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Only drawn by single threads. - 75%

Diamhea, June 3rd, 2014
Written based on this version: 2003, CD, Century Media Records

While I doubt many would argue that Signs for the Fallen fails to live up to its direct predecessor, public opinion ranks this one right up there with Caledonia and The Arcanum as some of Suidakra's best work. Maybe the garrulous, meandering departure that was Command to Charge has retroactively basked Signs for the Fallen under a more appealing light, but I honestly can't allocate much room in my heart for this one. I can't necessarily say that this album exists as an overt stylistic bridge between the two albums that bookend it, but some of the more bare-bones melodic death stylings present here definitely laid some of the groundwork that eventually cemented Command to Charge's overall approach. While any Suidakra record will undoubtedly have its moments, the band isn't necessarily playing to its most obvious strengths here.

One undoubtedly has to hand it to Antonik for his relentless abandon and prolific output, and while it is fairly obvious that the darker, more nose-to-the-grindstone aesthetics here were a conscious decision on his part, something is clearly lacking compared to Emprise to Avalon. To address what is always the album centerpiece right away: The leads are marked and pronounced as always, but lack that "something extra" that gave songs like "Darkane Times" and "Pendragon's Fall" such a great appeal. Imagine the less interesting sections on Emprise to Avalon stretched to fill nearly an entire album. The production is undoubtedly beefed up to finally match the animosity of Antonik's delivery, but even through this the proceedings can't come out unscathed. The rhythm section is crunchy and overdriven, nearly to the point of obfuscating the riffs themselves. Listen to the beginning of "Revenant," which sounds great at first until you focus and realize the amazing riff underneath everything is nearly wasted due to the overloud nature of the drums and vocals. As such, Signs for the Fallen is definitely a harder sell than most of Suidakra's other post-The Arcanum records, but let's not give up all hope just yet.

Antonik yet again proves his capabilities on the keyboards. While there aren't nearly as many as on Emprise to Avalon, "Threnody" is a great snapshot of what he is capable of and is a true album highlight. It reminds me of "The Spoils of Annwn," so I am definitely not complaining there. The more affecting "The Ember Deid" segues into "When Eternity Echoes" and now we finally begin to get somewhere. The leads are so ripe they risk spoiling, and the entire song moves as a meticulously crafted pace. Still, only two minutes long? Contrasting the former with longer, more drawn-out numbers like "Bound in Changes" really shows the flaws in the approach here. Schoenen always sounds great and is extensively featured, but it can only do so much to salvage these proceedings. I will concede that "Trails of Gore" is focused as all hell and is probably the best non-instrumental song here after "When Eternity Echoes." Still, three tracks out of ten just doesn't cut it for Suidakra; at least not by my criterion.

Don't get me wrong though, Signs for the Fallen is very well executed melodic death. I just don't feel that it accentuates Suidakra's best side. Caledonia refined this approach, has a much more appealing melodic element, and features more balanced production values (Riewaldt's bass is nonexistent here). Too many of these tracks simply exist as songs on an album, and needed a bit more thought put into them to compare with what we have come to expect from these Germans. I have read in interviews that Antonik was put under an inordinate amount of stress by Century Media, who after getting an album's worth of material out of him, refused to promote Signs for the Fallen at all. As such, this one might be a bit hard to track down, but at the same time I can't really say that it is worth the trouble. Listen to Emprise to Avalon and Caledonia first, then maybe give this one a shot. Not their best by any measure.