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White Willow - Signal To Noise CD (album) cover


White Willow


Symphonic Prog

3.53 | 112 ratings

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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).

hdfisch | 3/5 |


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