Subterranean Masquerade
The Great Bazaar

Remember in the late ’90s and early ’00s when The End records was changing metal by releasing fresh, genre challenging invigorating and exiting bands like Nokturnal Mortum, Love History, Epoch of Unlight, Scholomance, Frantic Bleep, Novembers Doom, Agalloch, Giant Squid, Enslaved, Virgin Black, The Gathering, Sculptured, Green Carnation, Winds and even Arcturus‘s masterpiece The Sham Mirrors? My god were they good. But right around the time the label signed actress Juliette Lewis in 2009 things went downhill, and other than stalwarts Novembers Doom and a few decent releases here and there, they’re releasing bands like Tub Ring, The Dandy Worhols, Alien Ant Farm, Better Than Ezra, Trapt, Wanz and even recently Everclear. I’ll let that sink in…

Well, international progressive metal act Subterranean Masquerade were part of that great era, releasing an EP, Temporary Psychotic State, in 2004 and a full-length, Suspended Animation Dreams, in 2005. An all-star group of sorts started by Israel native Tomer Pink, who worked for The End Records, as well as Paul Kuhr of then relatively new Novembers Doom, JWW from Agalloch, and others. But the band has been quiet since then. But after a decade off, guitarist Tomer Pink reactivated the band with an all new lineup, though Paul Kuhr returns to add his eloquent growls to Green Carnation‘s Kjetil Nordhus and his smooth croons.

But even with a more Middle Eastern lineup, including Orphaned Land‘s Matan Shmuely (drums) and newcomers Golan Farhi (bass), Or Shalev (guitars) and Shai Yallin (keyboards), as well as a veritable host of guest musicians, the sound of Subterranean Masquerade is still a uniquely international affair of progressive music that is quite simply utterly gorgeous. Like a great bazaar, the album is rife with a plethora of sounds of all ethnicities; Strains of Orphaned Land waft through the layered, Arabesque soundscapes mingling with dulcimer, strings, brass and hues of Opeth, Pink Floyd, Amorphis (particularly in the  Hammond use) and the aforementioned Arcturus, resulting in one of the more elegant and beautiful albums I have heard in the last few years.

Let’s be honest, for the most part, metal is a negative musical genre, generally full of hostility, death, war, etc. But on The Grand Bazaar, Tomer and Co have rendered a bright, effervescent, uplifting, grandiose affair that will leave you feeling positively warmed, like the aftermath of a fine red wine. And while Kuhr gives the proceedings some metal girth and depth with his well placed growls, Nordhus, Pink and Co are honed in on an almost metal opera sensibility of pace and delivery for the album’s conceptual story. The 7 rangy songs all deliver various moods and gait from introspective yet spirited (amazing closer “Father and Son”, which features Orphaned Land singer Kobi Farjhi), a sultry Arabian sway (opener “Early Morning Mantra” and “Specter”), to downright dreamy prog heaven such as standout “Reliving the Feeling” which has to be one of the most infectiously uplifting metal songs of 2015. “Tour Diary” features a glorious orchestral opening and hypnotic, somber moments, while saxophone-laden mid album instrumental “Nigen” brings the sexy and “Blanket of Longing” is a more restrained ballad of sorts, with an ’80s vibe and chorus.

I’m sure there will be some reunions and comebacks in 2015 that will get more attention that this self-released and self-promoted affair, but I doubt many will be as good as this. It’s been 10 years in the making, and every single sumptuous, alluring note is worth it. Get yourself some decent headphones, press play and simply become absorbed and whisked away to an oasis of musical wonder that is sure to be one of my favorite albums of 2015.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by E. Thomas
January 19th, 2015

Comments

  1. Commented by: bast

    Wow.
    I remember them.
    Based on your review I will have to check this out ASAP!


  2. Commented by: timmy

    Good one, ET!


  3. Commented by: gabaghoul

    wow I had their debut way back when, totally forgot about it. will check this new one out based on your review.


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