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White Willow - Signal to Noise CD (album) cover

SIGNAL TO NOISE

White Willow

Symphonic Prog


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hdfisch
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars WW's 5th album "Signal To Noise" is being promoted by Laser's Edge with the description that it "unveals a remarkable new vocalist and CONTEMPORARY sound while STILL embracing their progressive rock roots". This statement might be already warning enough for followers of the more retro-type branch of Prog to better stay away from this record. Since I'm not the type of Prog fan being stuck exclusively to the 70's and always open for new and moreover could claim to be quite a huge admirer of this Norwegian band I bought this CD of course despite this. I don't want to say that I regret this purchase at all but still I've to mention that the band here went a direction which can't please me as much as their previous outputs did. Obviously WW starts to follow a bit the way bands like Paatos or The Gathering were entering on their latest releases, means more a kind of modern art rock with the final goal of reaching a wider audience. Starting from the eponymous "Ignis Fatuus" mastermind Jacob Holm-Lupo managed to revamp the band's sound successfully with each new recording using ever changing line-ups. Their pastoral and romantic sounding debut has been probably their most retro-type one still revealing best their folk roots, then came the very melancholic, rather unspectacular but solid "Ex Tenebris" which has been called by Holm-Lupo in an interview I read "a very personal one". Thereafter they released "Sacrament" and finally "Storm Season", both being highly convincing and well-done modern progressive rock albums though being in quite opposing directions to each other. Especially the latter one becoming their best-selling one, probably due to the fact that they were introducing more heavy guitars was revealing a kind of sound that is not far away from the one of Anekdoten or Froislie's second project Wobbler. Here in contrast they're presenting a more commercial and light-weighted sounding mix of modern dark atmospheric rock featuring soul- and thoughtful songwriting and vintage-type keyboard tunes reminiscent of early Crimson. Probably there isn't much to be found on here which can satisfy a fan of traditional Prog, but let me describe the album presented here a bit more detailed song by song.

"Night Surf" opens the album with strong lyrics presented quite well by the new vocalist Trude Eidtang who's sounding a bit like a mix between Anneke van Giersbergen, Tori Amos and Stevie Nicks. The instrumental sections filled with tasteful synths, flute and analogue keyboards of this rather quirky and trippy song are quite appealing to me I've to say though compared to their earlier stuff this one falls short already. "Splinters" clocking almost nine minutes does not sound that much convincing to me either. Actually this song could be a more recent one by The Gathering with a touch of early Crimson though being still better than any of their latest album. This one is quite nice but far from being my favourite on here. Rather is it the next one "Ghosts" which is all-instrumental and in fact the only one of this album breathing the air of bands like Anglagard, Anekdoten or Wobbler and featuring great playing on guitar, Hammond, Moog, Mellotron and flute. But after the best already comes the worst one I've ever heard by WW, that is "Joyride" which is nothing than a plain pop song in my ears with really catchy hooks and all features necessary to become a Billboard chart hit. Not my "cup of tea" at all I've to say. "The Lingering" is the longest track on here with almost ten minutes having parts with great haunting vocals as well instrumental ones with excellent presentations of Holm-Lupo and Froislie on guitar and keyboards respectively. Though being one of the few better ones on here it's still not able to fascinate me as much as songs from their previous albums did. But certainly it's together with "Ghosts" a highlight of "Signal To Noise". "The Dark Road" is a sort of modern ballad, though being quite beautiful not very special and quite commercial sounding on the other hand. "Chrome Dawn" is the second instrumental track on here and actually one of the type I'd never expected from them. Strongly dominated by Froislie's keyboard work it reminds me a bit to Keith Emerson's infamous solo works. This stuff sounds rather pointless, boring and reminiscent of some new-age or meditative music to me. Not "my cup of tea" either, I'm very sorry! "Dusk City" is the one been offered as full download for preview on the band's website and after listening to it I was thinking: well, quite different from what I use to know by them but not really bad. Not without hoping that there will be some better stuff apart from this one on the new album. But actually I've to say though being quite catchy and poppy this is as well one of the better ones on here. The final "Ararat" is just a very short instrumental and cannot add anything to make this rather mediocre album more attractive to me.

