For a band who are on their fourth album, releasing their debut ‘Mirror’ as long ago as 2007, it seems a little mean to point out that this is actually a side project of RPWL guitarist Kalle Wallner, but given he will always be associated with them, it has to be done. However, unlike RPWL, and indeed unlike the band which preceded that one, Violet District (whose only album ‘Terminal Breath’ came out in 1992 – I remember reviewing it at the time, god I’m old) this is not a band heavily influenced by Pink Floyd. To be honest, based on this album alone I wouldn’t even call them a progressive rock band – I haven’t heard the last two so don’t know how they compare – but here we have a melodic hard rock outfit with, at best, some neo prog influences.
So, although some RPWL fans may search this out due to the connections with that band, they may well turn away in some dismay as here we have an album where the guitarist allows himself full rein to hit power chords and simply rock in a way which he restrains himself from doing in RPWL. When asked about the album title, Wallner says “It’s about blind understanding. When you get the right people on board, there is no need for lengthy explanations. You just hit the recording button. And when you then give the right musicians the right music … that’s when they help you take it to the next level. No need to convince anybody, no discussions. And no compromises are necessary. You just pump it out.” This is certainly an album which has been pumped out, with a superb melodic hard rock performance with great songs and licks, and a special mention must be made of singer Scott Balaban who strides across proceedings like a colossus. This may be his first studio album with the band, but he has been involved for a while, and indeed was the singer on the 2017 live album ‘Liquid Live’ and he is the perfect foil to Wallner. He also provided most of the lyrics, and the result is something which is powerful and instinctive.
This is a really enjoyable album from beginning to end, just put out of your mind that here is the guy from RPWL, as finally this feels very much like a band as opposed to a side project and it is going to be fascinating to see where they take it from here as they move solidly into melodic hard rock. 8/10 Kev Rowland
The Dutch band is back with their fourth album, with artwork that perfectly states what the listener is going to come across, as it is atmospheric, beguiling and with beauty, but one is never quite sure what is happening between the calm surface of the water. I don’t think I’ve come across these guys before this, but they must have been doing something right as they managed to get both Jorn Cornfield (Muse) and Bruce Soord (The Pineapple Thief) to act as producers, which has given the band a mighty sound indeed, with obvious nods to both of those bands.
Maartje Meessen (vocals, flute, piano), Ingo Dassen (guitars), Eleen Bartholomeus (vocals, guitars, keyboards), Ingo Jetten (bass) and Bob Van Heumen (drums) go from delicate and almost ethereal to menacing, symphonic and powerful almost at whim, which makes for an album that is full of surprises as one is never quite sure where the music is going to go. There is a real feeling of a soundscape, of carefully layered good intentions that come together to create something that at times is really quite special indeed. They sometimes veer into the more experimental electronic, but always with strong female vocals, and even if there is a section where the listener may not be too comfortable, it soon moves into something else. It is probably fair to also call out Riverside as an influence, and while the album may not be the total success they wish it to be, it is certainly something that is intriguing and shows promise. Having not heard the previous albums I can’t say how this compares, but it will certainly be interesting to see where they go from here.
Only two years since their album, and there have yet again been some fairly significant changes in the Frequency Drift line-up. Lead singer Melanie Mau and guitarist Martin Schnella have both departed (they can be found in Gray Matters together, as well as other projects individually), as has bassist Rainer Wolf. But Andreas Hack (keyboards, guitar, bass, and mandolin) has been there since the beginning, as has drummer Wolfgang Osterman while long-time member and songwriter Nerissa Schwartz (quick aside, if you haven’t heard her solo album you owe it to yourself to do so) on harp and Mellotron is still there. The line-up is completed by new singer Irinia Alexia, and let’s hope that she lasts longer than just the odd album as she has a presence, range and clear singing voice which totally fits the music.
Musically the band are quite different to many, due in no small part to both Andreas and Nerissa having such a strong song-writing relationship and they are both keyboard players while the use of the harp is also quite different. They layer the music so that the arrangements are complex and quite dense in some ways, but then produce it so that the vocals are always first and foremost, rising clearly above everything else. There is a professionalism and restraint within the music, each note clearly having an important part to play in the whole proceedings. They may not all be playing at the same time, and the use of space is also important in everything they do, with bass pedals and keyboards often taking the part of the real instrument, which also has an impact on the overall sound. The warmth and “heaviness” of certain parts of the arrangements are in direct contrast to the clarity and “lightness’ of the harp and vocals, which provides a neat counterpoint. Let’s hope we get another album out of them before they change the singer again.
Back with their fifth studio album, it has been a while since I last heard this German band that morphed out of Sieges Even, as there have been two other albums between this and 2011’s ‘Touchstones’. I would have classified their last album as solid neo-prog, but while I do think that classification is still the best place for this as a whole, there is much more crossover in what they are doing now. This has a lightness and deftness of touch to it, yet at the same time, there is a maturity and feeling of a band knowing exactly what they want to get across to the audience. Bringing in RPWL’s Yogi Lang and Kalle Wallner to undertake the production was a touch of genius, as that act has also been through a great deal of change as they have moved to adulthood, and together they have all combined here to show that there is a prog band that has very much come of age.
The current line-up, consisting of Markus Steffen (guitar), Arno Menses (vocals), Ralf Schwager (bass), Markus Maichel (keyboards) and Dirk Brand (drums), has remained unchanged for quite some time. Markus and Arno starting working together in Sieges Even before moving away, while Ralf (Dreamscape) and Dirk Brand (Axxis, Geoff Downes & John Wetton) also have strong reputations, but it is as this quintet that they are now becoming best known. The vocals soar, the melodies hit while the harmonies and musicianship are all that one would expect and want from a band like this.
The approach is far more song-based than before, and although they can hit hard when they want to (witness the keyboard-led melodic hard rock introduction to “Every Able Hand”), they are also content to lighten it up and let Arno take center stage. This is an incredibly accessible progressive rock album, one that brings the bands of the Nineties right up to date, and also not being afraid to use hints of the Seventies when the need is right, but all wrapped up in commercially acceptable radio-friendly songs that are a delight.
Photo with Subsignal guitarist Markus Steffen and label owners Kalle Wallner and Yogi Lang.
We are happy to announce that we have finalized a new record contract today. Subsignal have signed with the fine label ‘Gentle Art of Music’ including a worldwide distribution via Soulfood.
The first product of our collaboration will be the next Subsignal album which is set for a release some time in 2017. The album will be co-produced by label owners Kalle Wallner and Jogi Lang who are, amongst others, known for their work in RPWL.
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