Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Subsignal - Touchstones CD (album) cover

TOUCHSTONES

Subsignal

Neo-Prog


From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Bookmark and Share
4 stars From a promo copy.

Well their second work.

And excellent as the first one.

Nice melodies,excellent musicianship .

In a line of mix of neo prog ..with heavy prog and crossover.

This work is quite surprising as the first one ...quite original modern prog rock.

But in my opinion not as good as the first work.

This album is a little more easy listening....for a more massive audience ...but that is not bad at all...there are many excellent prog works that are not so complex...not so hard listening to many audiences and have been masterpieces(Rush Moving Pictures...for ex.).

The important thing is that i enjoyed very much this new piece of art from Sub S.

4,5 stars

Report this review (#540824)
Posted Monday, October 3, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars We were waiting for it! And Subsignal gave us the evidence that the Sieges Even experience is not over. The two skippers, Arno Menses (voice, and what a voice) and Markus Steffen (guitar), in 2007 changed the whole lineup, both from a personnel and instruments point of view adding the keyboards, and they brought us on their new pathway by means of Beautiful and monstrous, dated 2009. But it was an interlocutory album; we felt that despite Menses and Steffen were happy with their work. How could they be not? It is definitely very good stuff indeed. But now we are in front of the acid test for the Bavarian band and the promise, anticipated on their site and on Youtube, has been maintained. Melancholic, innovative, emotional and highly melodic, Touchstones is a masterpiece of symphonic prog-metal although the band is classified as neo-prog. The 12 tracks, with an average duration below 6 minutes, are all terrific. Besides, keyboards (above all the piano) have added breath to the melodies. In their former experience, only by means of guitar and bass they had been able to reach such results. The band easily and carelessly leaps and hops to and from hard (i.e. Feeding utopia) and melodic (i.e. Wingless) songs so naturally that one appreciates them at the first listening. The best song to me is My Sanctuary, a piece that summarizes the Menses/Steffen concept of a prog-metal song reminding the former experience. This is followed without any gap by her "tough sister" Echoes In Eternity, hard enough but with many cantabile moments. This is the way Subsignal work: they confine the listeners to an angle and all of a sudden they give them a way out, the lead them on a dark river that gradually narrows to end up in a bright and sounding waterfall. An album hitting not only the guts but also the highest part of the brain with his continuous variations in theme and settings, with his almost impressionistic pictures, with his unexpected changes. Progressive rock lovers can find a lot in this album, more than expected. And we must thank Subsignal since they are welcome also to "prog dummies" with their fancy atmospheres, their beautiful music.
Report this review (#549615)
Posted Thursday, October 13, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars From the beginning I want to say that SUBSIGNAL-TOUCHSTONES is the best prog album of the 2011 year and one of the best in the history of this pretentious musical genre!BEAUTIFUL AND MONSTROUS-the debut of this amazing band- was a musical jewel,but this second one is touching perfection!To be honest,I think that SUBSIGNAL could be called a super group,because excepting the 2 guys from SIEGES EVEN-Menses and Steffen-what we have here is the drummer of SUN CAGED and the bass player and keyboard player from DREAMSCAPE-another disbanded?!?! magnificent German band!So,the final result of the talent of this heavenly gifted musicians couldn't have been other than an excellent one!What makes the difference of this album compared to other good prog metal or prog rock albums is the fantastic voice of the Dutchman ARNO MENSES-the vocalist of SUBSIGNAL!THE ART OF NAVIGATION BY THE STAR and PARAMOUNT in SIEGES EVEN were the prove that this guy can really sing,but only here ,in SUBSIGNAL-he exploded literally and delivers the real measure of his tremendeous talent!He is now in the PANTHEON of the best prog rock singers- 100 % he is a sure value and has a very strong and precise personality and identity!His warm voice,his artistical sensitivity and passioned feeling in his wonderful voice fits perfectly well with the fantastic compositions that MARKUS STEFFEN-the brain of the band- is delivering! Undoubtedly ,we feel here some structures of the unique SIEGES EVEN music,but SUBSIGNAL is something different!We call this neo prog music,but the wide range of musical expression in SUBSIGNAL music is pushed really further by this band-they are extremelly capable,innovative and professional!Strong musical emotions guaranteed,and many repeated auditions of this album will satisfy at 200 % no matter what prog music lover!75 minutes of pure delightment,a milestone album and one of the rare cases of albums that after the first audition-the listener says WOW!Man...that's real music!Wonderful,simply wonderful!If perfection didn't find yet a name in neo prog music-well,now the case is solved-the name is SUBSIGNAL!500 stars if possible!
Report this review (#550835)
Posted Saturday, October 15, 2011 | Review Permalink
BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Good, polished "second-tier" prog rock. Nothing more nothing less. Nothing new; all sounding so very familiar. Certainly nothing to write home about--unless heavy neo-prog is your thing. For me, it just conjured up many memories of walking down the college dormitory halls back in the 70s: Journey and Styx and Kansas and Foreigner and Pablo Cruise and Boston and all blaring out of the successive rooms (especially in the men's dorms). Like those hallways, these songs seem to bleed and, eventually, blend into one another, until finally the brain and ears are ringing with one chaotic cacophony of stadium-friendly rock'n'roll. Good, but definitely not essential.
Report this review (#571023)
Posted Saturday, November 19, 2011 | Review Permalink
Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Well crafted composition backed with excellent performance

