When reading this review, please keep in mind that I am a huge Subsignal fan. I have all their albums and I believe that Arno has one of the best voices in the business. But even for favorite bands, I sometimes find that I don’t jive with specific albums. That is unfortunately the case with the last two Subsignal albums, including the new one, called “La Muerta”. The album releases on May 25th, and is solid as can be, but something still feels like it is missing.
The band includes Markus Steffen on guitars, Arno Menses on vocals, Ralf Schwager on bass, Markus Maichel on keyboards, and Dirk Brand on drums. Guests on this album include: Marjana Semkina (iamthemorning) on vocals, Markus Jehle (RPWL) on piano, Kalle Wallner (RPWL) on guitars, and Yogi Lang (RPWL) on keyboards. Yes, most of RPWL is on this album.
Bear with me a moment while I offer a friendly rant about Subsignal. The last couple albums have been missing something for me. The band has lost some of their edge and oomph: two things that I feel used to set them apart from others. They had such fire, both lyrically and musically, and their melodies just couldn’t be matched. The band now seems to be focusing on extremely melodic compositions with touches of technical prowess, delving further into a pop-oriented sound. I love pop, especially progressive pop, but this move has left many of their melodies feeling like bland white noise. Many of the melodies feel elongated artificially to accomodate extra words, and that sort of thing. Nothing feels natural and inspired anymore. Arno is a master of the vocal hook, but there just hasn’t been many that have caught me since 2013’s “Paraiso”, which I consider their best album.
All of that said, “La Muerta” is still a solid album, through and through, and it’s better than many other releases this year. The songs are enjoyable and melodic, and you might find a couple of catchy tunes. I don’t feel like anything here is on par with their first three albums, but it’s still Subsignal, and that’s a good thing.
I do have to say that the performances are wonderful. Arno sounds amazing, like always, and I’m glad they don’t duplicate his voice any more, although I do have to admit that Arno doesn’t seem as passionate this time. Markus’ guitars are wickedly good and I love how off kilter and stabbing the licks can be. Dirk’s drums, though I’m not a fan of the mix (and haven’t been for the last two albums), are played well and keep up with the guitars perfectly, especially in the way he uses gentle blast beats. Markus’ keys also sound great, as they present us with what I consider to be the iconic Subsignal sound and atmosphere.
I do have a few favorites on this album, though some of the songs tend to blend together in my mind. The title track is a wonderful song with some awesome guitar licks, and I love the hook in the chorus. I really like the single “Even Though the Stars Don’t Shine”: Though it doesn’t have tons of meat to it, it’s certainly catchy and I find it stuck in my head constantly. I really like “The Passage” with its gentle sound, and the piano and synth near the end are awesome. The final song is called “Some Kind of Drowning”, and it features Marjana Semkina. She sings a duet with Arno, and the results are truly divine. I feel that this song does pay tribute to the Subsignal debut “Beautiful & Monstrous” through its slower, more ominous sound.
“La Muerta” is a good album, and I’m glad I heard it. It does lack the fiery personality of past offerings, but the melodies are solid and the performances are brilliant. I’m certainly happy Subsignal is still making music, and I completely understand that they need to make the music that they hear in their heads: They need to follow their inspiration. I honor and respect that, and I know that this album will find an audience, even if I’m not included in that.