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Subsignal: La Muerta

Most progressive metal-heads will already know the story of how Sieges Even morphed into Subsignal; the former band a monstrous prog-metal beast that stood proudly at the head of the genre. Subsignal, formed by guitarist Markus Steffen and singer Arno Menses, are the same, but also very different. The stated aim being to bring a more melodic edge to their progressive roots, while still remaining in the metal arena. Beautiful and Monstrous was their debut and for some it has been held up as the champion of the style, where the amalgam of all of the band’s influences was carefully crafted into a stunning collection. Proud of ever-evolving since then, it should be no surprise that album number five, La Muerta, offers a slightly new aspect, although one that arguably fits the band’s initial remit more closely than any other. I’d go as far as to say that while this album is still clearly Subsignal, to call La Muerta prog-metal would be a misnomer, instead this is progressive AOR and damn fine it is too.

Opening with “271 Days” - a short instrumental piece - the links to the past are clear, Steffen grinding out a grating riff and searing solo, while the rhythm section of bassist Ralf Schwager and drummer Dirk Brand spread their musical muscles alongside keyboard player Markus Maichel. However, from there, while there are still numerous solo spots and dextrous asides, what we’re met with is firmly rooted in melodic motifs and memorable choruses. The album’s title track is the perfect example, a sing along chorus the core of what is a selection of brooding riffs and sharp keyboard interplay. Behind the kit Brand flurries and twirls, and it’s possibly his tight yet frantic contributions that make the most overt effort to remain progressive. That’s not to say that Maichel and Steffen don’t contribute some extended workouts that drop the jaw, but if you found something similar on any number of more technical a Toto album, you wouldn’t be particularly shocked.

What matters however as “The Bells Of Lyonesse” toll, or “The Approaches” make their way towards you, is that the Subsignal trademarks of razor sharp musicianship and instantly hook laden brain-jacking are firmly in place. Cleverly, there are also a few little deviances, “Teardrops Will Dry In Source Of Origin” a beautiful classical guitar interlude that cleanses the palette and lifts the soul, while the album closing “Some Kind Of Drowning” is a shimmering duet between Menses and I Am The Morning’s Marjana Semkins. However, for its majority, La Muerta is about choruses, hooks and melodic rock, with the Signals era Rush inspired “Even Though The Stars Don’t Shine” almost veering into synth inspired pop. Whereas “The Passage” heads into a more Elton John meets Threshold space, where piano jostles with gyrating guitars and uplifting vocals, just as (the again Rush inspired) “Just As Birds On Pinions” uses some ear-catching vocal layers to create an austere but rich framework.

There’s no denying that progressive metal diehards will find the destination Subsignal have headed for to be a bit too much of a melodic departure for their tastes. And yet, if there is any justice, La Muerta will be the album that truly finds this outfit making the breakthrough, because with this set of songs, the cross-over potential is massive.

Open your mind to the melody and let La Muerta in. You won’t regret it and neither will you forget the stunning, catchy, yet technical songs it contains.

Track Listing
1. 271 Days
2. La Muerta
3. The Bells Of Lyonesse
4. Every Able Hand
5. Teardrops Will Dry In Source Of Origin
6. The Approaches
7. Even Though The Stars Don’t Shine
8. The Passage
9. When All The Trains Are Sleeping
10. As Birds On Pinions Free
11. Some Kind Of Drowning (featuring Marjana Semkina)

Added: October 5th 2018
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Subsignal online
Hits: 1720
Language: english

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