Subsignal – A Poetry of Rain (Album Review)

Review of the new Subsignal album ‘A Poetry of Rain’

by Prog Nick

Ignorance is not bliss – not in Progressive Rock, at any rate. I must confess that until I was requested to do this review, I had failed to give German Progressive Rock band Subsignal the proper amount of attention. This was a shortcoming that changed in a major way when I began listening to their 2023 release, ‘A Poetry of Rain’. Now I find myself hurriedly trying to get my hands on everything that Subsignal have released, so impressed have I been with this album.

With one line-up change since 2020 (Dutch bassist Martijn Horsten for Ralf Schwager), Subsignal also comprises vocalist Arno Menses, guitarist Markus Steffen, keyboardist Markus Maichel and drummer Dirk Brand. An impressive line-up it is too, since every one of these performers is clearly very highly accomplished – a fact that becomes immediately apparent on listening to the record. Presenting a brand of Prog that is powerful and driving and at the same time highly melodic and emotional, Subsignal’s latest release absolutely hits the sweet spot.

The title and opening track is a melancholic meander that eases the listener in with a wave of acoustic melody. It is a deceptively ethereal introduction to the album, because within seconds, ‘The Art Of Giving In’ launches with gusto and bite, and declares in no uncertain terms that the listener is in for a mighty experience indeed. Driving and strident, the track is hugely engaging, with melodies that immediately demand attention and a complex, granite under-bed of odd-time bass and drums that will defy anyone to turn a deaf ear. Menses’ voice is superior, and the instrumentation is complex indeed. An outstanding start.

I am not a fan of programmed drums, therefore I was a little underwhelmed by the first bars of third track ‘Marigold.’ However, as partisan as this made me, so too was I very soon won over by the track’s melody and emotion. Outstanding vocal harmonies and a great guitar solo will do that to you. Excellent human drumming (Brand playing a superb tom-pattern with mallets) kicks in after one or two bars in any event, and the track rapidly reaches a place of defiant melodic polish.

‘Silver (The Sheltered Garden)’ has already been released as a single, and quite deservedly so. It restores thunderous Prog with staccato thumps of bass, drums and guitar that simply cannot be ignored. There is a doom-laden middle break that reveals this band to be as versatile as any out there, and Brand’s powerful patterns and complex ghost-notes are followed in tight unison by the rest of the band – especially Horsten’s solid work at the low end. Powerful and impressive, ‘Silver’ ensures that the overall album will by now command your ultimate attention.

‘Impasse’ is a solitary and sad melody built around Menses’ beautiful enunciation and Steffen’s endearing acoustic guitar. When the electric lead comes in, it quite unbelievably takes the track to an even more emotional level, and the track soars on the wings of heartbreaking melody – absolutely glorious.

‘Embers Part II: Water Wings’ allows Maichel to spread his wings with aplomb. His understated keyboard parts provide the foundation for a very fine track indeed. While the other members may generally be more prominent in the mix, this excellent keyboardist reveals himself to be an integral member of Subsignal and declares that he is not in any way to be underestimated.

Brand’s fast drum patterns and precise fills continue to impress in ‘Melancolia One’. He really is a master of syncopated, driving percussion. This song is an upbeat keyboard-based rocker in odd timing, and reveals Subsignal at their strident best. Jerky, angular rhythms literally ‘fill the empty space inside’ (as the lyrics state) and solid melodic Prog of the very best quality is the order of the day. The vocals and guitar solo are pre-eminent. At first listen it will feel as if the song deserves better than a fade-out ending, but on subsequent listens, the fade will make absolute sense to you. Filled with syncopation, starts, stops, breaks and surprises, ‘Melancolia One’ is a song intended for more seasoned Proggers. Classic Dream Theater fans take note – this one is top drawer and is right up your alley.

‘A Wound Is A Place to Let the Light In’ presents a more straightforward slow ballad groove that is no less fulfilling, due to its excellent melody. The first part of the song is not the Proggiest moment on the album, but soon some fairly elaborate arrangements are included and the subtlety of the keyboard work impresses again. The song has a classic melodic Prog breakdown that contains a superb riff, the likes of which King Crimson or Genesis would be proud.

Maichel continues to make his statement in the opening bars of final track ‘The Last of Its Kind’, which develops into an elaborate piece that demonstrates Subsignal’s proud Dream Theater and Fates Warning influences. This is heavy and brooding stuff, interestingly juxtaposed with a sax solo that really should sound out of place, but somehow does not. The track also actively demonstrates Mense’s versatility – he is as comfortable in heavier territory as he is in the more acoustic melodic material. As a band, Subsignal draw together on this track to provide a cohesion of the Prog Metal that they do so well – almost as a synopsis of all the album’s heavier stylings. Eminently impressive.

There is a bonus track named ‘A Room On the Edge of Forever’ which is a heart-rending acoustic guitar and vocal piece. This song, it turns out, was released as a video in 2021, having been recorded before the other tracks on the album, which were done in 2022. In it, Steffen demonstrates through beautiful Flamenco expressions that he is one of the classiest guitarists around. I am glad that this very beautiful bonus track was included, since it rounds the album out in the best way.

‘A Poetry of Rain’ was intended to be a counterpoint to previous album ‘La Muerta’, and it is therefore somewhat more Progressive than the latter. However, regardless of the album’s complexity and interesting arrangements, the band’s clear affection for accessible melodies and catchy refrains remains apparent throughout. Rich and lush in production with just the right balance of attack and refrain, ‘A Poetry of Rain’ was produced by RPWL’s Kalle Wallner and Yogi Lang, both of whom are real forces in German Progressive Rock. The artwork, which is reminiscent of Picasso, was designed by vocalist Arno Menses.

Progressive to its core, the album includes elaborate arrangements, soaring vocals, sophisticated melodies and sheer Progressive weight and crunch. It is punchy, complex, forceful and melodious – very often all at the same time. With ten songs and a total running time of about 50 minutes, this record will no doubt leave you wanting more.

Until now, I had no idea how good Subsignal were, but ‘A Poetry of Rain’ has made me very much aware. The band have described their music as ‘progressive, melancholic, cutting edge [and] emotional, blended with a good portion of melodic heaviness.’ Spot on, Gentlemen, and I would add the word ‘excellent’. I, for one, shall ignore you no more.

Release on Sept. 22, 2023 on Gentle Art of Music

1. A Poetry of Rain (Instrumental)
2. The Art of Giving In
3. Marigold
4. Sliver (The Sheltered Garden)
5. Impasse
6. Embers Part II: Water Wings
7. Melencolia One
8. A Wound is a Place to let the Light in
9. The Last of its Kind
10. A Room on the Edge of Forever*

*CD Only

Line-up / Musicians
Markus Steffen / guitars
Arno Menses / vocals
Martijn Horsten / bass
Markus Maichel / keyboards
Dirk Brand / drums


  • If you really want to hear some great prog by these guys, check out “The Art of Navigating by the Stars” by Sieges Even. This album had both the singer and guitarist from Subsignal.

  • I just discovered Subsignal a few weeks ago and listened to the new album a few minutes ago. While reviews tend to use overblown language, I think this reviewer hits it head-on–this was the best first listen I have experienced in a long time. Great album!

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