SUBSIGNAL – La Muerta (2018)
“La Muerta” is the fifth studio album by German melodic neo prog favorites SUBSIGNAL. While their music always has been pretty accessible, this new album is their most melodic, catchy, and effervescent to date.
Despite some modestly aggressive guitar lines from founder Markus Steffen, co-founder Arno Menses’ melodic vocals place Subsignal firmly in Asia / John Wetton territory.
“La Muerta” puts some distance between previous releases, and in particular their last outing The Beacons Of Somewhere Sometime (2015) by waving ‘goodbye’ to the band’s prog metal tendencies and putting their faith in the strength of their songwriting.
And in a highly impressive way, with Ralf Schwager (bass, ex-Dreamscape), Markus Maichel (keyboards) and Dirk Brand (drums) now completing the line-up.
The new album is focused i soaring melodies which fondly linger in the memory are cradled in layers of delicious harmonies, built on the bedrock of a spellbinding musical and technical virtuosity which provides a compelling enthusiasm and energy.
It also carries the unmistakable footprint of the Sieges Even project with which Arno Menses and Markus Stefan were previously involved; crunching foundations built on guitar driven textures and an uncompromising commitment to beautiful lyrics.
Yet this in turn unlocks another insight into what makes this album such a success. I fancy much greater prominence and importance has been afforded to the role of the keyboards, both as a lead instrument as well as the provider of the foundations on which the contrasts are being built.
Listen carefully. There is a dazzling array in the way the keyboards are deployed. The glorious explosion of synths at the start of ‘Every Able Hand’ segue to plucked harpsichord strings, replaced in turn by smoldering Hammond-esque backdrops.
But just as the keyboards threaten to hog the limelight, Markus Steffen unleashes the most jaw dropping guitar solo, precise in its staccato hitting of accentuated notes before cutting lose into a glorious riff which sets up the keyboards to take over again. This flurry of energy dissipates in a blink of an eye with ‘Teardrops Will Rise In Source Of Origin’, an exquisitely gentle acoustic guitar passage framed against a slightly echoed background, tender and delicate.
There’s also shades of Jon Anderson (circa Wonderous Stories) evident on numbers like ‘Every Able Hand’, and when the band diversify, as on ‘Even Though The Stars Don’t Shine’, there’s 80s f power pop / rock strains of the likes o The Police and The Cars.
“La Muerta” puts Subsignal on a new flightpath and one more than capable of landing a big following – particularly in The States, if they can just get the right levels of exposure.
This is melodic prog rock, rock&pop at places, exquisite in musicianship and top notch in production, crystal clear.
01 – 271 Days
02 – La Muerta
03 – The Bells of Lyonesse
04 – Every Able Hand
05 – Teardrops Will Dry in Source of Origin
06 – The Approaches
07 – Even Though the Stars Don’t Shine
08 – The Passage
09 – When All the Trains Are Sleeping
10 – As Birds on Pinions Free
11 – Some Kind of Drowning
12 – Even Though the Stars Don’t Shine (Radio Version)
13 – La Muerta (Radio Version)
Arno Menses – vocals
Markus Steffen – guitars
Ralf Schwager – bass
Markus Maichel – keyboards
Dirk Brand – drums
Marjana Semkina – guest vocals on 11
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