As a summary I can only say that "Signal To Noise" is IMHO so far the weakest effort of this otherwise excellent band. I'd consider it even lower in significance for Prog fans than "Ex Tenebris" which was at least very good in its second half. Whereas highlights here are very sparse and I'd like to advice newbies to this band who are interested in more sophisticated music to start not with this one but rather with their debut or "Storm Season". An interesting and slightly odd fact is BTW that they charged for the first time Tommy Hansen, famous for the production of metal bands like Helloween,Pagan's Mind and Circus Maximus for this album. Nevertheless I hope this is not to be considered what Jacob Holm-Lupo understood as perfect modern art rock album in above mentioned interview. For the moment I'll rather happily enjoy their previous work and rate this one with 3 stars (which means GOOD,BUT NOT ESSENTIAL).

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Send comments to hdfisch (BETA) | Report this review (#89163)
Posted Thursday, September 07, 2006 | Review Permalink
erik neuteboom
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars I know this Norwegian formation because of their 'classic Seventies prog' oriented sound, loaded with vintage keyboards (I own the video Progfest 1994, they are amazing, great Mellotron work). Listening to this new album I needed a few turns to get into their more modern sound and to get used to the vocals of the new female singer Trude Eitang. But in fact White Willow still makes interesting music for the symphonic prog aficionados, many songs contains lots of captivating shifting moods and breaks with wonderful Mellotron work, sensational synthesizer solo and especially compelling guitar play, often sensitive with howling runs. In fact this is a wonderful and varied CD with good musical ideas but I am curious to the opinion of the average White Willow fan so I hope to see more reviews because two reviews is a bit poor for such a known symphonic prog band.

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Send comments to erik neuteboom (BETA) | Report this review (#95237)
Posted Friday, October 20, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is an excellent album from WW. Gone are the days with dark and a heavier sound. The new singer Trude Eitang is great, a good choice from Holm-Lupo. IMHO this album is very well balanced: the instrumentation, arrangements, voices, production. WW plays modern prog rock without the solos and they don't look back with beautiful songs! The guitar work of Holm-Lupo and the electronics from Froslie are great too. They are NOT the same old thing! Congratulations WW!

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Send comments to DannyProg (BETA) | Report this review (#98358)
Posted Saturday, November 11, 2006 | Review Permalink
sleeper
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars White Willow follow up their mightily impressive album, Storm Season, with this release Signal To Noise, and once again the merry-go-round of the band line up has moved around again. Gone is second guitarist Johannes Saebĝe but, more surprisingly, so to is long time lead singer Sylvia Erichsen. No second guitarist was brought in to replace Saebĝe but Erichsen is replaced by Trude Eidtang. This leaves two major questions to be answered, how do they follow up a masterpiece and is Editing a worthy replacement for Erichsen?

On first listen of this album I was slightly disappointed, the layered textures and dynamic movement throughout each of the previous albums seemed to have gone out the window in favoured of a more straightforward, less complex sound. However, on subsequent listens, I found that the distinct character of White Willows music was still there, quite evidently in-fact, but covered by this easier to digest sound, something which can now be better described as Neo prog rather than Symphonic. This album, in my opinion, is a clear attempt by the band to become more mainstream, however they seem to be unwilling to go the full distance in this respect (alla Genesis) but just make it easier to listen to without compromising their distinct prog sound.

This has led to some bad points in this album though. The songs Joyride and The Dark Road are both clearly pop songs, though decent pop, and stick out a bit as the least interesting songs on the album. Joyride in particular (which was released as the bands single in Norway) is rather straight forward and lacking in any real dynamic shifts, of any real magnitude. If your not looking for complex compositions and just a few uplifting songs that you can tap your foot to, I guess you'd like them.

