reads a poem at the end of Helen And Simon Magus, her rich voice and the fact that its spoken word gives this song a unique send off.

I previously mentioned that A Strange Procession. was the only short song on here that I liked, the reasons for this are two fold. First is that it is such a unique track here, it has a really dark and oppressive feel to it that it immediately stands out on this album, but doesn't wreck the overall feel. The second is that it feeds in well to the albums epic, and closer, .A Dance Of Shadows almost making it one great 19 minute epic, though not quite as they are still separate tracks.

I'll give this album 3 stars as, though it contains some truly brilliant songs, most of the shorter tracks don't do anything for me. I also find that I couldn't listen to this album too much due to the striped down nature of the sound. True, it does help to enhance the relaxed nature of this album but there are times when I would want more to be going on, which means that I prefer Ignis Fatuus. Not a bad album by any stretch of the imagination but could have been better.

Review by Mellotron Storm
3 stars Man, this is a tough one to get into. "Ex Tenebris" apparently is Latin for "From out of the darkness". And this is a dark, bleak and experimental album. Now i'm into dark music, but experimental ? Not so much. Also, there is so much slow paced, acoustic music , with little in the way of outbreaks. On a positive note we have none other than Mattias Olsson from ANGLAGARD on percussion and drums. And also we have mellotron on every track.

"Leaving The House Of Thanatos" is a song I like, opening with acoustic guitar, keys and male vocals, followed by mellotron and drums. Female vocals are added and organ.This is a nice slow paced tune with some soaring guitar towards the end. The next two songs "The Book Of Love" and "Soteriology" are both ok, mainly acoustic songs.

"Helen And Simon Magus" actually has an outbreak of guitar and organ. Earlier in the song we are treated to a good guitar melody. "Thirteen Days" is a short, slow acoustic song with flute. "A Strange Procession..." is like a dirge, with the drums and organ creating funeral procession-like music. "...A Dance Of Shadows" is my favourite song. Some good guitar melodies, mellotron, and keys. Later the guitar melody with drums and mellotron sounds great. Actually the instrumental passages of this song are outstanding.

This second record from WHITE WILLOW is a good one, but it is their lowest rated album for a reason. Not very melodic or accessible.

Review by The Prognaut
4 stars Decided to increase my progressive view across the Scandinavian scene, I took my chances with WHITE WILLOW just by hearing nothing but good recommendations and how impressive they work was. "Ex Tenebris" was actually my first step right into their world of wonderful music. I chose to start from here since the presence of Mattias OLSSON among the line-up rang a bell or well said, a drum to me. Up to the day I played this record for the first time, in the back of my mind there were only reminiscences from Swedish prog exposed brightly through the chords of the cornerstone bands we're all familiar with. I have to admit I didn't enjoy "Ex Tenebris" out of first listen because of my harshness towards expectation set upon Nordic prog rock. Now, I can barely brace myself from listening to at least one song of the record during an ordinary workday.

"Leaving The House Of Thanatos" is indeed a great opener. Softly carried away from the beginning, with this scent of peacefulness that speaks of a delicate touch printed out by WHITE WILLOW. The reward came to my ears straight as an arrow considering myself a lover of the mellotron and anything that has to do with fine displayed keyboards. Certainly, this record overruled my modest expectations. The air breathed in this song is simply devouring. It swings throughout several moods, but never forgetting the deep, surrounding moments. Definitely, one of my favorite WHITE WILLOW pieces.

In a more embracing way, "The Book Of Love" leads us inside the enticing aroma the record's got. The track is plagued of beautiful passages such as Audun KJUS' flute solo and the incredible duet performed by Jan Tarig RAHMAN and Sylvia ERICHSEN. Just the kind of song that would put you in the right kind of mood. Right after, "Soteriology" appears quietly almost in the same way of previous track, but now covered all up by the notes of a shy mellotron and a lovely burst of words coming out of Sylvia's soul. Rather than paused and slow, this songs resembles to me a beautiful lullaby for the unease heart.

