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White Willow - Signal To Noise CD (album) cover


White Willow


Symphonic Prog

3.53 | 115 ratings

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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 Saebøe but, more surprisingly, so to is long time lead singer Sylvia Erichsen. No second guitarist was brought in to replace Saebøe 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 Saebøe, 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.

sleeper | 4/5 |


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