Generally this is a good album though, its kept the heavier feel from Storm Season (though toned down a-bit) and, as I've already said, they've changed the feel of the music and as a result have had to change the way that they play slightly. Jacob Holm-Lupo seems to have crossed his style of guitar play with that of departed band member Saebĝe, though on the instrumental's (Ghost, Chrome Dawn and Ararat) and The Lingering he reverts to his previous style, which I find gives these songs a more haunted feel to them. As for the other musicians, they each maintain a level of excellence that they attained on the previous album but have toned down the level of complexity in many sections. The final track of the album, Ararat, is an oddity. it's a very short, atmospheric piece composed of keyboards with a soft, floating guitar line. Its nice, but I just get the feeling that this should have been a great intro to a truly epic song.

The big question, though, is what effect does the change of singer have on the band. Well, in my opinion, Trude Eidtang is not just a worthy replacement for Sylvia Erichsen, but I believe she is a better singer overall. The sound of her voice has a richer quality to it as well as a more unique timbre that augments a rather good range to her voice. Of particular interest vocally are the tracks were she has double tracked her voice, but rather than just have two tracks of her singing the same line in the same voice, she sings them with a slightly different pitch and timbre, a very nice touch.

I find this to be a good follow up to the bands masterpiece Storm Season, without ever attaining such levels of shear beauty, power and impressiveness. Fans of the bands earlier efforts, hoping for a return to the folk inspired Symphonic prog of Ignis Fatuus, Ex Tenebris and Sacrament may be disappointed but this does continue to prove that the band never makes two albums the same. Best songs on here are Ghost, The Lingering and Dusk City, while Joyride and The Dark Road are not all that great. A good 4 stars.

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Send comments to sleeper (BETA) | Report this review (#98684)
Posted Monday, November 13, 2006 | Review Permalink
Windhawk
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars On this album, White Willow presents us with an interesting mix of moods.

The music as such is of the darker kind emotionally, sounding a bit like REM mixed with goth rock, with brooding dark keyboards added to the soundscape.

Above that musical backdrop, the beautiful voice of vocalist Trude Eidtang creates an intriguing contrast in moods, often creating beautiful atmospheres with an eerie darkness beneath.

The downside to this release is that the tracks vary much in quality though. Lots of good tracks, but just as many tracks that for me at least fails to fascinate.

For me, this adds up to an average release. A good addition, but nothing more.

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Send comments to Windhawk (BETA) | Report this review (#113091)
Posted Thursday, February 22, 2007 | Review Permalink
Heptade
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars This is an album of typically grandiose Nordic gothy-prog. White Willow have tweaked their sound and membership a bit on each album and present a new breathy female singer here. White Willow have settled on a sound very similar to what Paatos is doing, and with a similar high quality. The mostly mid tempo songs have definite melodic pop influences, particularly on tracks like Joyride and acoustic ballad The Dark Road, mixed with symphonic prog and dream pop. White Willow, though melancholy, are perhaps a little more cheery than Paatos- uplifting melodies abound, in fact sometimes reminding me of the old psych- goth-pop band All About Eve. There is some nice playing on this album, which features some good sized dollops of mellotron (particularly on the aformentioned Dark Road) and some tasteful guitar soloing (The Lingering). A very pretty album and a worthy addition to any modern symphonic collection or for those with a taste for melodic female singers.

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Send comments to Heptade (BETA) | Report this review (#123088)
Posted Tuesday, May 22, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars 3.5 stars really!

This seems like a natural progression from the previous album to me. I really don't hear a more "contemporary" sound on here, though a couple of songs lean that way. It IS more modern sounding than their first 3 albums, but so was the previous one and this one just seems to take that another step further.

The new singer doesn't sound all that different to me than the previous one to be honest. Certain songs, like Joyride, do highlight her different approach. But others, like Splinters, sound pretty much like the previous singer to me (at least her performances on the last album). The one song where I notice the most difference is Dusk City, where her voice works better with the heavy riffs than the previous singer.

