Founded in 1997 by guitarist Tomer Pink, Israeli band Subterranean Masquerade released their second full album this year: The Great Bazaar, which is the successor to the 2005 album Suspended Animation Dreams. Subterranean Masquerade's music is quite unique, blending numerous styles and influences into a pleasant style of their own. They're progressive metal in the realm of Orphaned Land crossed with Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree and doom metal with outbursts of pure energy. Since their previous album, the line-up has had some changes and currently consists of leader and guitar player Tomer Pink, fellow guitar player Or Shalev, keyboard player Shai Yallin (Solstice Coil), bass player Golan Farhi and drummer Matan Shmuely (Orphaned Land). Vocalist Paul Kuhr (Novembers Doom) who featured on the first album is now accompanied by the Norwegian vocalist Kjetil Nordhus (Tristania and Green Carnation). On The Great Bazaar the band sees the helping hands of several other musicians, some playing traditional instruments, others adding brass and woodwinds to the band's music.
To be honest, the album The Great Bazaar did need some spins for me to finally dig in. But when it did, I embraced the music and did not let go. At first you start with Early Morning Mantra; referring to Orphaned land, but with a different style of vocals-a style more accessible in my opinion. Here we first meet the combination of grim, dark and grunted voices from Paul and the relaxed and most enjoyable vocals of Kjetil, a combination that is interesting and makes you want more. During this heavy and also piano driven song we find a very different section, where the brass takes over, where the grunts leave, and a sort of poppy even Zappa-esque style is the result. This absolutely fits into this intriguing composition. Reliving The Feeling has a more theatrical way of using the vocals at first. Musically the composition is light and positive, leaning towards retro progressive music from the seventies. The retro vocals go hand in hand with growls that are useful and fit in the music. Taking down the pace is the following Tour Diary, which holds a theatrical theme and two vocalists that both use a normal voice this time, resulting in a more alternative progressive sound. A strong guitar solo ices this fine cake. The instrumental Nigen heavily turns towards the traditional side of Israeli music; filled with clarinet, acoustic guitar and piano and an occasionally outburst of electric guitar. It is based on a traditional Jewish folk song. What follows is Waiting; filled with string driven instruments and musically more towards a band like Blackfield. The fine vocal melody is one that is very pleasant and the electric piano part makes sure the song has a more than relaxed atmosphere. Specter also sees the combination of heavy music and traditional folk, reminding me of Orphaned Land. What surprises me is the way Subterranean Masquerade embeds the traditional parts even tighter in their music as their Israeli cohorts do. The other difference is the way the guitars are less dominant and do work more in favour of the composition. The album's final composition Father And Son, is a nine minute epic style song that gently builds from smooth and acoustic, filled with very strong vocals again, to a darker midsection, then blossoms up into a light progressive end. As an extra, the album has been augmented by an EP that is called Home. These two songs both see the fine combination of majestic voices and the powerful marriage of tradition and heaviness, filled with double bass drums and cool guitar solos. I don't know if these two songs appear on the regular album, but I am happy to have gotten the Digi book, which holds these two beauties.
When I look back, I really don't know why it took such a long time to appreciate this music, for it is high quality music that is everything that progressive music should be; blending a wide range of different styles of music together into something of their own. I guess sometimes you have to be ready for something new, because it could take some time. But now Subterranean Masquerade has been added to my system and will remain there.
****+ Pedro Bekkers (edited by Robert James Pashman)
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