The album, produced by the band and Dave Jerden, includes the singles "Only", "Room for One More", "Hy Pro Glo" and "Black Lodge". This album marked a significant revision in the band's sound, with the departure of lead vocalist Joey Belladonna and the introduction of grunge influences. Jerden was known for producing the likes of Alice in Chains and Jane's Addiction.
With Sound of White Noise, Anthrax moved away from the rapid-fire thrash metal that had defined their earlier output, often emphasizing more melodic songwriting and abandoning their humor and wit. Songs like the walloping "Only" and stuttering, stop-start dynamics of "Hy Pro Glo" maintained a level of aggression on par with anything else the band recorded, but in a different alternative metal style. Other songs found Anthrax exploring new territory, like the mid-tempo "Room for One More," and the atmospheric "Black Lodge" (inspired by the Twin Peaks TV series and featuring keyboardist Angelo Badalamenti). Bush's lower-pitched, darker vocal style also was a drastic change from Belladona's tendency towards operatic falsetto.
Dave Connolly reviewed the album on behalf of AllMusic and called it "surprisingly melodic" but "predictably pummeling" and the music "relentless." He commends the overall quality of the songs on the album before settling on "Only" as the best overall, but calls out several other tracks for praise as well. Canadian journalist Martin Popoff praised the performance of new singer John Bush and the production by Dave Jerden and defined the album's music "top-flight, state-of-the-art metal, fortified by the band's usual societal concerns, here elevated to eloquent outrage at man's crumbling morality."Spin critic John Wiederhorn described the album as "a good typical heavy-metal record." Nevertheless, he also noted that the album "doesn't wander beyond the sound of its dark, moody intros and tuneful, galloping rhythms." Tom Sinclair of Rolling Stone described the album as "a powerful comeback from a group that never went away."
Among the album's songs, "Only" has received particular attention; Metallica frontman James Hetfield is said to have referred to "Only" as a "perfect song."