The instrumental Ghosts is one of the best things I've heard from White Willow, while Joyride is a departure into almost happy music territory (though the lyrics are not entirely upbeat). I suppose the opening track, Night Surf, might throw some fans off due to its more modern and condensed approach, but aside from that track and Joyride the album is very much like the previous one to my ears. Songs like Splinters and The Lingering hark back to the dark and heavy style of Storm Season while still retaining some of the retro charm of the earlier albums. The previously mentioned Dusk City would have fit quite well on SS also.

Frankly, I quite liked the progression that White Willow seemed to be following for the past 3 albums. The contemporary sounds served mostly to enhance the bands distinctiveness without drastically changing their style or approach. The biggest disappointment about this album for me is the fact that it appears to be the last one (at least, this formation of White Willow has been "dissolved" according to Holm-Lupo.........though he did also indicate that he and Frĝislie would probably do something under the WW banner in the future).

So a couple less than stellar tracks takes this down to 3.5 for me, rounded down because overall it isn't quite as good an album as the previous one. I would have very much liked to hear where this lineup would have gone next, but I guess this is what we have. On the whole though, an enjoyable album that fits very well into their discography and is a logical successor to the previous album.

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Send comments to infandous (BETA) | Report this review (#141391)
Posted Monday, October 01, 2007 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars WHITE WILLOW have a new singer for this release, as well they have changed their sound to a more modern, accessible flavour. I think the results on both counts are average at best. I much prefer Sylvia's vocals as Trude comes across as a little too sweet. I can live with that though, it's their music that just does little for me.They absolutely lost me on this one.

"Night Surf" is a mid-paced tune dominated by vocals and drums. Mellotron and flute after 1 1/2 minutes. The tempo picks up 3 minutes in with a full sound. "Splinters" sounds better as the guitar plays a line over and over as drums pound. It settles down 1 1/2 minutes in as vocals arrive. Heavy drums come and go. The heavy riffs don't really suit the vocals after 3 1/2 minutes. The intro guitar is back before 7 minutes. Good tune. "Ghosts" is an instrumental and probably my favourite. I really like the guitar and overall heavy sound. Some chunky bass 5 minutes in. "Joyride" is too poppy really although it does get better after 3 minutes.

"The Lingering" is a ballad that makes me cringe at times. "The Dark Road" is led by vocals and acoustic guitar with the highlight being the majestic mellotron that flows in around the 2 minute mark. "Chrome Dawn" is another instrumental. It's not as good as the first one as it is hit and miss. The guitar, drums, bass and mellotron sound great early, but the synths that come in are annoying. "Dusk City" is good as vocals and pounding drums are augmented by synth washes. Mellotron after 3 1/2 minutes as the sound to follow gets heavier. "Ararat" is a short instrumental of guitar and atmosphere.

2.5 stars rounded up to 3 stars.This is very disappointing for me as the two albums prior to this one "Sacrement" and "Storm Season" were both excellent recordings. Both Prog Archives and another ratings site rate this one and "Ex Tenebris" as the least popular WHITE WILLOW records, and I agree completely.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#159851)
Posted Saturday, January 26, 2008 | Review Permalink
Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I am quite late to know the band as this 5th album is my first experience with the band's music. From what I have searched on the net, this album brings a new singer Trude Eidtang on board whom I have no comparison whether or not it's getting better, stay the same or worse than the previous one. I hope the leader of the band, Jacob Holm, reformed the line-up for getting better and not the other way round. My first impression about the music was something that relies heavily on sound production engineering through music that's basically simple and ambient in nature.

Good blend of vintage (mellotron) and modern sound .