"Helen And Simon Magus" has to be the track that particularly sets off from the rest in "Ex Tenebris". The elegance and the passion displayed by Sylvia ERICHSEN in here are even more refined and more sensitive. Her voice intertwines suitably with the musical elements just to release a captivating scent that'd drag you right into the mystery and the spookiness of the song which is quite disturbing in a emotional way. Lots of synthies and mellotron notes would surround the scene, letting no room to breathe but to stand still and live through the song. It also turns somehow hypnotic at the time Sylvia's voice begins to narrate the lyrics, in a very provocative way. A marvelous musical show that undoubtedly has the Scandinavian, deep, sensitive touch.

Musical guest Asa EKLUND appears as briefly as enchanting for over almost three minutes in "Thirteen Days" just to unroll the red carpet for upcoming scene in the album. "A Strange Procession." is to me, part one of the epical trip WHITE WILLOW dared to take on in here. The instrumental darkness floats irremediably strange within the ears just to clear up the air for final chapter... "A Dance Of Shadows" which is just the perfect ending to this lyrical journey. The poetry distilled here goes far beyond any possible imagination. The arrangements made to the song dignify completely the whole means of this production. The instrumentation is absolutely ravishing and cathartic, the mellotron keeps its providential signature and the musical spontaneity is unstoppable at this point. The magic goes on and on for almost fourteen minutes of gorgeousness. This track is a point of departure to tell apart the work of this Norwegian band from what was to come for them over the years they already left behind.

A very underrated album in its entire conception since to me, it's got the genius, the creativity and the innovative breaking point to keep eyes set on the Scandinavian prog scene that's everything but unknown to us all. The album is very refreshing to the soul, a true work of art. Humbly recommended by this helpless proghead.

Review by ClemofNazareth
3 stars Is this symphonic, neo or post-rock? Kind of hard to tell really. I think they get the symphonic nod thanks to the use of mellotron, but beyond that I’d say they are really another neo-progressive band with some mildly symphonic arrangements here and there.

The tone is closer to post-rock at times though, with an awful lot of slowly building instrumental passages that sometimes build up into something interesting (like the guitar passage on “Helen and Simon Magus”), but more often just lumber along until they run out of steam, interest and/or ideas (“Leaving the House of Thanatos”, “Soteriology”, Thirteen Days”). That last one would make for a decent folk tune, but in the context of this album it seems out-of-place and not very well thought out.

“The Book of Love” is the weirdest one of all, not much more than a plodding drum line and mellotron/ synthesizer noodling while Sylvia Erichsen provides vocal accompaniment to fellow crooner keyboardist Jan Tarig Rahman, who sounds all the world like Christopher Cross.

The epic-length closing “A Strange Procession..., …a Dance of Shadows” is clearly what got this one the symphonic label (that and the whole mellotron thing). The eighteen minute organ, synthesizer, mellotron and drum dirge is eerie at times and slightly annoying at others, but the band covers a lot of ground with the ever-shifting arrangement and have to be given their due for at least putting some creative thought into this one.

I can’t get excited about the album at all, but at least one of my kids seems to think it’s a decent neo album. So partially in deference to his taste I’ll say three stars, but if you happen to be someone who reads many of my reviews and has a tendency to have similar tastes, you probably won’t find much in this one that appeals to you. Que sera.


Review by ZowieZiggy
2 stars Although their debut album was promising (but not great to be honest) this one starts on a weak mood.

I am always expecting a very good opening track which is definitely not the case here. Song writing is deeply uninspired and it is quite a disillusion to listen to Leaving the House of Thanatos even if there are some very short and fine instrumental passages. But you'd better Press Next T while reaching The Book of Love.

I'm really not passionate with this album. The most irritating parts are the vocal ones: it sounds as if we have nothing to deal with but young teenagers on duty. The first good moment I could feel was the gorgeous guitar break on Helen.. It takes place almost half on the album and lasts for about a minute.

Instead of taking off brilliantly, White Willow released a rather thin follow-up album. There are very few interesting songs featured. Hardly symphonic as a whole, I would say. Highlights are scarce (if any) and the overall feeling is the one of boredom (A Strange Procession is the best way to illustrate this feeling). Press Next T.