When I was first introduced to this band by a colleague prog head, he reckoned that this is a good neo-prog band. I was just a bit skeptical when I first heard the term 'neo-prog' where it depicted clear picture into my mind that would be music which comprises dragging long sustained keyboard work in relatively slow paced music - like what i had with the music of Cosmograf - that was quite boring to me ....or maybe my mood is now more on heavier side of prog with bands like Symphony X or Hakken and the like. But I then gave it a try couple of days ago. It amazed me with the kind of energy this band has throughout the tracks they offer through this album. To my surprise I could stay with the album until the last track because I could sense the joy of listening to the album. Then I tried to find who actually the band is.

From its official site, the band was originally intended as a side project in 2007 by the former Sieges Even-members Arno Menses (Vocals) and Markus Steffen (Guitars). The first result of this collaboration was the song ?A Wallflower On The Day Of Saint Juliana', which made its way to the 2007 Sieges Even album 'Paramount' under the title ?Eyes Wide Open'. The two gentle men left Sieges Even in summer 2008, looking for adequate musicians to turn SUBSIGNAL into to a real, functional band. The first guy to join the new outfit was bass player Ralf Schwager, known for his work with German progband Dreamscape. The line-up was completed with Drummer Roel van Helden, known for his collaboration with Dutch band Sun Caged, and Dreamscape's David Bertok on keyboards.

Even though the music of Subsignal is different than Yes but the way the vocal line sings reminds me to Jon ANderson. That's why my first impression was just like Yes plays neo- prog / progressive metal because there are clearly many heavy riffs throughout this album that reminds me to Chile's Crisalida. Last month I was introduced to Cosmograf and there waere many good reviews down here which it's hard for me to find my agreement as the music was so mellow and made me sleepy and tired having to listen another neo-prog music. But this one by Subsignal is different as the album demonstrates high energy neo- prog music like what Marillion pioneered during Fish era. Of course this one is not like Marillion as there are many heavy riffs that remind us to progressive metal.