The opening track "Night Surf" (4:12) uses musical grooves as its main colour of the music which flows in relatively slow to medium tempo. Trude Eidtang voice shows dragging style which reminds me to the kind of Kate Bush and Maggie Reily (Mike Oldfield album). As groove seems like the soul of the music, bass guitar plays vital roles. The next track "Splinters" (8:36) flows in similar vein like the opening track but the intro uses a bit of Floydian guitar style in simpler way. I believe this track is quite accessible to wider audience. The interlude part with guitar solo is nice. "Ghosts" (5:48) elevates the music through inspiring guitar and keyboard at the opening part in relatively mellow style. The combined melody of guitar and keyboard is quite catchy for most ears, I believe, especially when it's combined with a kind like vibraphone voice and continued with woodwind work. It's a pleasure enjoying this track.

"Joyride" (4:18) starts with accentuated vocal line followed with upbeat music. It's still in the similar vein of previous tracks but when I reach this track I can conclude the kind of music this Norway band plays. It's a mix of Sally Oldfield plus RPWL or Porcupine Tree (minus metal part) or Carp Tree or Sylvan plus Kate Bush. The longest track "The Lingering" (9:25) starts mellow in ambient mood using soft guitar fills and keyboard work followed with powerful low register notes of vocal with accentuation. The combined piano solo and guitar work in the middle of the track is stunning. The interlude part is nice, combining Floydian guitar solo and vintage mellotron sound in the vein of King Crimson.

"The Dark Road" (4:17) is a mellow track with acoustic guitar-based arrangements. The mellotron work still characterizes this song. "Chrome Dawn" (7:12) is a mellow track with mellotron sounds and good guitar fills. "Dusk City" (6:05) brings the music into medium tempo. The album concludes nicely with good instrumental "Ararat" (1:35) using electric guitar as lead. Not quite sure what it means with this title, may be something related to Palestine leader.

Overall, it's a good album from White Willow. There is basically no weak track as each song moves smoothly right from the opening until the end. The key characteristic of the music is basically on good sound production. That means, to achieve maximum satisfaction, you should play it loud using decent sound system. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW (i-Rock! Music Community)

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Send comments to Gatot (BETA) | Report this review (#176893)
Posted Tuesday, July 15, 2008 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars I was very glad to see that White Willow had changed from vocalist. I could never really appreciate the childish voice from Sylvia Erichsen. So welcome on board Mrs. Eidtang!

Now, in terms of music let's confess that this is not the best album from the band: Sacrament is my fave. This one is all well crafted and polished but not as fascinating as its illustrious predecessor.

Instrumental passages are still full of beauty, the mellotron although scarce, is still there and Trude (the new female vocalist) is a good add-on. So, where is the problem? The best moments of this CD are the pleasant opening number Night Surf and the Crimsonesque Ghosts which features some intricate and scary mood. Percussions are very effective.

The pop-rock Joyride is effectively a very joyful song: light, simple and effective. It is maybe not the proggiest one but a positive and enjoyable number. And this feeling can be extended to almost all of this work.

Some tracks sounds heavier as well like The Lingering which calms down towards the ends and closes on a superb and so emotional guitar solo. Thank you very much Jacob.

The icy Chrome Dawn has a lot to share with their fellow Scandinavian suspects. Fine mellotron to introduce this song which is a pleasure for synths fans. Extremely moving and poignant I have to say. I like quite a bit how these bands have almost resurrected the great mellotron. I know I make this comment on a regular base, but it is so true to me.Another highlight.

Three stars for this good album.

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Send comments to ZowieZiggy (BETA) | Report this review (#187060)
Posted Sunday, October 26, 2008 | Review Permalink
loserboy
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Of the many modern prog band that around without a question White Willow are amongst my personal favs. This band never cease to amaze me from album to album and "Signal To Noise" is another step in a different direction for this band. Dont worry no the progressive roots have not left but this time out they stretch into a bit of a dark goth zone and pull a bit out of the progressive rock vein. The end result is some pretty interesting and dark chamber rock music with a real bite! As you would expect there are tons of vintage keyboards and heavy duty mellotron work with the hauntingly beautiful vocals of Trude Eidtang. Other band members include Lars Fredrik Frĝislie (keyboards, electronics), Jacob Holm-Lupo (guitars), Ketil Vestrum Einarsen (woodwinds), Marthe Berger Walthinsen (bass guitar) and Aage Moltke Schou (drums, percussion). I love this album and another great White Willow album for me !!!