The best song from this Ex Tenebris is indeed the dark and closing number A Dance of Shadows. At last it is a number which could compete with their debut. Some genuine Crimson sounds are a real highlights of tis average album.

Two stars.

Review by apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Three years after the very good ''Ignis Fatuus'' White Willow returned with their sophomore effort ''Ex Tenebris'', offered again through The Laser's Edge.Jacob Holm-Lupo refreshed the line-up in a significant deegree, only keyboardist Jan Tariq Rahman remained stable.New entries were female singer Sylvia Erichsen and Dødsverk/Prosessor Balthazar's bassist Frode Lia.But the biggest addition was definitely Änglagård's drummer Mattias Olsson.

This has to be one of the best laid-back Progressive/Folk Rock albums of the 90's, somewhat similar to ERIS PLUVIA and EZRA WINSTON, with a strong Scandinavian feel and some absolutely ethereal arrangements.The album is full of lush orchestrations with an incredible, dreamy and nostalgic atmosphere, that alternates between very smooth and melodic themes and darker/deeper territories.The later are mostly driven by the haunting organ of Rahman and the psychedelic drumming of Olsson, delivering a pastoral but also very cloudy mood along the lines of GOBLIN.''Ex tenebris'' is filled with some excellent Mellotron parts, calm piano interludes, medieval acoustic tunes and occasional electric textures with a strong melodic content and intense folky vibes both in the musical and vocal sections.Synths are used sporadically in a grand symphonic line.Speaking of vocals, these seem to play a major role in the album and all you can say is that they are absolutely magnificent with a crystal-clear color.The amalgam offers a fantastic result, moving, dreamy and well-arranged music full of imaginary soundscapes.

With ''Ex Tenebris'' Holm-Lupo established himself as a great songwriter and composer.Scandinavian Symph/Folk Rock with a unique atmosphere of its own and impressive lyrical moments.Highly recommended.

Latest members reviews

4 stars This WW's work is their most representative example of one of the bands mark: simple and yet memorable tunes. The review will be made track by track, and is based on my CD, the Laser Edge edition. 1. Leaving the House of Thanatos. Begins with a relaxing and quite slow acoustic guitar. W ... (read more)

Report this review (#2900429) | Posted by arymenezes | Sunday, March 19, 2023 | Review Permanlink

2 stars I wish I could rate this three stars, giving it only two stars seems to imply that the music is weak or that the album is without effort. Nether of which are the case, in fact this is a compelling, interesting and well thought out idea that, unfortunately, did not translate into a strong album. P ... (read more)

Report this review (#1172709) | Posted by MJAben | Thursday, May 8, 2014 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Hmmm, I think Jacob was WAY too happy when he made this album :-) He actually seems to agree from what I've read (not that he was too happy, but that he was happy). Still, no one would mistake this for some other band. There is still melancholy and darkness, just less of it. And far more ma ... (read more)

Report this review (#114582) | Posted by infandous | Thursday, March 8, 2007 | Review Permanlink

4 stars First ao all I would like to say that this is very well controlled album. The musicians don't tumble down to meaningles gimmicks. This is maelancholic yes but not at all boring. Instead the melodies are beautiful in such a manner that they are constantly interesting. The voices of jan, sylvia ... (read more)

Report this review (#73917) | Posted by pirkka | Monday, April 3, 2006 | Review Permanlink

3 stars White Willow's second album is very different from than the previouso one, it's less folk IMO, but it still manages to provide the listener with a fair share of music! The singers (a male and a female) sing nicely. In my opinion, this band plays NO folk music, it's certainly dark and melanchol ... (read more)

Report this review (#41763) | Posted by Dan Yaron | Friday, August 5, 2005 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I'm really impressed with 'Ex Tenebris", my only complaint would be the could have been better. This to me personally is their best album based on material, the other two albums "Sacrament" and "Ingnus Fatuus" are two really good albums which holds some beauty of another kind. ... (read more)

Report this review (#7672) | Posted by | Monday, June 21, 2004 | Review Permanlink

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