Subterranean Masquerade – The Great Bazaar
Taklit Music, January 2015
Back in 2004 I found myself on an aural pursuit of something different, something… anything that would shake me out of the stagnate state my musical journey had become. Shifting over jewel cases in the basement of a St. Paul record shop I decided to end a rather indecisive night of album browsing upon picking up an EP from an act I was quite unfamiliar with, that act being Subterranean Masquerade. I got into my car, put the CD on and began the drive home. As A Temporary Psychotic State (A Recollection of Where It All Began) came to a close, I knew I had come across precisely what I was looking for.
In the following year the man at the helm (Tomer Pink) proceeded to put out a full length titled Suspended Animation Dreams that solidified the vision they had begun with their EP, along with increasing my (and a small cult followings) appetite for the avant garde injection they provided within metal. Now as we enter 2015 Subterranean Masquerade have returned with The Great Bazaar, their first full length release of the past decade. So with ten years passing, where does their sound lie in contrast to that doom-tinged experimental metal signature that they had previously forged?
The answer soars through in the string driven introduction Early Morning Mantra which highlights two of the key changes in the acts sound. While string instruments played a role in their previous material, they have never been so omnipresent and straight up MASSIVE sounding as they are now. Intricately detailing nuances throughout, either as an ensemble or solo pieces the orchestral force is strong with this one. Tie this in with brass sections, wood – reed and keyboards straight out of 70’s prog and psychedelic rock and you will find the collection of instruments brought to task for this record is impressive if not downright intimidating. The wide range of brushes aren’t just there to serve self-indulgence though; the albums range of ethnic influences are nearly as vast, and puts each of these brushes to use in painting out this experience.
The second key difference found here is the addition of Kjetil Nordhus(of Green Carnation fame) at the vocal helm. Between delicately accentuating moments with his croons and adding a prong to soaring lyrical hooks, Kjetil adds a dynamic to the ballistic growls of Paul Kuhr (Novembers Doom fame) that the band has previously never seen. It is the duality here at the vocal front; in addition to the emphasis on strings, that I find separates The Great Bazaar the furthest from the somber tone of Suspended Animation Dreams; as they combine to create one of few metal records that successfully pulls off a vibe that is best described as uplifting.
Though the detailed layers found on this album required a few spins to fully take in, they have effectively been woven into my head. And despite just beginning the musical venture that is 2015 I can assure you Subterranean Masquerade will be in mind while accessing my top albums of 2015. Lush in both its sound signature and inspirations; The Great Bazaar proves to be another successful notch of eclecticism in Subterranean Masquerade’s belt.
Rating – 9 out of 10