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Send comments to loserboy (BETA) | Report this review (#223825)
Posted Monday, June 29, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars The best album that White Willow have produced. I was a bit disappointed with 'Storm Season', and only got this album as one of the cds in an order I made was unavailable, and I had put down 'Signal to Noise' as a reserve on my order form! I'm so glad I received it! Excellent folk-tinged prog with great songs, instrumentals and superb guitar and keyboard work. The centrepiece of the album, literally and musically, is the superb 'The Lingering' which is worth getting the cd for alone. It is one of the most emotionally charged pieces of prog I've ever heard. The vocals are exquisitely and passionately delivered by Trude, and the piece moves to a glorious climax of a melodic guitar solo accompanied by abrasively haunting keyboards. It has easily surpassed 'Paper Moon' as my favourite White Willow track. The other pieaces on the album are consistently good also, with a variety of moods and atmospheres, and an excellent vocal performance throughout.

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Send comments to dmwilkie (BETA) | Report this review (#261458)
Posted Monday, January 18, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars A very interesting album, this "Signal to Noise": a nice blend of symphonic prog and pop/rock influences that makes it very accessible and easy to listen, added to some beautiful and evocative vocals. My rating of the single tracks are as follows: 1) Night Surf: 5 stars (undoubtedly a worthy opening track) 2) Splinters: 5 stars 3) Ghosts (instrumental): 4 stars 4) Joyride: 4 stars (even if a little bit too poppy) 5) The Lingering: 4 stars (the interlude part is truly remarkable) 6) The Dark Road: 3 stars 7) Chrome Dawn: 3 stars (also instrumental but quite pointless and certainly not good like the previous one: maybe this is the only weak point of the album) 8) Dusk City: 4 stars (this track reminds me of a fine chocolate filled with strong liquor..) 9) Ararat: 3 stars (a transition track, more than a closing one, actually...quite a strange choice!). The album is overall good and deserves 4 stars (even if not full).

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Send comments to Avtokrat (BETA) | Report this review (#578985)
Posted Wednesday, November 30, 2011 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover Team
4 stars White Willow's fifth studio album, 'Signal to Noise', was mixed and produced by Tommy Hansen (Helloween, TNT, Pagan's Mind, Circus Maximus). The line-up features new singer Trude Eidtang (vocals), Lars Fredrik Frĝislie (keyboards, electronics), Jacob Holm-Lupo (guitars), Ketil Vestrum Einarsen (woodwinds), Marthe Berger Walthinsen (bass guitar) and Aage Moltke Schou (drums, percussion). Before I get onto the music I must mention the group photo, as they are sat around the table on which is a pile of albums ? the top one of which I recognise as being 'The Day The Earth Caught Fire' by City Boy. Any band that recognises just how good City Boy were, are already ahead in my book.

Well, the band took three weeks to record this instead of one year, and have a new singer onboard to boot, but they have still managed to produce a multi-layered progressive rock album that twists and turns through many different styles yet still contains loads of mellotrons. Trude's voice has a good range, but there is an almost ethereal quality to it ? a breathiness which adds to the overall feel of what is a very strong rock band with lots of ideas. White Willow are going to be playing in the UK at the Summer's End Festival, and I know that on the basis of this album there are going to be many progheads who are going to be very pleased to see them indeed. This is good solid symphonic prog from the Seventies with loads of ideas. www.lasercd.com

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Send comments to kev rowland (BETA) | Report this review (#906927)
Posted Tuesday, February 05, 2013 | Review Permalink

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