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Subsignal - A Poetry Of Rain review


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Band: Subsignal
Album: A Poetry Of Rain
Release date: September 2023

01. A Poetry Of Rain
02. The Art Of Giving In
03. Marigold
04. Sliver (The Sheltered Garden)
05. Impasse
06. Embers Part II: Water Wings
07. Melencolia One
08. A Wound Is A Place To Let The Light In
09. The Last Of Its Kind
10. A Room On The Edge Of Forever

A Poetry Of Rain marks a return after five years for one of prog’s most mellow and soul-touching acts; Subsignal have lost none of their dreamy charm in the intervening years.

I first encountered German prog rock/metal band Subsignal in 2011 with their second release, Touchstones, at which point they were still mostly known as ‘the band with the guys from Sieges Even’. Although they’ve got a few years to go in order to have existed as long as their predecessor, Subsignal’s discography is now almost as full as that of Sieges Even, and they have firmly established their own particular identity. There are some changes for the group this time around; after two releases with a stable line-up, A Poetry Of Rain marks the debut in the band of new bassist Martijn Horsten, who replaces long-time bassist Ralf Schwager. Still, the overall feel of this new release is broadly consistent with all that have preceded, which should please fans of the group.

Touchstones was my first taste of Subsignal; it has also come to be my defining experience with the group. As much as I have enjoyed their subsequent releases, particularly Paraiso, none of them have ever threatened to make the same impact on me that Touchstones did in terms of memorability or emotional evocation. Perhaps I’m not the only one to hold this record in such high esteem, as A Poetry Of Rain sees Subsignal finally deliver a “Part II” to “Embers Part I: Your Secret Is Safe With Me” from Touchstones. When it comes to this new record, it’s not the one that finally sees Subsignal once again hitting the heights of Touchstones, but it is perhaps their most resonant release since.

For the uninitiated, Subsignal’s brand of prog, while sometimes featuring a metallic crunch, is very much on the lighter side, with Arno Menses’ signature vocals a dominant feature, and A Poetry Of Rain very much keeps in line with this precedent; the release of this album on the label Gentle Art Of Music feels rather apt. Opening song “The Art Of Giving In” (well, if one discounts the brief introductory track, which has been a feature of Subsignal albums since Paraiso) is a classic example of their distinctive neo-prog; there’s a rock drive to the verses, but the song comes alive in the tender chorus and warm instrumental prog bridge.

For some unadulterated Subsignal tenderness, “Marigold” is beautifully mellow, with wonderfully pleasant instrumental tones and arrangements. There’s fewer reminders on this release than some previous ones of the band’s loose ties with metal, although there’s heavier riffing in the likes of “Silver (The Sheltered Garden)” and “The Last Of Its Kind”; still, the heaviness is rather muted, which frankly plays to the band’s strengths. “Silver (The Sheltered Garden)” gets about as heavy as mid-late Porcupine Tree, but that slight added oomph accentuates the slightly darker tinge to the riffing in the song’s instrumental sequences.

For me, the album reaches its peak around the middle. To start with, “Embers Part II: Water Wings” is an excellent successor to the first part, from the reprise of its wistful piano melody and chorus hook in the introduction, through to the beautiful vocal arrangements in the song itself. Arguably the highlight song of the album, however, comes right after in the form of “Melencolia One”. This song allows keyboardist Markus Maichel a couple of chances to shine with prominent synth parts, but also has some nifty little guitar noodles and satisfying syncopated metal grooves. It’s a collective tour de force that allows both each individual member and the ensemble as a whole to shine with both their technicality and their feel for satisfying emotion.

Whether due to legitimate superiority or merely my own intrinsic biases, I struggle to see any Subsignal album overtaking Touchstones in my eyes as their greatest album; however, A Poetry Of Rain makes a very strong case for ‘best of the rest’. Perhaps lacking a song with the pure memorability of Paraiso’s title track, it has all of that emotionally charged richness that the group have come to be known for, and tracks such as “Melencolia One” highlight their songwriting aptitude.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 8
Songwriting: 8
Originality: 7
Production: 9

Written on 26.09.2023 by Hey chief let's talk why not

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