Silence in Thanatos’ Hall
Whispers behind his great wall
As dreams of Atlantis, a call from afar
Soft words we can never recall
Waking beneath this vast dome
Drawn by a voice that is home
I glide like a shadow cross starlit terrain
Not knowing my nature or name.

The moment when you hear the opening lines from ‘Leaving the House of Thanatos’ you know it becomes a trip into the mind of a king who’s on the brink of paranoia and leaving his city in ruins, knowing that he has become his own worst enemy. White Willow’s second album originally released on Ken Golden’s label The Laser’s Edge in 1998, has returned back to the Karisma shuttle once more for 2024.

After the Ignus Fatuus line-up disbanded, the second album was originally going to be a solo album for Jacob Holm-Lupo to endure. But when he realised that the music was going into a progressive direction, he knew he was up for the challenge once more. And allowing to have his partner-in-crime Mattias Olsson, keyboardist and vocalist Jan Tariq Rahman, Frode Lia on bass, and vocalist Sylvia Erichsen who auditioned originally for the original White Willow during its Fatuus years, joined in for the new incarnation of the band.

According to the notes about the album from the 2014 Termo release by Lupo the album was done quickly. “The recording was quick and dirty, done on a shoe-string budget, but there is some charm to the natural drum ambience and first-takes only feel of the album”. You have to understand also, this was the first time Lupo stepped into the production realm, so it was small baby steps for him to embark as a producer for the Tenebris sessions.

For Lupo, Ex Tenebris is often considered a more-stripped down and darker release than what their debut album was like. And with Lupo’s remastering on the second album, he brings the sound once more to a vibrant hall, waiting for us to enter. ‘Helen & Simon Magus’ at times sound like an evil approach of Fairport Convention’s ‘Polly on the Shore’ thanks to Lupo’s menacing guitar lines, channeling Jerry Donahue’s arrangements, but adding that tidal waving sound in which Rahman embraces from his organ.

You feel as if you’re witnessing the rise and fall of a marriage going down before they take each other’s lives the way that Shakespeare had endure with Romeo & Juliet. But you can tell that the Magus’ story will have dire consequences. Throughout their love, drug-related experiences, watching the rivers going by, but then, they began to resurrect and start all over again.

When I think of ‘Soteriology’, I think of Barbara Gordon’s return as Batgirl in the New 52 arc. She has returned as Batgirl, but for how long? You feel her pain, you feel her struggle to return in the uniform after being paralysed from the waist down by the Joker in Alan Moore’s 1988 controversial novel from DC Comics, The Killing Joke. But with its pipe organ atmosphere, there are nods to the 2019 video game Blasphemous that comes to mind.

I can imagine Jacob writing a score to a video game many years from now as Sylvia’s operatic vocals walk inside this gothic cathedral. She gives this sermon during Sunday services as Mellotrons galore inside the sun-lifting arrangement before ‘Thirteen Days’ continues where ‘Snowfall’ had left off.

Eklund’s breathing vocals gives us some insight over the lost letters that she brings to the listeners over her loved one being lost at sea, featuring gentle-acoustic folk textures and flute mellotron’s over the salty oceans while the brutal banging on the percussion’s for ‘A Strange Procession’ makes them shit their pants like there’s no tomorrow. You feel something lurking, the shivers down your spine, and never knowing what’s creeping up behind you.

You can tell that Rahman had studied the works of Van der Graaf’s Hugh Banton, Jacula’s Charles Tiring, Michael Bruce’s organ work on the climax of ‘Killer’ during his time with the original Alice Cooper band, and Ange’s Francis Decamps. He makes you walk towards your own death before closing it out in the 13-minute epic ‘A Dance of Shadows’.

Sylvia comes centre stage as we vision her, wearing this beautiful white gown, singing to the gods as everything has turned blue and green, by making the sun come out in all of its glory. And we ain’t talking Disney’s Little Mermaid, think of the 1994 unsung animated gem, The Swan Princess. And then something strange happens, she transforms herself into this massive carousel, revealing its true glory, thanks to the mellotron’s fanfare.

Then Rahman switches gears with the synthesisers, making the cobra come out of the wicker basket, and preparing to eat Mickey Mouse in whole like there’s no tomorrow. Rahman knows his reptiles very well when it comes to being a snake charmer. The last six minutes sees us returning back to Thanatos’ lair, knowing how much damage the king has done to its land, the people, and the lives he has ruined.

You see a madman, who’s in no clear head on what he’s done, and the idea of putting him in the loony bin by locking him up and thrown away the key, seems like the perfect choice. Lupo, Olsson, and Lia have entered the destruction of what the castle has become. And it’s a complete wreck that they have witness. But just as Rahman’s spaced-out keyboards comes into play, they know they have to put the king down for good.

Karisma has done it again by continuing with the White Willow catalog. Going through the second album is like looking through an old scrapbook, reflecting the wonderful memories you had. And its great to see Karisma opening up the pages of the Willow’s story to see what structures lie ahead in the catalog.

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