Live albums are often a mixed bag. If the band plays it too safely, the album is basically a waste. If the band tries to get too much audience participation or decides to change the songs to the point of being unrecognizable, that is just as much a waste. Subsignal has released their latest live album, “A Song for the Homeless: Live in Rüsselsheim 2019”, and I am very pleased that the band finds a perfect balance. The album releases on May 22nd through Gentle Art of Music.
Subsignal comes to us from Germany. The band has been active a long time, since 2007 now. They are also the band that rose from the ashes of Sieges Even many years ago. The current line up is Arno Menses on vocals, Markus Steffen on guitar, Ralf Schwager on bass, Markus Maichel on keyboards, and Dirk Brand on drums.
Subsignal plays a sort of pop-leaning progressive rock. Through their various albums, you will hear AOR, prog metal, retro prog rock, and more ambient fare. They seemingly have the capability to switch things up on almost every album, not to mention their unique ability to title songs perfectly and irresistibly. For my money, the band is primarily about Arno’s instantly recognizable, amazing voice alongside Markus’ fantastic guitar musings.
I’ll be honest here. The last couple albums from the band have not stuck with me. That may be more my fault than theirs, though. Their album “Paraiso” is one of my favorite albums of the last 10 years, though. When this live album was announced, I wondered what sort of mix of songs we would get, and I have to say that the band has chosen very well. No, my favorites aren’t in the track list (below), but the band gives us a nice mix of all their albums and eras, so to speak.
From the very beginning, you can hear the energy and electricity in the room. Arno is a dynamic front man, and his vocals are done perfectly, even as he harmonizes with himself. The band have changed the songs up just enough to where they feel fresh and exciting. Perhaps they may just change the guitar tone a bit, or maybe Arno plays with the melody ever so slightly, or maybe Dirk treats us to a drum solo; whatever it may be, the band have injected their substantial artistry into making this performance something special and different. Listening to it again and again, you will continue to feel like it is an event to savor.
Okay, so looking at the track list, you’ll notice that they only play two songs from my favorite album: “Time and Again” (an intro) and then the “Paraiso” title track. Both sound amazing, though, feeling weighty and heavier than on the album. Arno’s harmonies are haunting, as well. “The Beacons of Somewhere Sometime” actually only gets one song, “Ashes of Summer”. Regardless, it also sounds wonderful.
One thing that I love about this performance is that the band plays three songs from their debut, “Beautiful and Monstrous”. This is my second favorite album by them, and they chose some of the best songs, too. “The Sea” might be my favorite track on this live album, as the sounds of waves mix with that stunning chorus so well, and Markus’ guitar solo near the end is ethereal at the very least. “Walking with Ghosts” is another favorite, feeling quite otherworldly and hazy. “Paradigm” ends the album with excitement, a rush of blood, and a fantastic second half.
The band plays a couple songs from their “Touchstones” album, including the epic title track, though it is shortened somewhat. The rest of the songs are from “La Muerta”, and, even though I didn’t love that album, these songs sound so good here. They picked my favorites from it, that’s for certain. “The Bells of Lyonesse” is gentle and elegant, “The Passage” has those amazing synth lines I love, and it ends with Dirk’s stunning drum solo to boot, and “Even Though the Stars Don’t Shine” sounds as catchy and airy as I’d hoped. Even the title track has a huge impact, as it (and all of the tracks from that album) sound heavier and more layered. This live album is a great showing for that record.
Subsignal continues to be one of my favorite bands, and this live album sounds like they are in the moment and running on all cylinders. They honestly sound larger than life here. The track list is wonderful, and the band pays tribute to their debut, which I really appreciate. If you are fan of the band, or if you are curious about them, this is an album you need to hear.
2. Ashes of Summer
3. The Bells of Lyonesse
4. The Sea
5. Walking with Ghosts
6. Even though the Stars don’t shine
7. The passage (incl. drum solo)
8. La Muerta
9. My Sanctuary
10. Time and Again
Find Subsignal online: