I’d not really bothered much with Subsignal until now, I’d seen folk talking about them online but not investigated them for myself, fearing that they were German prog metal and as such possibly best avoided, especially when my taste is for towards symphonic prog like The Emerald Dawn, Big Big Train and the like.
Well, I could not have been more wrong in my view for this album has definitely impressed the hell out of me. It is rather exceptional, just ten songs in all (on the bonus version) but with such style grace and variety running throughout. Okay, there are a few more heavy tracks but, in everything, there is melody and intelligence that go hand in hand to create some really strong and fine music. I did think that, perhaps, the album started off slowly but by the time you reach the fourth track, Silver (The Sheltered Garden), things really improve and very dramatically so.
What I like here is the fantastic use of dynamics to really make an impression and all the touches that they add to help in this realm but let’s start at the beginning shall we? Subsignal are a five piece, German, band who have been around since 2007 when they began as a side project for Arno Menses and Markus Steffen of Sieges Even after they disbanded.
The album begins with a brief overture called A Poetry Of Rain which leads into The Art of Giving In. The overture is gentle with good acoustic guitar over a wash of synthesised sounds and then a strong drumbeat ushers in the second track with some almost Dream Theater like guitar with strong bass and double bass drums to give a metal feel. However, within this power there is the band’s secret weapon, the sublime voice of Arno Menses who sings rather than growls and has a strong voice without any accent, he really is an accomplished and fine vocalist. There is also a suitably ferocious guitar break which impresses greatly. This is an exciting track that definitely grabs your attention from the off, the song ending on a high note with a strong driving performance with, oddly enough, an almost country feel with its pedal steel guitar and almost Americana sound, it is most impressive. Marigold is next and although you can almost hear The Power Of Love (Jennifer Rush) in the opening, it thankfully moves in a different direction. There are lush vocal harmonies and some gentle guitar licks and fills, this is a layered and sumptuous sound which adds greatly to the songs strengths and is really rather fine by any standards. Silver (The Sheltered Garden) opens with a powerful crunchy guitar and an equally aggressive bass but behind the power there is a beast of a song. With great instrumental support from guitar and bass respectively, this track really deserves to be heard far wider than just prog circles as it is brilliant, strong most satisfying.
Impasse is even better than its predecessor, this track is remarkable with some very nifty bass runs throughout. It is a slow burn of a song, one that really grows on you with its acoustic mid section which really is impressive in style. A great chorus leads to a beautifully melodic guitar solo that puts you in mind of Steve Rothery and the impression doesn’t end there as the song has more than a touch of Marillion to it in many respects. For me, this is the track that really makes the album so good and so strong. Embers Part II: Water Wings has a great looping guitar line that sticks with you long after it ends. There is a build up of power in the mid section with chiming guitars and a prominent bass before the power riff resumes and the band add in soaring vocals and great piano runs against the looping guitar line. All of these together make this another highly impressive track, think of AOR with prog touches, utterly sublime and fantastic. Melencolia One is a punchy little rocker that marries great dynamics and intelligence with strong songwriting and performances. Again, more great bass runs add to the dynamics and the return of the crunching guitar works well, almost too good as I am totally swayed and won over by now. I really am liking this band a lot, so much so I am going to investigate their back catalogue as soon as I can!
A Wound is a Place to Let the Light In opens with an accapella vocal before a grand piano enters, along with more strong bass runs, add in a highly emotive vocal and you get another spectacular track with a stunning chorus and. It’s totally compelling and I’m on the ropes here now. The Last of its Kind is the final song proper on the album and opens with sequenced keyboards noises before some heavy bass and a muscular riff. The vocals are now sung growled and all the better for it on this track. An active drum beat and fills add to the surging power of the track with good keyboard textures floating over it all before a neat guitar solo leads in to the next verse and chorus. The song then takes a left turn with a jazzy saxophone solo which, when set against the heavy riff, is very impactful, as is the growling bass that carries the song forward before the punishing riff is reintroduced as the track draws to its conclusion. There was a bonus track, A Room on the Edge of Forever, on my download and it is a more restrained, gentle number with acoustic guitar and Spanish guitar trills The good clear vocal helps greatly before sweeping guitar chords usher in a multi layered vocal section and a delicate acoustic solo plays to fine effect. A key change adds emphasis and lift to the track which is very strong and ends on a gentle note
Well that’s it, it certainly does make a hugely positive impression when you listen and their great mix of heavy and soft sounds works really well for the band and makes this a truly exceptional album, why have I not heard these before now? This is a really excellent release, if you don’t know this group then maybe its time that you discovered them for yourself.
Released 22nd September, 2023.
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