Album Review: Subterranean Masquerade – The Great Bazaar
Posted by ChristopherMammal
Genre: Symphonic progressive metal
Release date: 13 January 2015
Label: Taklit Music
Previous releases: Temporary Psychotic State (EP, 2004); Suspended Animation Dreams (album, 2005); Home (EP, 2013)
Length: 39 minutes
Recommended to: Prog metal fans of Orphaned Land, Haken, Leprous, To-Mera, and Oriental and Middle Eastern metal; neo-prog rock fans of *Frost, Blind Ego, Galahad.
Mammal’s rating: 5 out of 5
Visiting every corner of “The Great Bazaar” is an experience of unfolding wonder and amazement. Subterranean Masquerade are purveyors of musical splendour and delight. Their integration of any number of metal and prog rock styles is constantly unpredictable, varied, and jaw-droppingly delectable.
I make three “Best Of” album lists every year – for metal, progressive rock, and jazz/jazz-rock fusion respectively. Different songs from “The Great Bazaar” could push this album way up there on all of those lists. For anyone who shares my eclectic taste in any way, this album has “Buy Me!” emblazoned all over it.
If you put together a group of stellar performers from different genres, you’d hope to hear a supergroup in action. Tomer Pink, the mastermind behind Subterranean Masquerade, has pulled together a team that qualifies as Supergroup Magna Cum Laude. Hey, just look at the line-up!
Kjetil Nordhus (Green Carnation, Tristania, Chain Collector, and Trail Of Tears) is lead vocalist and one of the guitarists. Paul Kuhr (Novembers Doom, Em Sinfonia, These Are They, Laceration, and Earthen) also does vocals. The clean vocals are full of passion and sensitivity. In the dark vocals, the very deep, powerful growls epitomize the best qualities that dark vocals added to metal (and made it unique among all styles of Western music). The harmonizing elevates the choruses to astral planes. To complete the fullness of the vocal contributions, Kobi Farhi (Orphaned Land) appears as guest vocalist on the final and longest track on the album, “Father and Son”. His voice is, unsurprisingly, an exact fit with the Oriental metal flavour of the song.
The instrumentalists in Subterranean Masquerade are like a Who’s Who of Orphaned Land and Israeli prog and metal, with Golan Farhi on bass, Shai Yallin on keyboards, Or Shalev on guitar and Matan Shmuely as drummer. Under the leadership of Tomer Pink, they and the newer members have welded together as a mighty unit.
The earlier line-ups also included or featured some big names, such as Tomas Lindberg of At The Gates, JWW of Agalloch, Andy Winter of WINDS, and Mike Feldman of Novembers Doom. Before “The Great Bazaar”, all the planning was focused on studio work. Now, however, Pink says: “This is the first time I feel like we are a real band and not just a studio project.”
The new release is a concept album. It takes the form of dialogues between the notions of good and evil as a young man embarks on a journey to discover what is truly important in life. This may be a theme which is echoed often in art, literature and music, but Subterranean Masquerade’s approach to the concept is as refreshing and original as their sheer musicality. The compositions are intricate but never become entangled.
The opening track, “Early Morning Mantra”, includes the words: “Welcome to the carnival of the dysfunctional and the disturbed.” That aptly describes the mind of the protagonist in “The Great Bazaar”. The album, though, is a glittering and exceedingly welcome feast.