I found myself engrossed with the music since the opening track until middle of the album without having a sort of bored situation and it continued nicely until the concluding track. From the opening track "Feeding Utopia" that basically a straight forward neo-prog music it moves nicely to "My Sanctuary" and finally I reached track 5 "As Dreams Are Made On" where I found great orchestration in the middle of relatively tempo music offered by this track. It then moves into mellow track "Wingless". I really find joy in listening to the album as the music is quite varied in style, combining the mellow and heavy riffs from all tracks provided here in the album. This is represented with track 7 "Finisterre". The album's title track "Touchstones" reminds me to the kind of Pallas music especially in the ambient opening track with keyboard solo. The music flows nicely from mellow into a bit of heavier part using guitar riffs but still maintaining great overall melody just before the vocal enters. For me, this is an interesting track from start to end with various tempo changes, vocal line reminds me to Jon Anderson in some segments. There are parts with simple piano touches that make the music sounds richer. The concluding track "Con Todas Las Palabras" as an excellent track that reminds me to Yes - but of course this album is MUCH better than the latest Yes "Fly From Here" album.

In conclusion, I consider this album as an excellent addition to any progressive music collection with neo-prog subgenre. Well, actually there are many heavy riffs that may sound to you like a progressive metal music. Fans of neo-prog must have this album - and see how different the music with other typical neo prog music that usually boring and sleepy. Keep on proggin' ...!!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Report this review (#580779)
Posted Saturday, December 3, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars I find it fascinating that there was a lot of buzz about this album in Progressive Metal circles, and yet here it is on Prog Archives being classified as Neo Prog. To me, the fact that this band seems to transcend genre classification is a mark of greatness. This is an extremely polished, well-engineered, and carefully composed album. And it's no surprise as the band was originally intended to be the side project of seasoned Prog artists Arno Menses (Vocals) and Markus Steffen (Guitars) formerly of Sieges Even. I've heard people compare this band to Yes, The Police, Dream Theater - all very different styles, and it's clear that while there may be influences from these and other bands, this band has their own style to offer. And while I don't often even notice lyrics, I couldn't help but notice how amazingly descriptive the lyrics of this album are - filled with metaphorical descriptions. I think with this album, Subsignal has created a unique and interesting work of art.
Report this review (#594985)
Posted Friday, December 23, 2011 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars 'Touchstones' - Subsignal (8/10)

Although German progsters Subsignal have been assigned to the label of the middling neo-prog style, this band has much more up their sleeve than the typical act of that scene. In fact, it may not be such a stretch to call Subsignal a progressive metal band; after all, their two founding members Arno Menses and Markus Steffen are formerly part of metal powerhouse Sieges Even. Seeking to continue their music together after leaving Sieges, the pair enlisted the help of other musicians, and thus, Subsignal was born. 'Touchstones' is this band's second album, and here, Menses and Steffen have realized the potential of their new melodic aims. To be honest, there were so many prog albums throughout 2011 that- while not necessarily 'poor'- never sought to move me. More often than not, they were albums which went the melodic route with prog rock, using the 'epic' format as more of a gimmick, and replacing technical achievement with bland AOR tropes. What I'm getting at is that while I was practically setting myself up to dislike 'Touchstones' without knowing a thing about the band, they have created a remarkable piece of progressive, melodic metal here. Although 2011 is now over, I suspect that 'Touchstones' would have crept its way up my year end list, had I only heard it a couple of months earlier.

The sound of Subsignal reminds me greatly of modern prog darlings Haken, and their collision of epic progressive metal and softer melodic atmosphere. For those more invested in prog rock terms, both of these bands merge progressive metal and neo-prog together, creating something that manages to sport strong melodic hooks and clean sound without sacrificing the complexity or technical display of the musicians at work. As any fan of Sieges Even could have bet, the musicianship on 'Touchstones' is levelled at a very high standard. The compositions are focused primarily on melody, and while you won't hear the ten minute instrumental indulgences made infamous by Dream Theater, there is never any doubt that these are some of the best musicians in progressive music today. Roel van Helden's drum work was pleasantly reminiscent of Mike Portnoy's wild style. Menses and Steffen get the limelight throughout virtually the entire album. David Bertok's keyboards are the most inconspicuous aspect of the sound, adding atmosphere and depth to the sound, but rarely stepping forth. Although I would have cared for a few more spotlight's on Ralf Schwager's evidently impressive bass work, Subsignal never feels dominated by any ego from anyone.

