Released: 2015, Taklit Music
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
Subterranean Masquerade is honestly one of the most original bands I’ve heard in recent years. Owing as much to King Crimson as they do Edge of Sanity, the multi-national ensemble has long married traditions of extremity and elegance for a genuinely unique slant. 2013’s HOME EP was a teaser of sorts, integrating greater elements of world music into their arsenal and planting the creative seeds of what could follow. What follows, is the band’s long awaited sophomore full length, THE GREAT BAZAAR; a theatrical spectacle with grand ambitions and an even grander scale of execution.
Opening with the bombast of a Broadway production, the Eastern strings of “Early Morning Mantra” evokes powerful imagery amidst Hammond organs and Petrucci-esque guitar passages. In addition to the rich musical arrangements, the Masquerade now features dual vocalists, longtime throat Paul Kuhr (of November’s Doom) and recent addition Kjetil Nordhus (of Green Carnation). It’s a great dynamic matching Kuhr’s low-end croons and growls with Nordhus’ smoother, melodic inflections, building additional color and context to the tunes. As THE GREAT BAZAAR progresses, we’re treated to constantly evolving musical passages that recall moments of Rush, Dream Theater, and Amorphis among others, pushing genre boundaries and listener expectations along the way. Tracks like “Reliving the Feeling” are unflinchingly upbeat and emotive, while tracks like “Nigen” put more emphasis on traditional, indigenous instruments. By the time you get to the pounding crunch of “Father and Son”, you really feel as if you’re at the end of an adventure. How many albums can elicit that kind of reaction?
Band founder and primary songwriter Tomer Pink has a long track record of crafting complex and memorable tunes, but THE GREAT BAZAAR is an exceptional musical feat. It’s hopeful without sounding preachy, yet still aggressively punchy in all of the right places. In a perfect world, it won’t take another eleven years for Subterranean Masquerade to follow this up, but apparently the downtime was put to good creative use towards THE GREAT BAZAAR. It’s a fantastic album that excels on every front, though if you’ve got any inclinations towards symphonic or prog metal in general it’s an even easier sell. Released through Pink’s own Taklit Music, THE GREAT BAZAAR is available now in both digital and physical formats.