Album Reviews

Subsignal – Paraiso

When the German-born band Sieges Even disbanded back in 2008, it left a huge musical hole in my heart.  A friend had given me their CD, The Art Of Navigating By The Stars, and I was immediately blown away.   I listened to it for days on end and was always enraptured by the unique vocal melodies and progressive metal riffs.  They followed that release with Paramount in 2007 and the live album Playgrounds in 2008 before calling it quits. Before Arno Menses joined the band for The Art of Navigating By The Stars, the band went through numerous singers.  The musicality was completely different as well, having a more technical progressive metal sound with much heavier guitar playing and extremely riff-laden. Fans of Watchtower would definitely find pleasure in the earlier music of Sieges Even.  In the summer of 2008 Sieges Even disbanded and original member and lead guitarist Mark Steffen and singer Arno Menses formed Subsignal. They recruited former members of Dreamscape for bass and keyboards, Ralf Schwager and David Bertok respectively.  On drums, Roel van Helden of Suncaged completed the group. Their first two releases, Beautiful & Monstrous and Touchstones were nothing short of brilliant. They were a heavy prog sound with a touch of melodic rock.  Roel van Helden has since left the band and Subsignal dipped back into the Dreamscape pool to recruit Danilo Batdorf. Sieges Even had been reborn in Subsignal and all was right again in my world.

Fast forward to 2013 and Subsignal is at it again. Their new release, Paraiso, picks up where the first two CDs left off. The music interweaves beautiful vocal melodies with flawless musicianship perpetuated through a unique blend of diversity. The bands vocal work is extremely reminiscent of Yes with the music reminding me of a multitude of different bands such as Fates Warning, Haken, and Porcupine Tree. I feel with each release the band adds more of a melodic rock feel, which blends amazingly with the heavy prog sound.

The short intro piece, Time and Again, starts off the CD.  A ticking clock followed by the soft swells of violin and whispering vocals begin us on your journey.  When the title track, Paraiso, kicks in with the opening bass riff I am reminded of Porcupine Tree’s, The Sound of Muzak off their brilliant In Absentia release. Arno’s vocals are simple yet effective at the beginning of the song.  By the end of the track he unleashes his powerful and dynamic voice to its full potential. The chorus displays the band’s captivating vocal harmonies and immediately entrances the listener.  The third track, A New Reliance, has a faster edge with keyboards throughout the song reminding me of Pull Me Under by Dream Theater. The outro to the song is my favorite part by far. The acoustic guitar playing under the piano and guitar solo is short but it works well to lead out the song.  A Heartbeat Away starts off with a mournful sounding lull of despair. This tracks verse is back dropped by acoustic guitars and piano. However when the second verse kicks in the thunderous drums take over.

The next track is the most beautiful piece on the CD. A Long Way Since The Earth Crashed takes you on an emotional musical roller coaster. The chorus is catchy and inspiring, so much that I shared this song with some friends and they loved it. I think I might have created some new Subsignal fans with this track. Pure musical adornment is laced throughout the song from the beautiful piano intro to the guitar solo and vocals leading out the song. A Giant Leap Of Faith is the next track.  The commanding piano intro leads into a heavy guitar rhythm. The two instruments take turns highlighting the musical backdrop throughout the piece. The midsection of the song sounds mystical and you can envision a fantastic wide landscape before your eyes, a cool wind putting you at peace.  Up next, The Stillness Beneath The Snow is a beautiful piece reminding me of Porcupine Tree at certain points. There is a brilliant acoustic guitar solo towards the end of the song before the song hits it’s culmination with a powerful guitar riff.  The Blueprint Of A Winter brought a great surprise to my ears.  The beautiful and talented Marcela Bovio, lead vocalist from Stream of Passion, trades vocals with Arno in this track.  Her melodic yet kinetic vocals offer the perfect match to complement Arno.  Along with A Long Way Since The Earth Crashed, this is my favorite track. The song is filled with a sweet beauty and tearful soundscape that one can appreciate from start to finish. The Colossus That Bestrode The World starts off with heavy off-tempo riff. Throughout the song during random sections I am reminded of Fates Warning from the A Pleasant Shade Of Gray era.  Swimming Home is the last, and longest, song on the CD. This is also the most diverse sounding song on Paraiso. From start to finish, the song takes the listener into every aspect that makes Subsignal what they are. From the simple, yet beautiful piano sequences to the mystical sounding chimes companioned by the cathartic rainfall sound leading us out of the CD.

To say this is one of the best releases of the year is an understatement. With some of the prog greats such as Fates Warning, Dream Theater, and the newer Haken, releasing CDs this year, putting this in my Top 5 for the year says a lot about Subsignal.  There is a lot of musical discovery here for the new listener.  Whether you like a more melodic sound or a simple progressive rock approach, you will be pleased.  If you are someone who appreciates vocals that aren’t overdone that display pure melody, Subsignal’s stylistic harmonies will surely bring contentment to your ears. I promise you won’t be able to listen just once.

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