The songwriting on 'Touchstones' is consistent, although the overbearing length and somewhat singular approach of the album tends to make the songs run together. The eleven minute title track 'Touchstones' earns my vote for the highlight, though. Although it is a fairly long song, the time is used well; those minutes aren't wasted on instrumental noodling, but instead work towards developing melodies and atmosphere. It is here where Subsignal's symphonic undertones come out most brightly as well, with a beautiful symphonic instrument acting in sharp contrast to the otherwise gloomy sounds of the guitar. Barring an album length that could have reasonably had twenty minutes shaved off, this is among the greatest melodic prog/metal albums to have come out in 2011. It's a shame I didn't get around to hearing it earlier, but there's little doubt in my mind that I will be enjoying this album well into 2012.

Report this review (#608417)
Posted Friday, January 13, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars 8/10

With Touchstones, Subsignal continues to evolve its brilliant sound that not only contains a progression of what was being tarabalhado by Sieges Even in his later albums but also introduces new elements, presenting an accessibility combined with a dose masterful technique, melody and emotion in his music. While they have no intention of sounding prog metal masters still exhibit a pleasant [avel dose complex in their songs, but all washed down with a stylish defnitivamente melodic sense that is the hallmark of this phenomenal band.

However, as other reviewers have pointed out, this is an album that could be shorter, not necessarily needing to have their 75 minutes - about 15 less and it would be great. I really felt that he was a little "filled" in my first audition, but that feeling was passing along the wiretaps. I believe, although Touchstones not better than Beautiful and Monstruous, it is not worse. Structurally this album reminds me a lot the classic Awake, from Dream Theater.

Again, the band members perform their roles with perfection. There is the addition of some external factors, such as the strings in Ember and the gorgeous oboe in the title track (I really have a weakness for oboes). These two are the longest tracks on the album, and although they are masterly aren't my favorite. My highlights are the opening Feeding Utopia, which blends perfectly sound prog metal / Porcupine Tree-esque with electronic elements, Echoes in Eternity (that repeats a melodic theme addressed in the first album), Wingless, The Lifespan of a Glimpse (I do not know who is this female singer, but she has a great voice!) and closure Con Todas Las Palabras, which is definitely my favorite here.

4 stars.

Report this review (#1031234)
Posted Monday, September 9, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars Subsignal is a marriage between two excellent, but below-the-radar prog metal bands, Sieges Even and Dreamscape. More precise, the marriage of their more melodic parts - the pop vocal of Arno Menses, the mood-creating guitar of Marcus Steffen and the strong keys of David Bertok, who, according to the band's website, share writing duties. The result is accesible metal for the middle aged, or AOR slash metal, with lyrics aiming for the poetic to the extent of the German writers translating abilities.

This is slightly heavier that the first album, Beautiful and Monstrous, which had a more spacy 80s feel. The main types of songs here are layered, energetic pop rock, mysterious and dramatic slow-burners, and more metal numbers with frequently alternating hard/clean guitar, which Steffen was fond of on the last Sieges Even album. I must add, that for all the band members' pedigrees, songwriting, while good and catchy, is not as detailed and up to the parent bands' standards. Some songs here are overreliant on the vocal melodies or simply overstay their welcome. Menses and Steffen miss the creative collaboration with the Holzwarth brothers, I think.

Report this review (#1031752)
Posted Tuesday, September 10, 2013 | Review Permalink

SUBSIGNAL Touchstones ratings only


chronological order | showing rating only

Post a review of SUBSIGNAL Touchstones


You must be a forum member to post a review, please register here if you are not.

MEMBERS LOGIN ZONE

As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: JazzMusicArchives.com — jazz music reviews and archives | MetalMusicArchives.com — metal music reviews and archives