SUBSIGNAL – Touchstones (2011)
Originally intended as a side-project, SUBSIGNAL were founded back in 2007 by former Sieges Even members Arno Menses (Vocals) and Markus Steffen (Guitars).
The first result of this collaboration was a song called ‘A Wallflower On The Day Of Saint Juliana’ which eventually appeared under the title ‘Eyes Wide Open’ on the 2007′ Sieges Even output ‘Paramount’.
After Arno and Markus had left the band in the summer of 2008, they immediately started to look for adequate musicians to turn the project into a functional ‘real’ band.
The first to join was Ralf Schwager (Bass), who was known for his work with German prog metal outfit Dreamscape. The line-up was completed by the Dutch drummer Roel van Helden (Sun Caged) and keyboarder David Bertok (also Dreamscape).
Subsignal released their highly acclaimed debut album ‘Beautiful & Monstrous’ in 2009, supporting Canadian progrock stars Saga and doing several solo concerts in Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Italy as well. The successful tour ended in Fall 2010 with a show at the German H.E.A.T.-Festival.
In Spring 2011 the band started with the recordings for their second album entitled “Touchstones”.
This time the band followed a different recording concept, using specific engineers to each instrument, while the vocal takes were done by Charly Czaikowsky, who is the band’s front-of-house-engineer.
Subsignal define their style as progressive, with an openness to different genres such as AOR, Melodic Rock, Rock&Pop etc.
Arno and Markus describe their music with words like melancholic, emotional, innovative and melodic.
And certainly, it is melodic for sure. With an edge, but not reaching the prog metal status.
Opener “Feeding Utopia” is a top-class neo progressive piece. The full-band instrumental introduction creates a tension that reaches its climax when the vocals enters into the song at 1:15. The chorus is really catchy and the backing vocals harmonies shine, supported by a strong guitar riff. Somehow, to give you an idea, this track is a mix of ’80s Yes and a light and melodic Dream Theater, with an euro Melodic Rock vibe.
Follower “My Sanctuary” begins with a short but very hot drum solo, which is strongly reminiscent of Phil Collins bombastic eighties era. But this is a mid-tempo track with clean guitars, occasional breaks, and again, beautiful vocal harmonies in the Trevor Rabin style.
“Echoes In Eternity” is one of the heaviest tracks, with some prog metal elements, effect specially given by the strong guitars and fast drumming.
The melodic and almost poppy “The Size Of Light On Earth” is driven by a charming melody. This song has very modern prog arrangements and a syncopated drum pattern.
“Wingless” starts with a nice instrumental intro. Essentially a semi-ballad, this mid-tempo has a noticeable melodic rock structure, and the increase in tempo during the chorus adds to the song a stimulating variation.
“Finisterre” is an opulent melodic prog rocker with a muscular sound, while “The Essence Called Mind” reminds me Dream Theater circa ‘Awake’, but more melodic.
With “The Lifespan Of A Glimpse” the harder sounds return. An interesting prog metal track with a calm middle part and a female vocalist as guest.
The melodic “Ember Part I: Your Secret Is Safe With Me” has a versatile, varied instrumentation, and some brilliant arrangements.
Maybe the song that better represents Subsignal’s style is title track “Touchstones”. Starts ethereal and atmospheric, turns into a modern prog rocker with melody and skillful playing, and returns to a more calmer sound for the final part.
The album ends with “Con Todas Las Palabras” (spanish for ‘With All Words’, lyrics are in english), a melodic rocker with a distinctive guitar sound and great euro-style harmony vocals.
“Touchstones” offers to any Neo Prog / Melodic Rock listener a succulent dish of (over 70 minutes) melodic music.
Cleverly composed and arranged, this album has tons of harmonies and some exquisite playing (remarkable drum work). Guitars are always present although not in a preponderant role, used more as orchestration in conjunction with the keyboards. The three vocal harmonies during the choruses are just delicious.
Produced by the band with a crystal clear sound, and expertly mixed / mastered by Kristian Kohlmannslehner, all in this recording is a pleasure to the audiophile.
You’ve seen it first here, at 0dayrock
01 – Feeding Utopia
02 – My Sanctuary
03 – Echoes In Eternity
04 – The Size Of Light On Earth
05 – As Dreams Are Made On
06 – Wingless
07 – Finisterre
08 – The Essence Called Mind
09 – The Lifespan Of A Glimpse
10 – Embers – Part I; Your Secret Is Safe With Me
11 – Touchstones
12 – Con Todas Las Palabras
Arno Menses – Lead Vocals
Markus Steffen – Guitars
David Bertok – Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Ralf Schwager – Bass, Backing Vocals
Roel Van Helden – Drums, Percussion
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